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Assisted Gravity Drainage

I.I. Bogdanov *), K. El Ganaoui and A.M. Kamp

Centre Huile Lourde Ouvert et Expérimental (CHLOE)

Affiliated to the University of Pau, France

*Corresponding author: CHLOE, UPPA, batiment IFR, rue Jules Ferry, BP 27540,

64075 Pau Cedex, France

e-mail : igor.bogdanov@univ-pau.fr

computational performance of COMSOL gave modeled the process using COMSOL. Such

us the idea to model SAGD (“steam assisted modeling is not straightforward, and requires

gravity drainage”) one of the popular thermal coupling of an energy balance, and

method of oil recovery. The modeling is far from phases/components mass balances, the

being straightforward and requires solving a components being under phase equilibrium at

system of non-linear PDE for thermal multiphase reservoir conditions.

flow under conditions of thermodynamic (phase) Generally speaking, the choice of an

equilibrium. This paper presents main results of application mode for the model equations seems

our work on constructing the SAGD model and to be not unique in COMSOL. For example, the

offers the general framework for such kind of flow equations can be taken from Earth Science

modeling. The results of computations in Module or modeled via PDE Application Mode.

COMSOL are directly juxtaposed with the Although it would be both interesting and

similar computational results obtained by well- instructive to make a comparative study for

known reservoir simulator STARS. various COMSOL functionalities we’ve

Keywords: multiphase flow, thermodynamic preferred for the first time to rely on our base

equilibrium, gravity drainage, oil recovery, PDE knowledge of reservoir simulation principles and

application mode. short experience in dealing with COMSOL. Thus

the conventional (for reservoir numerical

1. Introduction applications) approach underlies the 2D model

and in particular, the selection of primary

Conventional hydrocarbon resources become variables and governing equations.

scarcer every day, while world energy needs The physical idea of the SAGD,

continue to increase. For this reason, energy mathematical and numerical models used are

producing companies increasingly exploit non- presented in the next three sections. The choice

conventional hydrocarbon resources such as of the application mode, the boundary

heavy oil and bitumen. Large amounts of such conditions, the finite elements type and the need

resources exist in for example Canada, Russia of solution regularization technique are

and Venezuela. Because of their large viscosity, discussed. Then the first results of 2D SAGD

production of such oils is frequently done simulation are presented and discussed in the

through heating, in particular by means of steam fifth section. In particular, the possible

injection. improvements of the model performance are

A recovery process that has gained much proposed.

popularity in recent years is the “steam assisted

gravity drainage” (SAGD) [1]. It consists of 2. Physical background

steam injection through a horizontal well bore

into an oil reservoir. The steam penetrates the Two physical effects underlie the recovery

porous medium surrounding the wellbore, heats method. First one is the well-known

the oil which at its turn drains to another phenomenon of rapidly decreasing oil viscosity

horizontal well beneath the injection well. The when temperature increases. The second one is

flow in the porous medium is multiphase (oil, gravity based drainage of preheated and hence

water, gas) and multi-component (one or several much more mobile oil to a production well. The

hydrocarbon components and water). Although thermal energy is provided by steam injection via

dedicated software for simulation of such an injection well. Due to density contrast

processes exists, it lacks the multi-physics between steam and oil, the former will flow

Excerpt from the Proceedings of the COMSOL Users Conference 2007 Grenoble

gravity force while for the same reason preheated

oil and liquid water will flow in the opposite where phase flow u is described by generalized

direction. Consider the so-called generalized Darcy' law (2.1), ε is porosity, S phase

Darcy' law for phase flow through a porous saturation. As the temperature will not be

medium, which can be written as uniform in the reservoir, the total thermal energy

u p = − Kη p ⋅ (∇Pp + ρge z ) (2.1) conservation equation which includes solid

(index “s”) and fluid phases (index “f”)

where u stands for local phase flow (Darcy' contributions under assumption of local thermal

velocity), P is phase pressure, η = k r / µ equilibrium (one-temperature approach),

complements the model

relative phase mobility, K and kr are

absolute and phase relative permeability, ρ, µ ∂ t (E s + E f )+ ∇ ⋅ (U f − λ∇T ) = 0 (3.3)

phase density and viscosity, respectively, g Here E is volumetric internal energy, Uf is

gravity acceleration constant and “p” phase

index. Hereinafter we'll neglect the difference total volumetric flow of thermal energy, λ

between the phase pressures which is called reservoir thermal conductivity coefficient, T

capillary pressure (see the discussion on the temperature. The total flow Uf comprises fluid

subject in the subsection 4.1). Initially the phase flows, U p = ρ p h p , p=w,g,h , where h

reservoir is in vertical (gravity) equilibrium (see

for details subsection 3.3 below). After injection is specific enthalpy, hg = hw + Λ , Λ is specific

of sufficient amount of steam, the “steam heat of water vaporization.

