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Advanced Materials Research Vol.

1104 (2015) pp 81-86 Submitted: 2015-01-26


© (2015) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland Revised: 2015-02-03
doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMR.1104.81 Accepted: 2015-02-06
Online: 2015-05-15

CFD Simulation of Enhanced Oil Recovery using


Nanosilica/Supercritical CO2
Malahat Ghanad Dezfully, Arezou Jafari* and Reza Gharibshahi
Chemical Engineering Department, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran
*
ajafari@modares.ac.ir

Keywords: Gas Injection, EOR, Nanosilica, Heavy Oil, Sc-CO2, CFD.

Abstract. In this study series of runs were done by a CFD technique in which the injected fluid is
nanoparticles/supercritical CO2. Geometry of the porous medium was created with the commercial
grid generation tool (Gambit software). Continuity, momentum and volume fraction equations were
solved based on the finite volume method. The benefits of existing nanoparticles in the gas injection
process have been investigated. The numerical results show that addition of nanosilica into the
supercritical CO2 improves the oil recovery. It was also found that by increasing the nanoparticles
concentration from 1 Vol. % to 2 Vol. %, the oil recovery factor increases about 5%. In addition,
obtained results confirmed that by injecting the nanofluid fingers are reduced. The displacing fluid
containing nanoparticles is more efficient than the supercritical CO2 in sweeping the in-situ oil.

Introduction
Production from light and volatile oil reservoirs is not sufficient to answer world’s energy demands.
Therefore, due to the lack of energy sources heavy oil reservoirs in spite of difficulty in their
production are the world interest. A promising process for the enhanced heavy oil recovery (EOR)
is the gas injection which is one of the non-thermal EOR methods. Miscibility of CO2 is achieved at
low pressure that makes it suitable to flood into reservoirs, but because of CO2 low viscosity this
process has poor sweep efficiency [1]. On the other hand the breakthrough time of CO2, which is
favorable to be longer, is so affected by pressure. Increasing the pressure because of its impact on
the viscosity ratio [2] causes the supercritical CO2 breakthrough time to be longer than the gaseous
CO2.
Finding a technique is necessary to reduce the fingering effects [3] and also overriding of
supercritical CO2 (Sc-CO2), which can be possible by increasing the Sc-CO2 viscosity and density.
Some methods such as using gel, surfactant and even CO2 direct thickener have been applied in
order to increase the viscosity of CO2, but still none of them is perfect enough to use. Using
nanoparticles as Sc-CO2 additives, due to their high density instead of their small size, is a good
idea [4].
It is worthy to mention that recently nanotechnology has been used widely in the petroleum
industry. Using nanoparticles as additive agents to the injected fluid is one of the enhanced oil
recovery methods which improves the mobility and density of the fluid, reduce the interfacial
tension and also cause wettability alteration. These mechanisms lead the process to world’s main
aim for increasing the oil recovery [5]. As mentioned before, small size of nanoparticles, make them
move easily through the porous media, also they are solid and have high density which increase the
Sc-CO2 viscosity and density. Therefore, nanoparticles can be effective additive agents for reducing
the mobility of the injected Sc-CO2 and enhance the sweep efficiency [4,6]. It should be mentioned
that recent studies about EOR projects clarify that silica nanoparticles are a proper candidate that
can affect the recovery efficiency of heavy oils. In addition, this inorganic material can be produced
with low cost easily [7].
In order to better study the influence of nanoparticles on the sweep efficiency, it is important to
investigate the fluid flow behavior through oil reservoirs. Micromodels as visible porous media are
the best to show the fluid flow pattern and are used experimentally in some studies [8]. In addition,
computational fluid dynamics (CFD) methods are powerful for numerical investigation of
multiphase flow in porous media [9] and to save cost and computational cost they have advantages

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82 Materials for Modern Technologies

compared to experimental investigations. Therefore, due to the lack of data about nanoparticles’
effect on CO2 injection as an important EOR process, in this research the possible use of
nanoparticles in reducing the mobility of Sc-CO2 in a 2D micromodel using computational fluid
dynamics technique is studied. In other words, the novelty of this research is hydrodynamics
investigation of nanoparticles’ influence as additive agents for the injected Sc-CO2 which is not
mentioned before. It should be noticed that the validity of numerical results has been checked by
comparing with experimental data [8].

Numerical Implementation

Geometry Creation
To create the geometry of porous medium, Gambit 2.3 (Fluent Inc.) has been used. A micromodel
pattern which had been used in an experimental work [8] has been generated in this research and
dimensions of the pattern are 6×6×0.0065 cm3. Due to the very low thickness of the porous
medium, 2D assumption of the geometry was applied. With the programming software, Matlab, and
using a random generation code, 123 circles with radius 0.5 cm has been distributed in this model.
Two limitations were considered for circles distribution: circles have been placed in the square
border totally and no connection occurred between each two circle. Finally by subtracting the
surface area of these circles from the main square, the porous medium with porosity 0.33 was
generated and the created model has been shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1: Schematic of the created model and magnified mesh of the highlighted part.

