Three-Phase Capillary Pressure, Hysteresis and Trapping in a Porous Glass-Bead Column
Abstract:Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) strategies employing water-alternate-gas (WAG) injections may improve oil mobility and production recovery. WAG injections for EOR create regions in the reservoir with simultaneous flow of oil, water and air dominated by capillary and gravity forces. As a result of the dynamics in the transition zones, the invading fluid may snap off compartments of the displaced fluid which could then be trapped in the pore space, contributing to the hysteresis of the three-phase capillary pressure curves.
Three-phase capillary pressure curves are needed to model the three-phase transition zone movements in the reservoir. In reservoir simulation models, the common practice has been to implement three-phase capillary pressure curves based on two-phase gas-oil and oil-water capillary pressure data. However, experimental and modelling studies of three-phase fluid distributions at the pore scale have shown that this procedure is not always valid; three-phase capillary pressure curves exhibit hysteresis and depend on the saturation history of the three phases which cannot be derived from two-phase capillary pressure curves.
We have developed three-phase experiments that provide capillary pressures and 3D-image data of fluid distributions in the entire saturation space of oil, water and air in water-wet porous glass-bead columns; a time-consuming and technically challenging exercise. The 3D data with a resolution of 6.38 µm were derived from high-resolution synchrotron x-ray computed micro-tomography (CMT), collected at the GSECARS beam line 13-BM-D at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory. In particular, we discuss how three-phase pore-scale mechanisms, such as oil layer existence and multiple displacement events, affect the mobility and trapping of oil in the porous medium. We also show that wettability-alterations of the porous medium in contact with the three-phase fluid system and exposure to x-rays can be avoided by using iodine-containing contrast agents in the oil and water phase, respectively. The experimental data will also serve to develop, refine and confirm the simulation model developed by our collaborative partners.