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PAPER NO. 98-47

Water Shutoff Treatments - ReduceWater and Accelerate Oil Production

F. Brent Thomas, D. Brant Bennion,Hycal EnergyResearch Laboratories Ltd. GregoryE. Anderson,Bradford T. Meldrum. Aqueolic Canada Ltd.

This paper is to be presented at the 4~ Annual Teclmical Meeting ofllle Petroleum Society ofCIM in Calgary, AIber1a, Canada. June 8-10, 1998. Discussion of this paper is invited and nay be presented at the ~ting if filed in writing with the technical program c~ prior to the conclusion of the meeting. This paper and any discussion filed will be consi~ fcw publication in CIM journals. Publication rights ~ reserved. This is . ~-print and is subject to conection.

Gel treatment applications have been used for production well WaR reduction. 11aerehave been a number of cases where conformance was very poor and, by invocation of gel treatment strategies, WaR was significantly reduced. 11aispaper discusses both the characteristics of reservoirs and wells which result in high WaR, as well as characteristics of gel treatments which need to be designed in order to effectively minimize the produced water from a reservoir or an oil field. Examples are provided in this paper whereby, through the use of gel treatments in production wells, WaR and oil production was increased. 11ae paper concludes that there is a significant upside to gel treatmentsfor reservoir optimization and production well revitalization.

The first is microscale heterogeneity which could be represented as a simple porous feature distribution. and the second is macroscale heterogeneity which includes layering, natural or induced fractures, and high vertical and horizontal permeabilities. Both can lead to poor conformance and, therefore, need to be controlled. If conduits for water flow are available then they need to be blocked in order for production wells to continue operation. In terms of water disposal costs, approximately $1 billion is spent in Alberta alone each year. The macroscale heterogeneities are more commonly understood and more intuitive. It is commonly known that, in some instances where fracturing operations have been misapplied or resulted in unfortunate connection to bottom water sources, the fracture pem1eability (100 to 1000 times gteater than the penneability of the rest of the rock) has resulted in very quick water breakthrough and very low recovery of the hydrocarbons in the reservoir. A similar response can also be observed where high pem1eability layers are present in certain porous media. Nevertheless, their effect is that much of the rock remains UDSWept

A serious problem in oil-producing reservoirs is water production. As with most things in nature, fluids also tend to follow paths of least resistance which, in reservoirs, are often created by the heterogeneousnature of the rock. There are two levels to this heterogeneity.

F. B. Thomas, D. B. Bennion, G.E. Anderson, B.T. Meldrum

Another form of macroscale heterogeneity, which contributes to very poor conformance is the case where poor cementing operations are present. In such cases,in order to produce anything from the well, near wellbore fluid profile modification must occur. The same applies for injection wells. For microscale conformance difficulties, often simple laboratory tests can identify problems associated with exploitation strategies. For instance, the recovery efficiency associated with a waterflood is often based on analogous reservoirs or past experience. In some cases,subtle changesin the structure of the rock can result in vast changes in the sweep associated with the flow unit even though the porosity remains about the same value. Many examples exist in the literature where permeability and porosity of reservoirs have been sufficiently high to motivate operating companies to full developmental strategiesonly to find out that. upon implementation, the sweep through the homogeneous flow unit is much less than the average literature numbers would have indicated. In such a case, even though there is no macrosca1e problem, the microscale structure predisposes the reservoir to inefficient oil recovery. In such cases, although production well strategies can be effective at reducing WaR. they should be viewed as "band-aid" treabnents and more long-term and pervasive influence can usually be achieved with injection well procedures. Nevertheless, production well applications can be very lucrative if done correctly.

In many operations there are much more drastic contrasts between layers or zones of the reservoir and more common techniques may not work effectively. In addition, local wellbore problems can be very difficult to resolve and very rigid blocking agents may be necessary. The authors recently tested a gel which was stable to water pressure gradients in excess of 7500 psi/foot in a highly vuguJar carbonate.


Typically, gel treatments are one of the most aggressive types of conformance control or profile modification. Gel technology is more aggressive since it can totally block certain porous features associated with the porous media and thus, in a very drastic manner, divert fluid flow from areas of low drag to areas of much greater drag (high permeability to lower permeability). There are many examples of where this can occur and how this is achieved. Some of the situations where this occurs will next be discussed. Following this discussion, some ofdle parameters which should be considered in gel treabnent applications for production well performance are reviewed.

