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Cyclic water injection: improved oil recovery at zero cost

Leonid Surguchev1, Alexander Koundin1, Oddbjørn Melberg2, Trond A. Rolfsvåg2 and

Wendell P. Menard2
PETEC Software & Services AS, Prof. Olav Hanssensvei 15, PO Box 8042, N-4068 Stavanger, Norway
Norske Conoco AS, Tangen 7, PO Box 488, 4001 Stavanger, Norway

ABSTRACT: Cyclic injection is a process that improves waterflooding efficiency in

heterogeneous reservoirs. The concept of cyclic injection is based on (1) pulsed
injection and (2) alternating waterflood patterns. Cyclic injection has been success-
fully applied in a number of sandstone and carbonate oil fields in Russia. In the rest
of the world, pulsed injection has had limited application, and only in naturally
fractured reservoirs. Although changing the waterflood patterns is a common
approach to deal with increasing water cuts, a more systematic approach with both
pulsed injection and alternating flow directions is not.
Cyclic injection has the greatest potential for improved recovery in heterogeneous,
high-permeability-contrast sandstones and in naturally fractured carbonates and
dolomites. The efficiency of the process is high in preferentially water-wet rocks
saturated with compressible fluids. Capillary pressures and relative permeability
effects are responsible for the improved cyclic oil displacement at the micro level.
Improved sweep of the less permeable layers in communication with more
permeable thief zones, better horizontal sweep achieved by changing waterflood
patterns, and alternating the dominance between gravity and viscous forces are the
key effects of cyclic injection on the macro level.
The potential of cyclic injection at the Lower Tilje/Åre formations of the Heidrun
Field in the Norwegian Sea has been evaluated. Some of the reservoir levels are
highly heterogeneous, with large permeability contrasts vertically and horizontally.
The current drainage strategy for these formations is water injection, with gas lift in
producers when needed. Cyclic injection will improve waterflooding efficiency at
virtually zero additional cost. Improved sweep, accelerated oil production, and
reduced water cut are the main positive effects expected from cyclic waterflooding.
The reserves are predicted to increase by 5 to 6% from the targeted reservoirs at
Heidrun after 10 years of cyclic waterflooding.
KEYWORDS: cyclic injection, waterflooding, enhanced recovery, Norwegian Shelf, oil recovery

INTRODUCTION Reservoirs that would most benefit from cyclic waterflood-

ing should have the following characteristics:
Cyclic injection is a method that was conceived to im- the presence of layered heterogeneous reservoirs;
prove waterflooding efficiency in heterogeneous reservoirs communication between reservoir zones of low and high
(Surguchev 1985). The main purpose of the cyclic injection permeability;
method is to create transient pressure pulses between zones high compressible reservoir fluids and rocks;
with contrasting reservoir properties in order to accelerate oil large pressure differentials between reservoir units;
saturation redistribution by capillary and gravity forces by fractures;
alternating dominance of viscous forces. Variation of flow pressure-dependent permeability in the fractured zones.
directions through the reservoir is considered a natural part of
the cyclic injection method.
Cyclic water injection has been extensively used in
waterflooding projects on giant Volga–Ural and West Siberian CYCLIC INJECTION
fields since the 1960s. Line drive water injection schemes, with At cyclic water injection an enhanced cross-flow is created due
pressure maintenance supporting high production rates on to the pressure pulsation and capillary pumping of the wetting
these fields, benefited from cyclic injection considerably phase in the low-permeability zones. In a water-wet reservoir,
(Sharbatova & Surguchev 1988). The cyclic injection is most the imbibition of water in a zone with high oil saturation is
effective in stratified reservoirs with good communica- accelerated during pressure increase, i.e. during the high rate
tion between the zones of contrasting reservoir properties injection period. When the pressure decreases, the imbibed and
(permeability, porosity, anisotropy, etc.) (Gorbunov et al. 1977). retained water displaces a corresponding volume of oil into the
Petroleum Geoscience, Vol. 8 2002, pp. 89–95 1354-0793/02/$15.00  2002 EAGE/Geological Society of London
90 L. Surguchev et al.

