Numerical Modeling of Unstable Waterfloods and Tertiary Polymer Floods for Viscous Oils

Topics: Reservoir simulation

The saturation distribution after unstable waterflooding for highly viscous oil may have a decisive effect on the efficiency of tertiary polymer flooding, in particular because of hysteresis effects associated with oil banking. This paper addresses the challenges in modeling highly unstable waterflooding, using both a conventional Darcy-type simulator and an adaptive dynamic prenetwork model, by comparing the simulated results with experimental data including saturation maps. It also highlights the important role of relative permeability hysteresis in the tertiary recovery of viscous oils by polymer injection.


Waterflooding into viscous oils can lead to severe viscous fingering of the injected water—a well-known type of instability in porous-media flow that is intrinsically related to the viscosity contrast between the displaced fluid (oil) and the displacing fluid (water). A direct consequence of this phenomenon is a significant bypassing of the oil in place and a low recovery factor, as observed at both laboratory scale and field scale. Viscous instabilities between two immiscible ­fluids are dependent not only on the viscosity ratio but also on the capillary number and rock wettability. In particular, experimental studies have shown that the effect of viscous fingering strongly increases when the displacing fluid gets less wetting than the displaced fluid (i.e., when going from imbibition to drainage). In order to reduce or eliminate hydrodynamic instabilities, polymer flooding can be implemented as a secondary or tertiary recovery mechanism.

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 182638, “Numerical Modeling of Unstable Waterfloods and Tertiary Polymer Floods For Highly Viscous Oils,” by R. de Loubens, SPE, G. Vaillant, M. Regaieg, J. Yang, A. Moncorgé, SPE, C. Fabbri, and G. Darche, SPE, Total, prepared for the 2017 SPE Reservoir Simulation Conference, Montgomery, Texas, USA, 20–22 February. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
This article is reserved for SPE members and JPT subscribers.
If you would like to continue reading,
please Sign In, JOIN SPE or Subscribe to JPT

Numerical Modeling of Unstable Waterfloods and Tertiary Polymer Floods for Viscous Oils

01 July 2017

Volume: 69 | Issue: 7