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7 Segregated flow towards wells

Oil, gas and water have different densities and will therefore be separated when at rest.
Flow may draw water contact to the well, or pull down the gas contact, such that we
may get early breakthrough of water, or gas.

In the section below, we consider the flow mechanisms that lead to change in the oil-
water contact, and look at the effects of this. We want to quantify some contexts by
analytical solutions.

7.1 Field Example

Figure 7.1 illustrates Helder field, Murphy / 1990 /. Production well was originally
inclined (46 o) and completed at the top 40 feet of the oil zone. In spite of the distance
between the lower completion and the original water-oil contact being 47 feet, the water
breakthrough occurred after only 20 days of production, as shown in Figure 7.2. After
the breakthrough the water cut rapidly increased to 85-90%.

Figure 7.1 Well in Helder field

In 1986 production was shut down to drill a horizontal sidetrack. This was completed
close to the hanging wall and completed over 440 ‘, as shown in Figure 7.1. Production
from this side track started in 1987, with lower water cuts and higher oil rate, as shown
in Figure 7.2. The observed water break through, water cut and the development over
time was reasonably typical and, as we shall see later, in accordance with the analytical
results for segregated influx.

Figure 7.2 Production Development in Helder field

7.2 Horizontal, segregated flow

Horizontal drilling has been proved to be useful for producing oil and gas overlying or
underlying water. The best example is the Troll field. This is a large gas field, with
relatively thin oil zone and the underlying water. Oil was initially considered not
economically recoverable, because one expected that the gas and water would quickly
break through. However Norsk Hydro tested the production with horizontal wells and
floating production and achieved so good results that it was decided to also produce oil.
Troll field has at times been the Norwegian field with the highest oil production.

7.2.1 Flow and level change

Figure 7.3 illustrates the two fluids with different densities, such as oil and water. When
the fluid flows horizontally, no viscous forces work in a vertical direction. This means
vertical static equilibrium, with the following pressure distribution:

p w  p o   o g ho   w g hw  p s (7-1)

pw : pressure in bottom of the water

po : pressure on the top of the oil layer

ho : height of the oil layer

hw : height of water

ps : capillary pressure difference between oil and water

Figure 7.3 Static, vertical equilibrium

We can formally express the pressure changes in the horizontal direction to by


derivation of equation (7-1)

pw po h h ps


  o g o   w g w  (7-2)
x x x x x
If the reservoir is homogenous, the constant capillary pressure becomes constant so
that the last member of (7-2) is zero. Pressure changes in the horizontal direction will
be related to flow by Darcy’s law:

p o
v o  o (7-3)
x

p w
v w   w (7-4)
x

o : oil mobility ; o  ko o

w : water mobility ; w  k w  w

By combining the equation above, we get the relation between the flow and level
change

vo v w h h
  o g o  w g w (7-5)
o  w x x

7.2.2 Dupuis-Forchheim assumption

By this approach we consider pressure gradient in the horizontal direction due to flow,
and static pressure gradient in the vertical direction. This assumption has proved useful
for many cases of segregated flow. For a well with the flow from both sides, this means
that the fluxes (7-5) can be expressed as

vo 
qoL (7-6)
2 ho

qwL
vw  (7-7)
2 hw

qoL: oil production per m


qwL: water production per m
With these fundamental relationships, we can predict layered flow under various
boundary conditions. Some of these solutions are shown below.

7. 3 Steady-state, segregated flow

During oil production, we will have pressure drop in the well. If we have water
layer under oil, the pressure drop will bring water up. Similarly will happen with
gas, oil will take gas down.

7.3.1 Critical rate for the horizontal well

Figure 7.3 illustrates the influx of oil that draws up a water front, but without water
production. When the oil-water interface has stabilized, we will nowater flow: vw = 0.
With constant elevation of the reservoir layer: ht = ho + hw, from equations (7-5), (7-6) we
will get:

qoL h
   w   o  g o (7-8)
2o ho x

By integrating (7-8) with an outer limit xe  x , and he  ho we get

qoL  xe  x 
ho2  x   he2  (7-9)
o g   w   o 

Equation (7-9) describes the oil-water interface geometry. Water breakthrough will
happen when the water front reaches the well, that is when: ho(0)=hb. By “Critical rate” is
understood the production rate leading to water breakthrough. From equation (7-9), we
get the following expressions for the critical rate

o g   w   o   he2  hb2 
q *
oL (7-10)
xe

*
q oL : Specific, critical rate (m3/s/m)

hb : distance from the well to the hanging wall (m)

he : Height of the oil at the outer limit (m)