Fig. 1. Heidrun Field, top Åre Formation.

zone of higher permeability. Water flow capacity from the low period, between the two layers is (Sharbatova & Surguchev
permeable zone during the depressurizing half-cycle is limited 1988; Gorbunov et al. 1977):
by (a) the relative permeability to water at low water saturation;
(b) the capillary pressure in water-wet rock.
Acceleration of the imbibition and fluid redistribution (cross-
flow between zones of high and low oil saturation) is a goal of
?p?= Gq(),
?q?= SD 2


this process, thus releasing and displacing additional oil from

the previously non-swept regions.
An analytical solution to evaluate the pulsing has been
Gq()= F ch(2(1−))+cos(2(1−))
G 1/2

suggested by Sharbatova & Surguchev (1988) and Gorbunov et

al. (1977). The derived solution allows one to estimate cross-
flow in a layered reservoir subjected to a periodic variation in
(K −1)(1−K2)
Dk= 1
, K2<K1, =lŒ Cµ

&k H , &h ,
time of the pressure and it accounts for the compressibility hi
Ki=ki/k̄, k̄= i H= i =x/l, =2/T
effects. It assumes that the total thickness is small compared to i i
the total length of the reservoir and that the porosities and
compressibilities of the layers, viscosities of the fluids, are
equal. The absolute values of the pressures are obtained by multi-
The considered boundary conditions are plication of the dimensionless values with the average value at
the inlet, p*, and the rates (velocities) are obtained by multipli-
cation of the dimensionless values (Gorbunov et al. 1977) with
p(x,t)?x=0=1+Bsint, p(x,t)?x=l=0 (1)

U x=0=1+Bsint,
(2) u*=
l 2µ
[3] (4)

For the two types of boundary conditions (equations 1 and The suggested model accounts for redistribution of the oil
2) the dimensionless cross-flows, averaged over the time and water phases in the two-layer system if there is an
Cyclic water injection and IOR 91

Table 1. Region averaged grid parameters

Region Name Layers Perm x Perm y Perm z Porosity DZ OOIP
(mD) (mD) (mD) (Frac.) (m) ( 103 m3)

1 Lower Tilje 1–27 Not active — — — — — —

2 Åre 2b 28–49 73.5 150 3.1 0.205 1.15 604
3 Åre 2a 3 Shoal 50–50 2092 2091 65.7 0.336 7.33 2951
4 Åre 2a bayfill 51–112 585 567 37.5 0.29 1.09 9187
5 Åre 1b 113–146 — — — — — —
Lower Tilje/Åre 1–146 748 739 38.9 0.29 1.92 12 742

