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GAS-CONDENSATE RESERVOIRS-A REVIEW f

I
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0 . F. THORNTON
ABSTRACT
Ten years of operation of gas-condensate reservoirs Marketing conditions and other economic factors also
has verified the necessity for and practicability of co- are important. Due to the increasing volume of the
operative and unitized operation. The operating method gas market, and prospects for chcmical conversion of
for each reservoir should be based upon the character- gas to liquid fuel by the Fischer-Tropsch process, many
istics of the gas condensate at reservoir conditions. Other operators will be required to make a choice or com-
factors such as richness of the gas, size of he reserve, promise between complete pressure maintenance and
capaeitics of wells, nature of the reservoir, and mode gas sales. This can be done intelligently with known
of occurrence of the gas condensate must be considered. methods of evaluation.

INTRODUCTION I All a r c more o r less familiar with the fact t h a t some


Gas-condensate fields (also called gas-distillate) a r e
today q u ~ t ecommonplace on the Louisiana and Texas
I wells produce, together with large volumes of gas,
a water-white o r light straw-colored liquid which re-
sembles gasollne or kerosine In appearance. Thls llquid
Gulf Coast, but a r e not confined to that area. The has been called "distillate" because of its resemblance
frequency w ~ t hwhich they a r e being d~scoveredand to products obtained in the refinery by distilling the
their economic importance in the petroleum industry volatile components from crude oil. Also i t has been
have increased tremendously with the trend toward called "condensate" because i t is condensed out of the
deeper d n l l ~ n g . A common understanding of best gas produced by the well. The latter term shall be used
o p e r a t ~ n gpractices by oil operators, land or royalty throughout this paper.
owners, regulatory bodies, and legislators is necessary
Condensate normally differs markedly from conven-
if all p a r t ~ e sof Interest a r e to cooperate in realizing
tional "crude oil." The color of crude 011 is usually dark
the lnaxlmum potentialities from these fields.
green or black; i t feels oily when rubbed between the
During the past decade in particular, much has been fingers; i t contains some gasoline, but usually is made
learned and w r ~ t t e nregarding each of the many phases up In larger part of dark-colored, "heavy" non-volatile
of gas-condensate operat~ons. I t is the purpose of this components; its A P I gravity, whlch IS a measure of its
paper to revlew the accepted practices, so that the welght or density, is commonly less than 45 deg. On
modern basic thought may be available in summary the other hand, condensate is lightrcolored; i t evaporates
form. rather easily a s compared with crude 011; i t contains
For the purpose of this revlew, all underground a large percentage fraction of gasoline and other vola-
sources of supply from whlch condensate can be pro- tile petroleuin components; its A P I gravity usually is
duced a r e called gas-condensate reservoirs. The name above 50 deg.
is prefixed w ~ t h"gas" to emphasize the fact that the Table 1 is a con~parison of a typical condensate
condensate IS associated with gas when produced. The with a crude 011 which b r ~ n g sout the d~fferencesdis-
methods used to evaluate gas-condensate reservoirs, cussed prev~ouslyherela. Also shown IS the amount
and the basic prlnc~plesgoverning the selection of the of gas produced w ~ t heach, expressed a s cubic feet of
best method of operation for a particular reservoir, gas per barrel of Ilqu~d. The gas-to-llquid ratlos of
a r e outl~nedin the paragraphs whlch follow. wells producing gas condensate usually range from
10,000 cu f t to more than 100,000 cu f t per barrel.
What Is Condensate?
The terms used In discussing gas condensates have
I Gas is produced wlth crude 011 usually in ratios of
100 to over 1,000 cu f t per barrel, o r much less than
not crystallized a s yet into a standard nomenclature. with gas condensates.
For instance, both distillate and condensate a r e used These llmitatlons of gas-hquid r a t ~ o s ,gravity, and
synonymously to descrlbe the liquid produced in the color, do not serve to dlfferentlate crude 011 and conden-
sate in all cases. Condensates wlth gravities as low as
tanks. I t has been necessary hereln to adopt somewhat
40 deg API have been d~scovered,and some condensates
arbitrarily a set of terms, and to explain the meaning
a r e produced with gas In low r a t ~ o sbelow 10,000 cu ft.
of each term a s introduced to avoid confusion. per barrel.
.
T h e T e \ n s Co Honston, T e x a s The lnost important property of condensate froin
f P r ~ o rlo rr\lalon,:~s g ~ \ e nI l ~ r r ~ nt ,l ~ paper
~ s was presented
by Alr Tl1or11ton to I nentb-r;i\tll A I I I I I I ,I ~I r~~ t l n g .C'l~~eilzo. .
Ill the standpoint of operation of gas-condensate fields
.
N o r 12 Ic)4(j ~ ~ r e s ~ t Hl ~ nHg K.1vr1t.r. P h ~ l l ~ pP sc t r o l e u ~ oCo ,
R:~rtles\llle, Okla uud R J S u l l ~ r n n .Tile C a r t e r 011 Co t Tulsd,
Okla
is this: The condensate can be "dissolved" entirely in
the gas with which it is produced if the temperature
is sufficiently hlgh and if there is enough gas present. the gas and condensate produced, o r by analysis of a
This is the reverse statement of the fanllllar phenome- sample taken a t the bottom of a well.
non that a liquid can be condensed out by coollng o r The gas produced from most gas-condensate reser-
chilllng many gases. voirs is predominantly methane and ethane with smaller
The temperatures in underground reservoirs con- amounts of propane, butanes, pentanes, hexanes, and
taining gas condensate range from 100 to more than heptanes and heavier. The condensate is predominantly
250 deg F, a s measured w ~ t hthermometers lowered heptanes and heavier, with decreasing amounts of hex-
to the bottoms of wells. Similarly, pressures measured anes, pentanes, and butanes, and sinallel. amounts of
wlth recording gages lowered into the wells a r e from propane, ethane, and methane. The percentage compo-
1,000 psi to over 6,000 psi. These conditions a r e favor- sition of both the gas and condensate portions of a
able for the gas-condensate mixture to be completely t y p ~ c a lgas condensate a r e sliown In Table 2. Also, the
in the gaseous state In the reservoir. analysis of the gas condensate a s ~t existed in the
reservoir IS given. These analyses are compared with
Composition o f Gas Condensate those of a crude-011-gas mlsture.
Knowledge of the gas-liquid ratlo and the gravity The main differences between the g a s condensate
of the l~cluidis not sufficient to describe the composi- and the crude-oil-gas mixture noted from Table 2 are:
tion of gas condensate for all purposes. Both the 1, the gas condensate contains relatively large amounts
ratio and gravity of condensate depend upon the of methane and ethane, which a r e gases; 2, a n appre-
temperature and pressure a t which the separation is ciable portion of the llquid condensate is composed of
made. Therefore,-lt is custonlary to express composi- propane, butanes, and pentanes, whereas the crude 011 IS
tlon in terms of the percentage of each hydrocarbon predominantly "heptanes and heavier"; 3, the char-
in the gas, in the condensate, and in the gas-condensate acteristics of the heptanes and heavier in the conden-
mixture. These percentages a r e obtained by analyzing sate and in the crude oil a r e quite different. That of the

