Experimental Study of Transport Behavior of Swellable Microgel Particles in Superpermeable Channels for Conformance Control


Gel treatment is an effective way to attack excessive water production during oil development. The transport behavior of gel materials in reservoirs is of crucial importance to the effectiveness of gel treatments. The aim of this paper is investigating the transport behavior of swellable micrometer-sized preformed particle gels (PPGs, or microgels) through superpermeable (super-K) channels. Sandpacks with permeabilities ranging from 27 to 221 darcies were used to mimic the super-K channels. Multiple pressure sensors were applied along the sandpack models to monitor the propagation behavior of the microgels. The tested microgel particles could transport through the super-K channels, and a higher driving pressure gradient was required when the particle/pore size ratio was larger. The pressure gradient distribution along the super-K channels was relatively uniform when the particle/pore ratio was low (less than 1.3). However, the inlet section would show increasingly higher pressure gradients as the particle/pore ratio was increased, indicating increased difficulty in propagation. The propagation of the gel particles was significantly slower compared with the carrying fluid. The delayed propagation behavior was more pronounced when the particle/pore ratio was higher. The injection pressure was much less sensitive to the injection flow rate compared with a Newtonian fluid. The gel dispersion exhibited an apparent shear thinning (pseudoplastic) behavior when transporting through the porous channels. Breakage of the gel particles was observed especially at high superficial velocities. The particle breakage was partially responsible for the apparent shear thinning behavior. The breakage phenomenon was in favor of deep placement of the gel particles. The channel permeabilities were significantly reduced by the microgels, bringing sufficient resistance to subsequent waterflooding (more than 99.5%). At given matching size conditions, softer gels were more likely to establish in-depth placement and uniform water blocking capacity in the channels. The microgel particles exhibited salinity-responsive behavior to the post-brine flush. The gel particles could shrink and reswell according to the salinity of the injected water. Possibilities were discussed to use this salinity-responsive behavior. Also, the microgels exhibited a particular disproportionate permeability reduction (DPR) effect. After gel injection, the channel permeability to water flow was reduced by more than 20 to 92 times of the permeability to oil flow. This work provides important support to understand the transport behavior of gel particles in super-K channels. The achievements are helpful for gel product selection and gel treatment design.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


The financial support from U.S. Department of Energy and Hilcorp Alaska Award DE-FE0031606 are appreciated. This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under Award DE-FE0031606.

Keywords and Phrases

Chemical Flooding Methods; Reservoir Characterization; Flow In Porous Media; Enhanced Recovery; Waterflooding; Fluid Dynamics; Conformance Improvement; Upstream Oil & Gas; Water Management; Complex Reservoir

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Article - Journal

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Publication Date

01 Feb 2022