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T. P.

8002

Process Variables of In Situ Combustion


WILLIAM L. MARTIN
MEMBER AIME
JOHN D. ALEXANDER CONTINENTAL OIL CO.
JUNIOR MEMBER AIME PONCA CITY, OKLA.
JOHN N. DEW
MEMBER AIME

ABSTRACT ful in the interpretation of results of five-spot test by Magnolia Petroleum


field tests. When tempered with volu- Co. in Jefferson County, Okla:"; and
This paper describes the results of metric sween efficiencies, the data a test by California Research Corp.
II laboratory investigation conducted can he used- in . making preliminary in the Irvine-Furnace field in Ken-
to obtain data for an evaluation of economic appraisals of the process tucky. The Worthington Corp. has
the in situ combustion process as as applied to reservoirs containing completed a test in cooperation with
a method of producing crude oil high porosity unconsolidated media. the Forest Oil Corp. in Clark Coun-
from reservoirs. Air and fuel re- ty, Ill.'
quirements, rates of advance, com-
INTRODUCTION Several field tests are now in prog-
bustion temperatures, and coke and
fluid distributions are presented. The ress. Sinclair has acquired a 600-
The purpose of this work was to acre lease in the Humboldt-Chanute
mechanism of oil recovery by in situ obtain laboratory data for an evalua-
combustion is discussed. field, Allen County, Kans., and is
tion of the in situ combustion pro- under way with a large-scale opera-
Five crude oils ranging in gravity cess as a method of producing crude tion. Three field tests are under way
from 10.9 to 34.r API were pro- oil from reservoirs. in California. The General Petroleum
duced from a semiadiabatic, uncon- In situ combustion basically con- Corp. is conducting an inverted five-
solidated sand pack by in situ com- sists of (1) injecting air into a reser- spot pattern test in the South Bel-
bustion. Experimental conditions voir through selected input wells to ridge field in Kern County under a
were varied over a wide range in or- create an air sweep through the res- cooperative agreement with 11 other
der to determine the inter-relation- ervoir, (2) igniting the crude at the companies, including Continental Oil
I'hips of process variables. The mini- injection well, and (3) propagating Co. California Research Corp. is
mum air flux requirement for selt- the combustion front through the conducting a four-well pattern test in
sustained combustion was found to reservoir by continued air injection. Midway-Sunset field near Maricopa,
he less than 10 scf/hr-ft'. The rate By this means, oil is swept toward and Richfield Oil Corp. is under way
of advance of a self-.lustained com- producing wells in the area. The fuel with a test in the Ojai field in Ven-
hustion zone was found to be nearly for combustion is supplied by heavy tura County.
proportional to the air {lux at the residual material (coke) which has
combustion front. Although the published informa-
been deposited on the sand grains tion is valuable concerning results
The effects of pressure and in- during distillation and cracking of
jected air .flux were studied in a of field tests, little laboratory data
the crude oil ahead of the combus- other than that reported by Kuhn
series of experiments using a 21.r tion front.
API crude. A minimum air require- and Koch' are available to aid in
Recovery of petroleum by a com- appraising the tests from a technical
ment was observed at an air flux of bustion or heat wave process is not
20 scf/hr-ft'. The oil saturation con- or economic standpoint. Engineering
a new idea. F. A. Howard was data needed to evaluate the process
sumed as fuel averaged 5.5 per cent granted a patent in 1923 on a pro-
of pore volume. The effect of air include the amount of air required
cess in which air and a combustible per barrel of oil recovered, minimum
pressure was found to be .<mall for gas were pumped into an injection
experiments having high combustion injection rates which will support
well and ignited.' Russian engineers combustion, rates of advance, air re-
efficiencies. reported on field experiments with a quired per unit volume of reservoir
This study should promote a bet- crude oil gasification process in cleaned, amount of oil recovered, and
ter understanding of the prohlems 1935'. Other known early field tests amount of oil consumed as fuel. The
and mechanisms involved in labora- include those conducted near Bar- present laboratory investigation was
tory investigatiolls and .field applica- tlesville and Ardmore, Okla., in undertaken to provide these data for
tions of the in situ combustion pro- 1942.' More recently completed field that portion of the reservoir swept
cess. The data presented will be use- tests include an inverted seven-spot by the combustion zone.
by Sinclair Oil Co. in the Delaware-
The first phase of this investiga-
Original manuscript received in Society of Childers field, Nowata County,
Petroleum Engineers office on Aug. 7, 1957.
Okla.'; a three-well and an inverted tion was exploratory in nature and
Revised manuscript received Dec. 30, 1957.
Paper presented at 32nd Annual Fall Meet- was conducted at injection pressures
ing of Society of Petroleum Engineers in
Dallas. Tex .. Oct. 6-9. 1%7. less than 100 psig. Data were ob-

PETROI.EIJM TRA:\'S;\(:TJO~S. AJ~H


SPE 914-G
tained over a wide range of experi-
mental conditions in an effort to ob-
serve, qualitatively, the effect of some
of the many variables that affect the
in situ combustion process. At times
several air flow rates were studied
during a single experiment. During
the second phase of the work, the ef-
fects of pressure and injected air flux
were studied by means of long-term,
stabilized experiments conducted at
constant inlet pressure an.d exit gas ANAL.YSIS ECUIPMENT fL.OW SHEET

flow rate.