TABLE 1
Conlparison o f Condensate arid Crude Oil
White Gulf Coast Crude
Gasoline Condensate Oil
Gravity, deg API. . . . . ...... 59 54.7 38.6
Color . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ....... Water-white Light-straw
Gasoline, per cent.. ........ ....... 100 70
Kerosine, per cent.. . . . . . . . . . . . ..... ... 16
Heavler than kerosine, per cent.. . . . . ...... ... 14
Cubic feet of gas per barrel of 1:cluid. . . . . Distilled 18,200
f roin a
crude oil

TABLE 2
Compositiorls o f a Gas Condensate and a Crude-Oil-Gas M ~ s t u r e
Gas Condensate Crude-Oil-Gas Mixture
L A

Reservoir Fluid
Gas Condensate Fluid Gas 011 Reservoir
(All Flgures in Mole Per Cent)
Methane ................... 91.32 ...
Ethane ................... 4.43 ...
Propane . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.12 1.41
Butanes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.36 5.71
Pentanes .................... 0 4 2 8 11
Hexanes .................. 0.15 10.46
Heptanes and heavler . . . . . . . 0.20 74.31

Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100.00 100.00


4 A P I gravlty of lleptanes and heavier, deg ..... 51.2
Molecular w e ~ g h tof heptanes and heavier ..... 157
crude oil is much heavier, a s denoted by i t s low API sate mixture a s i t exists in the reservoir by lowering
gravity and its high molecular weight. a special container down into a well. By a suitable
Propane, butanes, and pentanes are hydrocarbons remotely controlled valve arrangement, the sample can
which can be recovered and sold a s liquids if the gas i s be sealed in the container a t the bottom of the well,
processed through a plant, but which are not recovered so that the gas condensate does not escape when the
efficiently by conventional separator operation. For this "bottom-hole sample" is brought to the surface. Such
reason, it is usually desirable to consider recovery a sample can then be taken into the laboratory and
processes which are inore efficient than ordinary low- placed in a bath of the same temperature a s that a t
pressure separators when operating gas-condensate the bottom of the well. By this means, the condition
reservoirs, In order to extract these hydrocarbons a s of the gas-condensate mlxture a s i t existed in the
l~cluids. reservolr can be observed. I t is found that, in the case
of wet-gas reservoirs, the gas condensate IS zompletely
Wet Gases in the gaseous state a t reservoir condltlons.
Removal of gas from the reservoir can be duplicated
The most f a m l l ~ a rgas-condensate reservoirs a r e of in the laboratory by opening a valve on the sample
what here will be called the "wet-gas" type. This container and bleed~ngoff the gas.'" I n the laboratory,
name is adopted merely a s a convenience to distinguish a s In the field, it is observed that the amount of con-
them from the other types of reservoirs dlscussed. densate recoverable by coollng the "produced" gas to
Examples of wet-gas reservoirs a r e the Richland Fleld the temperature of the atmosphere in a separator
of northern Louisiana and some of the Appalachian remains constant a t all times. No liquid drops out in
gas fields of the East. Very few of the recently dis- the sample contamer, however, so long a s the tempera-
covered gas-condensate fields of the Gulf Coast a r e of ture is maintained a t that of the reservoir. In this
this classification. respect, the wet-gas type differs from a second class
Gas produced from a wet-gas reservoir by a well of gas-condensate reservo~rswhich will be dlscussed
can be passed through a separator operating a t a hereinafter.
temperature close to that of the atmosphere and a
pressure of approximately 500 psi, and a condensate Retrograde-Type Gases
can be recovered. The l~quidmay be so small in amount
that separators a r e not required; instead the liquid Typical and well advertised examples of the second
collects in "drips" installed in the flow line, and periodi- type of gas-condensate reservoir are the Big Lake Field,
cally is blown out. In some cases the quantlty of Reagan County, Texas,' and the La Blanca Field,
liquefiable hydrocarbons is large enough to justify the Hidalgo County, Texas? Here, a s in the case of the
construction of an extract~onplant. wet-gas class discussed herembefore, a liquid con-
As the gas is produced, pressure in the reservoir densate was recovered upon passing the gas produced by
drops a t a rate dependent on the rate of gas produc- the wells through separators operating a t atmospheric
tion and the producing capaclties of the wells decline. temperature. As the gas was produced, pressure in the
The amount of liquid recoverable from each thousand reservoir dropped. However, in these cases it was
c u b ~ cfeet of produced gas, however, remains constant observed that, a s the pressure dropped, the yield of
throughout the producing life of a field containing condensate from each thousand cubic feet of gas de-
wet gas. The field is abandoned when the pressure in clined. .In this latter respect it d~ffered from the
the reservoir has dropped to such a low value (usually wet-gas type. Fig. 2 shows how the condensate in
less than 500 psi) that the volume of gas and con-
