steam stimulation
Anzhu Xu
a,n
, Longxin Mu
a
, Zifei Fan
a
, Xianghong Wu
a
, Lun Zhao
a
, Bing Bo
a
, Ting Xu
b
a
Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration and Development, PetroChina, Beijing, China
b
Planning DepartmentUpstream Sector, China National Petroleum Corporation
a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 6 August 2013
Received in revised form
25 September 2013
Accepted 26 September 2013
Available online 23 October 2013
Keywords:
heavy oil
superheated steam huff and puff
heat transfer coefcient
degree of superheat
ideal gas
recovery mechanisms
a b s t r a c t
At the conclusion of several cycles of conventional saturated steam huff and puff in heavy oil reservoirs,
the heating radius are typically only 1020 m as it went through successive saturated steam huff and
puff. The heating region cannot be enlarged by continuing saturated steam stimulation any more.
However, superheated steam huff and puff as an additional recovery method signicantly increased the
heating radius by about 10 m after saturated steam huff and puff was completed. Conventional saturated
steam stimulation theory is not applicable for superheated steam. In this study, several physical
simulation tests were performed and reservoirs from conventional saturated steam played different
roles in heavy oil . There exists a temperature gradient on the heat transfer surface, in which chemical
reactions would happen such as formation water, heavy oil, and formation minerals under the favorable
circumstances of high temperature of superheated steam. These chemical reactions not only result in
some changes of composition and the irreversible reduction of oil viscosity, but also change the
microscopic pore structure of rocks to improve the permeability of superheated steam heating area;
changing the wettability of the reservoir rock and increasing the displacement efciency of superheated
steam ooding, which bring about signicant improvements of heavy oil development effects. Due to the
release of latent heat and the uniform temperature of saturated steam, temperature in the saturated
steam heating area is kept constant everywhere. These mechanisms do not occur in ordinary saturated
steam huff and puff. This work analyses the superior properties of superheated steam and bring forward
the superiority of superheated steam huff and puff to effectively develop heavy oil reservoirs in recovery
mechanisms, including mathematichal model establishing, physical and numerical simulation studies,
and current pilot test effects.
& 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
After several cycles of saturated steam huff and puff in heavy oil
reservoirs, the heating radius are typically only 2030 m, the
maximum radius in a perfect reservoir is about 50 m (Zhang et al.,
2008). In the ultraheavy oil reservoir, oil saturation stays in the
original state out of the heating radius as it went through successive
saturated steam huff and puff (Wu et al., 2010). The heating region
cannot be enlarged by continuing saturated steam huff and puff any
more due to the limited heat carried by saturated steam and the
serious heatloss during its transmission. In conventional heavy oil
reservoirs, oil has a certain capacity of owing in the original
formation. When the reservoirs went through stages by depletion
or some cycles of saturated steam huff and puff, the reservoir
pressure dropped quickly and water formationwas accelerated to
invade the oil reservoir because of high oil and water mobility ratio.
Watercut increased rapidly and oil production decreased sharply
after water went through the bottom hole. The production perfor
mance was becoming worse and worse without the change of
development methods. These reservoirs were inappropriate for
continuing saturated steam huff and puff and their properties
probably hardly met the criteria of saturated steam drive (Qu,
2009). There is a large amount of hydrocarbon accumulation in
such reservoirs that can only be exploited with new concepts. The
secondary enhanced oil recovery technology should be considered
to improve oil production (Yan and Ren, 2009). By heating the
saturated steam above its saturation temperature would be a new
technology for the recovery of these heavy oil reservoirs. Super
heated steamwas never used to enhance oil recovery before. On the
one hand, superheated steam exists in the very srict conditions and
the superheated state was not directly from cold water heating. On
the other hand, mobile superheated steam generator that can be
used for injectors in the oil eld were not manufactured success
fully. Since 2005, the rst superheated steam generator has been
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/petrol
Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering
09204105/$  see front matter & 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.petrol.2013.09.007
n
Corresponding author. Tel.: 86 108 359 3041; fax: 86 108 359 3245.
