Immiscible Viscous Fingering at the Field Scale: Numerical Simulation of the Captain Polymer Flood

A. Beteta, K. S. Sorbie, Geoffrey Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Summary Immiscible fingering in reservoirs results from the displacement of a resident high-viscosity oil by a significantly less viscous immiscible fluid, usually water. During oil recovery processes, where water is often injected for sweep improvement and pressure support, the viscosity ratio between oil and water (μo/μw) can lead to poor oil recovery due to the formation of immiscible viscous fingers resulting in oil bypassing. Polymer flooding, where the injection water is viscosified by the addition of high-molecular-weight polymers, is designed to reduce the impact of viscous fingering by reducing the μ0/μw ratio. A considerable effort has been made in the past decade to improve the mechanistic understanding of polymer flooding as well as in developing the numerical simulation methodologies required to model it reliably. Two key developments have been (i) the understanding of the viscous crossflow mechanism by which polymer flooding operates in the displacement of viscous oil and (ii) the simulation methodology put forward by Sorbie et al. (2020), whereby immiscible fingering and viscous crossflow can be simply matched in conventional reservoir simulators. This publication extends the work of Beteta et al. (2022b) to conceptual models of a field case currently undergoing polymer flooding—the Captain field in the North Sea. The simulation methodology is essentially “upscaled” in a straightforward manner using some simple scaling assumptions. The effects of polymer viscosity and slug size are considered in a range of both 2D and 3D models designed to elucidate the role of polymer in systems both with and without “water slumping.” Slumping is governed by the density contrast between oil and water, the vertical communication of the reservoir and the fluid velocity, and, when it occurs, the injection of water channels along the bottom of the reservoir directly to the production well(s). It is shown that polymer flooding is very applicable to a wide range of reservoirs, with only modest injection viscosities and bank sizes returning significant volumes of incremental oil. Indeed, oil incremental recoveries (IRs) of between 29% and 89% are predicted in the simulations of the various 2D and 3D cases, depending on the slug design for both nonslumping and slumping cases. When strong water slumping is present, the performance of the polymer flood is significantly more sensitive to slug design, as alongside the viscous crossflow mechanism of recovery, a further role of the polymer is introduced—sweep of the “attic” oil by the viscous polymer flood, which is able to overcome the gravity-driven slumping, and we also identify this mechanism as a slightly different form of viscous crossflow. In slumping systems, it is critical to avoid disrupting the polymer bank before sweeping of the attic oil has been performed. However, as with the nonslumping system, modest injection viscosities and bank sizes still have a very significant impact on recovery. The conceptual models used here have been found to be qualitatively very similar to real field results. Our simulations indicate that there are few cases of viscous oil recovery where polymer flooding would not be of benefit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3165-3179
Number of pages15
JournalSPE Journal
Volume28
Issue number6
Early online date30 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology

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