DESCRIPTION OF APP ARA TUS


The two phases of the experimen-
tal work were conducted in two dis- :::~l v::~::s~ /
crete, but basically similar, lahora- gll1Il\TI:1_--'

tory apparatus.
1I"""l'''''''~TI''l.!.ll
The simulated reservoirs consisted USEII ... S ....... C.""lSS
IIcaUl.101t

of vertical stainless steel tubes FJG. l~~FL()\V SHEET FOR LABORATORY h Sl1T COlldBl;STlO!\i :\PPARATll~.
packed with unconsolidated sand and
fitted with the necessary controlling teen heaters were wound around the scribed in Table I. This crude had a
and recording equipment. The first tube, each controlling the tube wall carbon-hydrogen weight ratio of 7.23.
tube was 4 ft long and 4.85 in. in temperature of a 4-in. interval.
diameter with a wall thickness of Other details of the air supply and EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURE
1/16 in. A porous stainless steel flow control and measuring sys-
plate at the bottom of the tube pre- tems are included in the flow sheet The tubes were charged with a
vented sand production. Eleven ther- (Fig. 1). known weight of sand which was
mocouples in wells spaced at 4-in. packed to a definite volume as de-
intervals were used to measure tem- DESCRIPTION OF MATERIALS scribed. Frequently, a previously used
peratures at the center of the sand pack was reused. After the gas per-
pack. Eleven additional thermocou- The unconsolidated sand packs meability was measured, the pack
ples were placed against the outside were prepared with Blackhawk E was evacuated and saturated with
of the tube opposite the wells. A grade sand obtained from the Stand- water. A known weight of crude was
thermocouple at the top gave an in- ard Silica Corp., Ottawa, Ill., and then flooded through the pack, and
dication of the igniter temperature. used as received. The sand was gas permeability was established with
The ignitor heater consisted of a packed to the same reference levels a gas drive at room temperature.
coil of nichrome wire wound on 11 in the tubes by slowly pouring in The ignition procedure for the
ceramic cone attached to the top of sand from the top while vibrating constant-flux experiments included
the apparatus. Five other heaters the tube. The porosities resulting an initial heating of the sand face
were wound around the tube so that from this technique averaged 36 per during a nitrogen drive. This was
the wall temperature of 8-in. inter- cent. The permeability to air of the continued until a temperature gradi-
vals could be controlled by adjusting clean sand before and after burning ent was established similar to those
a Variac connected to each heater. was about 10 darcies. previously observed during combus-
Fig. 1 shows a schematic flow dia- The five crude oils studied in the tion. Combustion actually began
gram of the second apparatus. It was first phase of the investigation ranged when the injected gas was changed
basically similar to the first except in gravity from 10.9 to 34.20 API. from nitrogen to air. This ignition
that provision was made for experi- ASTM distillation and viscosity data procedure decreased the tendency for
mentation at elevated pressures. The are shown in Table 1. The crude liquid block formation and promoted
second tube was 6 ft long and 5% used during the second phase was early stabilization of the experiment.
in. in diameter with a wall thickness the 21.2 0 API gravity crude de- Pack temperatures were recorded
of 0.035 in. It was supported within
a steel pressure jacket designed to
TABLE I-VISCOSITY AND ASTM DI5TlllATION DATA
withstand 1,000 psi. During an ex- 10.9 18.3 0 21.2 28.9 34.2
periment, the pressure in the jacket Crud& Type API API API API API
was maintained equal to the injec- Temperature, Viscosity, Centistokes

tion pressure in the pack. The pres- 100 2,970 2,590 1 J3.7 13.1 9.50
210 29.3 J 2.7 3.28 2.69
sure difference across the tube wall Volume Per Cent Distilled Boiling Point, f
was limited to 100 psi. IB~ 19, 214 270 145 149
5 232 275 334 228 233
Sand pack temperatures were 10 254 334 405 290 274
15 42~ 454
measured in a central 14 -in. thermo- 20 486 498 492 414 369
well with a thermocouple probe con- 25 535 526
30 5eO 601 552 520 47J
sisting of four thermocouples spaced 35 581 133%) 564'
40 595 630' 592 557'
at 4-in. intervals. The outside tube 45 607
wall temperatures were measured 50
55
620
630
654'

with thermocouples placed at 4-in. 60 634


65 628'
intervals along the tube length. Six- Crocking temperaturE'

\' 0 J :2 l:~. IlJ.'lH


continuously on a multipoint rec-
RUN NO 15
order. The outside temperatures at ~
w CRUCE 21 2 API
all levels were maintained slightly 30 ~6 -I II'R(SSUAE 600 PSIG
2
AIR FLUX 31.8 SCF/HR-FT
less than the corresponding inside "~
z

temperatures by manually adjusting


the tube wall heater Variacs. This
i;'

"
u
~.
0
~
I 5000 It
~ I"
type of control provided semiadia- ~ 20
,. 4000
~
w
!i
~4
batic conditions with a slight radial ~
';i ~

heat loss to the surroundings. ~
0
~
~3- 3000 (5
~

During the experiments, cumula- 0


w :-
tive oil and water production, pres- ~
~
0
0


~ ~

sure drop across the pack, pressure ~ 10 ~


0

at pack inlet, and the location of the ~


combustion front were all plotted gl 1000

against cumulative run time so that


a graphical picture of the progress
of the run was available. Fig. 2
0
- .
shows most of these data for Run 15. FIG. 2-ExPERIMENTAL DATA. RUN No. 15.

