Foam Coarsening - Behaviour and Consequences in a Model Porous Medium
S.A. Jones, N. Getrouw and S. Vincent-Bonnieu
Event name: IOR 2017 - 19th European Symposium on Improved Oil Recovery
Session: Poster Introductions 2
Publication date: 24 April 2017
Info: Extended abstract, PDF ( 2.07Mb )
Price: € 20
Gas injection was introduced to the petroleum industry in the early 1950s. Nevertheless, the process efficiency is impacted by the low density and viscosity of the gas, which decrease sweep efficiency. Foam for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) can overcome the downside of the viscous fingering by increasing the apparent viscosity of the gas. Importantly, the structure of the foam evolves with time due to gas diffusion between bubbles (coarsening). In a bulk foam, the coarsening behaviour is well defined, but there is a lack of understanding of coarsening behaviour in confined geometries, especially in porous media. Nonnekes et al  predicted numerically and analytically that coarsening will cause the foam lamellae to move to low energy configurations in the pore throats, resulting in greater capillary resistance when trying to restart flow. This study describes foam coarsening in a porous medium and the implications for foam propagation. Foam coarsening experiments have been conducted in both a micromodel and in a rock core. The micromodel is etched with an irregular hexagonal pattern, with a Gaussian distribution of pore diameters. Foam was generated by coinjecting surfactant solution and nitrogen gas into the micromodel. Once steady state flow had been achieved, the flow was stopped. The coarsening behaviour of the foam was recorded using time-lapse photography. The core flood coarsening experiments were carried out using a Bentheimer Sandstone core. Foam was produced by coinjecting surfactant solution and nitrogen at the base of the core. Once a steady state flow was achieved, the flow was stopped and the core sealed off. When flow restarted, the additional driving pressure required to reinitiate flow was measured, and this could be attributed to the stable configuration of the coarsened foam. The microfluidic results found that the bubbles coarsened rapidly (t < 10 minutes) to the size of the pores. At the completion of coarsening the majority of the lamellae were located in the pore throats with minimum length. Because of the effect of the walls, the behaviour did not conform to the unconstricted coarsening growth laws. Furthermore, results on coreflood showed that coarsening is a rapid process, in agreement with microfluidic results. An increase in the additional pressure required to re-initiate flow was observed for the first 1 – 5 minutes of flow stoppages, while the pressure peaks did not increase for durations above 5 min. The implications of this behaviour for the field scale are also discussed.