densate whlch can be sold from each well is not suf- Flgr~resrefer to ILEIWRENCES on 1) 15s
ficient to pay operating expenses. I n some cases water
encroaches into the reservoir and, therefore, the pres-
' sure is maintained a t a high level. In this event,
the field is abandoned when water has flooded out all the
wells.
I n Fig. 1 are shown typical performance character-
istics of a hypothetical wet-gas reservoir. The de-
crease in reservolr pressure, and the constancy of
the yield of condensate, will be noted. The dlstinguish-
ing feature of wet-type gas-condensate reservoirs is
this: The amount of recoverable liquid which is con-
tained in each thousand cubic feet (often abbreviated
MCF) of the gas produced by the wells remains the
same a t all times. The percentage of the condensate
and liquefiable hydrocarbons ultimately recovered from
Performance Characteristics of Reservoirs Producing
the reservoir, therefore, is equivalent to the percen-
tage of the gas recovered, usually 80 to 90 per cent. "Wet" Type Gas.
It is possible to obtain a sample of the gas-conden- FIG. 1
gas from 19 wells in the LaBlanca Field declined from gases, the loss would be less. The laboratory evalua-
31 bbl of liquid (pentane and heavier) per million tion of the amount of possible retrograde loss, using
cubic feet of gas (often abbreviated MMCF) down to bottom-hole samples made by combining surface gas
22 bbl per million in 3 years-a reduction of 29 per and liquid, has been described in the literature.'
cent. Obviously, a considerable portion of the con- In order to reduce the loss due to retrograde con-
densate remained in the reservoir and was not pro- densation, the process called cycllng (or recycling) has
duced. The loss of this condensate was of sufficient been developed. By this operation, gas condensate is
I
magnitude to be of economic importance. produced from strategically located wells, the liquefiable
Again, an explanation of the observation made in hydrocarbons are removed, and the stripped gas, in-
the field can be obtained in the laboratory. A bottom- stead of belng sold, is compressed and returned to the
hole sample from a La Blanca well4 was placed in a same reservoir from which i t was produced through
bath a t reservoir temperature a s previously described. injection wells. These injection wells a r e also located
The material was found to be entirely in the gaseous strategically, and some distance from the producers.
state. However, when removal of gas from the reser- By injection of residue gas, pressure drop in the reser-
voir was simulated by dropping the pressure in the voir is prevented and, therefore, retrograde condensa-
sainple container held a t reservoir temperature, i t tion is held to a minimum. Eventually, the injected
was observed that a liquid was condensed within the "dry" gas displaces most of the "wet" gas between
container. the injection and producing wells. These latter wells
A loglcal explanation of what happens in the field then begin to produce some of the dry gas, and the
is apparent. When the pressure is dropped, due to amount of wet gas produced begins to decrease. When
withdrawal of gas, a liquid condenses in the reservoir. the anlount of dry gas becolnes so large that the llque-
This liquid, composed largely of condensate otherwise fiable hydrocarbons recovered from the small volume
recoverable a t the surface, "wets the sand" and, there- of wet gas will not pay operating expenses, the cycling
fore, will not normally be produced by the wells. process is abandoned. The gas III the field then can
This type of condensation, which is attributable to a be sold, and reservoir pressure allowed to decline a s
drop in pressure while the temperature of the gas in the case of the wet-gas type. It is estimatedev7
remains constant, is called "retrograde condensation." that between 60 and 80 per cent of the condensate in
Similarly, the gas condensates froin whlch such con- a reservoir can be obtained by cycl~ng. If cycling is
densation IS observed a t reservoir temperatures, a r e followed by gas sales, the recovery may, of course, be
called herein "retrograde gases." Most of the gas- increased-possibly to 80 to 90 per cent.
condensate reservoirs contain gases of this type. A map (Fig. 3) shows a typical arrangement of
I t has been observed in laboratory tests that the wells in a cycling project, with dally volumes produced
amount of liquid which drops out by retrograde con- and injected per well. Also the area occupied by dry
densation is hlgher for rich gases, i.e., those from gas a t a particular tlme is designated to illustrate the
wlllch large condensate yields a r e obtained. I t has been mechanism of displacement of the gas.
estin~ated'.' that approximately 50 per cent of the The area shown in Fig. 3 a s being occupied by dry
recoverable liquld content of some gas condensates gas was deternlined by what IS called a "model study"
would be lost by retrograde condensation in the forma- of the reservoir.' It can be shown that the flow of
tion ~f the reservoir were produced and the pressure gas in a reservoir follows the same pattern a s the
allowed to decline. I n the case of "lean" retrograde flow of electrlclty in a conductive "model" of the field.

