Enhanced Recovery of Nanoconfined Oil in Tight Rocks Using Lean Gas (C2H6 and CO2) Injection

S Baek and IY Akkutlu, SPE JOURNAL, 26, 2018-2037 (2021).

DOI: 10.2118/195272-PA

Organic matters in source rocks store oil in significantly larger volume than that based on its pore volume (PV) due to so-called nanoconfinement effects. With pressure depletion and production, however, oil recovery is characteristically low because of the low compressibility of the fluid and amplified interaction with pore surface in the nanoporous material. For the additional recovery, CO2 injection has been widely adopted in shale gas and tight oil recovery over the last decades. But its supply and corrosion are often pointed out as drawbacks. In this study, we propose ethane injection as an alternative enhanced oil recovery (EOR) strategy for more productive oil production from tight unconventional reservoirs. Monte Carlo (MC) molecular simulation is used to reconstruct molecular configuration in pores under reservoir conditions. Further, molecular dynamics (MD) simulation provides the basis for understanding the recovery mechanism of in-situ fluids. These enable us to estimate thermodynamic recovery and the free energy associated with dissolution of injected gas. Primary oil recovery is typically below 15%, indicating that pressure depletion and fluid expansion are no longer effective recovery mechanisms. Ethane injection shows 5 to 20% higher recovery enhancement than CO2 injection. The superior performance is more pronounced, especially in nanopores, because oil in the smaller pores is richer in heavy components compared to the bulk fluids, and ethane molecules are more effective in displacing the heavy hydrocarbons. Analysis of the dissolution free energy confirms that introducing ethane into reservoirs is more favored and requires less energy for the enhanced recovery.

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