Gel treatment is an effective way to attack excessive water production in many mature oilfields around the world. Selective penetration is desired for successful gel treatments. That is, gel materials should easily penetrate the target zones (i.e., channeling features such as superpermeable channels) without entering/damaging the nontarget zones (i.e., reservoir matrices or oil zones). This study revealed that presence of threshold penetration pressure (ΔPth) was responsible for selective penetration behavior of tested microgels. The concept of ΔPth was utilized to figure out favorable working conditions for effective gel treatments. Microgel dispersions were injected into superpermeable (super-k) sandpacks (mimicking super-k channels in reservoirs, 60–221 darcies), heterogeneous models with super-k channels (79–230 darcies), and sandstone cores (mimicking reservoir matrices, 50–5000 md). The results demonstrated that a minimum differential driving pressure (i.e., threshold penetration pressure, ΔPth) was required to push microgel particles to penetrate channels or matrices. The critical penetration behavior was closely related to the particle/pore size ratio. Low ΔPth at smaller particle/pore ratios was beneficial to allow easy penetration of gel materials into the channeling zones. On the contrary, high ΔPth at larger particle/pore ratios was desirable to prevent gel materials from massively invading and damaging the matrices. Instead, the gel particles accumulated at the inlet surface, and a gel cake was gradually formed. The cake further prevented the invasion of the gels. The cake could be removed by chemical breakers to resume the injectivity/productivity of the matrices. Correlations were developed to describe the relationship between ΔPth and particle/pore ratio. A distinct transition was identified at the particle/pore ratio of about 3. This work could help identify the favorable conditions to achieve successful gel treatments. In an effective conformance treatment, the particle/pore ratio in the channel should be sufficiently low to allow easy penetration of gel materials into the channel (e.g., particle/pore ratiostudy). Meanwhile, the particle/pore ratio in the matrix should be large enough to support a high ΔPth and thus prevent massive gel invasion into the matrix. This study advances the current pore scale studies (a single particle passing through a single channel) to Darcy-scale characterization.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


U.S. Department of Energy, Grant DE-FE0031606

Keywords and Phrases

Conformance control; Enhanced oil recovery; Gel treatment; Preformed particle gel; Threshold penetration pressure

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2023 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2022