Laboratory and Field Studies of Water Floods Using Polymer Solutions to Increase Oil Recoveries
- B.B. Sandiford
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 917 - 922
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 5.4.1 Waterflooding, 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow, 5.4.7 Chemical Flooding Methods (e.g., Polymer, Solvent, Nitrogen, Immiscible CO2, Surfactant, Vapex), 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing, 1.14 Casing and Cementing, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.3.4 Scale, 5.2.2 Fluid Modeling, Equations of State, 5.8.5 Oil Sand, Oil Shale, Bitumen, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 5.7.2 Recovery Factors
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SANDIFORD, B.B., UNION OIL CO. OF CALIFORNIA, BREA, CALIF. MEMBER AIME
It has been known for many years that the efficiency of a water flood can be improved by lowering the water-oil mobility ratio in the system. Such a change leads to better sweep efficiency and also to more efficient oil displacement in the swept zone. Data from our laboratory waterflood tests of both small cores and long sand packs are presented which show that water mobility can be reduced and oil recovery increased by the addition of certain polymer solutions to flood water. The reduction in mobility, in many cases, is greater than would be expected from conventional viscosity measurements. These solutions, however, do not cause significant reductions in oil mobility. The over-all effect of these mobility changes is increased waterflood oil recovery.
Encouraged by results of our laboratory work, we expanded our study to include pilot field tests of floods with such solutions. One such test, made in the West Cat Canyon field, Santa Barbara County, Calif., is described in detail in this paper. Three other field tests are also discussed.
Oil production from most reservoirs following primary depletion and/or water flooding is often less than 50 per cent of the original oil in place. Heavy oil reservoirs seldom yield over 15 per cent of their original oil. With new reservoirs becoming harder to find, the improvement of oil recovery efficiency is one of our very important problems. We describe here some of our attempts to increase the efficiency of oil displacement by adding a water-soluble polymer, partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide, to flood water. This technique will be termed "polymer solution flooding".
The concept of using high-viscosity water to increase the efficiency of water flooding is not new. In 1944 Detling (Shell Development Co.) obtained a patent covering the use of several additives for viscous water flooding. His objective was to improve water-oil mobility ratios by increasing the viscosity of the flood water. Other patents have been granted covering specific water-soluble polymers or specific conditions of viscous water flooding. Barnes described his laboratory model study of the injection of a viscous water slug into a reservoir which had been partially invaded by bottom water. He concluded that, for this type of reservoir, "the cost of viscous water should not exceed a few cents per barrel for viscous water slug injection to be economically feasible". Our studies have led us to a somewhat different conclusion in a number of cases where hydrolyzed polyacrylamide solutions have been injected into reservoir models or actual reservoirs. Possible reasons for this difference are discussed in this paper. Our studies have shown that polymer solutions may lead to an increase in oil recovery over that from an ordinary water flood by (1) improving sweep efficiency, (2) improving microscopic displacement efficiency, or (3) a combination of these mechanisms. In the work of Barnes, only the benefit of improved sweep efficiency was considered. Also, our work has shown that there are marked differences in the effectiveness of different water-soluble polymers as flood water additives. Partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide is better than many other water-soluble polymers we have tested because, even in very low concentrations, it can lead to increased oil recovery. This is an important advantage when either a dilute polymer solution is injected continuously or a relatively concentrated slug is injected followed by water. In the latter case, portions of the slug become diluted and function in the formation as very dilute solutions. As dilution takes place the effective slug size will increase which, in turn, will reduce the cost per barrel of the effective flooding medium. The reason that partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide solutions are more efficient at low concentrations than certain other polymer solutions of equivalent viscosity (when measured in conventional viscometers) is not fully understood. We do know that the shapes and sizes of macro-molecules dissolved or suspended in liquids influence the flow properties of their solutions or suspensions. Solutions of partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide cause greater reductions in water mobility than would be expected from conventional viscosity measurements.
Laboratory water floods were run in linear and radial systems with different water-soluble polymers and under varying conditions of flow, including reservoir conditions of temperature, pressure and fluid composition. Some of these runs are considered in this section.
OIL DISPLACEMENT IN LINEAR MODELS
In this group of runs the sweep efficiency approached 100 per cent because the linear sand packs used were as nearly uniform as possible. Results reflect primarily the microscopic displacement efficiencies. The laboratory models were unconsolidated sand packs the lengths of which varied from about 4 in. to 40 ft. Further information on the flow models used is listed in Table 1. Using conventional procedures, water floods were run on sand packs containing either refined or crude oil at restored state. Frequently, a repeat run, similar to the first, was made as a check. Then a third run was made on the restored-state model using either polymer solution or a combination of polymer solution (slug) and water. Details of these runs are also reported in Table 1.
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