For allowing the fluid into the model and oil exits from it velocity inlet and pressure outlet assumed
as boundary conditions for the inlet and outlet ports, respectively. The other edges were considered
as wall because there were no input and output of energy and material flow in/from them.

Grid Independency Check


For meshing the created model (tri/pave) mesh type was used. All the edges were meshed with the
same size except inlet and outlet zones which they were meshed with smaller size in order to
increase the accuracy of calculations. This is important that numerical results be independent from
type and size of the grid. For this reason, three grids with different mesh size were produced to
investigate the grid independency test. When the all residuals in any grids reached to the steady
state condition during water injection at flow rate 8×10-4 cc/min and with ∆t=0.1s, the pressure
difference between inlet and outlet ports was calculated. By determining the relative error between
each two grids and according to the low relative error between grid 2 and grid 3, finally grid 2
which has lower cells were considered as the main grid for gas injection operations. Table 1 shows
details of the grid independency check.
Advanced Materials Research Vol. 1104 83

Table 1: Characterizations of grids and results of the grid independency test.


Mesh Size
No. of No. of Relative
No. Inlet and ∆P (Pa.)
Other Edge Face Cells nodes Error (%)
Outlet
Grid 1 0.01 0.015 0.02 125469 78546 0.87
6.17
Grid 2 0.008 0.01 0.02 251433 136449 0.93
2.89
Grid 3 0.005 0.008 0.02 445385 212545 0.96

Governing Equations
As in this study multiphase flow exists; characterization of the flow regime is the first step in
choosing a multiphase method. One of best model is Eulerian which is complex, but accurate and
allows applying nanoparticles diameter. By a granular module in Eulerian model, diameters of
nanoparticles were considered. This model solves the continuity and momentum equations for each
phase. The microscopic continuity equation is as follow [10]:
ρ + ∇. ρ =∑ ( − ) (1)

Where ρ is the phase reference density, characterizes the mass transfer from phase q to p,
is the velocity of phase q and is the volume fraction of phase p, which is introduced as:

= (2)

and

∑ =1 (3)

and momentum equation for phase q is:

ρ + ∇. ρ =− ∇P + ∇. +∑ ( − + − )+
( + , + , ) (4)

Where is the qth phase stress-strain tensor, is an external body force, , is a lift force, ,
is a virtual mass force and is the interphase velocity.
The under-relaxation factors that influence on numerical results convergence were set to 0.3 for
pressure, 1 for density, 0.1 for momentum, 0.1 for slip velocity and 0.2 for the volume fraction. All
simulations were continued until 10000s at which the oil production rate was stabilized.
Assumptions that applied on the model are as follows:
1- Unsteady state, two phase flow condition.
2- In the validation test, oil and nanosilica/water are the primary and secondary phase, respectively
and it was performed at ambient temperature and pressure. For other simulations
nanosilica/supercritical CO2 is injected and it is assumed that the porous medium is totally
saturated with the oil at 313 k and 100 bar.
3- The constant flow rate 8×10-4 cc/min is applied.
4- For all simulations ∆t=0.1 s has been selected. It is worthy to mention that different time
intervals (0.01, 0.1 and 1s) were tested and finally because of the small relative error value for
the oil recover factor between time intervals ∆t=0.1s and ∆t=0.01s, ∆t=0.1s has been selected.
Result and Discussion
For checking the accuracy of numerical results, it is necessary to validate them with experimental
data. So numerical results of the nanofluid flooding (4 Vol. %) have been compared with
84 Materials for Modern Technologies

experimental data [8]. For preparation of the nanofluid, silica nanoparticles with diameter 14 nm
have been dispersed in distilled water. The porous medium was totally saturated with the heavy
crude oil with 19 ̊ API. Properties of the oil have been tabulated in Table 2 and it belongs to
Azadegan heavy oil field in Iran. In addition, nanoparticles properties have been shown in Table 3.

Table 2: Oil properties.


Name Density (kg/m3) Viscosity (Kg/m.s) API°
Oil 933 0.87 19

Table 3: Nanoparticles properties.


Name Formula Diameter (nm) Density (kg/m3) Molecular Weight (gr/mole)
Nanosilica SiO2 10 2400 60.08

Fig. 2 compares the experimental data and numerical results. As it is clear from the figure, the
numerical oil recovery factors in the nanofluid injection are in a good agreement with the
experiment. In other words, the maximum relative error of ultimate oil recovery factor between
experimental data and numerical results was 5.17%. Fig. 3 shows the nanofluid volume fraction
contour in the validation test. From this figure it can be seen that the fluid flow pattern in this model
is the same as fluid flow in actual rock reservoirs and the fingering effect can be studied in this
geometry as well.
0.6
Oil Recovery Factor

0.5
0.4
0.3
Numerical Results
0.2
Experimental
0.1 Results
0
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2
PV injected
Fig. 2: Comparison of numerical results with the experimental data [8].

