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square inch drop in reservoir pressure. The reason for the and consequent earlier economic limits.

c limits.Where the reservoir


small decline in reservoir pressure is that oil and gas is more or less homogeneous, the advancing waterfront will
withdrawals bemore uniform, andwhenthe economic limit, due primarily
from the reservoir are replaced almost volume for to high water–oil ratios, has been reached, a greater portion
volume by water encroaching into the oil zone. Several large of the reservoir will have been contacted by the advancing
oil reservoirs in the Gulf Coast areas of the United States water.
TLFeBOOK Ultimate oil recovery is also affected by the degree of activity
4/296 PERFORMANCE OF OIL RESERVOIRS of the water drive. In a very active water drive where the
4000 degree of pressure maintenance is good, the role of solution
3000 gas in the recovery process is reduced to almost zero, with
2000 maximum advantage being taken of the water as a displacing
Pressure force. This should result in maximum oil recovery from
Cumulative Oil Production the reservoir. The ultimate oil recovery normally ranges
1000 from 35% to 75% of the original oil-in-place. The characteristic
0 trends of a water drive reservoir are shown graphically
Figure 4.9 Pressure–production history for a water drive in Figure 4.10 and summarized below:
reservoir. Characteristics Trend
have such active water drives that the reservoir pressure Reservoir pressure Remains high
has declined by only about 1 psi per million barrels of oil Surface gas–oil ratio Remains low
produced. Water production Starts early and increases to
Although pressure history is normally plotted versus appreciable amounts
cumulative oil production, it should be understood that total Well behavior Flow until water production
reservoir fluid withdrawals are the really important criteria gets excessive
in the maintenance of reservoir pressure. In a water drive Expected oil recovery 35% to 75%
reservoir, only a certain number of barrels of water can move 4.1.5 Gravity drainage drive
into the reservoir as a result of a unit pressure drop within the The mechanism of gravity drainage occurs in petroleum
reservoir. Since the principal income production is from oil, reservoirs as a result of differences in densities of the reservoir
if the withdrawals of water and gas can be minimized, then fluids. The effects of gravitational forces can be simply
the withdrawal of oil from the reservoir can be maximized illustrated by placing a quantity of crude oil and a quantity
with minimum pressure decline. Therefore, it is extremely of water in a jar and agitating the contents. After agitation,
important to reduce water and gas production to an absolute the jar is placed at rest, and the more dense fluid (normally
minimum. This can usually be accomplished by shutting in water) will settle to the bottom of the jar, while the less dense
wells that are producing large quantities of these fluids, and fluid (normally oil) will rest on top of the denser fluid. The
where possible transferring their allowable oil production to fluids have separated as a result of the gravitational forces
other wells producing with lower water–oil or gas–oil ratios. acting on them.
Water production The fluids in petroleum reservoirs have all been subjected
Early excess water production occurs in structurally low to the forces of gravity, as evidenced by the relative positions
wells. This is characteristic of a water drive reservoir, and of the fluids, i.e., gas on top, oil underlying the gas,
provided the water is encroaching in a uniformmanner, and water underlying oil. The relative positions of the
nothing reservoir
can or should be done to restrict this encroachment, as fluids are shown in Figure 4.11. Due to the long periods
the water will probably provide the most efficient displacing of time involved in the petroleum accumulation and migration
mechanism possible. If the reservoir has one or more lenses process, it is generally assumed that the reservoir fluids
of very high permeability, then the water may be moving are in equilibrium. If the reservoir fluids are in equilibrium
through this more permeable zone. In this case, it may be then the gas–oil and oil–water contacts should be essentially
economically feasible to performremedial operations to shut horizontal. Although it is difficult to determine precisely the
off this permeable zone producing water. It should be realized reservoir fluid contacts, the best available data indicates that,
that in most cases the oil which is being recovered from in most reservoirs, the fluid contacts actually are essentially
a structurally low well will be recovered from wells located horizontal.
higher on the structure and any expenses involved in remedial Gravity segregation of fluids is probably present to some
work to reduce the water–oil ratio of structurally low degree in all petroleum reservoirs, but it may contribute
wells may be needless expenditure. substantially to oil production in some reservoirs.