From work perfonned by the authors, fractured reservoirs can exhibit high productivity coupled with serious technica1challenges. The major challenge is due to the fact that the permeability through the fractures is orders of magnitude larger than the permeability through the matrix. Once the hydrocarbons have been recovered from the fracture then the remaining target for recovery is in the tighter mabix. Preferentially, this is not where the injection fluids want to flow and therefore some means of modifying their natural proclivity to flow through the fractures must be implemented. If successful. the overall recovery can be significantly higher than that expected from a fractured reservoir.



When flooded out channels and productive low permeability zones are well isolated from each other, mechanical methods that alter the production profile can be used. Mechanical methods include the use of selective completion configurations and squeezecementing. When flooded-out channels and paths of least resistance are not well isolated from one another, mechanical methods may be less effective and somewhat less efficient In many cases,die optimal profile modification strategy must rely on the inherent interaction between the treabnent fluids, the reservoir fluids and the reservoir rock into which the treabnent is placed.

High Permeability Streaks

In contrast to fractures which may have very localized separation of the porous media. high permeability streaks are better represented by a naturaJ flow unit or layer which has a much lower resistance to fluid flow than oilier layers. Examples abound in ilie literature where this bas occurred. The Pembina reservoir in Alberta. Canada is a prime example where the upper layer

Forpmposes this discussion, strategy which of any by fluids are diverted from their path of least resistance is classifiedasa profile modifier. Thesimplestexamples of theseare water-alternatinggas techniquesor polymer floods which make use of the inherent interaction betweenfluids and the rock characteristics.

Water Shutoff Treatments ReduceWater and AccelerateOil Production


penneability is in the range of 200 mD and contains approximately 10% of the total oil in place. The lower flow unit, although having penneability approximately 10 to 50 times lower than the upper flow unit, contained the bulk of the oil. In such a case, fluid flowed preferentially through the upper zone and very little of it was diverted into the lower zone. With properly designed gel strategies, the target from a reservoir such as this is much greater than without.

The aboveexamples by no meansexhaustive are but provide a quick commentaryas to the types of pathsof least resistance which can be presentin reservoUsand which result in poor performance. In order to resolve someof these issues, characteristics gel treatments the of must be consideredin order to optin1izethe benefit. Someof thesecharacteristics next be discussed. will CHARACTERISTICS OF A GEL TREATMENT
There are only so many things which can be altered in tem1S the parameters of a natural gel treatment Many of gels have various viscosities at time of injection. Most are of an aqueous phase but hot waxes are beginning to see some use in terms of profile modification strategies. Most gels exhibit a density greater than that of water. In addition. setup time can also be extremely important in terms of what type of control one is trying to apply. These four parameters will now be discussed with their attendant effects on performance.

Bottom Water and Coning

A COnUIlOn problem for both gas and oil reservoirs is coning. In one example recently addressed by the authors, a prolific gas well, having potential to produce 100 BSCF was shut in after only hours of production due to bottom water coning. The rate was subsequently reduced to a level which mitigated the coning problem but which reduced revenues by 60%. In such a case, if the bottom water could be controlled, the prize would be significant.

Viscosity at Time of Injection

The drag associated with the injection phase is proportional to the viscosity of the treatment. The greater the viscosity, the greater the differential pressurerequired to inject that treatment into the formation, whatever the formation description may be. Due to the inherent pore size distn"bution of the reservoir rock, there is a difference in the surface area to volume ratio from the smallest porous features to the largest porous features. For the largest porous features, the surface area to volume ratio is the smallest, and for the smallest porous features, the surface area to volume ratio is the largest. Because of the affinity between the fluid flow and the walls of the porous features, in the context of a no slip boundary condition at the wan, it is obvious that the more core which is encountered per volume of fluid flowing, the greater the drag. This feature has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that, because of this inherent difference in surface area to volume ratio and the increased drag on more viscous fluids, the greater viscosity fluids may tend to flow only through the largest porous features. For the case where the largest porous features are flowing water or unwanted gas and the target for recovery is the matrix or the smallest porous features, the operator may only want invasion into the largest porous features of the porous media. This is accomplished by having a treatment of higher injection-time viscosity.

Worm Holes
In heavier oil reservoirs with unconsolidated porous media, any pressure surge from the injector can result in a parting of the fonnation. In such cases, there are literally holes which develop in the rock through which fluid flow is very easy. Unless these holes are blocked and flow is diverted away from these holes, conformance can be very poor. A number of examples exist in the literature where this has occurred but one of the most obvious was proven on the basis of a dye tracer test performed on a heavy oil reservoir in Elk Point, Alberta. In this case, a dye was injected into the injector and within 30 minutes the tracer was being observed in the offset producers. Based on the volume of dye injected and the time and distance traveled, the path of least resistance present in this reservoir was adequately described as a large pipe connecting the injector to the producer. Unless controlled, this problem can result in abandonment of many producing wells.

