Restoration of Permeability to Water-Damaged Cores
- D.K. Atwood (Humble Oil And Refining Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,405 - 1,410
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 5.2 Reservoir Fluid Dynamics, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 3 Production and Well Operations, 1.8 Formation Damage, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing
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Experiments resulted in a satisfactory laboratory method for restoring permeability to clay-containing cores damaged by fresh water. Clay contents of a number of field cores were measured, and permeabilities of plugs from these same cores were then deliberately reduced with fresh water. This damage is attributed to swollen and dispersed clays occupying the pore space. After damaging, a number of experiments were performed to measure the amount of damage and to establish some means by which permeability could be restored. The experiments included flooding the damaged cores with water-miscible fluids such as salt water, ace tone, isopropyl alcohol and ethanol. Permeability was not successfully restored in these experiments. However, part of the damage was repaired by flooding with oil; when water was removed by distillation in the presence of immiscible fluids such as air or toluene, permeability was completely restored. This evidence suggested that swollen and dispersed clays could be collapsed to their original volume by strong inter facial and capillary forces. It was further postulated that the required forces could be generated by flooding the damaged cores with a solvent partially miscible with water. The flooding experiments were repeated using n-hexanol as the partially miscible solvent. Permeability was restored to five of six damaged cores and substantially increased in the sixth. A large fraction of the restored permeability was retained even after water saturation was raised to its original value with 12 per cent salt water.
Sharp reductions in permeability often occur when relatively fresh water contacts clay-containing formations during drilling and workover operations. These permeability losses are caused by removing inorganic ions from the environment surrounding the clay, and consequent swelling and/or dispersion of clay minerals into the available pore space. This phenomenon is generally termed clay damage, fresh-water damage, or simply formation damage; it causes large losses in current revenue by preventing oil wells from making their allowable production. Attempts to repair the damage and restore permeability by flowing salt water solutions or brines through clay-damaged cores containing montmorillonite have been unsuccessful. This irreversibility is thought to result from formation of brush-heap, or edge-to-face, structures when the dispersed clay is flocculated. The brush-heap structures occupy much more space than the close-packed domains present before damage. One solution of the problem is to destroy the clay-water brush-heap and thus restore permeability. Because no satisfactory method existed for restoring permeability to clay-containing formations damaged by fresh water, the work described in this paper was undertaken. The laboratory experiments generally consisted of deliberately damaging fresh cores containing clay and then attempting to repair this damage by various means. Results indicate that generating strong interfacial forces within the pore space of damaged cores collapses the clay brush-heap and restores permeability. These forces are most conveniently generated by flowing partially water-miscible solvents, such as n-hexanol, through a core.
THEORY OF THE DAMAGE PROCESS
The most common clay mineral groups known to cause permeability damage to formations are the montmorillonites, kaolins, chlorites and illites. These clays are constructed of particles which can adsorb water on their surfaces and edges and, in the case of montmorillonite. between layers of the basic particle itself. This adsorption increases as water salinity decreases. At low salinities the particles disperse into the aqueous phase. When the clays present in the formation are kaolin, chlorite and illite, dispersion accounts completely for permeability damage to porous media. However, unlike the other clays, montmorillonite particles can imbibe water and adsorb ions between layers of sub-particles, or platelets. These platelets have net negative charges on their faces and are held together by exchangeable (or removable) cations such as Na+ and Ca++. A decrease in ion concentration (salinity) in the fluid surrounding a particle causes migration of water into the clay layers and disperses the basic particle, while diffusion removes the original exchangeable ions from between the platelets. Once these ions are removed, the facing negative platelets repel each other, causing the montmorillonite to swell until, for all practical purposes, the individual platelets are dispersed. For this reason, fresh-water* damage is much more severe in sands containing montmorillonite than it is in sands containing other clays. Many investigators have shown that even trace amounts of montmorillonite can be responsible for marked reduction in the permeability of reservoir sands in the presence of fresh water.
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