0010 from J 0 Lerll


4ver0ge 01 nsndetn r t l l s

T I M E - Y'E4RS

Decline in Condensate Yield from a Retrograde-Type Gas. Location o f Wells in a Typical Cycling Plan.
FIG. 2 FIG. 3
These models are bullt to scale, and current is put in Assume that reservoir conditions of temperature and
a t points corresponding to injection-well locations, and pressure correspond to the point PI in the diagram.
current is taken out a t producing wells. The amount The mixture is entirely in the gas phase. If, a t the
of current per well is made proportional to the volume constant reservoir temperature, the pressure were
of gas produced by, or injected into, the well. By dropped (as by product~onof gas from the reservoir),
actual experience, i t has been found that the dry-gas the corresponding path on the phase diagram would
patterns determined by model study agree reasonably be a vertical line from PI. I t will be noted that such a
well with those obtained by observing dry gas en- line does not enter the two-phase region; the mixture
croachment into producing wells. Of course, the di- remains entirely a gas, or behaves a s a wet gas.
mensions of and conditions In the reservoir must be If pressure-temperature conditions of the reservoir
accurately known, so that the model i s a n accurate were equivalent to those designated by Pz, the mix-
picture of actual subsurface conditions. The use of ture would be in a gaseous state. If, a t the constant
electric models a s guides by operators of cycling reservoir temperature, the pressure were dropped (as
projects now- is widespread. in the La Blanca Field), a liquid would condense.
This is shown in the phase diagram by the vertical
Relation of Types line crossing into the two-phase region. Consequently,
In discussing each of the gas condensates, viz., the the mixture would be classed a s a retrograde gas. The
wet-gas, and retrograde-gas types, it was desirable t o pressures a t which the liquid first began to condense
descrlbe the properties of the gas coxdensate in the is called the "retrograde dew point." If the pressure
laboratory under reservoir conditions of temperature were dropped to a very low value (an extension of the
and pressure. In order to point out the similarity vertical line from P2), the region wherein a gas phase
between the types, once again laboratory tests will be only is present again would be entered. This means
resorted to. that the liquid which condensed a s described would
Assume that another bottom-hole sample of gas con- revaporize if the pressure were reduced to a very low
densate is obtained. I n the laboratory, i t is observed value.
to be entlrely in a gaseous state a t reservoir tempera- In a similar manner, i t will be noted that if the reser-
ture and pressure. Now, instead of reducing pressure voir fluid is a t a reservoir temperature and pressure
in the container by bleeding off gas, let the pressure corresponding to Pa, it is entirely in a liquid phase.
drop be accomplished by expanding the size of the A drop in pressure causes a gas to be liberated (two-
container. This may be done by a movable piston in phase region). The pressure a t which a gas first forms
one end of the container. Further, inasmuch a s con- is called the "bubble point."
ditions can be varied a t will in the laboratory, obser- I t was stated previously herein that a t certain con-
vations can be made a t any desired temperature in ditions the reservoir fluld was entirely in a gas phase,
addition to that of the reservoir. Therefore, the char- whereas a t others it was wholly a liquid. The ques-
acteristics of the gas condensate can be obkerved a t a tion may be asked: "How is i t determined that the
great many combinations of pressure and temperature. mixture is a gas and not a liquid?"
The results of a number of such observations for a At extremely high pressures of the reservoir, many
given gas condensate can be summarized a s follows: familiar concepts of "liquids" and "gases" no longer
A t high temperatures, the mixture is entirely in the apply. For instance, a t 6,000 psi gases a r e compressed
gaseous state or phase, and i t remains gaseous a t all to about one four hundredth of their volume a t atmos-
pressures. This condition corresponds to the wet- pheric pressure. A cubic foot of gas is reduced in volume
type gas. At slightly lower temperatures, the mixture
is in the gas phase a t high pressures, but, when the
pressure IS reduced, a liquid phase condenses. This
corresponds to the retrograde-type gas. Therefore, it
is seen that the particular type of classification Into
which a gas condensate falls depends not only on the
amount of gas in the gas condensate a s discussed
hereinbefore, but also on the temperature and pressure
of the reservoir. The same gas-condensate mixture can
be classed a s either of the two types, dependent on
conditions.
Fig. 4 is a picture of the previously given word
summary, called a "phase diagram." There a r e three
regions on this diagram: in one, the pressure and
temperature a r e such that only a gas phase is present;
a t slightly lower temperatures and a t intermediate
-
TEMPERATURE

pressures, both gas and liquid phases are present, i.e.,


a two-phase region; a t lower temperatures and high A Phase Diagram.
pressures, only a llquld phase is present. FIG. 4
to less than a 2-in. cube. A t these high pressures, First, the loss of butanes, pentanes, and other light
therefore, gases begln to behave much like liquids. Con- hydrocarbons due to conventional separator operation
versely, when a s much a s 2,000 to 5,000 cu f t of gas is amounts to 10 to 25 per cent or more of the liquid
mixed wlth a barrel of liquid (about 5 cu f t ) , the recoverable by plant processing. Secondly, the recovery
mixture begins to react much like a gas a t high by any operat~onwhereby the reservoir pressure is not
pressure. maintained wlll be very low-from 10 to 25 per cent
As a matter of fact, there is one condition of tem- of the amount orlglnally in the reservoir. If pressure IS
perature and pressure for each gas condensate, called maintained by gas ~ n j e c t ~ o nby, water injection, or by
the "critical point" (Fig. 4), where i t is impossible restricting production to take advantage of a natural
to distinguish whether the gas condensate is a liquid water drive, the recovery can be increased to 40 to 70
or a gas. As this point is approached, the gas and per cent or higher.
llquld phases become identical in all characteristics.'-@ Table 3 gives data for several gas condensates and
crude oils to illustrate the types previously discussed
Critical Type herein. D

