Reza Fassihi and Tony Kovscek
2017
306 pp.; Adobe® Digital Edition
SPE Monograph Series Vol. 26
ISBN: 978-1-61399-475-7
Society of Petroleum Engineers
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Low-Energy Processes for Unconventional Oil Recovery
fills a gap in oil and gas literature.  Today, in our globalized society, the oil industry has to demonstrate how oil recovery can be done responsibly over the life-cycle of the project, clearly articulating energy efficiency as well as limiting CO2 and environmental footprints of the chosen recovery processes.  The authors bring together their complementing expertise to provide the reader with an in-depth discussion of a range of alternative recovery techniques.  Most recovery methods included are focused on heavy oil recovery, but some have applications in light oil reservoirs as well.  With the recent industry drive and focus to recover hydrocarbons from tight rock and shale resources, a chapter has also been devoted to shale oil recovery.

Dr. Reza Fassihi is a distinguished advisor with BHP in Houston and is responsible for subsurface technical assurance on global projects.  Prior to this he was the unconventional technology manager with BP. He has over 30 years of experience in petroleum research, development and reservoir management, including waterflood and EOR projects, and he has co-authored more than 40 papers on a broad range of petroleum engineering and research subjects.  He obtained a PhD degree in petroleum engineering from Stanford University. 

Dr. Tony Kovscek is professor at Stanford University since 1996 and is the Keleen and Carlton Beal Professor as well as the current chairman of the Energy Resources Department.  His PhD research was in chemical engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.  He has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications, mainly focusing on enhanced recovery processes for unconventional resources.

Table of Contents

Preface

Chapter 1  The Challenges of Unconventional Oil Recovery

1 1.1   Overview............................................................................................................................. 1

1.1.1   Unconventional Hydrocarbons .......................................................................................... 1

1.1.2   Unconventional Oil Resource Base................................................................................... 2

1.1.3   Natural Bitumen and Extra-Heavy Oil ............................................................................... 4

1.1.4   Oil Shale............................................................................................................................ 4

1.1.5   Problems With Unconventional Oil .................................................................................... 5

1.1.6   Development Planning ...................................................................................................... 8

1.1.7   Technology Landscape for Heavy-Oil and Bitumen Production......................................... 9

1.1.8   Effectiveness of Current Depletion Technologies ............................................................ 11

1.1.9   Integrated Approach to Heavy-Oil Production ................................................................. 11

1.1.10   Monograph Summary.................................................................................................... 11

 

Chapter 2 Unconventional Oil Recovery Methods  13

2.1   Introduction............................................................................................................................. 13

2.2   Primary Recovery ................................................................................................................... 13

2.3   Enhanced Oil Recovery .......................................................................................................... 15

2.3.1   Steam .............................................................................................................................. 15

2.3.2   Thermal Recovery Mechanisms ...................................................................................... 19

2.3.3   Polymer Floods................................................................................................................ 23

2.3.4   Solvent Injection .............................................................................................................. 23

2.3.5   Other methods................................................................................................................. 24

2.4   Recovery Sequencing ............................................................................................................ 24

2.5   Resource Screening ............................................................................................................... 24

2.5.1   Thermal Recovery ........................................................................................................... 25

2.5.2   Steam Injection................................................................................................................ 25

2.5.3   Air Injection...................................................................................................................... 26

2.5.4   Application....................................................................................................................... 27

 

Chapter 3   Fluid and Rock Properties      29

3.1   Introduction............................................................................................................................. 29

3.2   Oil-Phase Properties .............................................................................................................. 29

3.2.1   What Makes a Heavy Oil So Viscous? ............................................................................ 29

3.2.2   The Role of Solution Gas ................................................................................................ 31

3.2.3   The Role of Asphaltenes and Maltenes........................................................................... 32

3.2.4   The Role of Organic Acids and Bases............................................................................. 32

3.2.5   Oil Shale Properties ........................................................................................................ 34

3.3   Oil-Phase Characterization..................................................................................................... 34

3.3.1   Crude-Oil Description...................................................................................................... 35

3.3.2   Estimation of the Steam Distillation Yield ........................................................................ 36

3.3.3   Comparison With the Published Results ......................................................................... 38