For gas over the well, we will have similar solution.
Figure 7-4 shows the water front, calculated by putting critical rate (7-10) to the
expression of the water front (7-9). A stationary, critical water front occupies 1/3 of the
reservoir cross-section, if the well is located just below hangs).It can be calculated
analytically using 7-9 and 7-10

Figure 7-4 Critical water ridge for horizontal well

7.3.2 Critical rate for a vertical well

For Radial influx, we get the following relationship for changing the height of the oil layer
qo h
    w  o  g o (7-11)
2ro ho r

Equation (7-11) is equivalent to equation (7-8) for Radial geometry. By integrating (7-11)
for an outer limit: xe with the oil level: he, We get the height relation

qo r
ho2  r   he2  ln e (7-12)
o g   w   o  r
Water will break through when the water column is pulled up to the completed interval.
When the well is completed down to the level: hb, then critical rate is:

o g   w   o   he2  hb2 


q 
*
o (7-13)
ln re rw

Figure 7-5 below shows the water column, calculated by putting critical rate in equation
(7-11) into the expression of the water front (7-12).

Figure 7-5 Critical water cone for vertical well

Figure (7-4) show that the critical water cone for a vertical well is much smaller than the
corresponding water ridge for horizontal well (7-5). This means that the stationary,
critical water cone will be able to establish itself affordable quickly in a vertical well,
while it will take longer time to establish stationary critical water crest in a horizontal
well.

7.3.3 Super Critical rate for the horizontal well

Above critical rate, we can expect water breakthrough. The question is then what
further will happen. (will water breakthrough be a "disaster"?)
Assuming constant production and stationary condition, oil and water fluxes are
described by equations (7-6) and (7-7). Putting them in the flow equation (7-5), we get

qoL qwL h
    w   o  g o (7-14)
2 ho o 2 ht  ho  w x

If the pressure gradient in the water zone equals the pressure gradient in the oil zone,
the water / oil contact remain horizontal: ho x  0 Inserted in (7-14), this gives an
upper limit for water / oil ratio

qwL  ht 
f     1 w (7-15)
qoL  he  o

This means that increased total production will cause high water production, but also
increased oil rate.

Super Critical influx has been examined in experimental Hele-Shaw cell. This means
that oil and water flow between glass or plastic plates, so that flow is Laminar, and
responds to the pressure gradient as flow in porous materials. The experiments showed
good compliance with the numerical solution of (7-14), Asheim / 1992 /. Evert Grødal
(research assistant 1995) found out that equation (7-14) can be solved analytically. This
provides the following relation between production rates and water / oil ratio

qoL 1 2 fM ht 2 fM ht 2 ht  1  fM  hb
   ln (7-16)
*
qoL 1  fM 1  fM  2 he  hb 1  fM  3 he 2  hb 2 ht  1  fM  he

M: mobility ratio M  o w
f: water / oil ratio in production
ht : Total height

he : height of oil column, at the outer limit

hb: Well location, clearance under the hanging wall


*
qoL : Specific, critical rate: (7-10)

Figure 7-6 shows the relationship: oil production / critical rate, predicted using eq. (7-
16), for: M = 0.5, hb =1, he =10, ht = 20. We see that when oil production exceeds
critical, the water / oil ratio in the production increase steeply, but ultimately approaches
an upper limit

Figure 7-6 Water / oil ratio of super-critical production (M = 0.5, hb =1, ht/ he = 2)

Figure 7-7 illustrates the stationary water crests for different rates. Variation range is
compared with the figure 7-6 above: If we, for example, produces 8 times the critical oil
rate, Figure 7-7 shows that the water front then is relatively small, so that a virtually
stationary water ridge will be able to establish itself more or less quickly.

Figure 7-7: Water crests at the super-critical production (M = 0.5, ht/ he = 2)

7.4 Changes in the water / oil production over time

As mentioned above, it may take a long time before the oil-water interface approaches
stationary condition. We must therefore consider development with time
7.4.1 Pseudo critical rate for horizontal wells

Figure 7-8 illustrates a reservoir with horizontal well and gas drive from above .