Some gas-condensate reservoirs have been discovered Occurrence with Oil Reservoirs
in which conditions are very close to the critical. As a
rule, the gas-to-liquid ratio in such cases is below 10,000 Wet and retrograde gases often occur a s gas caps
cu f t per barrel. to crude-oil reservoirs. The amount of oil present in
Laboratory evaluation of this "critical" type of gas such reservoirs has been found to vary considerably. It
condensate is difficult, and often i t is impossible by may be present only a s a t h ~ nrim of liquid around the
direct observation to distinquish whether the gas con- flanks of the structure, and may have no commercial
densate is a gas or a 11quid a t reservoir conditions. significance-or 011 may occupy in excess of 90 per cent
of the pore space in the reservolr. The relat~veamounts
When i t can be established that the lnlxture is a
of 011 and gas condensate In such reservoirs have an im-
liquid a t reservoir conditions, i t may be argued t h a t
portant bearing upon the operating methods used, and
such a nlaterial is truly a crude oil, and that operabon
upon the timing of recovery of the two reservoir fluids.
of the reservolr should be the same a s for a conven-
In general, the practice has been to give primary con-
tional oil reservolr. However, the losses w h ~ c hcould
sideration to recovery of oil, and recovery from the gas-
result from such practices should be pointed out.
condensate zone has often been deferred until exploita-
The liquid produced from these reseivolrs is similar tion of the oil zone was completed. If ownerships of the -
to that described for typical gas-condensate reservoirs. 011 and gas condensate are d~versified,some ~nequltyof
I t is light straw in color, and has a high API grav- income a t t ~ m e smay result in such cases.
~ t y .I t contains a large amount of l ~ g h hydrocarbons.
t More often than not several gas-condensate reser-
If more gas is 'mixed with the liquld than was pro- volrs are found in the same field. The integration of
duced w ~ t hit-say on the order of 10,000 cu f t per the simultaneous operation of two or more such reser-
barrel-it can be observed in the laboratory that the voirs calls for ingenuity in well-completion practices
mixture is entlrely In a gaseous state a t reservoir con- and timing of recovery.
ditions of temperature and pressure. The liquid, there-
fore, has all the attributes of typical condensate; how-
ever, the amount of gas present with ~t is insufficient Operating Methods
to "dissolve" i t a t reservoir conditions. The classification of gas condensates, their properties,
The losses by the conventional crude-oil operating and modes of occurrence have been d~scussedpreviously
practices applied to this type of reservolr w ~ l be
l great. herein. The operat~ngmethods usually applicable to

TABLE 3
Comparison of Gas Condensates with Crude-Oil-Gas Mixlures

Gas-Liquid Reservoir Conditions


API Gravity Ratio A Retrograde Bubble
of Liquid (Cubic Feet Temperature Pressure Dew Point Point
(Deg) Per Barrel) (Deg F ) (PSI) (PSI) (PSI)
Gas condensate :
Wet gas .............. 65 67,000 160 1,700
Retrograde gas ....... 55 18,500 203 4,810 4,470
Critical type . . . . . . . . . 58 2,700 203 4,700
Crude-oil-gas mixture:
Mld Continent ......... 38 540 98 1,760
Gulf Coast ............ 38 900 211 4,750
each type have been generally reviewed. There are, The foregoing operating methods and others of similar
however, many exceptions to the general statements nature, wherein the pressure in the gas-condensate
made previously. The selection of a particular operat- reservoir is not maintained by residue-gas injection,
ing method for a given field should depend upon certain may be called "gas sales or storage" to differentiate
basic principles which are well known to industry. them from "cycling."
The basic principles governing best operating methods In the case of critical-type reservoirs, maintenance of
for gas-condensate reservoirs are not unique and, ac- reservoir pressure is indicated. Injection of gas, injec-
cording to modern thought, are the same a s for most tion of water, and restriction of producing rate to take
oil reservoir^.^ However, physical waste due t o im- full advantage of natural water drive a r e commonly
proper operation is both more serious and more easily applied for "pressure maintenance."
discernible in the gas-condensate reservoirs and, there- Methods of extracting condensate or other liquefiable
fore, the application of these basic principles has been hydrocarbons from the well production may be classed
more the rule than t h t exception. These principles as: 1, separation of gas and condensate in a conven-
are: 1, selection of operating methods based upon tional oil separator operating a t approximately atmos-
the character of the reservoir fluids; 2, maintenance pheric temperature and a pressure ranging from 100
of pressure in those reservoirs where a decrease would psi to 500 psi or more; 2, multi-stage *separation a s
result in loss of recovery underground; 3, efficient described heremafter; and, 3, extraction in a process-
handling of produced fluids a t the surface to obtain ing plant. These methods are in order of increasing
nlaxlmum liquid extraction; 4, optimum spacing of efficiency.
wells to obtaln highest recovery, and, 5, unitization of Recovery by a conventional separator is relatively low,
interests to assure equity to all parties having owner- ranging from 40 per cent or less to 85 per cent of
ship in the common reservoir, and to enable application that obtainable In a plant, depending upon the compo-
of principles (I), (2), ( 3 ) , and (4). sition of the gas condensate. By multi-stage separation,
Gas-condensate operations may be divided into two recovery efficiency may be increased over that obtain-
classes: 1, those concerned with efficient recovery of able by use of one separator. Multi-stage separation
gas condensate from the reservoir through the wells; (or simply stage separation) IS illustrated d ~ a g r a m -
% and, 2, those pertaining to extractlon of the liquefiable matically in Fig. 5. Well production enters a separator
hydrocarbons froin the well production. These two operating a t high pressure, on the order of 1,000 psi.
classes of operations are in many cases of equal im- The pressure selected usually is the one a t which the
portance. Inefficient extraction can result In losses a s separator gas retains the least amount of liquefiable
great a s those due to retrograde condensation, or hydrocarbons, or the "optimum separator pressure."
Inefficient recovery. Liquid from the first separator goes to a second separa-
The "cycl~ng" operation previously described i s now tor a t a lower pressure where additiynal gas is liber-
widely ut~lizedfor recovering retrograde gases. It is ated, and so on through additional separators until
not necessary to cycle wet-type gases to prevent loss of atmospheric pressure is reached. The temperatures in
condensate underground. Often, however, no market each of the separators also may be controlled.
for gas exists, and by the cycling process the con- Plant processing is most efficient. Many of the plants
densate can be recovered without awaiting the develop- in operation today of the absorption-oil type recover in
- ment of an adequate gas outlet. If the gas 1s the excess of 30 per cent of the propane, 80 per cent of the
gas cap of a n oil reservoir, cycling may enable the butanes, and substantially all the pentanes, hexanes,
recovery of the condensate simultaneously with the and heptanes and heavier.
oil. Production of the gas for sale obviously woul'd I n Table 4 are given the barrels of liquid recoverable
cause 011 to move into the gas zone, and result in sig- by each of the foregoing methods from one mlllion
nificant loss of oil recovery. For these reasons, some cubic feet of a typical retrograde gas.
wet-type gases may be cycled. Summarizing the foregoing, present operating meth-
Gas Injection to maintain pressure and prevent retro- ods or those utilized in the past for gas-condensate
grade condensation is not necessary if water encroaches reservoirs are combinations of 1, cycling; 2, gas sales
into the reservoir a s a retrograde gas IS produced.
In the case of wet-gas reservoirs, obviously the
pressure need not be maintained, because no conden-
sation takes place in the reservoir a s pressure declines.
In such cases, when there is a market for gas or when
i t may be utilized legally for some other purpose, gas- 7. "oa,
-En 6.

