Fracture-matrix interactions during immiscible three-phase flow

Mohamed Ahmed Elfeel, Adnan Rashid Saif Al-Dhahli, Sebastian Geiger, Marinus Izaak Jan Van Dijke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
274 Downloads (Pure)


Naturally Fractured Reservoirs (NFR) contain a significant amount of remaining petroleum reserves and are now considered for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) schemes that involve three-phase flow such as water-alternating-gas (WAG) injection. Reservoir simulation of three phase flow is challenging because a proper set of flow functions, i.e. relative permeability and capillary pressure functions, that describe the underlying physics of fluid displacement is vitally important to obtain reliable production forecasts but associated with high uncertainty. For NFR, another challenge is the upscaling of recovery processes, particularly fracture-matrix transfer during three-phase flow, to the reservoir scale using dual porosity or dual permeability models.

In this work we approach a solution to these challenges by analysing three-phase flow during WAG injection at various scales, starting at the pore scale and then move on to an intermediate scale which is comparable to the scale of a single reservoir simulation grid block. At this scale, we represent fractures and matrix using a fine-grid model that employs empirical and pore-network modelling derived three-phase flow functions to study the effect of capillary and gravity forces on fracture-matrix transfer. We also consider different matrix wettabilities and permeabilities, as well as matrix block size distributions. We then perform an upscaling step that is typical for field-scale recovery simulations and use the dual porosity model to represent fracture-matrix transfer processes that were observed at the grid-block scale. This enables us to analyse and improve the accuracy of dual porosity models for three-phase displacement processes inherent to WAG in NFR.

We find that different three-phase saturation profiles develop inside matrix blocks, which are strongly dependent on wettability of the matrix. These profiles have a profound impact on recovery during WAG injection. The classical dual porosity model fails to capture these saturation profiles and hence miscalculates recovery during early WAG cycles. We present a double block dual porosity model, i.e. a simple multiple continua model, which better matches the fine grid simulation results.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171–186
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Petroleum Science and Engineering
Early online date17 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


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