Near Wellbore Difficulties

Often, there are problems with the wellbore, including such things as poor cement and less than optin1a1 completion practices. In such cases, unless a blocking agent can be applied, the well's potential is seriously iII11)acted.

F. B. Thomas, D. B. Bennion, G.E. Anderson, B.T. Meldrum The disadvantages having a higher viscosityupon of injection is that the treatment may not be nearly as invasiveor, in someporousmedia,the injectivity might be very low and the operatormay encounterdifficulties and challenges trying to introduce sufficient volumes in in the time available according to the setup time requirements the treatment.Nevertheless, of viscosityis defmitely a designvariable. Nature of the Phase
The nature of the phase of the b"eatment. that is whether it is an oil phase or a water phase, has received little attention over the years. Most practitioners would readily admit that. since water is mainly the phase of interest for shutoff, the b"eatment should be aqueous. This makes sense both from a relative permeability argument or from a more fundamental argument in terms of interfacial tension and the accompanying capillary pressure and threshold pressurerequired for invasion into certain porous features of the rock. Most would indicate that the b"eatmentphase should be aqueous. 111is commentary notwithstanding, hot wax treatments have become in vogue relatively recently for near wellbore production problems where specific zonesof the reservoir can be isolated. By the same token, certain high permeability zones of an injection well could also be isolated with the hot wax treatment where the pour point of the wax injected is greater than the reservoir temperature. In such cases,whole zones could potentially be sealed off and flow diverted. The data base is insufficient at this time to comment on the relative strength and stability of a hot wax treatment compared to a gel treatment but there is defmitely a potential for hot wax in some instances. Evidence also suggeststhat some of the benefits of wax treatments are its relatively lower cost and ease of application as compared to multicomponent types of gel treatments.

will be very ineffective in any performance response modification. For this reason, and particularly in the casesof coning studies and bottom water control, the best profile modification strategies should include a type of density modification.

The authors haveexperimented with different means of alteringthe densityof the gel treatments thereare but also advantagesand disadvantages to this. The advantages that onecandesignthe densityso that the are treatment will float on water andprovide somedegree of control. One of the disadvantages, however,is that the implementationis more complex and the stability and strength of the treatment are somewhat djmjnished. Again, in this case,the data base is too diminutive to commentmore objectively on the potential for modified densitytreatments gel applications. in Setup Time
The setup time can be a variable of extreme importance. For injection well conformance control where deep invasion is both desirable and in fact required then setup time may be prolonged. If the setup time is increased somewhat then this would allow for the injection phase to propagate for large distances and to be able to seal off complete channels or paths of least resistance where water flow is occurring. In such cases, a treatment with a long setup time can effectively increase the overall recovery efficiency of a pattern. A longer setup time may result in less localized influence and more ubitiquous change in response.

A disadvantage longer setup times is dispersion. of Dispersionin somecases so seriousthat shortersetup is times are recommended. Indeed, where tracer studies havebeenperformedand residence times are available, appropriate volumes and setup times can be more accurately designed. EXAMPLES
The paper concludes with a discussion of a number of production well scenarios where water-oil ratios were significantly impacted by the implementation of gel treatment. Table I reports results from a heavy oil reservoir where producing water cuts were normally above 900/0. Many of the 12 wells exhibiting high WaR's were without comment but of the four from which results were

Density One parameter which can be of importance, particularly when gravity enters into the equation, is density. Most of the polymers which are used have densitieswhich are greater than that of water. If the densityof the treatmentis greaterthan that of water and the viscosity is very low then there is nothing stopping the treatmentfrom going directly into the waterzoneand continuing to sink until it reaches gravimetric equilibrium. In many of thesecases,the gel treatment

