Foam flow in porous media without oil shows two regimes, depending on foam quality (gas fractional flow). Complexity and limited data on foam-oil interactions in porous media greatly restrict understanding of foam in contact with oil. Distinguishing which regimes are affected by oil is key to modelling the effect of oil on foam. We report steady-state corefloods to investigate the effect of oil on foam through its effect on the two flow regimes. We fit parameters of the widely used STARS foam model to data for foam-oil concurrent flow. This research provides a practical approach and initial data for simulating foam EOR in the presence of oil.

To ensure steady state, oil is co-injected with foam at a fixed ratio of oil (Uo) to water (Uw) superficial velocities in a Bentheimer sandstone core. Model oils used here consist of two components: hexadecane, which is benign to foam stability, and oleic acid, which can destroy foam. Varying the concentration of oleic acid in the model oil allows one to examine the effect of oil composition on steady-state foam flow. Experimental results show that oil impacts both high- and low-quality regimes, with the high-quality regime more vulnerable to oil. In particular, oil increases the limiting water saturation (Sw*) in the high-quality regime and also lessens gas mobility reduction in the low-quality regime. The high-quality regime is strongly shear-thinning in the presence of oil. Pressure gradient ( p) in the low-quality regime, in some cases, decreases with increasing Uw at fixed gas superficial velocity (Ug), either with or without oil. This may reflect either an effect of oil, if oil is present, or easier flow of bubbles under wetter conditions. Increasing oleic acid concentration extends the high-quality regime to lower foam qualities, indicating more difficulty in stabilizing foam. Thus oil composition plays as significant a role as oil saturation.

A model fit assuming a fixed Sw* and including shear-thinning in the low-quality regime doesn’t represent each regime when the oil effect is strong enough. In such cases, fitting Sw* to each p contour and excluding shear-thinning in the low-quality regime yields a better match to data. The dependency of Sw* on oil saturation is not yet clear owing to absence of oil-saturation data in this study. Furthermore, none of the current foam simulation models can capture the upward-tilting p contours in the low-quality regime.


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