additional trapping mechanism like non-linearity, in particular, with the increasing pulse period. From the analytical evaluation
hysteresis, so that the phase mobility depends on the saturation, and field experience of cyclic waterflooding, the optimal value
saturation history and, eventually, on the flow direction. of  is in the range of 2 to 8 (Surguchev 1985; Sharbatova &
Surguchev 1988; Gorbunov et al. 1977). The influence of a
number of other parameters – porosity, compressibility,
SIMULATION MODEL FOR CYCLIC INJECTION viscosity and average permeability – is reflected in equation (3),
A 3D model of the Lower Tilje/Åre formations for the I together with the pulse frequency as a combination, dimension-
segment built by the ‘Marginal Facies Team’ (MFT) in 1998 was less parameter .
used in the simulation study. The MFT consisted of members The time period of the pressuring/depressurizing half-cycle
from both Statoil and Conoco. Both one and two pairs of for Lower Tilje/Åre formations is estimated at 5–15 days. As
injection and production wells including existing wells were discussed above, the half-cycle injection time depends mainly
evaluated in simulations (Fig. 1). The simulation model on the distance from the injection well to the oil displacement
was reviewed and adjusted in order to account for pressure front, oil and rock compressibility, permeability values and its
pulsation and capillary pumping effects. variation. Figure 3 shows the effect of these parameters on the
In order to design cyclic injection strategies for the Lower half-cycle time estimation. The reservoir conditions with lower
Tilje/Åre formations evaluation of reservoir parameters and piezoconductivity (=k/µC) and higher compressibility will
calibration of optimal cyclic conditions were done using require longer pressuring/depressurizing half-cycles.
analytical methods. The Lower Tilje/Åre reservoirs are highly The reservoir permeability in the Lower Tilje/Åre forma-
heterogeneous, with large permeability contrasts vertically and tions varies in a quite wide range from a few milli Darcies to
horizontally (Table 1). several Darcies. Under cyclic injection, reservoir pressure can
drop below the bubble point pressure, resulting in the release of
solution gas and increased fluid compressibility. Under such
CYCLIC INJECTIONS FOR LOWER TILJE/ÅRE circumstances the half-cycle time period of pulse injection can
RESERVOIRS vary from some days to some months. The objective of the
In order to evaluate cyclic parameters for the Lower Tilje/Åre numerical simulations is to identify more specifically the opti-
formations the reservoir characteristics were averaged for the mal cyclic conditions for the Lower Tilje/Åre formations at
two-layer system consisting of high permeability and low Heidrun, and to evaluate the potential of cyclic injection in
permeability zones. Reservoir properties used in the analytical terms of additional oil and reduced water production.
evaluation of cyclic process are given in Table 2. Different injection pulses and well placement scenarios are
Figure 2 shows the maximum possible cross-flow between simulated in order to evaluate the cyclic effect and optimize
the high and low permeability zones vs. distance from the injection parameters.
injection well. Assuming complete retention of the water in
the low permeability zones and no permeability restriction the CYCLIC INJECTION WITH PRESSURE PULSES
maximum possible cross-flow is estimated at 1–5 m2 per day
per 1 m width of the oil–water interface area. The maxi- The I segment of the Lower Tilje/Åre simulation model
mum cross-flow value is reduced with time and water front includes one existing production well A-P. The injection well
advancement in the reservoir. A-I is planned to be drilled (Fig. 2). In the base case simulation
The key parameter of cyclic injection is the frequency of scenario of 10 years the production/injection of the wells is
changing cycles (). The cross-flow has a tendency to decrease constrained by bottom hole pressure (BHP = 160 bar) in the
production well and by rate (Qinj = 750 Sm3 per day) in the
injection well. The simulation can be considered as giving a
Table 2. Averaged parameters of Lower Tilje/Åre used in analytical evaluation of cyclic conservative estimate of cyclic injection potential since well
injection production is controlled by BHP and not by WHP. The
Reservoir characteristic Value reduction of production water cut anticipated by cyclic injection
will contribute to better lift and higher oil rate production. In
Oil compressibility (104 bar1) 1.257 these simulations BHP control of production wells was used in
Porosity () (fraction) 0.3 order to maintain the voidage displacement conditions and
Oil viscosity (cp) 2.5 separate the effect of possible increase of water volume
High permeability (k1) (D) 0.6 injection on oil production increase.
Averaged high permeability layer (K1) 0.968 The cumulative oil production after a 10-year period under
Low permeability (k2) (D) 0.020
Averaged low permeability layer (K2) 0.032
base case waterflooding is 1 442 927 Sm3, or 11.3% of
Heterogeneity parameter (V ) 0.031 STOOIP. The simulated pulse injection scenarios can be
Piezoconductivity (= k/µC) (sm2 s1) 5079 divided into four groups by ‘injection/no injection’ time ratios:
2:1, 1:1, 1:2 and 1:3 (Table 3).
92 L. Surguchev et al.

Fig. 2. Maximum possible cross-flow

between low permeability and high
permeability zones vs. water front
position. X is the distance from the
injector to the water front in the high
permeability layer; L is the distance
between the injector and producer.

Fig. 3. Half-cycle time period vs. water

front position at different
piezoconductivity values.