Figure 7-8 Horizontal wells, with gas cap drive from above

If the gas/oil contact moves downward (or oil/water contact rises) without geometry
change, the oil flow velocity will be zero flow at draining limits: xe and increase linearly
towards the well, Giger / 1989 /

qoL  x 
v x    1   (7-17)
2 ho  xe 

By combining (7-5) and (7-17), for zero water production, we obtain

qL  x 
 1   x    w   o  g ho h (7-18)
2 o  xe 

Integration from outer limit: he , gives

qL 1
h 2  x   he2   xe  x  2 (7-19)
o g   w   o  2 xe

We can now find Critical rate, by inserting: x = 0, h (0) = hb, into the (7-19).This gives
 q*L 

2o g   w   o  he2  hb2  (7-20)
xe

The formula above appears almost equal to the stationary critical rate formula (7-10).
But with rising water level at the outer boundary: he, the water-free rate (7-20) will be
decrease.

There is an Assumption that the water level rises with the same speed everywhere. In
reality, oil / water contact change form when the water level rises. Experiments
conducted by Aulie & al / 1995 / showed that the above still provide a reasonable
approach to reality.

7.4.2 Transient crest

Production with critical rate will lead to rapid breakthrough of water (or gas). Then the
water crest will expand, while oil production gradually declining. Such changes, we can
quantify based on continuity equation. If we neglect pressure due to flow in the aquifer
(gas) and required a vertical static equilibrium, we can describe changes in the oil level,
for water breakthrough as

  ho  1 ho (7-21)


 ho 
x  x  C t

o   w   o  g
C (7-22)

The equations above shows that for the same initial height and production well location,
the transient response depend on a single parameter group: C. It means that greater
density difference would have the same impact on (7-22) as greater permeability, and
therefore give the same transient response. Parameter C quantifies thus diffusivity of
the water front. Large diffusivity constant means that the water front will expand faster,
and production will be greater.

Figure 7.9 illustrates the spread of a gas front. The spread is calculated based on (7-
21), (7-22) above, with parameters: [ k=10.10-12 =0.2 , =10-3, g =200, o =900,
hi=10]
Figure 7.9 Transient expansion of gas crest

We have previously showed that production is proportional to the slope of the interface
at the well (7-8). By using this with the transient relation (7-22), the production may be
expressed as

qoL  t   2o he   o   g  g
K (7-23)
t

K: constant, depending on diffusivity and well location: K (C, hb)


t: time after breakthrough
qoL: production per. meters completed well

Figure 7.10 illustrates the production profile, after break through calculated for
parameter set: [ k=10.10-12 , =0.2 , =10-3, g =200, o =900, hi=10]. Production capacity at
the water breakthrough: t = 0, as follows from (7-23) be infinite. This has no practical
relevance: rate will anyway be limited by other considerations.
Figure 7.10 Estimated production profile after gas breakthrough

Oil production from the field Helder has been illustrated in Figure 7.2. Figure 7.11 below
shows oil production after water breakthrough, the plot, was built according to (7-23).
The correspondence supports the theoretical results above
Figure 7.11 Observed oil rates for water breakthrough, Helder field

7.5 Inclined, stratified flow

7.5.1 Basic relations

In inclined reservoir layers, static pressure changes in the flow direction must be
accounted for. The pressure distribution perpendicular to the flow direction
outlined in Figure 7.12 is expressed as

p w  p s   o g y y o   w g y y w  p s (7-24)

gy : acceleration of gravity in the y-direction: gy = g cos 

yo : thickness of the oil layer

yw : thickness of the water layer


Figure 7.12 Oil and water in the tilted-scale reservoir q L  0.2  q*L

Since the sum of oil and water level corresponds to the reservoir layer height: yo = yt –
yw We can express pressure change and level change by derivatives (7-24) above

pw po y y
  o g y w   w g y w (7-25)
x x x x

Pressure change in flow direction expressed by Darcy's law, with static pressure
contribution:

p o v (7-26)
 o g x  o  0
x o

p w v
 wgx  w  0 (7-27)
x w

By setting (7-26), (7-27) into (7-25), we get

vo vw y (7-28)
  g x  g y w
o w x
There:    w   o

In horizontal layers: gx = 0 so that (7-28) will be equivalent to(7-5).

