Modeling wettability alteration in naturally fractured carbonate reservoirs



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The demand for energy and new oil reservoirs around the world has increased rapidly while oil recovery from depleted reservoirs has become more difficult. Oil production from fractured carbonate reservoirs by water flooding is often inefficient due to the commonly oil-wet nature of matrix rocks. Chemical enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes such as surfactant-induced wettability alteration and interfacial tension reduction are required to decrease the residual oil saturation in matrix blocks, leading to incremental oil recovery. However, improvement in recovery will depend on the degree of wettability alteration and interfacial tension (IFT) reduction, which in turn are functions of matrix permeability, fracture intensity, temperature, pressure, and fluid properties. The oil recovery from fractured carbonate reservoirs is frequently considered to be dominated by the spontaneous imbibition mechanism which is a combination of viscous, capillary, and gravity forces.

The primary purpose of this study is to model wettability alteration in the lab scale for both coreflood and imbibition cell tests using the chemical flooding reservoir simulator. The experimental recovery data for fractured carbonate rocks with different petrophysical properties were history-matched with UTCHEM, The University of Texas in-house compositional chemical flooding simulator, using a highly heterogeneous permeability distribution. Extensive simulation work demonstrates the validity and ranges of applicability of upscaled procedures, and also indicates the importance of viscous and capillary forces in larger fields. The results of this work will be useful for designing field-scale chemical EOR processes.