In all simulation runs the total cumulative water injection The cumulative oil production after the 10-year period under
over the 10-year period was kept equal in all scenarios. The base case waterflooding is 2 532 627 Sm3, or 19.9% of
simulation results are shown in Figures 4–6 in comparison with STOOIP. The cumulative oil production of A-P is 839 201 Sm3
base case waterflooding without cycling (w/o cyclic). Cyclic and of A-P2 is 1 693 426 Sm3.
injection scenarios with shorter but more intensive pulsing The simulated cyclic injection scenarios can be divided into
periods (1:2, 1:3) allow oil production to increase by 5.6% over seven groups by ‘injection/no-injection’ time ratios: 2:1, 1:1,
a 10-year period. This translates into 81 000 Sm3 of extra oil 1:2, 1:3, and with injection cycles shifted in time 1:1, 1:2, 1:3
produced by A-P. (Table 4). The simulation results are shown in Figures 7–9. The
best cyclic injection scenarios are those with the shortest cycles
and the most intensive pulsing (1:2, 1:3), which increase oil
ALTERNATING WATERFLOOD PATTERNS AND production by 5.2% over a 10-year production period. The
PRESSURE PULSES incremental oil production for two production wells is about
130 000 Sm3.
The simulated scenarios included the production well A-P and The scenarios with injection cycles shifted in time allow for
the injection well A-I, new production well A-P2 and new a varying waterflood pattern that give higher oil production
injection well A-I2. than simultaneous cyclic injection schemes (Figs 7, 8).
Different injection scenarios and sensitivities were simulated:
injection rates varied from 500 to 3000 m3 per day; EVALUATION OF CYCLIC INJECTION
different cyclic/shut-in periods;
alternating waterflood patterns; The evaluation of cyclic injection in the Lower Tilje/Åre
production well BHP varied from 120 to 200 bar. formations has shown that its main benefits compared with
Cyclic water injection and IOR 93

Fig. 4. Oil rate for different cyclic


Fig. 5. Water cut for different cyclic


Fig. 6. Cumulative oil production for

different cyclic scenarios.

traditional waterflooding are accelerated oil production, in- years. The oil recovery factor is improved by 0.6% of STOOIP
creased oil reserves/improved sweep efficiency, and reduced after 5 years and 0.7% of STOOIP after ten years of cyclic
water cut. An additional 77 000 Sm3 of oil, or 7.9% increase in injection.
produced reserves, can be achieved for the A-P well after 5 In the cyclic injection scenario with two injection wells and
years of cyclic water injection in A-I injection well in the I two production wells in the I segment the incremental oil
element of the Heidrun Field (Table 5, Fig. 9). After 10 years production after 5 years is 53 000 Sm3 (+2.6%) and after 10
the incremental production from the A-P well amounts to years is 131 000 Sm3 (+5.2%). The oil recovery factor is
81 000 Sm3. The respective reduction in cumulative water improved by 0.4% of STOOIP after 5 years and 1.0% of
production is 64 000 Sm3 after 5 years and 96 000 Sm3 after 10 STOOIP after ten years of cyclic injection.
94 L. Surguchev et al.