Gas–oil ratio Cole (1969) stated that reservoirs operating largely under
There is normally little change in the producing gas–oil ratio a gravity drainage producing mechanism are characterized
during the life of the reservoir. This is especially true if the by the following.
reservoir does not have an initial free gas cap. Pressure Reservoir pressure
will be maintained as a result of water encroachment and Variable rates of pressure decline depend principally upon
therefore there will be relatively little gas released from the amount of gas conservation. Strictly speaking, where the
solution. gas is conserved, and reservoir pressure is maintained, the
Ultimate oil recovery reservoir would be operating under combined gas cap drive
Ultimate recovery from water drive reservoirs is usually TLFeBOOK
much larger than recovery under any other producing PERFORMANCE OF OIL RESERVOIRS 4/297
mechanism. Recovery is dependent upon the efficiency of Oil
the flushing action of the water as it displaces the oil. In 1931
general, 2300
as the reservoir heterogeneity increases, the recovery 2
will decrease, due to the uneven advance of the displacing 1
water. The rate of water advance is normally faster in zones of 0
high permeability. This results in earlier high water–oil ratios 2200
40 as high as possible. There are two obvious reasons for
30 this requirement:
20 (1) high oil saturation means a higher oil flow rate;
10 (2) high oil saturation means a lower gas flow rate.
0 If the liberated solution gas is allowed to flow upstructure
2100 instead of toward the wellbore, then high oil saturation in
2000 the vicinity of the wellbore can be maintained.
1900 In order to take maximum advantage of the gravity
Pressure: psi drainage producing mechanism, wells should be located as
Gas–Oil Ratio: cu. ft per bbl low as structurally possible. This will result in maximum
Water: Percent conservation of the reservoir gas. A typical gravity drainage
Daily Oil Production: Mbbl reservoir is shown in Figure 4.12.
100 As discussed by Cole (1969), there are five factors that
80 affect ultimate recovery from gravity drainage reservoirs:
60 (1) Permeability in the direction of dip: Good permeability,
40 particularly in the vertical direction and in the direction
20 of migration of the oil, is a prerequisite for efficient
0 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 gravity drainage. For example, a reservoir with little
1942 structural relief which also contained many more or less
Water continuous shale “breaks” could probably not be operated
Gross under gravity drainage because the oil could not
Gas-Oil Ratio flow to the base of the structure.
Reservoir Pressure
TLFeBOOK
Figure 4.10 Production data for a water drive reservoir (After
4/298 PERFORMANCE OF OIL RESERVOIRS
Clark, N.J., Elements of Petroleum Reservoirs, SPE, Gas
1969. Courtesy of API). Oil
Oil Zone
Gas Producing Wells Located
Low On Structure
Water Secondary
Oil Gas Cap
Figure 4.11 Initial fluids distribution in an oil reservoir. Figure 4.12 Gravity drainage reservoir (After Cole, F.,
and gravity drainage mechanisms. Therefore, for the reservoir Reservoir Engineering Manual, Gulf Publishing Company,
to be operating solely as a result of gravity drainage, the 1969).
reservoir would show a rapid pressure decline. This would (2) Dip of the reservoir: In most reservoirs, the permeability
require the upstructure migration of the evolved gas where in the direction of dip is considerably larger than the
it later was produced from structurally high wells, resulting permeability transverse to the direction of dip. Therefore,
in rapid loss of pressure. as the dip of the reservoir increases, the oil and
Gas–oil ratio gas can flow along the direction of dip (which is also the
These types of reservoirs typically show low gas–oil ratios direction of greatest permeability) and still achieve their
from structurally located low wells. This is caused by migration desired structural position.