1ABLE 2-COMBUSTION DATA-EXPLORATORY EXPER IMEI,TS


RESULTS Saturation Average Approximate
Crude Oil at Ignition, Injection Combustion Rate of Oxygen
In general, correlations attempted Gravity, Per cent of Porosity Exit Flux Pressure, Temperature, Advance, to Carbon
Run API Oil Water scf/hr - ft:! psig OF It/day scl/hr - ft'
with the short-term exploratory data 28.9 70.5 8.4 250 26
-----
850 12:5' ~
showed trends in fair agreement with 28.9 56.6 9.5 255 17 725 4.7 1.4
28.9 52.7 13.2 131 21 750 3.5 1.7
the data obtained in the second 128 13 650 2.6 1.1
phase; however, correlations of the 10.9 63.2 8.7 75 90 1,000 5.0 10,1
8.9 96 850 0.7 1.5
exploratory data have been omitted 23.2 96 850 2.8 3.5
107 95 950 10.8 10.9
in favor of the more representative 18.3 72.5 7.8 60.0 44 950 3.4 7A
constant-flux data. Table 2 gives data 32.2 26 850 2.6 3.8
1.9
16.8 6 ?CO 1.2
from the exploratory phase of the 18.3 66.0 15.6 18.3 34 800 1.9 2.6
74.4 48 900 6.8 10.1
investigation. Table 3 gives the initial 18.3 44.1 20.2 23.2 18 825 2.5 3.2
fluid saturations, experimental con- 38.6 10 850 3.3 4.0
18.3 53.5 18.4 21.2 70 825 2.8 3.2
ditions, and material halance data 9.9 56 625 0.9 1.0
9 34,2 47.6 15.5 20.1 8 750 2.4 2.1
from the constant flux runs. Table 4 10 34.2 42.1 17.2 18.6 65 750 2.5 1.9
gives process data ohtained under lOA 65 625 0.7 1.0
11 34.2 43 .3 J 8.1 20.1 64 750 3.2 2.5
stabilized comhustion conditions dur- 20.6 64 625 0.8 1.1
12 21 2 75.0 10.7 21.5 27 800 2.8 2.8
ing the constant flux runs.
CO;\1BUSTION FRONT AOVANCf
TABLE c-EXPERIMENTAL CONDITIONS AND MATERIAL BALANCE DATA-CONSTANT flUX
Fig. 3 shows three successive tem- EXPERIMENTS - 21.2 API CRUDE
Run 11 14 15 16 17 18'
perature profiles of the sand-packed ---_._----
Pressure ot Combustion Front, psi:) 30 30 600 600 600 600
tube which were measured during fluid Content at Ignition
Grams 01 Oil 4.689 5,053 6,408 5.135 5,851 5.692
Run 1. The first maximum on each Grams 01 Water 454 1,925 922 1,000 884 860
of these curves is indicative of the Saturations at Ignition, Vol. per cent of Porosity
Oil 52.3 56.6 76.2 61.0 69.6 67.7
location of a high temperature zone Water 9.0 19.7 10.0 10.9 9.6 9.4
which accumulated while the ignitor Oil Produced
WI. per cent of Chorge ot Ignition 86.6 90.2 92.2 90.4 89.9
was maintained at a high temperature Vol. per cent of Porosity 45.3 50.9 70.5 55.2 62.4
Estimated Oil Burned
and the air rate was low. The second WI. per cent of Charge 10.6 9.32 8.54 10.2 8.52
maximum on each curve developed Vol. per cent of Porosity 5.08 4.83 5.62 5.70 5.29
CarbonHydrogen Ratio of Burned Residuum, lb/lb 9.0' 9.0' 8.54 9.64 12.3
when the air injection rate was in- Oil Material Balance Check, Wt. per cent 967:' 99.9" 100.7 100.7 104.4
Ilnterrupted
creased after the initial heating per- 2A$sumed
iod. The latter peaks were used to lo- :-lBased on assumed C/H ratio

cate the combustion front and meas-


ure its rate of advance. TABLE 4-PROCESS DATA-CONSTANT flUX EXPERIMENTS-21.2 API CRUDE
Fig. 4 shows the location of the Run 13 14 15 16 17 18
Injected Air Flux, scf/hr-ft:! 29.5 29.7 31.B 63.5 125 10.7
combustion front and the high tem- Produced Gas Flux, scf/hr.ft:! 28.2 28,3 30,0 60.6 121 10.0
perature zone created hy the ignitor Rate of Advance of the Combustion
Front, ft/doy 2.90 3,26 3.05 5.17 B.39 0.854
heater as these two zones moved Average Combustion Temperature, ') f 825 800 775 800 8:0 650
through the sand pack. It is evident Average C02 in Exit Gas, Vol. per cent 10.8 10.7 10.9 9.9 7.7 11.4
Average CO in Exit Gas, Vol. per cent 3.2 4.1 3.4 3,3 2.0 3.1
from Figs. 3 and 4 that the rate of Average 02 in Exit Gas, Vol. per ccnt 3.3 2.2 1.9 3.9 8.6 1.0
Carbon Burned, Ib/IOO Ib of sand deaned 0.99 0.94 1. 11 1.23 1.10 1.24
advance of the first zone is less than Residue Burned, Yol. per cent of porosity 5.08 4.81 5.69 6.23 5.49 6.42
that of the combustion zone. Under Oxygen Consumed to Carbon Oxides,
scf/hr.ft' 3,51 3.63 3.78 7.00 10.52 1.29
the prevailing conditions, heat in the Total Oxygen Consumed, scf/hr-ft:! 5.25 5.59 6.07 10.93 15.74 2.13
Oxygen Consumed to Carbon Oxides,
first zone moved more slowly by con- scf/ftS of sand cleaned 29.1 26.7 29.8 32,5 30.1 36.3
vection and conduction than the Total Oxygen Consumed, scf/ft:-.!
41.2 47.9 50.8 45.1 59.8
of sand deaned 43.4
~ombustion front moved by the in Dxygen Consumed, per cent of oxygen jnj~b'ed 84.9 90.1 91.4 82.3 60,3 95.6
Air Required, scf/ft::l of sand cleaned 245 219 251 295 358 301
situ generation of heat assisted by Averoge Instantoneous GOR, scf/bbl 5,000 5,600 4,400 5,800 6,800 5,100
f()nvection and conduction. Minimum Cumulative GOR, scf/bbl 6,cOO 5,700 4,600 7,400 8,100 6.600
Cumulative GOR at GOR= 10,000, scf/bbl 6,800 6,200 5,100 7,500 8,300 6,800
Rates of advance of combustion =
:umuiative GO~ 01 GOR 20,000, scf/bbl 7,200 6,700 5,400 ;,800 9,000 ;,20Q

