• Experimental investigation of low salinity water flooding to improve viscous oil recovery from the Schrader Bluff Reservoir on Alaska North Slope

      Cheng, Yaoze; Zhang, Yin; Dandekar, Abhijit; Awoleke, Obadare; Chen, Gang (2018-05)
      Alaska's North Slope (ANS) contains vast resources of viscous oil that have not been developed efficiently using conventional water flooding. Although thermal methods are most commonly applied to recover viscous oil, they are impractical on ANS because of the concern of thawing the permafrost, which could cause disastrous environmental damage. Recently, low salinity water flooding (LSWF) has been considered to enhance oil recovery by reducing residual oil saturation in the Schrader Bluff viscous oil reservoir. In this study, lab experiments have been conducted to investigate the potential of LSWF to improve heavy oil recovery from the Schrader Bluff sand. Fresh-state core plugs cut from preserved core samples with original oil saturations have been flooded sequentially with high salinity water, low salinity water, and softened low salinity water. The cumulative oil production and pressure drops have been recorded, and the oil recovery factors and residual oil saturation after each flooding have been determined based on material balance. In addition, restored-state core plugs saturated with viscous oil have been employed to conduct unsteady-state displacement experiments to measure the oil-water relative permeabilities using high salinity water and low salinity water, respectively. The emulsification of provided viscous oil and low salinity water has also been investigated. Furthermore, the contact angles between the crude oil and reservoir rock have been measured. It has been found that the core plugs are very unconsolidated, with porosity and absolute permeability in the range of 33% to 36% and 155 mD to 330 mD, respectively. A produced crude oil sample having a viscosity of 63 cP at ambient conditions was used in the experiments. The total dissolved solids (TDS) of the high salinity water and the low salinity water are 28,000 mg/L and 2,940 mg/L, respectively. Softening had little effect on the TDS of the low salinity water, but the concentration of Ca²⁺ was reduced significantly. The residual oil saturations were reduced gradually by applying LSWF and softened LSWF successively after high salinity water flooding. On average, LSWF can improve viscous oil recovery by 6.3% OOIP over high salinity water flooding, while the softened LSWF further enhances the oil recovery by 1.3% OOIP. The pressure drops observed in the LSWF and softened LSWF demonstrate more fluctuation than that in the high salinity water flooding, which indicates potential clay migration in LSWF and softened LSWF. Furthermore, it was found that, regardless of the salinities, the calculated water relative permeabilities are much lower than the typical values in conventional systems, implying more complex reactions between the reservoir rock, viscous oil, and injected water. Mixing the provided viscous oil and low salinity water generates stable water-in-oil (W/O) emulsions. The viscosities of the W/O emulsions made from water-oil ratios of 20:80 and 50:50 are higher than that of the provided viscous oil. Moreover, the contact angle between the crude oil and reservoir rock in the presence of low salinity water is larger than that in the presence of high salinity water, which may result from the wettability change of the reservoir rock by contact with the low salinity water.