Upscaling laboratory result of surfactant-assisted spontaneous imbibition to the field scale through scaling group analysis, numerical simulation, and discrete fracture network model

Fan Zhang, I. W.R. Saputra, Geng Niu, Imad A. Adel, Liang Xu, David S. Schechter

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

    41 Scopus citations


    Field experience along with laboratory evidence of spontaneous imbibition via the addition of surfactants into the completion fluid is widely believed to improve the IP and ultimate oil recovery from unconventional liquid reservoirs (ULR). During fracture treatment with surface active additives, surfactant molecules interact with the rock surface to enhance oil recovery through wettability alteration combined with interfacial tension (IFT) reduction. The change in capillary force as the wettability is altered by the surfactant leads to oil being expelled as water imbibes into the pore space. Several laboratory studies have been conducted to observe the effectiveness of surfactants on various shale plays during the spontaneous imbibition process, but there is an insufficient understanding of the physical mechanisms that allow scaling the lab results to field dimensions. In this manuscript, we review and evaluate dimensionless, analytical scaling groups to correlate laboratory spontaneous imbibition data in order to predict oil recovery at the field scale in ULR. In addition, capillary pressure curves are generated from imbibition rate theory originally developed by Mattax and Kyte (1962).The original scaling analysis was intended for understanding the rate of matrix-fracture transfer for a rising water level in a fracture-matrix system with variable matrix block sizes. Although contact angle and interfacial tension (IFT) are natural terms in scaling theory, virtually no work has been performed investigating these two properties. To that end, we present scaling analysis combined with numerical simulation to derive relative permeability curves, which will be imported into a discrete fracture network (DFN) model. We can then compare analytical scaling methods with conventional dual porosity concepts and then progressed to more sophisticated Discrete Fracture Network concepts. The ultimate goal is to develop more accurate predictive methods of the field-scale impact due to the addition of surfactants in the completion fluid. Correlated experimental workflows were developed to achieve the aforementioned objectives including contact angle (CA) and IFT at reservoir temperature. In addition, oil recovery of spontaneous imbibition experiments was recorded with time to evaluate the performance of different surfactants. Capillary pressure-based scaling is developed by modifying previously available scaling models based on available surfactant-related properties measured in the laboratory. To ensure representability of the scaling method; contact angle, interfacial tension, and ultimately spontaneous imbibition experiments were performed on field-retrieved samples and used as a base for developing a new scaling analysis by considering dimensionless recovery and time. Based on the capillary pressure curves obtained from the scaling model, relative permeability is approximated through a history matching procedure on core-scale numerical models. CT-Scan technology is used to build the numerical core plug model in order to preserve the heterogeneity of the unconventional core plugs and visualize the process of water imbibition in the core plugs. Time-lapse saturation changes are recorded using the CT scanner to visualize penetration of the aqueous phase into oil-saturated core samples. The capillary and relative permeability curves can then be used on DFN realizations to test cases with or without surfactant. The results of spontaneous imbibition showed that surfactant solutions had a higher oil recovery due to wettability alteration combined with IFT reduction. Our upscaling results indicate that all three methods can be used to scale laboratory results to the field. When compared to a well without surfactant additives, the optimum 3-year cumulative oil production of well that is treated with surfactant can increase by more than 20%.

    Original languageBritish English
    StatePublished - 2018
    EventSPE Improved Oil Recovery Conference 2018 - Tulsa, United States
    Duration: 14 Apr 201818 Apr 2018


    ConferenceSPE Improved Oil Recovery Conference 2018
    Country/TerritoryUnited States


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