:10
tronts were obtained from slopes of jected air flux during the runs with
plots similar to Fig. 4 and are pre- 21.2 API crude. The combustion
sented in Tables 2 and 4 along with temperature for these runs ranged
corresponding combustion data. The from 650 to 850F with the average
exploratory data are reoresentative of temperature about 800F. This curve
constant flux conditions of several shows that the combustion efficiency
hours' duration, but usually more increases as the flux is decreased for
than one flux was investigated during temperatures greater than 650F.
an exploratory run. As seen in Fig. 7, the combustion
During the constant flux experi- efficiencies for the 80 psig runs were
ments, no sharp combustion peaks , , less than the efficiency for the 600
were observed because radial heat DISUNCE flfOliI TO!" OF PIleI(
psig run at the same air flux. This
FIG. 3-TEMPERATURE PROFIl.ES.
losses were better controlled and rates RUN No. 1. . effect of pressure is due to decreased
of advance were generally lower. In residence time and the kinetics of
these experiments, the rate of ad- combustion. The effect of pressure
vance of the combustion front was on the kinetics of combustion be-
obtained by following the progres- comes even more important when
sion of a temperature level known to combustion efficiencies are lower.
be representative of combustion con- The difference in efficiencies ob-
ditions. served between the two 80 psig runs
Fig. 5 shows the effect of injected is attributed to water saturation.
air flux on the rate of advance of the
combustion front. It may be seen MINIMUM RATE OF SELF-
that the rate of advance increases al- SUSTAINED COMBUSTION
most linearly with increasing flux To maintain isothermal combus-
above a flux of about 30 scf/hr-ft'. FIG. 4-ADVANCE OF HIGH TEMPERATCRE tion in any situation, heat must be
l3elow this flux of 30, the rate of ad- ZONES, RUN No. 1. liberated by combustion at a rate
vance drops off rapidly with a de- equal to the net rate of heat loss to
crease in flux. The most efficient flux " the surroundings. The data obtained
is indicated by the point of tangency
at 20 scf/hr-ft' of a line through the
. /' '"
in this investigation indicate that it
is not possible to maintain stabilized.
origin. It is of interest that these , /' self-sustained combustion in sand
more precise data substantiate the packs by burning residual material at
data obtained in the shorter time in- ./"
/ temperatures less than about 600 P 0

tervals during the exploratory work. due to the kinetics of combustion.


The effect of pressure on the rate of L - Therefore, it is concluded that the
advance appears to be small. It is
also indicated that an increase in
'-7 .lUUII

CRUD
aa'''1
~.'.

2:1.2..... '
minimum rate of self-sustained com-
bustion for unconsolidated sand pack;,
water saturation at low levels in- " m ~ ~ ~ ,~

'" '" is that required to replace heat losses


creases the rate of advance. FIG. 5-EFFECT OF INJECTED AIR FLliX that occur at about 600F.
ON THE RATE OF ADVA!"CE.
Fig. 6 shows the linear relation- The minimum air flux in any given
ship between the rate at which oxy- situation is that required to provide
gen is consumed and the rate of ad- the minimum rate of self-sustained
vance of the combustion front. The
oxygen converted to carbon oxides
~
!
. combustion. The minimum rate of
advance of a self-sustained combus-
was obtained from gas analysis data. tion front in any given situation is
The total oxygen consumed was cal- that resulting when air is supplied
culated as the difference between the at the minimum flux.
oxygen supplied and the free oxygen
produced. It has been assumed that ,
o 'r--,~~~~--+-~ le<l'U_",OCU_O",,,,'
CIIVOE til"""
MINIMUM AIR FLUX
the oxygen not appearing in any 10
No self-sustained combustion front
OnlUI CONIUII[O. IC"t/II._".Z
form in the produced gases was re- was observed at air rates less than 9.0
FIG. 6-EFFECT OF OXYGEN CONSUMED ON
acted to form water or oxygenated THE RAn OF ADVANCE OF THE COM-
scf/hr-ft'. During Run 8, the air flux
products, such as organic acids and BUSTION FRONT. was deliberately reduced from 10 to
alcohols. The presence of oxygenated 4.0 scf/hr-ft'. The temperature of
compounds in the produced water the combustion zone declined stead-

..
~

was indicated hy its color, odor, and ........ l-UellD


ily from 625 to 400F, and the con-
~ , -~ '0""
centration of carbon oxides in the
low pH. ~""De: IL~'~