Wr-mrnL
condensate reservoirs may not be cycled. Among other TnFic?
r l a oar
legal methods, in addition to gas sales for which gas
has been utihzed in such operations, are: injection LlPYlO 81, Il""lD 111

into an oil reservoir to malntain reservoir pressure


and so to increase oil recovery; injection into a gas Diagrammatic Sketch of a Multi-Stage Separation of
reservoir of lower pressure for gas storage; and m- Gas Condensate.
jectlon into a resertoir containing water for gas storage.
TABLE 4
C o n i p a r ~ s oof~ ~Extraction Method3
Conventional Multi-Stage Plant
Separation Separation Extraction
1. Barrels of l~quldper milhon c u b ~ cfeet of retrograde gas . . 52 58 70
2. API gravity of recovered liquid, deg . . .. 54.7 58.4 64.4

or storage; or, 3, pressure maintenance-with one of operating method -selected depends upon the items
the 3 extraction methods, a s ind~catedin Table 5. discussed prev~ouslyherein, and also upon marketing
Large-volume gas markets have recently been de- conditions and other econonllc factors. Usually the most
veloped on the Gulf Coast, and the posslb~lityof chemi- ~mportantslngle ]ten1 m lnaklng the selection 1s whether
cal conversion of gas by the Fischer-Tropsch process unltized operation 1s poss~ble
into gasoline and other liqu~dhydrocarbons on a large
scale promises to increase substantially gas sales over
plesent volume. More and more operators will be
requ~redto make a choice or compromise between cycling There is now almost universal agreement that unitiza-
wlth conlplete maintenance of pressure and gas sales. tlon of operating and royalty Interests is an essential
This ~t is possible to do lntelllgently by utilizing the prerequisite for efficient operation of a gas-condensate
current knowledge concerning gas-condensate reser- reservoir. The primary purpose of unitizing opera-
voirs. Underground losses, due to retrograde conden- t ~ o n sis to increase recovery of condensate and other
sation and recovery by cycling, can both be estimated liquefiable hydrocarbons, resulting in increased values
with sufficient accuracy a s outlined in the previous to the operator, the royalty owner, and society a s a
paragraphs. whole. In the foregoing sections of this revlew, unitiza-
The operating method used in a particular case de- tion has been tacitly assumed in discussing operating
pends upon the evaluation of a number of factors." methods.
Obviously, the amount of recoverable liquid in the Results of cycling operat~ons have proved beyond
gas IS very important. The cycling and plant process- doubt that the reservolr containing gas condensates
ing of gas condensates containing less than 20 bbl to is ~tselfa unit, w ~ t hno subsurface lease boundaries.
25 bbl of liquid per m~llioncubic feet usually i s not The gas is freely migratory, and the amount of re-
financially attractive, unless there is a market for covery from the reservoir is determined by the loca-
some of the residue gas from the plant. Also, the size tzo?~of wells-not the number of wells. The operating
of the reserve must be sufficient to pay out plant and ~,tethod used is of primary importance, and it should
well investments and to yleld a reasonable return. Many be selected by study of the reservoir a s a whole.
small reservoirs, containing comparatively rich gas In cycling and other pressure-ma~ntenanceoperations,
condensates, will not support a processing plant and the objective of efficient operation IS to produce the
pay out the cost of installing a compressor plant gas condensate, but not to produce the dry gas, water,
for cycling without some sale of gas concurrent with or other fluid which displaces the gas condensate from
cycling. the reservoir. This can be done only by locating and
The c a p a c ~ t ~ of
e s wells are a n important factor. Low operating wells to take advantage of structural posi-
capac~tymeans a large number of both producing tlon and other cond~tionsin the reservolr. For most
and ~njectionwells must be drilled, resulting In high effic~entoperat~on,lease olvnersh~pshould not be given
investment and operating costs. any consideration. However, income must be shared
Subsurface conditions may be so complex a s to make by all leases, and not exclusively by those on whose
cycling unattractive. The presence of numerous com- tracts the producing wells are located. Unitization
plex faults, erratic shale breaks, large variations in provides a ineans of equitably sharing the income.
permeab~l~ty,and other non-unlform conditions may A brlef survey of dlffkrences between most oil and
make cycling of reservolrs containing lean gases im- gas-condensate reservolrs may serve to clarify the more
practical or unprofitable. urgent need for unit~zedoperation in the latter type
Each reservoir presents a n individual problem. The of field. First, dollar recoveries per volume of the
reservolr from gas condensate 1s much less than from
oil. For Instance, cycling yields on the order of 20
TABLE 5
II bbl to 200 bbl of condensate, and 1,000 MCF to 4,000
Operating Methods-Summary
Recovemj Methods Extraction Methods
1 MCF of gas per acre-foot, worth approx~rnately $65
to $470 a t prices of $175 per barrel and $0 01 per MCF,
resaectivelv. On the other hand. crude-oil welds a r e
1. Cycling a. Separator-conventional on the order of 200 bbl to 1,000 bbl per acre-foot, w ~ t h
2. Gas sales or storage b. Separator-multi-stage poss~blesmall additional value for gas produced w ~ t h
3. Pressure maintenance c. Plant the oil. Whereas a profit can be made in most cases
by drilllng a n oil well to each 40 acres, the same is have now largely disappeared because of many. years
.

