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Research Papers: Petroleum Engineering

Pore-Scale Transport Mechanisms and Macroscopic Displacement Effects of In-Situ Oil-in-Water Emulsions in Porous Media

[+] Author and Article Information
Chuan Lu

Research Institute of China
National Offshore Oil Corporation,
Beijing 100027, Chaoyang, China
e-mail: luchuan2106@163.com

Wei Zhao

Department of Petroleum Engineering,
China University of Petroleum-Beijing,
Beijing 102249, Changping, China
e-mail: zhaoweicup@126.com

Yongge Liu

Department of Petroleum Engineering,
China University of Petroleum (East China),
Shandong 257061, Huangdao, China
e-mail: yg198706@163.com

Xiaohu Dong

Department of Petroleum Engineering,
China University of Petroleum-Beijing,
Beijing 102249, Changping, China
e-mail: donghu820@163.com

Contributed by the Petroleum Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received February 18, 2016; final manuscript received May 2, 2018; published online May 29, 2018. Assoc. Editor: Daoyong (Tony) Yang.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 140(10), 102904 (May 29, 2018) (8 pages) Paper No: JERT-16-1099; doi: 10.1115/1.4040200 History: Received February 18, 2016; Revised May 02, 2018

Oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions are expected to be formed in the process of surfactant flooding for heavy oil reservoirs in order to strengthen the fluidity of heavy oil and enhance oil recovery. However, there is still a lack of detailed understanding of mechanisms and effects involved in the flow of O/W emulsions in porous media. In this study, a pore-scale transparent model packed with glass beads was first used to investigate the transport and retention mechanisms of in situ generated O/W emulsions. Then, a double-sandpack model with different permeabilities was used to further study the effect of in situ formed O/W emulsions on the improvement of sweep efficiency and oil recovery. The pore-scale visualization experiment presented an in situ emulsification process. The in situ formed O/W emulsions could absorb to the surface of pore-throats, and plug pore-throats through mechanisms of capture-plugging (by a single emulsion droplet) and superposition-plugging or annulus-plugging (by multiple emulsion droplets). The double-sandpack experiments proved that the in situ formed O/W emulsion droplets were beneficial for the mobility control in the high permeability sandpack and the oil recovery enhancement in the low permeability sandpack. The size distribution of the produced emulsions proved that larger pressures were capable to displace larger O/W emulsion droplets out of the pore-throat and reduce their retention volumes.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Schematic diagram of the experimental setup for the pore-scale transparent experiment: (a) flow diagram of the experimental setup. (b) Structure diagram of the main part of the transparent experiment.

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Fig. 2

Pore-scale images of in situ emulsification process: (a) Residual heavy oil was attached to the surface of glass bead (pore-throat) at the end of steam injection. (b) Residual heavy oil peeled off when VR solution was injected. ((c) and (d)) Residual heavy oil gradually dispersed into small droplets with the further injection of VR solution.

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Fig. 3

Images of emulsions at the outlet of pipeline: (a) smaller droplets and (b) Larger droplets

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Fig. 4

Pore-scale images of emulsion droplets adsorbing to the surface of porous media: (a) one emulsion droplet absorbed to the surface of one glass bead. (b) The location change of the emulsion droplet. (c) Two droplets absorbed to the same glass bead. (d) Three droplets absorbed to the same glass bead.

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Fig. 5

Pore-scale images of a single emulsion droplet capture-plugging in porous media: (a) one emulsion droplet was captured in a pore-throat formed by two glass beads. ((b) and (c)) The emulsion droplet stretched and tended to pass through the pore-throat. (d) The emulsion droplet returned to its original shape.

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Fig. 6

Schematic diagram of a single emulsion droplet capture-plugging in porous media

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Fig. 7

Microscopic images of emulsion droplets superposition-plugging in porous media: ((a) and (b)) bridge-plugging mechanism of multiple emulsion droplets in pore-throats. (c) Annulus-plugging mechanism of multiple emulsion droplets in pore-throats.

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Fig. 8

Schematic diagram of emulsion droplets superposition-plugging in porous media: (a) bridge-plugging mechanism of multiple emulsion droplets in pore-throats. (b) Annulus-plugging mechanism of multiple emulsion droplets in pore-throats.

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Fig. 9

Oil recovery and pressure drop curves during steam injection and VR solution injection through parallel sandpacks with different permeabilities: (a) permeability contrast = 2.03 (kH1 = 1131 mD, kL1 = 557 mD). (b) Permeability contrast = 5.98 (kH2 = 3276 mD, kL2 = 547 mD).

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Fig. 10

Schematic diagram of rock particles in porous media

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Fig. 11

Variation of radius of pore-throat along with non-dimensional distance

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Fig. 12

Size distribution of the produced O/W emulsion droplets from each high permeability sandpack under different pressure drops: (a) first group: kH1 = 1131 mD and (b) second group: kH2 = 3276 mD

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