chamber” is formed around the injection site, i.e. Finally, pore volume conservation constraints

the region with temperature which corresponds phase saturations in usual manner

to steam/liquid water equilibrium at local

reservoir pressure. Due to relatively high Sw + Sg + Sh = 1 (3.4)

mobility of steam the pressure gradient, P ,

across the “steam chamber” is small and it is 3.2 Constitutive relations

gravity driven flow, u ∝ η ⋅ ρg , which

dominates both in the “steam chamber” and in The system of equations (3.1-3.4),(2.1) takes

the rest of the reservoir. So to produce the oil one into account the main hydrodynamic features of

doesn't even need to keep high pressure the SAGD-like process under consideration. It

conditions on the injection well. provides the relations between physical variables

such as temperature, pressure and volume

3. Mathematical model fractions of fluids in the porous medium

(saturations). It has to be completed however

The 2D model of three phase two component with a set of constitutive relations which gives a

(water and oil) flow under non-isothermal local phase flows description depending on local

condition (steam injection) comprises the pressure, temperature and phase saturations. For

component mass/total thermal energy relative phase permeabilities the relationships

conservation equations which are completed by based on van Genuchten-Mualem model [3]

the constitutive relations and typical initial and have been used for water (wetting phase) and gas

boundary conditions description. (non-wetting). Assuming that oil is

intermediately wetting phase we’ve taken

advantage of Brooks-Corey-Burdine model.

3.1 Governing equations

Oliveira and Demond [2] have shown in

Component mass conservation equations are particular, that this model was one of the best in

written for the water, which can be presented in systematic comparison on available experimental

liquid (index “w”) and gas state (index “g”), and data on three phase relative permeability

for the oil which is assumed to be uniform non- measurements carried out for last decades.

volatile liquid (index “h”). The equations are as Conventional data available elsewhere for the

follows physical properties of saturated steam/liquid

water system have been used to relate such

ε∂ t (ρw S w + ρ g S g )

properties as viscosity, density and enthalpy on

pressure and temperature variations. Typical for

+ ∇ ⋅ (ρ w u w + ρ g u g ) = 0 (3.1) heavy oil exponentially decaying with

Excerpt from the Proceedings of the COMSOL Users Conference 2007 Grenoble

relation given. The injected steam quality is equal 1 (no

liquid water is injected).

µ h = µ 0 exp{b / T, K } (3.5)

4. Numerical model

has been chosen for our purposes. The equation

(3.5) is one of the built-in functions in well- In this part of paper the motivation of the

known and popular reservoir simulator STARS application mode choice and key features of

COMSOL numerical model are presented and

[4]. Here µ 0 and b are parameters, temperature

discussed in some details.

T,K should be taken in absolute units.

4.1 Choice of primary variables and

3.3 Initial and boundary conditions application modes

The equations (3.1-3.4),(2.1) have been Our recent experience in the numerical

applied in 2D rectangular region with aspect modeling of multiphase flow through porous

ratio 2: (-L≤x≤L, 0≤z≤L), and open circular media and implementation of reservoir

hole in the middle which bear the injection well simulations in research work turned out to be in

boundary conditions (see Fig.1). We choose the favor of certain rules in constructing of the

vertical (gravity) equilibrium state like the initial COMSOL model for SAGD-like process. First

one. As the capillary pressure is neglected, it of all, the pressure-saturation primary variables

implies that only one phase (oil) is mobile at t=0 set has been chosen. Generally in reservoir

and the pressure undergoes linear variation with simulation the pressure variation between

depth, injection and production sites is smaller than

initial reservoir pressure, ∆P << Pini . Moreover,

Pini(t=0,x,y)=Ptop+ρhg(ztop-z) (3.6) frequently the capillary pressure, Pc , which can

play an important role locally in the flow region,

The initial temperature and saturations are is even smaller, than pressure drop, Pc << ∆P.