COMBUSTION EFFICIENCY
~ i'--.. exit gases declined from 12.6 to 0.3
per cent in 12 hours. It was apparent
The percentage of the injected "-
oxygen which is consumed in pass- , ~ that the flux of 4 scf/hr-ft' was less
than that required for self-sustained
ing through the front is a measure
of the efficiency of the combustion , I~ combustion.
process. This percentage is calculated I Combustion was re-established and
I
by dividing the rate at which oxygen ,, 40 50 80
maintained by adding a small amount
INJECTED ",It FLU~ , Ie' f 1"'1"2
of heat to the zone from the wall
is consumed by the rate of oxygen
FIG. 7-EFFECT OF bJECTED AIR Fl.!;X
injection. Fig. 7 shows the percentage ON OXYGEN CONSUMED AS PERCENTAGE
heaters. On raising the exit flux to
consumed as a function of the in- OF OXYGf.N INJECTF.O. 10.4 scf/hr-ft'. combustion was ob-
3l VOL 2l3. 1958
served to be self-sustained at about Calculations assuming no heat loss
625F. and a heat of combustion of 500
An estimate of the minimum air Btu/scf of oxygen burned indicate
flux required to support combustion that the theoretical minimum amount
in unconsolidated sand was calcu- of air required to clean a cubic foot
lated from experimental temperature of unconsolidated sand by combus-
gradients by assuming (l) that 100 tion at 750F is about 135 scf/ft'.
per cent combustion efficiency was Calculations also show that the theo-
obtained, (2) that the controlling ~o 60 90 100
IHJECTEElilIRFlUX,$CF/HR-FT2 retical minimum amount of air or
heat loss from the combustion zone FIG. 8-EFFECT OF INJECTED AIR FLUX other gas required to move a heat
was to the cooler sand just ahead, ON THE AIR REQUIRED PER CUBIC FOOT wave by convection alone is about
(3) that convective heat transfer was OF SAND CLEANED. 10 scf/lb of sand or about 1,050
negligible, and (4) that the steady- scf/ft' of sand pack cleaned.
state law of conduction would de- scf/hr-ft'. The increase in air re-
quired as the flux was increased from GAS-OIL RATIOS
scribe the heat loss under conditions
of constant advance, temperature, 30 was due to the decreased effi- The ratios of air injected to oil
and flux. The minimum flux so cal- ciency shown in Fig. i. The sharp produced ranged from 4,000 to 37,-
culated was 4.0 scf/hr-ft'. A value increase in air requirements at low 000 scf/bbl under conditions of sta-
between 4 and 10 scf/hr-ft' is be- fluxes is supported by the data ob- bilized combustion during the ex-
lieved to be satisfactory for engineer- tained in the exploratory runs. The ploratory experiments. Fig. 9 shows
ing calculations involving the heavier data point representing data taken at the instantaneous and cumulative
crude oils in unconsolidated reser- SO psig is in agreement with the 600 gas-oil ratio vs the percentage of
voirs. psig data obtained at similar water pack cleaned for Run 13 of the con-
saturations. An increase in water stant flux experiments. The instan-
MINIMUM RATES OF ADVANCE saturation from 9 to 20 per cent de- taneous GOR averaged 5,000 scf/bbl
Experimental rates of advance as creased the air requirement for during the period of stabilized com-
low as 0.7 ft/day with exit gas rates the SO psig runs from 245 to 219 bustion. The cumulative GOR for
of 9 to 10 scf/hr-ft' are listed in Table scUft". Run 13 was a minimum of 6,500
2. It is probable that even lower self- During exploratory runs, the exit scf/bbl when the front had cleaned
sustained rates could have been dem- gas produced per unit volume of 76 per cent of the pack and was
onstrated with the improved ap- sand pack intervals cleaned was cal- 7,200 scf/bbl when the instantaneous
paratus. The combustion zone pro- culated from the rate of advance GOR reached 20,000 scf/bbl.
gresses through an oil sand by burn- and exit flux data given in Table 2. Data from other runs show that
ing the residual material from the A plot similar to Fig. S resulted in the time required for initial oil pro-
sand grains. The rate of advance of scattered data points, but a minimum duction decreases as the initial oil
a combustion front is therefore in- value of about 150 scf of exit gas per saturation increases. With very high
versely proportional to the amount cubic foot of sand pack cleaned was initial saturations, the instantaneous
of residual material laid down by observed at a flux of 20 scf/hr-ff. GOR starts at a lower value and in-
the crude if the air flux and the rate When residual material is not pres- creases with time. The air required
of combustion remain constant. The ent in sufficient quantity to insure a and oil burned per cubic foot of
minimum rate of advance is fixed by high combustion temperature (about sand cleaned does not change appre-
the amount of residual fuel that must SOO to 1,OOOF), the kinetics of ciably with oil saturation. Thus, an
be removed at the minimum air flux. combustion will prevent the oxygen increase in initial oil saturation de-
Calculations show that roughly 0.6 in air supplied at high rates from creases the GOR's in tube runs, but
Ib of residuum must be burned to being entirely consumed as it passes the instantaneous GOR is less sensi-
raise the temperature of 100 Ib of through the front. This excess air is tive to initial oil saturation than the
sand from 75 to 600F in the ab- not used efficiently, although benefit cumulative. Both are important be-
sence of heat losses. Under these is gained from movement of heat cause they give an indication of the
conditions, a minimum air flux of by convection. A scattering of air re-
4.0 scf/hr-ft' is sufficient to produce quirement data was obtained during I
1
00
I
a rate of advance of about 1.0 ft/day the experiments with 2S.9 API ~_---l_ I
in unconsolidated sand. This rate crude oil in early runs at high rates. i
I 1

would be the theoretical maximum The average fuel consumption was 00-'-

self-sustained rate of advance for a only 0.2 lb of carbon per 100 Ib of ~-T-+=-1 I
minimum air flux of 4 scf/hr-ft.'
However, experimental data indicate
sand. Air requirements as high as
1,300 scf/ft" of sand cleaned were
"I-
~2C,O
: \
I I

I!
i ,._- -

~*-
/ '
that heat losses are minimized at a obtained at a flux of 255 scf/hr-fl'. I
rate of advance of 2 ft/day. For this At a flux of 200 scf/hr-ft', the aver- ool----~
\ I : ! I il
\! -~
i
I
case, it would thus be necessary to age air requirement for this crude !

'"
T ,
t----t I
supply air at a flux of S scf/hr-ft' to was about 1,000 scf/ft' of sand. This i :
insure self-sustained combustion. is enough air to move the combustion " 1-:" I

i
NCUWUL"T,VE ( Ir-
zone at a rate of about 5 ft/day by 1
AIR REQUIREMENTS convection alone if radial heat losses 00
hi 1 / r\J
Fig. S is a plot of the air required
per cubic foot of sand cleaned as a
were eliminated. The same air rate
would be used efficiently with a low
I

1
,I;sf.N'UNE::r1I
RUN I!
~U5SC"/HIInl
PACKPRUS"lonIQ
s,.-SlJ'4
cwO[ 2IZ',t,PI
0
function of the injected air flux. This gravity crude oil, and a much faster "
.,., OF P,t,CK
~
~ENGfli Cl-UNEO

curve shows a minimum air re- rate of advance and lower air re- FIG. 9-PLOT OF PnODUCED GOR vs PEl<
quirement of about 240 scf/ft' of quirement per unit of sand cleaned (:""T OF PACK LENGTH (I.EANED.
sand cleaned at a flux of about 20 would he ohserved. Rr:N No, 1.1.