3.3.4   Calculation of the Molecular Weight of the Distillate ....................................................... 41

3.3.5   Effect of Steam Distillation Efficiency .............................................................................. 42

3.4   Rock Properties ...................................................................................................................... 45

3.4.1   Volumetric Heat Capacity ................................................................................................ 45

3.4.2   Thermal Conductivity....................................................................................................... 46

3.4.3   Porosity and Permeability................................................................................................ 47

3.5   The Role of Wettability ............................................................................................................ 47

3.6   The Role of Mineral Solubility ................................................................................................. 48

3.7   Other Properties ..................................................................................................................... 49

 

Chapter 4   Cold Heavy-Oil Production       51

4.1   Introduction............................................................................................................................. 51

4.2   Cold Heavy-Oil Production Mechanisms ................................................................................ 51

4.3   Production Behavior in Cold Heavy-Oil Production With Sand............................................... 55

4.4   The SuperSump Concept ....................................................................................................... 56

4.5   Cold Heavy-Oil Production With Sand—Case Studies ........................................................... 58

4.5.1   Kuwait.............................................................................................................................. 58

4.5.2   Alaska.............................................................................................................................. 58

4.5.3   Sudan .............................................................................................................................. 60

4.6   Cold Heavy-Oil Production With Sand Modeling .................................................................... 61

4.7   Cold Heavy-Oil Production Optimization ................................................................................ 63

 

Chapter 5  Cold Enhanced Recovery   67

5.1   Waterflooding Heavy- and Viscous-Oil Reservoirs ................................................................. 67

5.1.1   Mobility Ratio Effects....................................................................................................... 67

5.1.2   Viscous Instability ............................................................................................................ 68

5.1.3   Fractional Flow Calculations............................................................................................ 69

5.1.4   Viscous-Oil Analog Fields................................................................................................ 70

5.2   Polymer Flooding.................................................................................................................... 71

5.2.1   Polymer Displacement Efficiency .................................................................................... 75

5.2.2   Screening Criteria for Polymer Flooding.......................................................................... 78

5.2.3   Field Application of Polymer Flooding ............................................................................. 78

5.3   Emulsion Flooding .................................................................................................................. 80

5.4   Gas or Water-Alternating-Gas Injection.................................................................................. 83

5.4.1   Screening Criteria for CO2 Injection ................................................................................ 85

5.5   Voidage-Replacement Ratio ................................................................................................... 86

 

Chapter 6   Enhanced Steam Injection      89

6.1   Cyclic Steam and Steamflooding............................................................................................ 89

6.1.1   Wellbore Heat Losses ..................................................................................................... 89

6.1.2   Carbon Intensity .............................................................................................................. 90

6.2   Steam Foam ........................................................................................................................... 91

6.3   Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage........................................................................................... 93

6.3.1   Mathematical Derivation.................................................................................................. 93

6.3.2   Factors Affecting SAGD Performance ............................................................................. 94

6.3.3   Surveillance Techniques.................................................................................................. 97

6.3.4   SAGD Optimization ......................................................................................................... 98

6.3.5   Numerical Modeling of SAGD With Solvents................................................................. 109

6.4   Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage With Noncondensible Gas .............................................. 113

6.4.1   SAGD Optimization With Air Injection ........................................................................... 113

6.5   Solvent-Based Recovery Processes .................................................................................... 114

6.5.1   Vapor Extraction ............................................................................................................ 114

6.5.2   Nsolv ............................................................................................................................. 114

 

Chapter 7   Enhanced Air Injection     117

7.1   Introduction........................................................................................................................... 117

7.2   The Benefits of Air Injection.................................................................................................. 118

7.3   Process Mechanisms ........................................................................................................... 119

7.3.1   In-Situ Combustion........................................................................................................ 119

7.3.2   High-Pressure Air Injection............................................................................................ 120

7.3.3   Fuel Combustion ........................................................................................................... 120

7.3.4   Thermal Alteration ......................................................................................................... 121

7.3.5   Low-Temperature Oxidation .......................................................................................... 122

7.3.6   Steam Distillation and Light-Oil Stripping ...................................................................... 124

7.3.7   Application to Light Oil................................................................................................... 125

7.3.8   Spontaneous Ignition..................................................................................................... 126

7.3.9   Impact of Pressure on Displacement Mechanisms ....................................................... 126

7.4   Process Implementation ....................................................................................................... 127

