Polymer viscosity: understanding of changes through time in the reservoir and a way to predict them

Katz Marquez, Román E.
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Polymer rheological behavior in an Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) project is one of the critical factors to determine whether the polymer injection would be effective to increase the oil production in a field. Due to complications on the measurement of this parameter and its variation within the reservoir, the challenge of understanding viscosity behavior relies on lab and field tests that become key factors to solve this issue. This study was conducted during an injectivity test for an EOR project in Los Perales field (Santa Cruz, Argentina) in three wells with different operational and subsurface conditions, and tests were performed twice a day for 30 days each in order to obtain sufficient time span of data. From lab rheology tests performed at reservoir conditions, where the main objective was to analyze viscosity changes through time, two different tendencies were observed: one that affects in early times and another that becomes preeminent at late times. With these results, a describing equation was developed to predict viscosity evolution over time. The equation consists of three terms including thermal variation, chemical degradation and the final viscosity towards which the polymer tends. Although the equation properly describes both lab and field polymer solution, there is a considerable difference, especially when the effects mentioned become preponderant. This difference is attributed to both the water used for the mixture and the possible impurities that may be incorporated during the maturation or transfer of the polymer. Since most of the data used was obtained from field tests, this emphasizes the appliance of the equation on the field. Impurities turn out to be crucial, specially oxygen (O2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) combined. Their presence highly impacts the asymptotic viscosity, so a correlation between H2S content and final viscosity was also developed. Finally, an analysis of the temperature influence on the viscosity was conducted. A correlation between the final viscosity and temperature was found and used to incorporate temperature variations in the predictions and therefore to relate measurements performed at different conditions. The primary advantage of this study is that the equation and correlations enable the prediction of the polymer solution viscosity at any time. This allows the estimation of actual polymer viscosity in the reservoir from a routine measurement at any temperature and impurities content. The versatility of this equation is what makes it novel and useful in an industry going towards EOR projects.