Email addresses: xuanz@petrochina.com.cn, xuanzhu@cnpcint.com (A. Xu).
Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 111 (2013) 197207
put into practice in the Postsalt Oil Field of Kazakhstan. This work
analysis the superior properties of superheated steam and bring
forward superiority of superheated steam huff and puff to effec
tively develop these marginal heavy oil reservoirs in recovery
mechanisms, including mathematichal model establishing, simula
tion studies, and current pilot test effects.
2. Properties of superheated steam
Dry saturated steam (quality of 100%) continue to be heated in
the given pressure and the steam temperature will increase above
its saturation temperature. The steam superheated by the number
of temperature degrees higher than the corresponding saturated
steam is dened as superheated steam. The temperature difference
between superheated steam and its saturated steam is called degree
of superheat. As compared to saturated steam under the same
pressure, superheated steam has a higher temperature, carries more
heat and has a greater heating capacity than saturated steam. In
saturated steam, temperature is directly proportional to pressure
and the steam pressure determines the steam temperature,
enthalpy and specic volume; with superheated steam there is no
direct relationship between temperature, pressure and the specic
heat capacity (Rohsenow et al., 1992). Therefore at a particular
pressure it may be possible for superheated steam to exist at a wide
range of temperatures. This is a useful increase in steam energy,
enthalpy and specic volume within the limited pressure (Shen
et al., 2000). With the same quantity of saturated steam, super
heated steam has the capacity of heating the heavy oil reservoir to a
higher temperature and a wider region. Superheated steam huff
and puff has the potential superiority to improve thermal recovery
effect. Table 1 displays that superheated steam carries more heat
and has larger specic volume than that of saturated steam.
2.1. The conditions for the existence of superheated steam
In thermodynamics, the presence of water can be dened as four
states, such as cold water, wet steam, saturated steam and super
heated steam. As is shown in Fig. 1. From the region of division,
conditions for the existence of superheated steam are wide ranges
of temperatures and pressures, as is shown in Table 2. Not only at
high temperature and high pressure, superheated steam can also
exist at low temperature and low pressure and even at high
temperature and low pressure. For saturated steam, the tempera
ture of saturated steam is determined by the pressure (Chang et al.,
1997). But the maximum pressure is limited by steam boiler and
burst pressure of the reservoir rock. Therefore, the saturated steam
temperature increase is limited by the pressure (Li et al., 2008).
But for superheated steam, under a particular pressure, temperature
was higher than the saturated temperature, that is, the state of
steam changed from the saturated region (Region 4) to the super
heated steam region (Region 2) (Chen et al., 2002). As a result,
superheated steam can not only increase the temperature of steam,
but also increase the steam heat carrying. Superheated steam
breaks through restrictions of saturated steam in application, and
is suitable for thermal recovery of various heavy oil reservoirs.
2.2. Superheated steam generated process
Superheated steam has seldom been reported to be used to
recover heavy oil before due to the limitation of boiler's properties.
However, through two years of research, an innovative model of
Nomenclature
Q heat transferred rate of uids, w
Q
sup
heat transferred rate of superheated steam, w
Q
s
heat transferred rate of saturated steam, w
W friction energy from inlet to outlet of microelement of
wellbore, J/kg
V superheated volume, m
3
T steam temperature, 1C
A heat transfer area, m
2
T
sup
temperature of superheated steam, K
T
s
temperature of saturated steam, K
T
degree of superheat, K
T
w
temperature of heat transfer surface, K
heat transfer coefcient of uids,
W/(m
2
K)
sup
heat transfer coefcient of superheated steam, W/
(m
2
K)
s
heat transfer coefcient of saturated steam, W/(m
2
K)
2
steam density of into and out of microelement of
wellbore, kg/m
3
m
steam density of all microelement of wellbore, kg/m
3
v steam injection rate, m/s
v
1
; v
2
steam injection rate of inlet and outlet of microele
ment of wellbore, m/s
i
s
steam mass ow rate, kg/s
p steam pressure of microelement of wellbore, Pa
h
m
enthalpy of superheated steam, J/kg
trend angle of deviation
C
p
heat capacity at constant pressure, J/(kg K)
t
s
temperature of saturated steam,1C
p
s
pressure of saturated steam, MPa
z well depth, m
Table 1
Heat and volume multiple of superheated steam compared to saturated steam (quality of 75%).