not true of gas condensate. Wider spacing of wells of successful operatlon-;f unitized projects.
means that a well cannot be drilled on each and every Cooperation between operators, royalty owners, and
lease and, therefore, units must be formed to prevent regulatory bodies is essential to efficient operat~onof
gross inequity of income. Second, extraction plants a gas-condensate reservoir. Unitization is the mecha-
to strip effic~entlgthe liquefiable hydrocarbons from nism by which this cooperation can be applied to opera-,
gas condensate require large investments in addition tion of the field.
to that for drilling the wells, and it is not often that
one operator in a field has sufficient holdings t o make REFERENCES
the construction and operat~onof such a plant finan-
1 E W ~ l c A l l ~ s t e "Applrcot~on
r, of Laboratory Data on Phase
cially attractive. Third, the actions of one operator B e h n v ~ o r to Ernliint~on of Condensate Ileservea," Pctrolczlm
in a field affect the operations of all others because of Etlgr 17 131 90 ( 1 0 4 5 )
- IC \' &'oran. "Problen~sIn Hich-Pressure D i s t ~ l l n t ePools."
the freely migratory character of gas. This effect i s Trans d m Itlst Aff/rrtrg Etlgrs 13% 22 (19.39)
" J 0 L e a ~ s . I n t ~ r l ) r r t . ~ t i o nof IVcsll-Test Data In Gns-
more noticeable in gas-condensate than in oil fields. Contlensate Flelds." Pctroleicm Technology (T.P L O Z ) July
I19Jfil
,----,
Thus, one operator by selling gas can (and in some 4 F V L Pntten and D C. Irey, "Phnse Eqililihrin in High-
cases has done so) drop the pressure throughout a Presbure Conclensnte \irells." OII lVccklv 92 [ l l 20 (lD'(8).
6 I3 V Fnrnn n'nd P C D,t\on. "Condensate I\rells-Coml~letion
reservolr containing retrograde gas, resulting in damage and Recycling Ol~erations, Drrllitrg atbd Prodrtctio~r Pt'actrcc,
to any leases where~noperators are maintaining pres- 210-47 -
- - - - . 1, -1 929
- I,
H H K:~veler, " C ~ c l i n g Ol,erations," Oil Wcckly 123 [I]
29
"" (lOSRI
sure by gas or water injection. 7 Elnby Iiaye. "Some Factors in the Economics of Recycling."
The foregoing and many other advantages of unitized Trans Arrt Inst dlrrirtrg Mct B t ~ g r s .14.6, 221 (19421.
8 W A Hrirst and G h l I\Ic(ll.lrtg, "The A p p l ~ c i l t ~ oof n Elrrtri-
operation a r e recognized by all. I t is beyond the scope cnl I\lodels to tlre Stnclv of I t e c j c l ~ n gOl~erntlnnsIn G.I.;-D~atillilte
of thls review to outline all the arguments lo for, or F~eltls."Uril1111gatrd Prodtrctron Practzcc 228-40 (1941 1.
OD L Katz and C C Sinrleterry. " ~ , ~ & ~ ~ f i of c a the
~ ~ cCritical
e
the few against, unit~zation. I t is significant that some Phenonlena III 0 1 1 and Gas Product~on, Trans. d m Itist dIrti1trg
a c t Btrgt's 132, 103 ( 1 0 3 9 )
states require a s a matter of law that, in the event a IOU I3 Boi~trlght ant1 P C Dixon. "Pmctlcnl Economics of
Cycl~ng,"Drrllttrg and Prodrrctrotr Practrcc, 2 2 - 7 (1041 I
m a j o r ~ t yof interests in a gas-condensate field desire l1 L) R Kno\tlton. "Un~tlzatlon-Its P r o ~ r e s sand Future,"
to unitize to enable more.efficient operation, others also Urtllr~ron~rdProdrrctiorr Practrcc 630-74 ( 1 0 3 9 ) .
12API SI)PCI,II Stl~tlvC O I I I I I I I ~ ~on
~ ( ~ W ~ l lSl~ncrn- and Alloca-
must do so. However, almost all the units formed up t ~ o nof ~ ; o t l u c t ~ o n~. i o g r c s sReport on ~ta!rtlards~ofAllocatron
of 011 P r o d v c l ~ o n1YttIrzt~Pools and Among Pools, 3 ( 1 9 4 2 ) .
to now have been voluntary. Operators and royalty
owners alike have been assured of a n overall income
under un~tized operation greater than would be ob- DISCUSSION
tained by non-unitized operation. This usually can be R. W. French (Continental Oil Company, Ponca City,
demonstrated because of the fact that total recovery Okla.) : I might repeat what is probably obv~ousto
always IS greater by unitized operation. most of us that this earlier conception of cycling, and
Even when all parties interested in a given field the ramifications of it, so f a r a s the actual field oper-
have agreed that unitization is desirable, the agree- ation is concerned, needs some bringing up to date. Two
ment upon a basis for participation in a unit is often basic assumptions from the early work in establishing
difficult. The basic princ~plefor participation in most cycling procedure and projected benefits were accepted
units has beene8" that each party should share in the generally without too close scrutiny.
unit in the proportion that the recoverable hydrocarbons Even in condensate reservoirs, where we see a definite
under h ~ tract,s or the value thereof, bears to the total percentage of condensation following a given drop below
under all tracts. I n largely undeveloped fields or those dew-point pressure, the conlmon assumption that 100
wherein sand conditions a r e uniform, surface acreage per cent of such liquid is lost certainly remains open to
may be an equitable basis of participation. For fields serious question.
wherein sufficient information is available, the amount In other words, if we had a reservoir partly filled with
the equivalent of oil with an API g r a v ~ t yof 70 deg, we
of recoverable hydrocarbons can be calculated rather
accurately. Net pay thickness, porosity, and water
would espect to recover some of it under certain condi-
tions of saturat~on. In fact, ~t could be a favorable
.
content of the pay a r e used to, calculate the space con-
condltlon for llquid recovery.