Water Shutoff Treatments ReduceWater and AccelerateOil Production

available there was significant reduction in WaR. In one case, a considerable increase in oil production was observed. These applications were for blocking paths of least resistance in an oil reservoir with an adverse viscosity ratio of approximately 1000. The treatments were two-stage sequential with about six to eight hours between stages, each stage exhibiting a setup time of less than two hours. It appeared that the first stage blocked the largest paths of least resistance and the second stage "plugged" the secondary pathways. The analogy to highways and streets exists; the first stage blocks the highways and the second stage the streets. Subsequent fluid flow is diverted to the smaller porous features which still contain the oil. The second example is taken from production well gel squeezes into a vuggy carbonate formation (Table 2). These b"eatmentswere destined to improve the cement seal between the casing and formation. Cement squeezes alone were ineffective until they were preceded by a gel b"eatrnent.It seemedasthough the gel precursor provided a cushion for the cement and significant benefit was accrued. The third example was taken from the Nonnan Wells areaof northern Canadawhere a number of gel treatments were applied to both injection and production wells. The field is on waterflood and many of the wells show high water cuts. Gel treabnents were done on both injectors and producers and the results are summarized in Table 3. Table 4 presents the results of the producing wells and overall the implementations were judged successful by operating company engineers. The fmal economic analysis indicated that for approximately $231,000 invested in gel treatments, profit accrued was in the $1,700,000 to $2,300,000 range over a two year period. Table 4 presents some production well responses. The fourth example is a recent example of an mfill well that was treated with a low viscosity, very invasive water shutoff treatment The intill well was drilled with conventional technology and considerable drilling fluid was lost during the drilling operation. The communication with offset production wells was so immediate that, subsequent to the intill well, the offset producers had almost 1000/0 water cut It was as though the drilling fluid. from the infi11wen. created conduits to the water zone beneath the offset producing wells and seriously changed the water cut.

The 20 m3 treabnent was dien placed using a cement retainer and the response from two offset producers is shown in Figures IA and I B. The response was immediate, and it appears that die water production remained about die samebut the oil production increased significantly. The duration of dle treatment effects was at least two years. Lastly, a well had perfonned poorly relative to expectation based upon some surrounding wells completed in the same formation. Fracturing was common in these wells and therefore a low viscosity invasive treatment was conducted. Figure 2 shows the response from this work. The production profile of the well returned to that of the surrounding wells, and the oil recovered since b"eatment exceeds 222,000 bbls. The easiest intexpretation of the response is that, once the fractures were plugged, the oil became the most mobile phase in the reservoir and oil production continues to the present time.

A mscussionof gel treatments in production and injection wells has been provided. There are a number of parameters which figure in the optimal design of a gel treabnent. The main ones are injection-time viscosity, density of the treatment, the natme of the treabnent phase and setup time. Cost must also be considered but evidence suggests that treatment cost is almost inconsequential compared to the increased production oil volumes and decreasedwater volumes produced.
To design effective gel treabnents. a number of reservoir parameters need to be considered which would include but not be restricted to pore size distribution, oil viscosity, source of the water problem, penneability trends, fracture orientation and all production, completion and log data for the wells in the field. Treabnents for water shutoff can be very effective technically and economically if the product exhibits the appropriate characteristics relative to the deficiencies of the well. This technology holds promise as a means of significantly accelerating oil production and reducing operating expenses.

Table 1 Production Well Gel Applications

WeD #

Date of Treatment 94-10-01 4.9 In' of21o/c

Fresh Water Overdisplace 1.Om! 0.5 mJ eachstage


Water cut reduced from 36% to l00/c

94-10-15 10.2m3of200/o 94-11-01 2 x 5.0 m3of21%

Water cut reducedfrom 95% to 35% (94-10-18) No results No results No results No resulIs No results
No results provided

0.5 m3 each stage

94-11-01 2 x 5.0m3 of21%

').~ ~.OIn' of21%

0.5 m3 each stage

6 1 8

O.5m3 O.5m O.Sm

0.1 m3

94-11-11 2 x 4.8 m3of21% 94-11-11 2 x 4.8 m3of21% 95-03-09 9.7 In' of21% 95-03-09 9.7 m3of21% 95-03-14 9.7 m3of21% 95-04-28 9.7 m' of21O/t 95-05-01 9.7 In' of21%

O.2m O.Om' O.3m'

No results provided


No results provided

(95-05-10)Water cut reducedfrom 99% to 18%,oil increased from 3 to 257 BOPD (95-05-10)Watercut reducedfrom ~/O to 18%



Table 2 Stabilized Oil (bbl/day) Before 24 After 168 78 72 33

Well # 14-17 7-22 16-26

Volume (bbl) 120 60 60 60





Table 3

Table 4 Norman Wells Oil Production and WOR Changes Oil Production (bbl/day) Before G46 K44 126 K34 C4O 838
24 24 60 192 60 N/A


After 84 ISO 210 282 300 150

Oil Gain (bbl/day) 60 126 150 90 240 150

WOK Before 10 2 10 1.3 6 N/A After

0.5 1.5 0.1. 0.5 0.3

Figure IA

Figure IB