PETROI.EUM TRANSAf:TIONS. ,\IMF


cost of oil displaced by combustion. pled throughout its length by digging profile where water saturation in-
Data in Table 4 show how cumula- out the sand. creased which reflects the effects of
tive and average instantaneous gas- The sand samples were analyzed vaporization and condensation of
oil ratios varied with air flux. for oil and water content by the Bu- water being driven down the tube.
OIL PRODUCED
reau of Mines method.' Samples of
the extracted sand were ignited to de- DISCUSSION
Oil recoveries for the constant flux
termine the amount of insoluble
experiments ranged from 86.6 to MECHANISM OF IN SITe
residue or coke present. These data
92.2 per cent of that in place at ig- COMBUSTION
are shown in Fig. 10. The data from
nition. The gravity of the produced The events which occur as a high
other interrupted runs resulted in
oil increased gradually during the temperature combustion front ap-
similar shaped curves with about the
latter stages of all runs, because proaches a given point in porous me-
same amount of residual material
heavy components were used for fuel dia containing oil and water are as
and water but with differin o oil satu-
and lighter hydrocarbons were pro- rations. <0 follows. The temperature increase,
duced by cracking and distillation. gradually until the condensation and
As the combustion front approached Inspection of Fig. 10 shows that
vaporization point of water is reached.
the end of the tube, a light oil or the oil saturation (based on a 21.2 G
The water vapor in the sweep gas
distillate was produced. Presumably, API gravity) increased rapidly to 32
per cent in the 8-in. interval ahead condenses, and a residual water satu-
a condensate zone forms ahead of ration is maintained by liquid flow.
the combustion front. of the burning zone, appeared to
The residual water then begins to
level out in the interval of increasing
vaporize and is moved away by the
FUEL REQUIREMENTS water saturation, and then increased
sweep gas at a rate corresponding to
Tables 3 and 4 present data con- rapidly to about 50 per cent of pore
the rate at which heat is being trans-
cerning the residual material used as space at the end of the pack. Water
saturation was detected about 6 in. ferred from the combustion zone.
fuel during runs with 21.2 API Some oil is moved out by distillation
crude oil. Although the data vary from the burning zone and increased
and the increased gas flow resulting
slightly from run to run, an average :apidly to a?out 16 per cent, approx-
Imately 14 tn. ahead of the zone. It from the vaporization of water. Whe~
value of approximately 1.17 Ib of all the water has been vaporized.
carbon per 100 lb of sand cleaned is of interest that the maximum coke
content of the sand by analysis the temperature at the point in-
was observed. Table 2 gives explora- creases. During this time, the vis-
tory dnta on oxygen converted to checks the run average amount of
carbon burned as indicated by the cosity of the oil in place decreases.
carhon oxides. Plots of these data in- ~nd the volumes of oil and gas are
dicate some effect of air flux on fuel Orsat data during this experiment;
thus. the coked zone contributes Illcreased by thermal expansion.
requirements. The constnnt flux runs These effects result in additional flow
show these trends to a lesser degree. most of the heat liberated by com-
hustion. of liquid oil from the point. In addi-
Although rationalizations can be tion to liquid flow, vaporization of
made to explain the inflections ob- Fig. 10 also shows a longitudinal oil will occur as component vapor
served, no definite conclusions seem temperature profile of the pack at pressures exceed the prevailing pres-
justified at this time. the time the run was terminated. The sure. When temperatures approach
The effect of injected air flux on maximum concentration of coke or 600F, most of the original oil satu-
the amount of 21.2 API oil burned residual material was observed at a
ration will have been moved away
was slight and may be deduced from point which had reached a temper-
ature of about 700F. Water satura- from the point. The residual material
the data in Tables 3 and 4. The
tion began where the temperature of begins to crack, forming lighter hy-
amount of crude consumed as fuel
averaged 5.5 per cent of pore vol- the sand had never exceeded the boil- drocarbons and coke. Combustion
ume. ing temperature of water. There was will be occurring at rates controlled
The carbon-hydrogen ratio of the a leveling out of the temperature by process variables. If the combus-
f~e! consumed was calculated by di-
VIdIng the total weight of carbon . or------.--.,.---.,.----,---~---60

burne~, as determined from gas


analysts, by the total weight of hy-
drogen burned, as determined from
1000 5.0
RUN No.

MeK
I!
CRUOE-21.ZAPI
.OE_- 10 PSIO
AIR FLUX - 21.!5SCF/HR.n-2
---+--
I

50 ~

the combustion water produced. The 0


z
i
I
..f
u;
0

I
data show that the carbon-hydrogen <)\ "-

ratio increases with combustion tem-


900
.d
Z
4.0
I 40 0
...
perature and air flux.
.; ~
I", ~

SA TURA nON DISTRIBUTIONS ~ 600


-'
!! 3.0 I" 30~
, 1"- ;
1 <)\
Exploratory Run 12 was inter- ~
1
,e; ::i
rupted when the combustion zone 400 ~2.0 2O~
had progressed about 1 ft into the 8
;'-
.
~

sand pack (about 30 per cent of -'