taining hydrocarbons. The composition of the gas con-
Another assumption is that dry gas returned does not.
densate is used to determine what portions of the
affect the properties of the virgin wet gas upon which
reservolr flu~d are recoverable a s liquid and gas.
all of the lnltial computat~onsare made. We hope the
Laboratory tests are made to determine the volume sweep pattern doesn't permit diffusion with the native
of reservoir space required to hold 1,000 cu f t of gas gases. We know we don't achieve perfection, however,
condensate-more commonly called the volume factor. and the extent to wh~chthe changing composition of dry
By c o m b ~ n ~ nthese
g factors, the amount of gas and gas as returned affects the dew-point relation is not
condensate under each tract can be computed. too well known.
Many of the object~onsto unitization arise from the So f a r a s unitization goes, ~t is important beyond
fact that the objecting party does not understand the question for s t r a ~ g h production
t or cycllng, and I should
details of the proposed participation formula. Most like to compliment Mr. Thornton on making the Issues
of the uncertainties and fears which were a t first held clear. In other words, many fields a r e not attractwe
GAS-CONDENSATERESERVOIRS-A REVIEW 159
--
cycling projects, but we return gas to the reservoir just Mr. Thornton: It is possible, of course, to go from
because we need the liquids currently, and we don't have what we conventionally think of a s a gas phase to what
a market for the residue gas. It's a gas-storage proj- we conventionally think of a s a llquld phase without.
ect, and not necessarily a true cycling project. going through the 2-phase reglon. For example, the
phase diagram represented by Fig. 4 shows t h a t one
V. E. Middlebrook (Shell Oil Company, Inc., Tulsa, may begin a t the point PI, and increase pressure above
0kla.) : ~h~~ question may not be within the scope of the cncondenbar, thence increase temperature abovethe
M~.. ~ h ~paper,~ but~ I should
t ~like to
~ know
, if~ he cricondentherm, followed by a decrease in pressure,
has any information a s to the percentage of gas-conden- w l l e r e b ~the point marked PI may be reached. 1t is thus
sate reservoirs in the countrywhich exhibit isothermal possible to go from the "llquld" state to the "gaseous"
retrograde condensation upon reduction in pressure and state l)assing the 2-phase regi0n.
isobaric retrograde condensation upon increase in tem-
perature in the laboratory? Lot Bowen (Western Gulf Oil Company, Los Angeles,
Mr. Thornton: Referring to the phase diagram in Calif.) (written) : The question a s to material
Fig. 4, the reservoir fluids mentioned by Mr. Middle- existing in a phase is or gas is immaterial.
brook would correspond to points lying between the
The physical properties of hydrocarbon mixtures do
critical temperature and that a t the point of maximum
vary continuously from A to B along the dotted line in
pressure on the phase boundary line. This latter point
Fig. 1 (Bowen) herein. The general condition for opti-
has been called the cricondenbar by Eilerts.* Phase
diagrams a r e not available for most reservoir fluids, and mum recovery is the same for "oil" above the bubble
so it not possible to answer the directly. 1)01nt, and ''gas" above the dew point, vlz., keep the ma-
However, 1 know of seven reservoirs containing fluids te'lal In a single phase ulltll recovery down to the
which are near their This lnay answer nuniinuin residual saturat~onis obtained. Under this
a part of your question. ideal operation, the recovery ~n every case 1s a func-
M ~ ~. i d d l ~ b ~ one k : question: youspeak of
~ ~other tlon of the relative vlscoslties of the reservoir fluid and
reservoir material existing under conditions represented the dlsplaclng fluid. I t will be high for fluids having
by a point lying above the critical envelope a s being in the low V ~ S C O S I ~ Yof a "gas," and low for reservoir
the gaseous phase. Isn't i t true t h a t this material fluids having the high viscosity of a n "oil."
actually is a homogeneous substance which cannot be Mr. Thornton's diagram (Fig. 4) is confusing. Un-
c1ass:fied either a s a gas or a liquid because its physical doubtedly he intended to show only the relation of
properties approach those of either a gas or a liquid? original conditions In various reservoirs to the bubble- *

point-due-point line. His diagram, however, implies


E ~ l e r t s .S m ~ t h .nnd Wright, U S Btrr Jf??zEs, R e p t Invesll-
gattotis Sijl (1040) that this line is the same for all reservoirs, which, of
course, is untrue.
Mr Thornton (written) : The author agrees that i t
is hlghly desirable for optimum recovery of "critical"
reservoir fluids to maintain the material in a single
phase by maintenance of reservoir pressure. I t is un-
fortunate that this condition is not more generally
recognized In the case of those fluids classed a s "liquids"
In the reservoir. Whereas efficient practices usually a r e
allowed and sponsored for reservoirs containing "gases,"
the definitions and concepts in some regulations govern-
Ing petroleum production arbitrarily draw a sharp line
between "gases" and "hquids" which precludes applica-
tlon of most efficient methods to some reservolrs. Actu-
ally, no sharp llne of demarcation between gases and
T * l~quidsexists a t the.hlgh temperatures and pressures en-
FIG. 1 (BOWEN) countered in many reservolrs currently being discovered.