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Steam Injection in Fractured Carbonate Reservoirs

The economic success of the Qarn Alam The purpose of TAGOGD in Qarn lighter hydrocarbon components. Once
project depends on the ability to predict Alam is to develop additional oil by the critical gas saturation is exceeded,
steam requirements and oil production. increasing the field recovery from 4% the highly mobile gas phase immedi-
Two key oil-production mechanisms under isothermal gas/oil gravity drain- ately migrates into the fracture system
are heat transport through the fractures age (GOGD) to 27% of original oil in where it significantly increases the size
and into the matrix and gas-cap gener- place. TAGOGD is a novel enhanced- of the fracture GOC. While gas liberation
ation resulting from thermal volatiliza- oil-recovery development concept that leads to more-viscous crude, viscosity
tion of the oil. The process mechanisms has as yet no full-field analog. Despite reduction with temperature dominates
involved in thermally assisted gas/oil the lack of commercial analogs, sev- and lowers the viscosity of the oil in
gravity drainage (TAGOGD) were vali- eral field trials have occurred on a pilot the matrix block. The density differ-
dated through laboratory experiments, scale. Isothermal GOGD in this vis- ence between the gas and oil, combined
while the field-forecast model results cous (220 cp)-oil reservoir is economi- with the decreased oil viscosity, allows
were validated by history matching cally unattractive because of the low oil the less-viscous oil to drain through
pilot-performance data. mobility. Reservoir heating by steam the matrix at an accelerated rate, until
injection significantly lowers the oil vis- it encounters colder, more-viscous oil.
Introduction cosity to approximately 2 cp, increases The colder, less-mobile oil acts as a flow
The Qarn Alam field was first brought the gas cap as a result of thermal vapor- restriction that forces the more-mobile
on production in 1975. When the field ization of the oil, and increases the oil into the gas-filled fracture system,
came on stream, the net oil production GOGD rate by a factor of approximately through which it flows into the oil rim
peaked at 6000 m3/d, despite the high oil 60. This development concept has been and is produced.
viscosity. Water breakthrough followed piloted in the Qarn Alam field and was
rapidly, and by 1978, net oil production found to be economically attractive. The Modeling
declined and remained low thereafter. attractiveness of the concept stems from As an aid in identifying the most domi-
During the initial peak in oil production, the fact that the dense fracture spacing nant reservoir-modeling parameters in
the oil contained in the highly permeable in the reservoir effectively distributes the GOGD and TAGOGD, thermal core-
and pervasive network of fractures was steam and is a conduit to collect the oil stack experiments were performed
produced and replaced mostly by forma- in the oil rim. This type of development using stock-tank Qarn Alam crude oil
tion water. After this period, a rim of oil requires significantly fewer wells than and Qarn Alam core. These results,
remained, separating the newly formed an equivalent conventional steamflood. combined with other laboratory stud-
fracture water/oil contact (WOC) and ies of fracture/matrix systems, were
the newly formed fracture gas/oil contact TAGOGD used to verify the physics in a com-
(GOC). Under primary production, the TAGOGD refers to the injection of steam mercial thermal reservoir simulator.
reservoir produces on average approxi- into the crestal portion of the fracture Using a 100-gridblock single-porosity
mately 100 m3/d of 16API oil, at a system. The gravity-stable displace- model, and a five-gridblock dual-poros-
10 m3/m3 gas/oil ratio (GOR). ment that occurs in the fracture system ity model, a series of simulations was
between steam and hydrocarbon, com- history matched to the experimental
This article, written by Assistant Tech- bined with the small pressure gradients data to compare the physics in single-
nology Editor Karen Bybee, contains high- that exist in the fracture system, results porosity and dual-porosity simulators
lights of paper SPE 102186, The Physics in a situation in which thermal conduc- to actual experimental results. In going
of Steam Injection in Fractured Carbonate tion is the dominating mechanism for from the single-porosity fine-grid model
Reservoirs: Engineering Development heat transport into the matrix blocks. to a dual-permeability coarse-gridblock
Options That Minimize Risk, by G.T. Simulations indicate little to no fluid model, grid coarsening causes an error
Shahin Jr., SPE, Shell E&P Technology; (steam) exchange occurs between the to occur that consistently underpredicts
R. Moosa, SPE, PDO; and B. Kharusi matrix and the fracture in the fracture oil rate. The error occurs because the
and G. Chilek, Shell E&P Technology, gas cap until the very late stages of actual drainage rate is related to the local
prepared for the 2006 SPE Annual steam injection. As the matrix blocks oil saturation at the bottom of the matrix
Technical Conference and Exhibition, San heat up, the matrix GOR increases as block, while the simulated drainage rate
Antonio, Texas, 2427 September. a result of thermal volatilization of the is related to the average saturation of the

For a limited time, the full-length paper is available free to SPE members at The paper has not been peer reviewed.