Fig. 3: The nanofluid volume fraction contours in nanosilica/water flooding.

In the last step for investigating the effect of nanoparticles dispersion in Sc-CO2 on the oil recovery
factor, SiO2 nanoparticles were dispersed in Sc-CO2. Four different flooding scenarios considered
for the injection operations: injection of Sc-CO2, injection of Sc-CO2 with 1 Vol. % nanosilica,
injection of Sc-CO2 with 2 Vol. % nanosilica and injection of Sc-CO2 with 3 Vol. % nanosilica. The
nanofluid volume fraction contours for 1PV of the injected fluid with 3 Vol. % dispersed
nanoparticles after 2000, 8000 and 15000 s are shown in Fig. 4. As presented in this figure, the fluid
flow pattern which is simulated by the CFD technique is similar to the actual fluid hydrodynamics
Advanced Materials Research Vol. 1104 85

in reservoirs. In other words, after the nanofluid injection through the porous medium, the injected
fluid moves into the bed and push the oil to exit. By passing time the injected fluid creates more
finger and moves to the corners.
The ultimate oil recovery factors for injecting operations are presented in Fig. 5. By comparing the
results of these flooding scenarios, the positive effect of dispersed nanoparticles on the oil recovery
factor is deduced. From simulation results, it can be found that whatever concentration of
nanoparticles in Sc-CO2 increases, the oil recovery is enhanced. By addition of nanoparticles to the
base fluid, properties of the injected fluid such as viscosity and density were adjusted at optimum
level. Also the fingering effect decreases and more surface area of the model will be in contact with
the injected fluid and this is the reason for improving the oil recovery factor. For example by
addition of 1 Vol. % nanoparticles to Sc-CO2, the ultimate oil recovery factor increases 9.3% more
than Sc-CO2 flooding.

(a) (b)

(c)

Fig. 4: Volume fraction contours of nanosilica/Sc-CO2 (3 Vol. %) after (a) 2000, (b) 8000 and (c)
15000 s.
60
Ultimate Oil Recovery (%)

50

40

30

20

10

0
Sc-CO2 Sc-CO2 with 1% Sc-CO2 with 2% Sc-CO2 with 3%
nanosilica nanosilica nanosilica

Fig. 5: Ultimate oil recovery factor for four different flooding scenarios.
Conclusion
In this work, CFD method was used to simulate co-injection of Sc-CO2 and nanoparticles into the
2D micromodel pattern in order to investigate the oil recovery factor. Different volume fractions of
86 Materials for Modern Technologies

nanoparticles were studied as a Sc-CO2 additive and results were compared with Sc-CO2 injection
(without nanoparticles). In overall results of this study are mentioned below:

1- By addition of nanoparticles into Sc-CO2, the better sweep efficiency has been achieved and this
is enhanced by increasing the nanoparticles concentration. For example there was an
enhancement about 10% in the ultimate oil recovery by adding 1 Vol. % nanosilica into Sc-CO2.
In addition, by adding 2 Vol. % and 3 Vol. % nanosilica the ultimate oil recovery compare to
the injection of Sc-CO2 with 1 Vol. % nanosilica improves about 4.6% and 9. 4%, respectively.
2- Whatever the concentration of nanoparticles increases in the range of this study, the ultimate oil
recovery due to an improvement in Sc-CO2 viscosity increases. In other words, nanoparticles
decrease the mobility of the injected fluid.
3- The fingering effect decreases as the nanoparticles volume fraction increases.

Acknowledgment
Authors would like to thank Tarbiat Modares University and Iran Nanotechnology Initiative
Council for the financial support of this research.

References
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Materials for Modern Technologies
10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMR.1104

CFD Simulation of Enhanced Oil Recovery Using Nanosilica/Supercritical CO2


10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMR.1104.81

DOI References
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recovery from sandstone and chalk reservoirs, J. Pet. Sci. Eng., 108 (2013) 259266.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.petrol.2013.04.013
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reservoir conditions, SPE Improved Oil Recovery Symposium, (2012).
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[3] D. Cuthiell, G. Kissel, C. Jackson, T. Frauenfeld, D. Fisher, K. Rispler, Viscous fingering effects in
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2118/06-07-02
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nanopowders, J. Pet. Sci. Eng., 86-87 (2012) 206-216.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.petrol.2012.03.022
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investigation, Exp. Therm. Fluid Sci., 40 (2012).
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