uniform Under these conditions it is clear that the choice

of pressure-pressure primary variables may be

T(t=0)=Tini , S w(t=0)=Sm, Sh (t=0)=1- Sm prohibitive because of usual computational errors

(3.7) which can affect drastically the numerical

solution.

where S m is critical water saturation in a sense Furthermore, the degenerate case, from the

that krw(Sm)=0 . On the left, right and top view-point of pressure-pressure variables, of

boundaries, (x=±L, z=L), the no-flow and zero capillary pressure is common in practice of

thermal insulation conditions are given. On the reservoir simulations like in particular, in our

bottom, (z=0), the constant (initial) pressure and case.

Then the choice of primary variables implies

thermal convective flow conditions, n· ∇T =0 , that PDE application mode is currently most

are imposed. Similar to this condition for the appropriate for the model (3.1)- (3.4),(2.1).

flow of thermal energy, no diffusive

contribution conditions is given, n· ∇S p =0 , 4.2 Phase equilibrium model

p=o,w, for the phase flows at the bottom. In the

While the thermal equilibrium between all

subsection 4.3 we discuss the nature of the

the phases is overall valid, the saturated

duffusion-like term in the mass conservation

steam/liquid water equilibrium which implies

equations (3.1-3.2). The latter boundary

that pressure and temperature are not

condition for phase flow turned out to be a

independent, is valid only if both steam and

compromise between the nature of corresponding

water are presented. In fact, it means that for

equations and a requirement to apply general

three phase and two phase sub-regions the set of

thermodynamic equilibrium condition on the

independent variables is different.

bottom boundary.

To the best of our knowledge, the variables

Finally, on the boundary of circular hole of

substitution technique which is used

given radius Rw : (x-xw)2+(z-zw)2=Rw2 , the conventionally to fix the problem, is not

condition of steam injection at constant pressure, currently available in COMSOL.

Pe=Pini+ ∆P , and corresponding equilibrium

temperature, Te(Pe), taken from the standard

Excerpt from the Proceedings of the COMSOL Users Conference 2007 Grenoble

variety of different means enabling to attack the

problem from other sides. There are at least two Sequential or single equation approach (see

ways to do this. The first one is to proceed with sunsection 4.2) presumes calculating separately

near-equilibrium formulation of the equation the pressure field in order to better satisfy the

(3.1) by splitting it into two equations for gas near-equilibrium conditions for three phase sub-

(steam) and liquid water phases, as follows domain. To do this one needs to use scripting for

the adequate problem formulation. Although the

ε∂ t ( ρ w S w ) + ∇ ⋅ ( ρ w u w ) = f cn (4.1) real time of computation may increase

ε∂ t (ρ g S g )+ ∇ ⋅ (ρ g u g ) = −f cn

significantly, the use of script has many various

(4.2) advantages and may enlarge the field of possible

applications.

f cn = γ ( Pg − Pe ) (4.3)

5. Results and Discussion

where Pe= Pe (T ) is saturated steam pressure at

given temperature T. Main drawback of this 2 The main purpose of our work is to reveal

equations approach is the uncertainty the COMSOL applicability to problems of

concerning the value of coefficient γ which has modeling the non-conventional methods of oil

to meet some physical and/or mathematical recovery. It seems to be not very realistic idea to

requirements. implement in COMSOL full reservoir simulator

The second one is the so-called sequential capabilities. Our intention was rather to show

computation which can be called here single that there are numerous potential areas of oil

equation approach. Summing the equations recovery where COMSOL can be a useful and

(3.1) and (3.2) one gets the total flow or in other successful means of research and design

word, pressure equation. Note, that this equation advancement.

is quasi elliptic and least variable in time with SAGD has been taken like an example of

respect to others. The idea of the approach is to possible applications because the methods is

recalculate pressure separately and possibly not based on different strongly coupled physical

at each time step and then proceed in usual phenomena and undergoes currently various

manner with equations (3.1-3.4),(2.1). Again modifications aimed at its enhancement.

additional efforts are required to adjust this The model has been built progressively. The

procedure. Besides that, this approach is only (two phase) Buckley-Leverett problem was the

applicable via scripting (see subsection 4.4). first successful application. Then the modeling