7.4.1   Screening ...................................................................................................................... 127

7.4.2   Engineering Estimation ................................................................................................. 128

7.4.3   Laboratory Experimentation .......................................................................................... 131

7.4.4   Fluid Characterization ................................................................................................... 134

7.5   Numerical Modeling.............................................................................................................. 136

7.5.1   Reaction Model ............................................................................................................. 136

7.5.2   Simulation of Combustion-Tube Runs ........................................................................... 138

7.5.3   Simulation Results......................................................................................................... 138

7.5.4   Scaling the Combustion-Tube Results .......................................................................... 139

7.6   Economic Feasibility ............................................................................................................. 139

7.7   Pilot Testing .......................................................................................................................... 140

7.8   Field Applications ................................................................................................................. 141

7.8.1   Design Features of Canadian ISC Projects................................................................... 141

7.8.2   Injection Schemes ......................................................................................................... 142

7.8.3   Suplacu de Barcau Field, Romania............................................................................... 143

7.8.4   Balol and Santhol Fields, India...................................................................................... 143

7.8.5   Hybrid Processes .......................................................................................................... 144

7.8.6   Post-Cold-Heavy-Oil-Production-With-Sand and Post-SAGD Combustion ................... 144

7.8.7   In-Situ Upgrading .......................................................................................................... 145

7.9   Air Injection in Light-Oil Reservoirs ...................................................................................... 145

7.9.1   High-Pressure Air Injection............................................................................................ 146

7.9.2   Enriched-Air Injection .................................................................................................... 148

7.9.3   Cyclic Combustion......................................................................................................... 148

7.9.4   Other Fields................................................................................................................... 149

7.10   Process Characteristics and Monitoring ............................................................................. 149

7.11   Performance Estimation ..................................................................................................... 150

7.11.1   Nelson and McNeil Methodology................................................................................. 150

7.11.2   Gates-Ramey Correlation............................................................................................ 150

7.12   Field Case Histories ........................................................................................................... 152

7.12.1   Medicine Pole Hills Unit Air Injection Project............................................................... 152

7.12.2   West Hackberry Air Injection Project ........................................................................... 154

7.12.3   Morgan Pressure Cycling In-Situ Combustion Project ................................................ 158

7.12.4   Holt Sand Unit Oxygen Injection ................................................................................. 163

7.13   Environmental Considerations............................................................................................ 172

7.13.1   Thermal Efficiency....................................................................................................... 172

7.13.2   CO2 Production............................................................................................................ 173

7.13.3   CO2 Sequestration....................................................................................................... 173

7.13.4   Larger Applicability ...................................................................................................... 173

7.14   Promising Research Potential ............................................................................................ 174

7.15   Conclusions ........................................................................................................................ 174

 

Chapter 8 Alternative Sources for Heating Reservoirs   175

8.1   Nuclear Energy..................................................................................................................... 175

8.1.1   Economic and Cost Issues............................................................................................ 176

8.1.2   Public Perception of Nuclear Energy............................................................................. 176

8.2   Solar Thermal Enhanced Oil Recovery ................................................................................ 177

8.3   Downhole Heating ................................................................................................................ 180

8.4   In-Situ Upgrading.................................................................................................................. 183

8.4.1   In-Situ Conversion Process ........................................................................................... 183

8.4.2   ElectrofracTM Process .................................................................................................... 184

8.4.3   Conduction, Convection, and Reflex Process ............................................................... 185

8.5   Electromagnetic Heating ...................................................................................................... 185

8.5.1   Energy Equivalence ...................................................................................................... 185

8.5.2   Methods for Field Application ........................................................................................ 186

8.5.3   Analytical Modeling of Electromagnetic Heating Process ............................................. 187

8.6   How To Increase the Energy Efficiency of New Processes .................................................. 189

 

Chapter 9 Challenges in Reservoir Simulation of Unconventional Technologies  191

9.1   Introduction........................................................................................................................... 191

9.2   Mass and Heat Transport...................................................................................................... 191

9.2.1   Auxiliary Relationships .................................................................................................. 193

9.2.2   Stiffness and Grid-Size Limitations ............................................................................... 194

9.3   Inclusion of Geomechanics .................................................................................................. 195

