Visualization of Chemical Heavy Oil EOR Displacement Mechanisms in a 2D System

Guerrero, F., Bryan, J. and Kantzas A.

DOI: 10.3390/en14040950
Energies, 14(4), February 2021.


This study aims to develop a visual understanding of the macro-displacement mechanisms associated with heavy oil recovery by water and chemical flooding in a 2D system. The sweep efficiency improvements by water, surfactant, polymer, and surfactant-polymer (SP) were evaluated in a Hele-Shaw cell with no local pore-level trapping of fluids. The results demonstrated that displacement performance is highly correlated to the mobility ratio between the fluids. Surfactant and water reached similar oil recovery values at similar mobility ratios; however, they exhibited different flow patterns in the 2D system—reductions in IFT can lead to the formation of emulsions and alter flow pathways, but in the absence of porous media these do not lead to significant improvements in oil recovery. Polymer flooding displayed a more stable front and a higher reduction in viscous fingering. Oil recovery by SP was achieved mostly by polymer rather than due to the effect of the surfactant. The surfactant in the SP slug washed out residual oil in the swept zone without increasing the swept area. This shows the impact of the surfactant on reducing the oil saturation in water-swept zones, but the overall oil recovery was still controlled by the injection of polymer. This study provides insight into the fluid flow behavior in diverging flow paths, as opposed to linear core floods that have limited pathways. The visualization of bulk liquid interactions between different types of injection fluids and oil in the Hele-Shaw cell might assist in the screening process for new chemicals and aid in testing the production process.

A full version of this paper is available on ResearchGate Online.