Pressure Saturation temperature Degree of superheat (10 1C) Degree of superheat (50 1C) Degree of superheat (80 1C)
(MPa) (1C) Heat multiples Volume multiples Heat multiples Volume multiples Heat multiples Volume multiples
1 184.2 1.23 1.37 1.27 1.52 1.30 1.63
3 235.7 1.20 1.37 1.25 1.55 1.29 1.67
5 265.2 1.19 1.38 1.24 1.58 1.28 1.71
7 286.8 1.18 1.38 1.24 1.62 1.28 1.77
9 304.2 1.17 1.39 1.24 1.66 1.28 1.83
10 311.8 1.16 1.40 1.24 1.69 1.28 1.86
A. Xu et al. / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 111 (2013) 197207 198
boiler was successfully built by overcoming many challenges. The
superheated steam rated ow has three options such as 6 t/h,
11.5 t/h and 23 t/h. The injection pressure also has three options
such as 3 MPa, 9 MPa, 19 MPa. The range of superheated degree is
from 30 to 100 1C. The outlet temperature of the superheated
steam generator can reach 320340 1C. This generator is used for
saturated steam with quality of 5070% heated to superheated
steam. The working principle illustrations are shown in Fig. 2. The
wet steam (qualityr50%) must be passed through an additional
heat exchanger to improve its quality (qualityZ90% ), and then
through steamwater separators to detach the water phase. The
detached dry saturated steamwas superheated by passing through
a second heated stage in an additional separate superheater unit of
the boiler.
2.3. Heat transfer characteristics of superheated steam
The intensity of heat transfer is characterized by the wellbore
and formation of heat transfer coefcient. However, the term
intensity of heat transfer does not associate with the heat transfer
coefcient; its denition is that the intensity of heat transfer is
dened as the heat ux per unit area. The physical meaning of
heat transfer coefcient is one unit heat passed through one unit
heat transfer area in one unit time under 1 1C temperature
difference (IAPWSIF97, 1997). Obviously, the greater the heat
transfer coefcient, the more the heat transfer per unit time. For
the steam carrying a certain quantity of heat, the smaller the heat
transfer coefcient, the less heat ow in the unit time, and the
longer the heat transfer duration. Table 3 lists the heat transfer
coefcients of different uids in heat transfer, which indicates
that, a phase change of uids during the process of heat transfer
will lead to greater heat transfer coefcients, and no phase change
of uids in heat tranfer has smaller heat transfer coefcients; gas
has the smallest transfer coefcient. Fig. 3 demonstrates that
superheated steam exists in the region above the saturation line
(Quality x1) and belongs to 100% degree of dry gas. The trend of
isotherms in Fig.3 shows the higher the degree of superheat, the
closer superheated steam is to ideal gas (Shen et al., 2000; Li et al.,
2008), and smaller the heat transfer coefcient . The calculation
results of heat transfer coefcient shown in Table 3 signify that the
heat transfer coefcient is approximately equal to that of air and is
only 1/1501/250 as much as saturated steam. In addition, super
heated steam has no phase change in heat transfer and the heat
transfer coefcient is small. But for saturated steam, the loss of
heat will cause some of the steam to condense and phase changes
occur and the heat transfer coefcient is larger. According to
Newton's law of cooling (Eq. (1)), the heat ow rate depends on
the heat transfer coefcient, heat transfer area and the tempera
ture difference. In the same heat transfer area, the temperature
difference of superheated steam is greater than that of saturated
steam, but the heat transfer coefcient for superheated steam
is always much lower than that of saturated steam and the
temperature difference is relatively much less than the heat
transfer coefcient difference. The higher the degree of superheat,
the lower the heat ow rate. Eq. (2) shows that, in passing along
the same heat transfer area, the heat conduction rate ratio
between superheated steam and saturated steam is probably equal
to the heat transfer coefcient ratio, that is 1/1501/250. Super
heated steam carries more heat than saturated steam, and super
heated steam heat loss rate is less than that of saturated steam
(Marx and Langenheim, 1959). It can take a relatively long time to
Table 2
Temperature and pressure in each region.