7.5.2 Dietz’ critical rate for stable segregated displacement

With stable frontal displacement, oil flux above the front is equal to the water flux below:
vo = vw = vm From (7-28) follows the inclination of the oil / water contact

y w g w  o
  x  vm (7-29)
x gy o w g y

If the water flows more easily than oil (w >o), increasing rate, vm ,will tilt the frontal
angle. Frontal inclination approaching zero:  y x  0 means oil / water contact
becomes parallel to the reservoir layer. This gives Dietz's criterion, / 1953 /, for stable
displacement in inclined layers.

o w k      g sin 
v*m  g x  o w o
w  o o k  (7-30)
1 o w
kw o

Often the gas will displace oil down the reservoir layer. Gas viscosity is always less than
oil viscosity, so that displacement is unstable if the rate is sufficiently large. We will then
have similar stability limit.

Figure 7.13 below shows the static oil / water contact as a dotted line. Solid line
indicates stable oil / water contact at 80% of critical displacement rate. (The same start
point is used for comparison.) We see that if we start from the static oil / water contact,
you need to displace a lot of oil to approach dynamically stable oil / water contact. If the
distance between the initial oil / water contact and production well location is not very
big, then water will break through long before oil will be displaced.
Figure 7.13 Stable oil / water contact, 80% of the critical displacement rate

Calculation example:
We can estimate the oil / water contacts shown in Figure 7.13. Fitting vm  0.8  v*m into
7-29 gives
y g g
tg w  w   x  0.8 x  0.2  tg
x gy gy

Inclination angle: = 20o illustrated, gives this dynamic stable angle: w = 4.2o If we
take the front edge of the oil / water contact at: x = 0, y = 10 to the today front to: x =
132, y = 0, i.e. 132 m above the reservoir layer. The displacement will also behind the
edge move forward, so that the front will have to move before it approaches the
constant and stable slope angle.

7.5.3 Dynamically segregated displacement

Dietz/1953 / also discussed the progress from static to dynamic stable conditions. His
quantification, however, erroneous and are rarely referred to. Sheldon & Fayers/1962 /
solved the problem correctly albeit complicated. The results shown here are based on
the principles of non-linear shock expansion, Whitham / 1973 /. It provides relatively
easier calculation.

Figure 7.14 is different with 7.13 above, but also illustrates the oil / water contact at the
same time the displacement from the start and after 200 days of displacement.
Apparently rising oil / water contact steadily against the stable slope angle, by t  
Figure 7.14 Dynamic displacement by 80% of the Dietz`s critical rate

Figure 7.15 illustrates the dynamic change in the oil / water contact, the displacement
rate of 150% of critical. Here, oil / water contact does not approach a stable angle.
Forefront of water, water tongue, will move faster than the rate change would indicate.
Figures 7.15 and 7.14 show no any dramatic differences between the under critical and
over critical displacement.

Figure 7.15. Dynamic displacement of 150% of the critical rate

REFERENCES

1953 Dietz, DN: "A Theoretical Approach to the Problem of Encroaching and By-
Passing Edgewater." Hydrology. Koniklije Down. Akad. Wetenschap Proceddings B-56,
1953, 83

1962 Sheldon, JW, Fayers, FJ: "The Motion of an Interface Between Two Fluids In a
Slightly Dipping Porous Medium." SPEJ Sept. 1962, 275-282, SPE Transactions vol
225, 1962.

1973 Whitham, GB: Linear and nonlinear Waves


Whiley Inter-Science, NY, 1973

1989 Giger, FM: "Analytical 2-D Models of Water Cresting Before Break Through for
Horizontal Wells". Spread, Nov. 1989, 409.

1990 Murphy, PJ: "Performance of Horizontal Wells in the Helder Field."


Journet. P. Technology, June 1990, 792

1992 Asheim, H.: Super-Critical Production Performance of Horizontal Wells.


Report of A / S Norske Shell, see: IPT 2/92/HAA, 1992

1995 Aulie, T., Grødal, EO, Asheim, H., Oudeman, P.: "Experimental Investigation of
Cresting and Critical Flow Rate of Horizontal Wells". SPE Advanced Technology Series,
Vol 3, No. 1, 1995, 207