Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin


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Dissertation Defense: Mohammad Lotfollahi


Tuesday, May 05, 2015


02:00pm - 05:00pm


CPE 2.502H


Development of a Four-Phase Flow Simulator to Model Hybrid Gas/Chemical EOR Processes
Mohammad Lotfollahi Sohi, Ph.D.

The University of Texas at Austin, 2015

Supervisors: Gary A. Pope, Mojdeh Delshad

Hybrid gas/chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods are such novel techniques to increase oil production and oil recovery efficiency. Gas flooding using carbon dioxide, nitrogen, flue gas, and enriched natural gas produce more oil from the reservoirs by channeling gas into previously by-passed areas. Surfactant flooding can recover trapped oil by reducing the interfacial tension between oil and water phases. Hybrid gas/chemical EOR methods benefit from using both chemical and gas flooding. In hybrid gas/chemical EOR processes, surfactant solution is injected with gas during low-tension-gas or foam flooding. Polymer solution can also be injected alternatively with gas to improve the gas volumetric sweep efficiency.

            Most fundamentally, wide applications of hybrid gas/chemical processes are limited due to uncertainties in reservoir characterization and heterogeneity, due to the lack of understanding of the process and consequently lack of a predictive reservoir simulator to mechanistically model the process. Without a reliable simulator, built on mechanisms determined in the laboratory, promising field candidates cannot be identified in advance nor can process performance be optimized.

            In this research, UTCHEM was modified to model four-phase water, oil, microemulsion, and gas phases to simulate and interpret chemical EOR processes including free and/or solution gas. We coupled the black-oil model for water/oil/gas equilibrium with microemulsion phase behavior model through a new approach. Four-phase fluid properties, relative permeability, and capillary pressure were developed and implemented. The mass conservation equation was solved for total volumetric concentration of each component at standard conditions and pressure equation was derived for both saturated and undersaturated PVT conditions.

To model foam flow in porous media, comprehensive research was performed comparing capabilities and limitations of implicit texture (IT) and population-balance (PB) foam models. Dimensionless foam bubble density was defined in IT models to derive explicitly the foam-coalescence-rate function in these models. Results showed that each of the IT models examined was equivalent to the LE formulation of a population-balance model with a lamella-destruction function that increased abruptly in the vicinity of the limiting capillary pressure, as in current population-balance models. Foam models were incorporated in UTCHEM to model low-tension-gas and foam flow processes in laboratory and field scales.

The modified UTCEM reservoir simulator was used to history match published low-tension-gas and foam coreflood experiments. The simulations were also extended to model and evaluate hybrid gas/chemical EOR methods in field scales. Simulation results indicated a well-designed low-tension-gas flooding has the potential to recover the trapped oil where foam provides mobility control during surfactant and surfactant-alkaline flooding in reservoirs with very low permeability.