Table 3. Cyclic injection scenarios, one pair of wells CONCLUSIONS

Injection/No injection Injection rate The cyclic water injection was evaluated for the Lower
(time ratio) (Sm3 per day) Tilje/Åre formations in the Heidrun Field. These sandstone
reservoirs are highly heterogeneous with high permeability
2:1 1125 contrasts and anisotropy having a potential to benefit from
1:1 1500 cyclic injection.
1:2 2250
1:3 3000
The cyclic injection scenarios simulated included (1)
pulsed injection and (2) alternating waterflood patterns. The
potential of cyclic injection to improve waterflooding
was evaluated using both analytical methods and numerical
Table 4. Cyclic injection scenarios, two pairs of wells
Injection/No injection Injection rate Simultaneous injection Improved sweep, accelerated oil production and reduced
(time ratio) (Sm3 per day) IN A-I and A-I2? water production are the main positive effects from cyclic
waterflooding. The oil recovery from the I segment of the
2:1 2250 Yes Heidrun Field is estimated to increase by 3–8% after 5 years
1:1 3000 Yes of production and 5–6% after 10 years of production.
1:2 4500 Yes The accelerated oil production under cyclic water in-
1:3 6000 Yes
1:1 shifted 3000 No, shifted in time!
jection will be accompanied by 10–20% reduction in water
1:2 shifted 4500 No, shifted in time! cut.
1:3 shifted 6000 No, shifted in time! Under cyclic water injection in A-I well with 1:3 injection/
no-injection cycles the oil production from the A-P well can
be increased by 77 000 Sm3 after 5 years and 81 000 Sm3
after 10 years.
The evaluation might be conservative in its quantifica- The improvement of waterflooding efficiency by systematic
tion since hysteresis effects in capillary forces and rock com- cyclic injection can be achieved at virtually zero additional
pressibility have not been accounted for. cost and without complicated implementation procedures.

Fig. 7. Cumulative oil production for

different cyclic scenarios.

Fig. 8. Production oil and water rates

under cyclic waterflooding.
Cyclic water injection and IOR 95

Fig. 9. Effect of cyclic waterflooding

on cumulative oil and water production.

Table 5. Cyclic injection at Heidrun Field (I segment of Lower Tilje/Åre formations)

Case Time period Cumulative water production Cumulative oil production Incremental oil production Recovery factor
(years) ( 1000 Sm3) ( 1000 Sm3) (%) (% of STOOIP)

Base, 2 wells 5 304 977 — 7.7

Cyclic 1:3 5 240 1054 7.9 8.3
Base, 2 wells 10 1112 1443 — 11.3
Cyclic 1:3 10 1016 1524 5.6 12.0
Base, 4 wells 5 2976 2042 — 16.0
Cyclic 1:3 5 2962 2095 2.6 16.4
Base, 4 wells 10 7958 2533 — 19.9
Cyclic 1:3 10 7869 2664 5.2 20.9

We are indebted to the Statoil Heidrun division for supporting this : porosity
work and to Kjell Christoffersen and Kjell Erik Wennberg for useful : dimensionless distance
suggestions. : angular frequency of the pulses at the injection boundary
i: initial, layer index
B: dimensionless amplitude
o: oil
C: compressibility
g: acceleration of gravity
h: thickness
H: total reservoir thickness REFERENCES
k: permeability Gorbunov, A.T., Surguchev, M. & Tsinkova, O.E. 1977. Cyclic Waterflooding of
KX: absolute permeability along layers Oil Reservoirs. VNIIOENG publication, Moscow (in Russian).
kr: relative permeability Owens, W.W. & Archer, D.L. 1996. Waterflooding Pressure Pulsing for
Fractured Reservoirs. Journal of Petroleum Technology, 745–752.
l: reservoir length
Peng, C.P. & Yanosik, J.L. 1988. Pressure Pulsing Waterflooding in Dual
L: front zone length Porosity Naturally Fractured Reservoirs. Paper presented at the SPE
p: dimensionless pressure International Petroleum Engineering Meeting, China, November 1–4,
q: dimensionless rate 389–400.
t: time Sharbatova, I.N. & Surguchev, M. 1988. Cyclic influence on heterogeneous Oil
T: pulsing injection period Reservoirs. Nedra Publishing House, Moscow (in Russian).
u: Darcy velocity Surguchev, M. 1985. Methods of Secondary and Tertiary Oil Recovery. Nedra
Publishing House, Moscow (in Russian).
x: horizontal (along-dip) co-ordinate
Surguchev, L., Korbøl, R., Haugen, S. & Krakstad, O.S. 1992. Screening of
µ: phase viscosity WAG injection strategies for heterogeneous reservoirs. Paper presented at
: density, also dimensionless frequency the SPE European Petroleum Conference, 16–18 November, Cannes,
: equilibration time constant France.

Received 2 January 2001; revised typescript accepted 29 October 2001