9.3.1   Decoupled Flow and Geomechanics............................................................................. 196

9.3.2   Explicitly Coupled Flow ................................................................................................. 196

9.3.3   Iteratively Coupled Flow ................................................................................................ 196

9.3.4   Fully Coupled Flow........................................................................................................ 197

9.4   Designing the Simulation Model ........................................................................................... 197

9.4.1   Number of Dimensions.................................................................................................. 198

9.4.2   Selection of Pseudocomponents................................................................................... 199

9.5   Simulating Processes for Unconventional Systems.............................................................. 199

9.5.1   Chemical Flooding......................................................................................................... 199

9.5.2   In-Situ Combustion........................................................................................................ 200

9.5.3   Steam Injection.............................................................................................................. 201

9.5.4   Steam-Assisted-Gravity-Drainage Simulation ............................................................... 203

9.5.5   Cold Heavy-Oil Production With Sand........................................................................... 203

9.5.6   Electromagnetic Heating Simulation ............................................................................. 204

9.6   History Matching................................................................................................................... 205

 

Chapter 10    Facilities and Operations          207

10.1   Introduction......................................................................................................................... 207

10.2   Processing Technology Challenges .................................................................................... 207

10.3   Steam Generation, Delivery, and Transportation ................................................................ 208

10.4   Water Supply and Treatment for Steam Generation ........................................................... 210

10.5   CO2 Sequestration and Management ................................................................................. 210

10.5.1   Life-Cycle Emissions ................................................................................................... 210

10.6   Gathering Systems and Export Pipelines........................................................................... 211

10.6.1   Oil/Water Separation ................................................................................................... 213

10.7   Surface Sand Management ................................................................................................ 213

10.8   Air and Gas Compression .................................................................................................. 215

10.8.1   Explosion in the Reservoir........................................................................................... 216

10.8.2   Explosion in the Surface Facilities and Injection Wellbores......................................... 216

10.8.3   Explosions in Injection/Production Wells ..................................................................... 217

10.8.4   Oxygen Flammability................................................................................................... 217

10.8.5   Oxygen Compatibility .................................................................................................. 217

10.8.6   Corrosion From Oxygen .............................................................................................. 218

10.8.7   Corrosion From CO2 .................................................................................................... 218

10.9   Field Experience With High-Pressure Air Compressors ..................................................... 218

10.9.1   Medicine Pole Hills Unit, Bowman, North Dakota........................................................ 218

10.9.2   Sloss, Nebraska .......................................................................................................... 218

10.9.3   Heidelberg, Mississippi................................................................................................ 218

10.9.4   Mitigating the Safety Risks .......................................................................................... 219

10.9.5   Required Surveillance ................................................................................................. 219

10.9.6   Ignition Issues ............................................................................................................. 220

10.9.7   Compression Equipment ............................................................................................. 221

10.10   Integrated Developments.................................................................................................. 222

10.11   Upgrading ......................................................................................................................... 223

10.11.1   Sulfur and Coke Coproducts ..................................................................................... 225

10.11.2   Conversion Landscape.............................................................................................. 225

10.11.3   Upgrading Practices .................................................................................................. 225

10.11.4   Secondary Upgrading Process ................................................................................. 225

10.11.5   “Integration” Technologies ......................................................................................... 225

10.11.6   In-Field Heavy-Oil Upgrading .................................................................................... 225

10.11.7   Refining Challenges .................................................................................................. 225

 

Chapter 11 Shale Oil Recovery   227

11.1   Nanopore System............................................................................................................... 227

11.2   Shale Fluid Properties ........................................................................................................ 231

11.3   Proposed Enhanced-Oil-Recovery Methods ...................................................................... 232

11.3.1   Gas Injection in Fractured Tight Rocks........................................................................ 233

11.3.2   Use of CO2 Thickeners for Improved Hydraulic Fracturing With Liquid CO2 ................ 236

11.3.3   Chemical Injection ....................................................................................................... 237

11.3.4   Steam or Air Injection .................................................................................................. 237

11.3.5   Surfactant Imbibition.................................................................................................... 237

11.4   Summary ............................................................................................................................ 237

 

Nomenclature                             

References     243

Appendix A Calculation of Steam Distillation Yield  267

Appendix B Example Problems 273

Appendix C Reservoir Modeling Checklist  279

Index        283

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