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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Optimization of in-situ combustion: Maximizing production and reducing carbon dioxide footprint
by Liu, Zhenshuo, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2011, 175; 3477948
Abstract (Summary)

The in-situ combustion (ISC) process is an enhanced oil recovery (EOR) method that utilizes fuel in place to upgrade and displace the hydrocarbons in heavy oil reservoirs. In ISC processes, air is injected into a heated section of the reservoir. Upon reaching a threshold temperature, oxygen from the injected air reacts with the oil in place to generate heat, steam and reaction products such as CO2. This process drives oil towards production wells, but at the same time produces large amounts of CO 2.

In this research project we investigate the potential of recycling produced CO2 back into the reservoir simultaneously with the ISC process. We attempt to maintain the advantages of the ISC process while at the same time reduce emissions of CO2. Numerical simulations have been performed using CMG's STARS, a commercial thermal recovery simulator. To validate the model and the software we first simulated a lab-scale combustion tube experiment, following Belgrave et al. (1990) who previously modeled combustion tube experiments done by Hayashitani (1978). Following initial model validation, we then investigated the effect of CO2 recycle in both adiabatic and non-adiabatic settings. Our simulations show that net CO2 productions can be reduced significantly, but this reduction, however, comes at the cost of lower oil production rates, higher injection rates and/or both. In the most optimal adiabatic setting, CO2 production is reduced by 62% while the oil production is reduced by 10.5%. In the most optimal non-adiabatic setting, CO2 production is reduced by 42% while oil production remains the same. However, in the non-adiabatic case, an additional 60% increase in total injection rate is necessary.

Leveraging on our findings from the initial modeling/simulation work, a field scale pseudo 2-D model of the hybrid ISC process was developed. Using this model we showed that recycling of the CO2 back into the reservoir, to replace some of the air that would be otherwise injected, can be beneficial for both reducing the CO2 production as well as for increasing the oil production. We observed that the CO2that is recycled back into the system dissolves readily into the oil phase thus resulting in lower oil viscosity and in improved production rates. The results of our numerical calculations provide justification for the proposed combined ISC/CO2 -flood process. In this process the ISC itself provides on-site the gas that is needed for the CO2 flood, and a substantial fraction of the total CO2 produced can be permanently sequestered in the subsurface.

The pseudo 2-D model was utilized to study the process for a wide range dimensionless parameters (e.g., Peclet and Damköhler numbers), and initial saturations. Favorable trends induced by CO2 recycling are observed over a broad range of the dimensionless parameters. Under a set of realistic conditions, an increase in the oil recovery of ∼33% for a fixed time of operation was observed when comparing the ISC process with CO2 recycle to the more conventional ISC process. In addition, at the time when 80% of the total oil in place had been produced, the simulations showed that the CO2 emissions were consistently lower by 18–22 % for the case when CO2 was recycled back into the formation.

Following our2-D investigations, we initialed oil displacement simulations of full 3-D systems. We have studied two different cases, an inverted 9-spot and a line-drive configuration. Simulations in these 3-D settings were on a much larger scale and were performed with a shared-memory parallel machine available through HPCC at USC. The results of our numerical calculations show that, due to the naturally-occurring heterogeneity in the 3-D reservoir, the displacement behavior resembles an array of channels that are very similar to those observed in the simulation of the 1-D and pseudo 2-D models. Large "well-to-well" distances, as in the case of the inverted 9-spot configuration lead to poor overall sweep and performance (e.g., only 11% overall recovery). Recycling of CO2 under these circumstances widens the "transport" channels and improves the oil sweep and recovery to a value of ∼20%. However, due to the still low sweep efficiency, CO2 emissions savings were observed to be negligible.

In the line-drive scenario, with a relatively shorter "well-to-well" distance, the performance of the standard ISC process was noticeably improved with an overall oil recovery of 32%. Recycling of the CO2 was not as effective as in the 9-spot configuration in increasing oil production, largely because flow channels were well developed, leaving little room for further improvement. However, because much more oil was produced relative to the 9-spot case, a large amount of void volume was available for CO 2 storage. With recycling, up to 30% reduction in CO2 emissions was observed.

In summary, this research has demonstrated the potential for reducing CO2 emissions from ISC processes via efficient recycling strategies. The proposed mode of operation is a first step towards application of ISC in areas with strict emission regulations. Additional research, at various scales, is warranted in order to further test and validate the ideas developed in this work.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tsotsis, Theodore T., Jessen, Kristian
Commitee: Egolfopoulos, Fokion, Jessen, Kristian, Tsotsis, Theodore T.
School: University of Southern California
Department: Chemical Engineering
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Chemical engineering, Petroleum engineering
Keywords: Carbon dioxide sequestration, Enhanced oil recovery, In-situ combustion, Multiphase flow, Multiphase reaction, Reaction in porous media
Publication Number: 3477948
ISBN: 978-1-124-95080-8
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