Detailed Assessment of Compositional and Interfacial Tension Effects on the Fluid Behaviour During Immiscible and Near-Miscible CO2 Continuous and WAG Displacements

Gang Wang*, Gillian E. Pickup, Kenneth S. Sorbie, Eric J. Mackay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


This study seeks to improve numerical simulations of the key physics occurring in CO2 enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) processes, with a particular focus on the transition from immiscible to miscible displacements. In the previous work, we have investigated interactions between compositional effects and the underlying heterogeneities of the flow field in near-miscible floods (Wang et al. in Transp Porous Media 129(3):743–759, 2019a). In this current study, we have further analysed the effects of reduction in interfacial tension (IFT) on the flow behaviour, as motivated by the study on the film-flow mechanism previously presented by Sorbie and van Dijke (SPE improved oil recovery symposium, Society of Petroleum Engineers, 2010). We identify two clear mechanisms of oil recovery that may occur in near-miscible CO2 (or other gas) injection processes, which we denote, MCE, as oil stripping or conventional compositional effects, and MIFT as lower IFT oil film-flow effects. The latter MIFT effects are described by an enhanced hydrocarbon relative permeability in the near-miscible three-phase relative permeabilities (3PRP). Various combinations between the MCE and MIFT mechanisms were tested by numerical simulations to evaluate the impact of each mechanism on the flow behaviour, i.e. their separate and joint effects on quantities such as the local oil displacement efficiency, phase flow vectors and the ultimate oil recovery. When acting in combination, the oil stripping and IFT effects can greatly improve the local displacement performance even when viscous fingering flow occurs. Viscous fingering is well known to lead to bypassed oil in the “non-preferential” flow paths between the main fingers. We show that the remaining oil in these non-preferential flow paths (i.e. bypassed oil) can be efficiently recovered by the combined MCE and MIFT mechanisms, but only with the application of water alternating gas (WAG). In contrast to oil stripping effects, the IFT effect is not dependent on continuous contact between oil and CO2. Instead, the remaining oil is mobilized by gas as the IFT is reduced and can be efficiently produced by subsequent water injection. This MIFT mechanism has much less impact in cases with continuous CO2 injection compared to its efficiency in WAG. This is because during continuous injection, gas fingers are dominant in the preferential flow paths, and therefore the local displacement efficiency is very good, but only in these preferential routes. On the other hand, WAG is able to make full use of the IFT effects because of its relatively stable displacing front, which allows the MIFT mechanism to contribute. In this study, the effects of using different three-phase relative permeability methods were investigated and, as expected, different methods yielded different results. However, an important observation is that when IFT effects (MIFT) were included, there was much less difference in the final oil recovery using the different 3PRP models; our analysis shows why this is the case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805–830
Number of pages26
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Early online date19 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • CO WAG
  • Compositional effects
  • Fingering flow
  • Interfacial tension effects
  • Near-miscible displacements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemical Engineering


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