No. Region T P
( 1C) (MPa)
1 Cold water 0rTr350 PZP
s
(T)
2 Superheated steam 0rTr350 0oPrP
s
(T)
350rTr590 0oPrP
B
(T)
TZ590 P40
3 Wet steam 350rTrT
B
(P) PZP
B
(T)
4 Saturated steam 0rTr374 0oPr22.064
Fig. 1. Regions of water phase.
Wellhead thermal compensator
Superheated steam 480
o
C
tubing
Dry saturated steam
casing
water
Sealing Packer
Wet steam (dryness 50%
B
u
r
n
e
r
c
o
n
t
r
o
l
r
o
o
m
Superheater Unit
Heating to improve dryness
Boiler combustion chamber
S
t
e
a
m

w
a
t
e
r
s
e
p
a
r
a
t
o
r
s
90%)
B
u
r
n
e
r
c
o
n
t
r
o
l
r
o
o
m
Superheater Unit
Heating to improve dryness
Boiler combustion chamber
90%)
B
u
r
n
e
r
c
o
n
t
r
o
l
r
o
o
m
Superheater Unit
Heating to improve dryness
90%) Wet steam(dryness
)
Fig. 2. Superheated steam generated process.
A. Xu et al. / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 111 (2013) 197207 199
cool, during which the steam is releasing very little energy and is
transmitted long distances, which is usefulfor increasing the
heating region. Superheated steam can overcome the limitation
that after 10 cycles of saturated steam stimulation, the maximum
heating radius is not enlarged.
Q AT T
w
1
Q
sup
Q
s
sup
AT
sup
T
w
s
AT
s
T
w
sup
s
T
s
T
T
w
T
s
T
w
sup
s
1
T
T
s
T
w
sup
s
2
3. Synthetic evaluating models for superheated steam owing
down the wellbore
Early mathematical model about calculation of steam para
meters along the wellbore during steam injection were established
by Satter Ramey (Ramey, 1962), Satter (Satter Abdus,1965), and
Willhite respectively according to the conservation of energy and
heat conduction theory Willhite (1967), and this model does not
consider the variation of pressure during steam transmission in
the wellbore which leads to a greater error when the well depth is
deep or injection rate is high.
In the 1980s, Fontanilla and Aziz studied the impaction of the
steam pressure loss caused by gravity, frictionand acceleration and
established the integrated model by considering the steam ow
state, gas slippage of the two phase ow and heat transfer during
steam owing (Fontanilla and Aziz, 1982). In the1990s, Chiu
established the numerical model by an analytical method and
gave the following hypothesis: heat conduction from outer ring of
wellbore to cement is a one dimensional steady heat transfer
process, and heat from the outer ring cement to formation is a one
dimensional unsteady heat transfer process (Chiu and Thakur,
1991). Recently, some researchers used a more complex nite
difference method to solve the wellbore and the unsteady heat
transfer process from wellbores to the surrounding formation.
In this study, assumptions of the model foundation are as
follows: (1) Superheated steam ow is a constant mass ow in the
wellbore. (2) The bottom of insulated tubing is sealed with packer
setting to ensure no steam passes into annulus lled with air.
