As life-span extenders, bulk gels have been widely applied to rejuvenate oil production from uneconomic producers in mature oil fields by improving the sweep efficiency of improved-oil-recovery (IOR)/enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) floods. This paper presents a comprehensive review of the responses of injection-well gel treatments implemented between 1985 and 2014. The survey includes 61 field projects compiled from SPE papers and US Department of Energy reports. Seven parameters related to the oil-production response were evaluated according to the reservoir lithology, formation type, and recovery process, using univariate analysis and stacked histograms. The interquartile-range (IQR) method was used to detect the underperforming and overperforming gel projects. Scatterplots were used to identify the effects of the injected-gel volume and the treatment timing on the treatment response. Pretreatment water cut, recovery factor, and flood life were used as indicators for the treatment timing.

Results indicated that gel treatments have very wide ranges of response for injection and production wells and for oil and water rates and profiles. When successfully applied, they, on average, respond after 3.5 months, increase the oil-production rate by 32%, and additionally recover 116,000 STBO per treatment, 15 STBO per gel barrel, or 10 STBO per polymer pound. We identified that gel treatments perform more efficiently in carbonate (CB) than in sandstone (SS) reservoirs and in naturally fractured (NF) formations than in other formation types. In addition, the incremental oil production considerably increases with the channeling strength and the injected-gel volume for all formation types, not just for the matrix-rock (MR) reservoirs. Moreover, gel treatments applied in NF formations have lower productivities in SS than in CB reservoirs using normalized performance parameters.

Declining trends were identified for all parameters of the oil-production response with the treatment-timing indicators. The sooner the gel treatment is applied, the faster the response, and the larger the incremental oil production and its rate. It is recommended to allow longer evaluation times for gel treatments applied in MR formations because their response times might extend to several months. Gel treatments will perform more efficiently if they are conducted at water cuts of less than 70%, flood lives of fewer than 20 years, or recovery factors of less than 35%. For different application environments, the present review provides reservoir engineers with updated ideas regarding the low, typical, and high performances of gel treatments when successfully applied, as well as how other treatment aspects affect performance.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Floods; Lithology; Offshore oil well production; Oil fields; Oil well flooding; Recovery; Water treatment; Wells, Application environment; Improved oil recovery; Inter quartile ranges; Oil-production rates; Performance parameters; Reservoir engineers; Univariate analysis; US Department of Energy, Injection (oil wells), enhanced oil recovery; hydrocarbon reservoir; oil field; oil production; oil well; polymer

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2019 Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2019