15
pack length) in order to obtain data 200
>'
~ 1.0
..
10 -'
:>
0
on the distribution of crude oil. ::
residual material, and water near "
the combustion zone. The pack was O~.:,--~>Oo-,.g,.~I~.-..--"~2~.0---2~.O---13.0--...J3.-'....l.-J
DISTANCE FROM TOP OF PACK FT
allowed to cool under pressure.
FIG. lO-COKE. ,oIL A;'iD WATER DISTRIBUTIO;'i' AND CORRESPONDIN(;
,lowly depressLJred. and then sam- 1 EMPERATURE PROFILE. Ru;'i No. 12.
tion zone temperature IS less than more rapidly than heat can be moved teristics and distributions of fluids
nOOop, considerable hydrogen will by the combined processes of con- and solids in combustion zones are
be burned. The resulting water va- duction through the solid matrix and important and are amenable to lab-
por is carried by the sweep gas until convective heat transfer by gases oratory investigation.
it condenses ahead of the zone. As flowing at similar rates. In addition It is apparent that the minimum
temperatures increase from 600 o P. to being faster, the use of in situ rate of advance of a combustion
the residual material has more of an combustion energy results in substan- front is related to the amount of
opportunity to crack before it is tial savings in the amount of air re- residual material on the sand grains.
burned. Under these conditions more quired to advance the front through For a given minimum air flux, mini-
hydrogen wiII be recovered in the a unit of reservoir space. With rapid mum rates of advance decrease as
produced hydrocarbons, and the ratio rates of advance, the exploratory data the amount of residual material in-
of carbon to hydrogen consumed as and calculations indicate that an ad- creases. In view of the many variables
fuel wiII be increased. vance by burning only requires about affecting minimum rates of advance,
Liquids are moved away from an :20 per cent of the gas injection re- they may be defined as those rates
advancing combustion front in part quired to advance a heat wave by which result when air is supplied at
by vaporization and in part by flow. convection from the sweep gas. We the minimum flux required for sus-
Vaporization occurs at a rate cor- do not wish to im~ly, however, that tained combustion.
responding to the rate of heat trans- the latter technique is without ad-
fer from the zone to the liquids. If MINIMUM AIR RATES
vantage. since recycle of produced
the heat transferred from a combus- combustion gas can often he accom- The instantaneous heat loss from
tion zone causes excessive vaporiza- plished with a minimum of compres- the zone and the ratio of residual
tion, liquid saturations will build up ,ion costs. fuel to rock solids are the important
in cooler portions of the porous ma- There may be a fairly narrow variables relative to the definition of
trix and gas permeability blocks will range of crude oil types which will a minimum air rate. Preheat will
develop. These blocks can reduce the provide the optimum amount of car- tend to reduce the heat loss from a
air flux to levels below that required bon or residual material for propa- burning zone, thereby reducing the
for self-sustained combustion. Per- "at ion of an in situ combustion wave. amount of residual material and air
meability blocks were a technical dif- The methods proposed by Sinclair required to propagate and maintain
ficulty often encountered following appear to be applicable to light the zone at combustion temperatures.
the ignition of crude oils in tube runs crudes." These methods involve in- At low rates of trontal advance. the
and may be important during field jecting fuel gas and/or reducing the amount of preheat exnerienced by
applications of the process:' oxygen content of injected gas so a combustion zone could conceivably
The most striking feature of the that the rate of advance of the com- increase with distance traveled from
,aturation distributions and the tem- bustion zone is the same as the rate the place of ignition. It should also
perature profile shown in Pig. 10 is of movement of heat by convection. increase with pressure because of
the short length of the combustion the higher vaporization temperature
If, on the other hand, one burns of water ahead of the zone. There-
zone and the resulting high tem-
verv heavy crude oils, excess heat fore, minimum air fluxes and residual
perature gradient at the advancing
is developed in the combustion zone material requirements may be lower
front. The transition from hot. because of the relatively large amount
cleaned sand to relatively cool sand in petroleum reservoirs than they are
of residue laid down by these crudes. in laboratory experiments. Ideally.
containing oil and water occurred This excess heat is of no apparent
over a distance of approximately 1 this point has significance over a
value to the process, yet the front relatively short but critical portion
ft. At low rates of advance, the cannot be advanced without consum-
amount of preheat received by the of a conventional five-spot pattern.
ing the residue. This requires large i.e., the area out to about halfway
porous matrix prior to the arrival of quantities of additional air. With very
the combustion zone should increase between injection and production
heavy crudes, it may develop that weIls. It is encouraging to note that
with distance traversed by the front. the air required per unit of sand
This should result in a decrease in the effects expected in the field are
cleaned wiII make the process unat- in the proper direction for a work-
the residual material and air flux re- tractive and means of reducing the
quired for sustained combustion." able process.
air requirements will have to be de-
The effects of preheat would appear veloped. An estimate of the minimum air
to be small at rapid rates of ad- flux required for sustained combus-
For a given crude oiL the rate of
vance. It seems logical also that tion was obtained by heat transfer
advance of a combustion front ap-
losses to over and underburden will calculations and substantiated by ex-
pears to be directly proportional to
be minimized in many field applica perimentation. The indicated mini-
the rate of formation of carbon ox-
tions 'because of the relatively rapid mum flux of 4.0 scf/hr-ft2 is applica-
ides and the rate of total oxygen con-
velocities of advancing in situ com- ble to unconsolidated sand packs
version. But the relationship between
bustion zones as compared with the only. Tube runs with consolidated
the rate of advance and the air flux
rate of heat loss by thermal conduc- media wiII require a higher air flux
is influenced by many inter-related
tion. to compensate for higher thermal
variables, such as the combustion ef-
conductivity of the rock. Under field
ADVANCE OF COMBUSTION ficiency and the amount of residual
conditions, the minimum air flux
FRONTS material burned per unit of sand
will depend largely upon reservoir
The propagation of a high energy cleaned. The length of the combus-
properties and the prevailing thermal
combustion zone through an oil res- tion zone, the pressure and temper-
gradients.
ervoir is the most rapid method of ature, the reactivity of the residuum,
thermal recovery. Experimental and and the air flux affect combustion TOTAL AIR REQUIREMENTS
theoretical data show conclusively efficiencies. The effect of process Two extreme modes of operation
that such a combustion zone moves variables on the combustion charac- exist for in situ combustion. i.e . heat