(3) The superheated steam owing in the wellbore is a one
dimensional steady ow. During superheated steam ow, pressure
and temperature in the same cross section are equal everywhere.
(4) Heat transfer from the inner surface of the tubing to the outer
ring of the cement is steady but from the outer ring of cement to
formation, the heat transfer is not steady, and the model is built
without considering heat transfer in the longitudinal direction
along the wellbore. The wellbore structure is shown in Fig. 4.
Table 3
The value of heat transfer coefcient.
Heat transfer conditions Value Commended value
(W/(m
2
K)) (W/(m
2
K))
Saturated steam heated or condensed 500015,000 10,000
Water boiling 100030,000 30005000
Water heated or cooling 2005000 4001000
Oil heated or cooling 501000 200500
Superheated steam heated or cooling 20100
Air heated or cooling 560 2030
4200
3800
4000
superheated steam
3200
3400
3600
2800
3000
quality x=1
2200
2400
2600
E
n
t
h
a
l
p
y
,
K
J
/
(
K
g
.
K
)
2000
5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9
saturated steam
Entropy, KJ/(Kg.K)
Fig. 3. HS diagram of steam.
Fig.4. Wellbore structure.
A. Xu et al. / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 111 (2013) 197207 200
The mathematical model is founded on the basis of three laws:
(1) the law of conservation of mass, (2) the theorem of momen
tum, (3) the law of conservation of energy. Equations used in the
calculation are as follows:
1) Mass conservation equation
Superheated steam injection process is a constant mass ow
and the mass conservation equation is
1
v
1
A
2
v
2
A i
s
3
2) Theorem of momentum equation
dpA
m
Adzg cos
f
1
v
2
1
A
2
v
2
2
A 4
Eq. (4) describes that the superheated steam pressure drops along
the wellbore on the basis of analysis of innitesimal by taking into
account the gravity impulse, and
m
Adzg cos dt which is the
gravity impulse within the dt time. The new equation of pressure
drop dp was founded by the Theorem of Momentum.
3) Energy conservation equation
Considering frictional energy loss in the superheated steam
ow, the superheated steam energy equation was established
under the principle of conservation of energy:
dQ
dz
dW
dz
i
s
dh
m
dz
i
s
d
dz
2
2
i
s
g cos 5
The physical meaning of Eq. (5) is that the internal energy
change of microunits such as Fig. 5 in unit time as well as the
change of mechanical energy is equal to the heat transferred to
the wellbore and friction losses during the unit superheated
steam owing. Eq. (6) not only considers the mechanical and
internal energy changes of the microsuperheated steam unit
and the heat transferring of the microunit, but also considers
friction loss during the steam owing such as the energy dW,
which can be used to calculate the changes of superheated
steam temperature dT.
4) Auxiliary equation
dh
m
dz
h
m
T
p
dT
dz
dh
m
dp
T
dp
dz
6
The equation above can be translated into
dh
m
dz
C
p
dT
dz
V T
V
T
p
( )
dp
dz
7
Eq. (7) is applicable to all types of solid, liquid and gas.
5) Function relationship between saturated steam pressure and
temperature
t
s
210:2376p
0:21
s
30 8
Eq. 8 can determine whether the steam is superheated or not.
The mathematical model about calculation of superheated
steam parameters distribution along the wellbore was established
through Eq. (18).
3.1. Solution of mathematical model
The solution of this mathematical model was divided into four
parts: pressure drop calculation along the wellbore, radial heat loss
calculation, superheated steam temperature calculation, and super
heated degree calculation. The solution procedure is shown in Fig. 6.
(1) The wellbore was divided into N nodes. The distance of each
segment was z. The wellhead was the rst node, i 1
Fig. 5. Mechanical analysis from a microunit. Fig.6. Solution procedure of equation variables.
A. Xu et al. / Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering 111 (2013) 197207 201
(2)
In the rst node, if superheated degree T
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