EOR Field Experiences in Carbonate Reservoirs in the United States
- Eduardo Jose Manrique (Norwest Questa Engineering) | Viviana Eugenia Muci (Instituto de Empresa) | Mariano E. Gurfinkel (Bureau of Geology, U of Texas at Austin)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering
- Publication Date
- December 2007
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 667 - 686
- 2007. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.6.4 Drillstem/Well Testing, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.1.4 Gas Processing, 5.4.3 Gas Cycling, 5.5.8 History Matching, 4.3.1 Hydrates, 5.4.6 Thermal Methods, 3.1.2 Electric Submersible Pumps, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 7.3.3 Project Management, 5.4.1 Waterflooding, 5.1.5 Geologic Modeling, 5.7.2 Recovery Factors, 5.10.1 CO2 Capture and Sequestration, 4.3.4 Scale, 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow, 5.2 Reservoir Fluid Dynamics, 6.5.2 Water use, produced water discharge and disposal, 5.4.7 Chemical Flooding Methods (e.g., Polymer, Solvent, Nitrogen, Immiscible CO2, Surfactant, Vapex), 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.8.8 Gas-condensate reservoirs, 5.8.7 Carbonate Reservoir, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 5.1 Reservoir Characterisation, 5.4.10 Microbial Methods, 5.4.2 Gas Injection Methods, 1.5 Drill Bits, 2.2.2 Perforating, 1.10.1 Drill string components and drilling tools (tubulars, jars, subs, stabilisers, reamers, etc), 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 1.2.3 Rock properties, 4.6 Natural Gas, 5.4 Enhanced Recovery, 3.2.3 Hydraulic Fracturing Design, Implementation and Optimisation, 5.4.9 Miscible Methods, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 7.6.6 Artificial Intelligence
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A considerable portion of the world's hydrocarbon endowment is in carbonate reservoirs. Carbonate reservoirs usually exhibit low porosity and may be fractured. These two characteristics along with oil-to-mixed wet rock properties usually result in lowered hydrocarbon recovery rates. When enhanced oil recovery (EOR) strategies are pursued, the injected fluids will likely flow through the fracture network and bypass the oil in the rock matrix. The high permeability in the fracture network and the low equivalent porous volume result in early breakthrough of the injected fluids. Infill drilling programs and well conformance strategies—mostly gas and water shutoff—have been effectively used to mitigate the early breakthrough and increase oil recovery. In most cases, however, 40 to 50% of the original oil in place (OOIP) is not produced.
A large number of EOR field projects in carbonate reservoirs have been referenced in the literature since the early 1970s. These field projects demonstrate the technical feasibility of various EOR methods in carbonate reservoirs. However, because of the collapse in oil prices, most of the aforementioned project plans have been abandoned. This paper presents a comprehensive compilation of EOR (Gas, Chemical, and Thermal methods) field experiences in carbonate reservoirs within the US, as an attempt to identify key variables and project design parameters for future evaluation and revitalization of mature carbonate reservoirs.
Carbon dioxide flooding [continuous or water-alternating gas (WAG)] is the dominant EOR process used in the US This is because of the high availability of low-cost CO2. CO2 EOR in particular represents the logical first step towards viable geologic carbon storage and sequestration. EOR chemical methods in carbonate reservoirs, especially polymer flooding, have been widely tested in US carbonate reservoirs. However, EOR chemical methods have made a marginal contribution, relatively, in terms of total oil recovered.
Our study includes a brief overview of current laboratory (e.g. wettability changes and novel chemical additives) and field (e.g. injectivity enhancement) experiences in EOR chemical methods in carbonate formations. A brief discussion surrounding the screening methods used to identify viable EOR opportunities in carbonate fields based on past and present experiences is also included.
Carbonate reservoirs are naturally-fractured geologic formations characterized by heterogeneous porosity and permeability distributions. In the case of low porosity and low permeability carbonate rocks (more specifically rock matrices), the fluid flow in the reservoir can be completely dependent on the fracture network while the matrix only plays a source role (analogous to tight sand formations and natural gas flow). In the case of porous carbonate rocks, fracture networks can cause uneven sweeping of the reservoir, leading to early breakthrough of injected fluids in the producing wells and resulting in low recovery factors. The abundance of carbonate reservoirs has been the subject of numerous studies attempting to characterize their heterogeneities, classify different types of fractured reservoirs, and determine how rock and fluid properties have an impact on ultimate recovery (Roehl et al. 1985; Allan and Qing Sun 2003; Carr et al. 2001; Grave et al. 2000; Benson et al. 1998; Wardlaw 1996).
The TORIS database (maintained by the US Department of Energy) indicates 22% of the OOIP in the US is contained in shallow-shelf carbonate reservoirs. Currently in the US, these types of reservoirs exist in more than 14 states with over 70% of the OOIP located in reservoirs in Texas and New Mexico, mostly concentrated in the Permian Basin (Nuckols 1992, Xie et al. 2005). Over the last three decades, primary production, waterflooding, and CO2 floods, combined with infill drilling programs, have been the most widely used recovery methods. However, other EOR strategies have been tested in the past and there are currently several active research programs seeking alternatives to increase the recovery factor of these mostly light crude-oil reservoirs economically. Although the Permian Basin (west Texas and southeast New Mexico) can be considered mature, its potential for improved oil recovery is still very high. A recent study reports that there is an estimated 30 billion barrels of mobile oil in the Permian Basin, reiterating the strategic importance of EOR technologies for carbonate reservoirs and their impact on US oil production (Nuckols 1992; Xie et al. 2005; Seethepalli et al. 2004; Moritis 2004; Cole 2003; Moritis 2003; Dutton et al. 2004).
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