JPT APRIL 2007 83

gridblock. When flow barriers or very were determined and frozen for use in results in produced-oil rates being only
severe flow restrictions are added to the steam-pilot history match. A steam- slightly affected by producer BHP. The
the core-stack model, the oil-production pilot history match of oil production, oil-drainage rate is determined by the
rate in general will be underpredicted oil saturation from logs and core, and steam-injection rate and not the BHP
using the standard dual-permeability temperature-logging data was performed of the producers. The gravity-stable
formulation unless care is exercised in that honored steam-injection rates, pro- nature of the high-permeability fracture
choosing the gridding scheme used. ducing bottomhole pressures (BHPs), system means additional water con-
and gradiomanometer pressures. ing occurs as the BHP is increased, for
Pilot History Match approximately the same amount of oil
To determine a consistent set of fracture Development Options off-take from the rim.
thermal properties, fracture spacings, and Development options are parameters in
shape factor to be used in the field-devel- the field and facility that are consciously Transition-Well Development
opment dynamic reservoir models, a his- decided and controlled. Steam phasing, The well development plan calls for
tory match of Qarn Alam pilot perfor- steam rate, steam tapering, injector and a few slant wells to be drilled in the
mance was necessary. A full-field thermal producer location and type, producing crest while oil production continues at
reservoir model was constructed using a BHP, methane injection, and rim-low- presteam-injection rates. When steam
commercial thermal reservoir simulator. ering stages are some of the primary is injected and the oil rim thickens
The model is a dual-permeability ther- development options that were con- downward, gradiomanometer surveys
mal model, with edge-water analytical sidered. Of the development options will be used to track the new location of
thermal aquifers attached. Construction considered, steam-injection rate and the top and bottom of the oil rim. Once
of the model consisted of geological and producing BHP had the largest effect on the behavior and location of the oil rim
petrophysical input, material-property project performance. are known, the off-take point of the pro-
input, fracture characterization, and res- Steam-injection rates greater than ducing transition wells will be lowered
ervoir-engineering validation. 18,000 tons cold water equivalent to accommodate the new rim location.
The thermal rock and fluid mate- (CWE)/d result in an accelerated oil This procedure can occur in several
rial properties were obtained from stan- rate over a 35-year period, with little stages, until the oil rim has reached its
dard literature sources supplemented by improvement in total oil recovery. As the targeted 360-m average depth. Once
measurements where appropriate. Five steam rate is increased, higher peak oil the rim is lowered in this fashion, the
different pressure/volume/temperature rates also are observed. However, at rates remainder of the horizontal production
(PVT) sample programs/reports span- greater than 18,000-tons CWE/d, the oil- wells are drilled at the final rim location.
ning 1972 through 2002 were used to rate profile results in very little additional If the oil rim is not uniform (as observed
construct a consistent equation-of-state/ recovery. An approximate doubling of in several GOGD analogs), the final
PVT model and then generate a three- the steam rate (i.e., from 18,000 tons design depth of the producing horizon-
pseudocomponent hydrocarbon descrip- CWE/d to 35,000 tons CWE/d) results tal wells can be adjusted to accommo-
tion (K tables and viscosity dependence in less than 2% increase in recovery. The date varying rim thickness.
on temperature) for use in the simula- result of this effect is an economic trad-
tions. Fracture scenarios were translated eoff between accelerated cash flow and Conclusions
into fracture-spacing arrays for use in the increased unit technical cost. Conversely, The standard dual-permeability reser-
simulation. The pilot history match was steam rates of 10,000 tons CWE/d or less voir formulation was found to model
not very sensitive to the fracture spacing result in lower oil recovery. the results of laboratory GOGD experi-
because dense well control indicates frac- The producing BHP has a nonin- ments adequately. When flow barri-
ture spacings of 10 m or less exist in the tuitive effect on project economics. The ers exist, modeling requires judicious
crestal portion of the project. Simulation high permeability in the fracture net- grid selection to account for gridding
sensitivities indicate that below a fracture work makes large pressure gradients holdup errors accurately. Force bal-
spacing of approximately 10 m, recovery within the gas cap impractical to obtain ance and simulation sensitivities dem-
is not substantially improved, presum- with commercial methane- or steam- onstrate that the saturation dependence
ably because the matrix conductivity injection rates. As a result, the produc- of gas/oil capillary pressure and rela-
(not heat transport between fracture and ing BHP determines the pressure that is tive permeability has a large effect on
matrix) becomes the limiting factor. observed in the gas cap after a few years. the oil-drainage rate. Accurate PVT
While 28 wells have been drilled in Hence, operating the producers with a description of the oil is critical.
the field, three crestal steam injectors higher BHP is equivalent to operating The full-field dynamic modeling of the
and 8 crestal producers account for the the gas cap at a higher pressure. Qarn Alam TAGOGD process requires
flowing wells of the pilot. Seven tem- The simulations were run varying the integrated thermal modeling, combining
perature-logging wells and three gradio- producing BHP from 2800 to 3200 kPa a dual-permeability reservoir descrip-
manometer wells constitute the major- during isothermal production and then tion, fracture-spacing maps, thermal
ity of subsurface-data-gathering wells. setting the producing BHP to 2800 and edgewater aquifer, heat loss to cap and
Historical oil and water field production 3800 kPa during steam injection in 2009. base rock, and a detailed hydrocarbon
and gradiomanometer pressures were The increased gas-cap pressure results in PVT description. The proposed transi-
history matched from 1975 through a decrease in aquifer influx. This in turn tion-well development concept has a
June 1996, during isothermal opera- results in lower water-production rates. favorable effect on project economics
tions. From this history match, analytical Over the range of BHPs investigated, because of its ability to manage the risk
aquifer and well-productivity parameters the high fracture-network permeability of uncertainty in oil-rim location. JPT

84 JPT APRIL 2007