To conclude, our experience shows that the of isothermal gas injection via horizontal well to

results of both near-equilibrium approaches are reservoir saturated by liquid water or oil has

rather close. been done. Finally, hot water and steam injection

has completed our work. Where possible the

4.3 Artificial diffusion numerical solutions have been directly

juxtaposed with exact solution, mass and energy

Remind that we neglect the capillary pressure balance has been verified and the influence of

in our model. Let λ=0 (equation (3.3)). Then auxiliary numerical model parameters value (like

(3.1-3.4),(2.1) becomes the system of hyperbolic artificial diffusion coefficients or parameter γ in

equations which admits normally discontinuities the equation (4.3)) has been tested.

in solution. The computations of the SAGD process

By default, COMSOL offers to deal with finite have been performed on triangular non-

elements of 2 nd order. It is of no doubt that structured grid with 1086 vertices and 2088

following this way one arrives easily to the elements (Fig.1). The main parameters of the

solutions which oscillate and hence demonstrate model are given in the Table below. The

non-physical behavior. So artificial diffusion is temperature, pressure and gas saturation fields

needed to avoid non-monotone solution and are presented in Figures 2a-2c.

again, COMSOL offers the set of mean to avoid It is the gradual development of a “steam

non-physical solution. Additional weak terms in chamber” with nearly uniform temperature and

equations (3.1-3.2) enabled to sufficiently slightly perturbed pressure which makes the

improve the results of computations. Along with method so attractive because the heated oil is

this the application of artificial diffusion displaced from the chamber towards the bottom.

permitted us to specify appropriate bottom Note that there is no need to apply great

boundary conditions for liquid phase saturations. additional pressure on the injection well (cf

Excerpt from the Proceedings of the COMSOL Users Conference 2007 Grenoble

∆P =0.25 bar and, for example, gravity unsaturated soils. Soil Sci. Am. J., Volume 44,

imposed pressure drop, ρhgL ≈1.6 bar). 892-898 (1980)

To validate the results of computation in 4. Computer Modelling Group Ltd., STARS

COMSOL for the SAGD process the same Manual, Calgary, Alberta, October 2004

computation has been carried out with reservoir

simulator STARS on the rectangular structured 8. Acknowledgements

grid 73x1x36 with ∆x=∆z=0.5 m and 2628

grid cells. The results of computation in STARS TOTAL is acknowledged for sponsoring our

are depicted in Figures 3a-3c. research activities.

6. Conclusions

Table 1: Parameters of the SAGD model

COMSOL model of the SAGD process

including three phase non-isothermal flow and Injection temperature, Te 454 K

water phase transition has been successfully built

and tested. Although computational performance

of the model is not still competitive at the Injection pressure, ∆P 0.25 bar

moment in comparison to the industrial reservoir

simulator, the multi-physics flexibility and Porosity, ε 0.32 undim.

diversity of COMSOL based applications offer

the promising possibilities in research on novel Absolute permeability, K 1 Darcy

methods of oil recovery.

Total thickness, L 18 m

7. References

Concept, Development, Performance and Future,

Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology, Initial oil viscosity 0.1 Pa.s

Volume 33, No 2, 44-50 (1994)

2. Oliveira L.I., Demond A.H., Estimation of Reservoir pressure,

10 bar

primary drainage 3-phase relative permeability Pini ( z = zw )

for organic liquid transport in the vadoze zone,

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, Volume 66, Initial water saturation, Sm 0.2 undim.

261-285 (2003)

Initial oil saturation,

3. van Genuchten M.Th. A closed-form equation 0.8 undim.

Sh(t=0)

for predicting the hydraulic conductivity of

(a) (b)

Figure 1 . COMSOL model grid (a) and STARS model grid (b).

Excerpt from the Proceedings of the COMSOL Users Conference 2007 Grenoble

(a) (b)

(c) (d)

(e) (f)

Figure 2. Comparison of COMSOL model to similar STARS model results: temperature fields (a,b), in C, gas

saturation fields (c,d) and pressure fields (e,f), in Pa for COMSOL ,(e), and in KPa for STARS, (f), after injection of

steam amount equivalent to 4.08 106 m3 of liquid water at reservoir conditions

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