P F: T R (I J. E ,," TII\ N ~ .\ C T , f) N ~. \ ' \1 F 31


propagation with combustion con- CONCLUDING REMARKS 6. In situ combustion experiments
trolling at low fluxes and heat propa- in unconsolidated sand packs con-
gation with convection controlling at This study should promote a better 0
taining a specific 21.2 API crude
high fluxes. It is possible to operate understanding of the problems and can be maintained satisfactorily at
under self-sustaining conditions at mechanisms involved in laboratory air fluxes above the minimum with
either extreme, but the total air or investigations and field applications a fuel consumption of about 1.2 lb
gas requirements per unit of sand of the in situ combustion process. of carbon per 100 Ib of sand cleaned.
cleaned will be different. The data presented will be useful in which corresponds to about 5.5 per
the planning, operation, and inter- cent of pore volume.
The total air requirements with
pretation of field tests. These data, 7. The amount of hydrogen asso-
combustion controlling are affected
tempered with volumetric sweep effi- ciated with the carbon burned during
by the characteristics of the crude
ciencies, can be used as a guide in in situ combustion decreases as the
oil, the porous matrix, and the com-
making preliminary economic and combustion temperature and air flux
bustion efficiency. A figure in the
technical appraisals of the process at the front are increased.
order of 250 scf/ft' of unconsoli-
for reservoirs containing high poro- 8. It is indicated that the effect of
dated sand seems appropriate for de-
sity unconsolidated media; however, pressure on in situ combustion is
sign and evaluation calculations.
indiscriminate application can lead to small for conditions where high com-
FUEL REQUIREMENTS erroneous results and conclusions. bustion efficiencies exist and the
The propagation of a heat wave Estimation procedures based on the kinetics of combustion are not con-
through a petroleum reservoir re- application of laboratory data to field trolling.
quires an amount of fuel which is conditions will be subject to con-
largely fixed by the heat capacity of siderable uncertainty until several ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
the porous matrix, the heat trans- large-scale field projects have heen The authors wish to express their
ferred with the zone, and the heat completed and evaluated. appreciation to the management of
losses from the zone as it moves be- The results of this work and the Continental Oil Co. for permission
tween wells. A reservoir having a following conclusions apply strictly to publish this paper. The authors
low oil saturation, if subjected to a to the experimental conditions under also wish to thank all those who as-
combustion drive, would most cer- which the data were obtained. sisted in the collection of data and
tainly yield less oil than one having helped with the solution of special
a higher initial saturation of the same CONCLUSIONS problems related to this work.
crude oil.
I. The minimum rate of stabilized, RF:FERENCES
Tube runs do not necessarily give sdf-sustained in situ combustion of 1. Howard, F. A.: "IIIethod of Operat.
an absolute measure of the amount residual material in unconsolidated ing Oil Well," U. S. Patent 1,473,348.
of oil which might be consumed in sand packs during air injection is to Standard Development Co. (Noy.
a field application of the process. that required to maintain a tempera- 0, 192.3).
Analog data reported by Vogel and 0
2. Sheinman, A. B., Dubrovai, K. K ..
ture level of about 600 F. Sorokin, N. A., Charvigin, 1\1. IlL
Krueger' indicate that fuel require- 2. The minimum air flux which Zaks, S. L., and Zinchenko, K. F.:
ments are affected by numerous var- must be maintained to provide this "Gasification of Crude Oil in Reser
iables, induding the rate of advance minimum rate of self-sustained in situ yoir Sands - Part I," Pet. Engr.
and the distance the front has pro- (Dee., 1938), 10, 27; Part II, Ibid.
combustion is about 4 scf/hr-ft' for (Feb., 1939), 91, 94. 96, 98, and 100.
gressed away from the place of igni- adiabatic experiments with uncon- :1. Gibbon, Anthony: "Thermal Princi-
tion (preheat). The work reported solidated sand. ple Applied to Secondary Oil Reeoy
here did not include enough long- 3. An in situ combustion zone ad- ery," The Oil Weekly (Nov. 6, 1944).
term data to evaluate the effect of 115, 170, 172.
vances through a sand pack by burn- 4. Grant, B. F., and Szasz, S. E.: "1),--
distance moved in sand-packed tubes. ing residual material; thus, with high velopment of an Underground Heat
Data on oil burned may be found combustion efficiencies, the rate of Wave for Oil Recovery," Tran".
in Table 3. It should be noted that advance of a combustion zone is AIME (1954),201, 108.
the data expressed in per cent of e;. Kuhn, C. S., and Koch, R. L.: "In-
nearly proportional to the rate at Situ Combustion-Newest Method of
porosity cleaned are representative which air is supplied to the zone Increasing Oil Recovery," Oil and
of the sand packs used in these ex- and inversely proportional to the Gas Jour. (Aug. 10, 1953), 52, 92.
periments. The effect of porosity on amount of residual material de- 113, 114.
the amount of oil burned was not de- h. Koch, R. L., Gleason, J. F., Jr., anJ
posited.
Boston, W. G.: "In-Situ Combustion
termined, but the heat capacity and 4. The minimum self-sustained Field Tested Again," Oil and Gas
thermal conductivity of the gross rate of advance, in a given situation, Jour. (Dec. 6, 1954), 53, 102.
matrix will be inversely proportional is that resulting when air is supplied 7 Walter, H.: "Application of Heat
to porosity; thus, more oil will be re- for Recovery of Oil: Field Test Re-
at the minimum flux. The minimum sults and Possibility of Profitable Op
quired to heat a unit of low porosity rate of advance of an in situ combus- erations," Jour. Pet. Tech. (Feb ..
sand than will be required for a unit tion front in semiadiabatic, sand- 1957) IX, No.2, 16.
of high porosity sand. The oil con- packed tubes is 0.7 ft/day or less, fl. Rall, C. G .. and Taliaferro, D. B.: "A
sumed, expressed in per cent of po- Method for Determining Simultane-
depending on the properties and ouslv the Oil and Water Saturation,
rosity, will be increased as the po- quantity of the residual material. of Oil Sand,," RI 4004 USBM (1946) .
rosity is decreased by two effects: 9. Vogel, 1. c., and Krueger, R. F.:
5. Total air requirements are de-
( 1) more oil is required for fuel and "An Analog Computer for Studyin
pendent on the rate at which air is Heat Transfer during a Thermal Re-
(2) the oil burned will occupy a supplied to the front. A minimum covery Process," Trans. AIME (1955)
correspondingly larger portion of the air requirement is indicated at an air 204, 208.
available space. Low porosities will flux of 20 scf/hr-ft' in unconsolidated 10. Smith. Robert L.. and Watson, Ken-
therefore limit the applicability of neth lVI.: "Oil Recovery Process," e.
sand packs containing a specific 21.2 c S. Patent 2.fi42.94:l Oun" 2:l. 1953)
the process. i\ PI crude.
***
\' (, I. < 2 1 :~. It);; H