of the evolved gas upstructure due to gravitational (3) Reservoir producing rates: Since the gravity drainage
segregation of the fluids. On the other hand, the structurally rate is limited, the reservoir producing rates should
high wells will experience an increasing gas–oil ratio as a be limited to the gravity drainage rate, and then
result of the upstructure migration of the gas released from maximumrecovery
the crude oil. will result. If the reservoir producing rate
Secondary gas cap exceeds the gravity drainage rate the depletion drive
A secondary gas cap can be found in reservoirs that initially producing
were undersaturated. Obviously the gravity drainage mechanism will become more significant with a
mechanism consequent reduction in ultimate oil recovery.
does not become operative until the reservoir pressure (4) Oil viscosity: Oil viscosity is important because the gravity
has declined below the saturation pressure, since above the drainage rate is dependent upon the viscosity of the
saturation pressure there will be no free gas in the reservoir. oil. In the fluid flow equations, as the viscosity decreases
Water production the flow rate increases. Therefore, the gravity drainage
Gravity drainage reservoirs have little or no water production. rate will increase as the reservoir oil viscosity decreases.
Water production is essentially indicative of a water (5) Relative permeability characteristics: For an efficient
drive reservoir. gravity drive mechanism to be operative, the gas must
Ultimate oil recovery flow upstructure while the oil flows downstructure.
Ultimate recovery from gravity drainage reservoirs will vary Although this situation involves counterflow of the oil
widely, due primarily to the extent of depletion by gravity and gas, both fluids are flowing and therefore relative
drainage alone. Where gravity drainage is good, or where permeability characteristics of the formation are very
producing rates are restricted to take maximum advantage important.
of the gravitational forces, recovery will be high. There are 4.1.6 Combination drive mechanism
reported cases where recovery from gravity drainage The driving mechanism most commonly encountered is one
reservoirs in which both water and free gas are available in some degree
has exceeded 80% of the initial oil-in-place. In other to displace the oil toward the producing wells. The most
reservoirs where depletion drive also plays an important role common
in the oil recovery process, the ultimate recovery will be less. type of drive encountered, therefore, is a combination
In operating gravity drainage reservoirs, it is essential that drive mechanism as illustrated in Figure 4.13.
the oil saturation in the vicinity of the wellbore must be Two combinations of driving forces are usually present in
maintained combination drive reservoirs:
(1) depletion drive and a weak water drive, or
(2) depletion drive with a small gas cap and a weak water
drive.
In addition, gravity segregation can also play an important
role in any of these two drives. In general, combination
drive reservoirs can be recognized by the occurrence of a
combination of some of the following factors.
Reservoir pressure
These types of reservoirs usually experience a relatively
rapid pressure decline. Water encroachment and/or external
gas cap expansion are insufficient to maintain reservoir
pressures.
Oil Zone
Water
Water Basin
Oil Zone
Gas Cap
Gas Cap
A. Cross Section
B. Map View
Figure 4.13 Combination-drive reservoir (After Clark,
N.J., Elements of Petroleum Reservoirs, SPE, 1969).
Water production
The producing wells that are structurally located near the
initial
oil–water contact will slowly exhibit increasing water
producing
rates due to the increase in the water encroachment
from the associated aquifer.
Gas–oil ratio
If a small gas cap is present the structurally high wells will
exhibit continually increasing gas–oil ratios, provided the
gas cap is expanding. It is possible that the gas cap will
shrink due to production of excess free gas, in which case
the structurally high wells will exhibit a decreasing gas–oil
ratio. This condition should be avoided whenever possible,
as large volumes of oil can be lost as a result of a shrinking
gas cap.
Ultimate oil recovery
As a substantial percentage of the total oil recovery may be
due to the depletion drive mechanism, the gas–oil ratio of
structurally low wells will also continue to increase, due to
evolution of solution gas from the crude oil throughout the
reservoir as pressure is reduced. Ultimate recovery from
combination drive reservoirs is usually greater than recovery
from depletion drive reservoirs but less than recovery
from water drive or gas cap drive reservoirs. Actual recovery
will depend upon the degree to which it is possible to
reduce the magnitude of recovery by depletion drive. In most
combination drive reservoirs it will be economically feasible
to institute some type of pressure maintenance operation,
either gas injection or water injection, or both gas and water
injection, depending upon the availability of the fluids.