Enhancing Heavy-Oil-Recovery Efficiency by Combining Low-Salinity-Water and Polymer Flooding


Combining low-salinity-water (LSW) and polymer flooding was proposed to unlock the tremendous heavy-oil resources on the Alaska North Slope (ANS). The synergy of LSW and polymer flooding was demonstrated through coreflooding experiments at various conditions. The results indicate that the high-salinity polymer (HSP) (salinity = 27,500 ppm) requires nearly two-thirds more polymer than the low-salinity polymer (LSP) (salinity = 2,500 ppm) to achieve the target viscosity at the condition of this study. Additional oil was recovered from LSW flooding after extensive high-salinity-water (HSW) flooding [3 to 9% of original oil in place (OOIP)]. LSW flooding performed in secondary mode achieved higher recovery than that in tertiary mode. Also, the occurrence of water breakthrough can be delayed in the LSW flooding compared with the HSW flooding. Strikingly, after extensive LSW flooding and HSP flooding, incremental oil recovery (approximately 8% of OOIP) was still achieved by LSP flooding with the same viscosity as the HSP. The pH increase of the effluent during LSW/LSP flooding was significantly greater than that during HSW/HSP flooding, indicating the presence of the low-salinity effect (LSE). The residual-oil-saturation (Sor) reduction induced by the LSE in the area unswept during the LSW flooding (mainly smaller pores) would contribute to the increased oil recovery. LSP flooding performed directly after waterflooding recovered more incremental oil (approximately 10% of OOIP) compared with HSP flooding performed in the same scheme. Apart from the improved sweep efficiency by polymer, the low-salinity-induced Sor reduction also would contribute to the increased oil recovery by the LSP. A nearly 2-year pilot test in the Milne Point Field on the ANS has shown impressive success of the proposed hybrid enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) process: water-cut reduction (70 to less than 15%), increasing oil rate, and no polymer breakthrough so far. This work has demonstrated the remarkable economical and technical benefits of combining LSW and polymer flooding in enhancing heavy-oil recovery.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-FE0031606.

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Publication Date

01 Jun 2021