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Stephen R.

Drive Mechanisms and
ARCO Exploration and Production Technology
Recovery Piano, Texas, U.S.A.

INTRODUCTION Depending on its discovery pressure, a solution gas drive

reservoir can be initially either undersaturated or saturated
The natural energy of a reservoir can be used to move oil (Odeh, 1986). In an undersaturated reservoir, the reservoir
and gas toward the wellbore. Used in such a fashion, these pressure is greater than the bubblepoint of the oil. No free gas
sources of energy are called drive mechanisms. Early exists in the reservoir while the pressure remains above the
determination and characterization of the drive mechanism(s) bubblepoint. The reservoir drive energy is provided only by
present within a reservoir may allow a greater ultimate the limited expansion of the oil, rock, and water. In a
recovery of hydrocarbons. Drive mechanisms are determined saturated reservoir, the reservoir pressure is at the
by the analysis of historical production data, primarily bubblepoint. As soon as oil is produced, the pressure drops
reservoir pressure data and fluid production ratios. and bubbles of solution gas form in the reservoir. This
The three primary oil reservoir drive mechanisms are solution gas liberation causes the oil to shrink, but the oil
solution gas drive, gas cap drive, and water drive (Clark, 1969). shrinkage is more than offset by solution gas expansion, the
Reservoir pressure trends and producing gas-oil ratio trends primary source of reservoir drive energy below the
of these three drive mechanisms are shown in Figures 1 and 2, bubblepoint.
respectively. A combination or mixed drive occurs when two or
more of the primary drive mechanisms are present in the Production Trends
same reservoir. A combination drive may also occur when
one or more of the primary drive mechanisms are assisted by Solution gas drive reservoirs show characteristic changes
gravity drainage. Table 1 shows the energy sources and in reservoir pressure, producing gas-oil ratio, and oil and
ultimate recovery ranges of the major drive mechanisms. water production rates during the life of the reservoir. If the
reservoir is initially undersaturated, the reservoir pressure
falls quickly during oil production because of the small
SOLUTION GAS DRIVE compressibilities of oil, water, and rock. Pressure drops of
several hundred pounds per square inch can easily occur over
In a solution (or dissolved) gas drive reservoir, the oil- a matter of months. Because the only gas produced is that
bearing rock is completely surrounded by impermeable which evolves from the produced oil in the wellbore, the
barriers. As the reservoir pressure drops during production, gas-oil ratio (GOR) remains constant until the reservoir
expansion of the oil and its dissolved gas provides most of the reaches the bubblepoint.
reservoir's drive energy (Figure 3). Additional energy is Once reservoir pressure reaches the bubblepoint pressure
obtained from the expansion of the rock and its associated or if the reservoir was initially saturated, the reservoir
water. pressure declines less quickly due to the large compressibility

Res Brvoir Pr essure - % of O riginal

Water Drive Qas Drive

80 x>

*••• • »
• • !


A 1 Gas Cap Drive

\ Gas Cap Drive o

40 D» / /
n / ;
Solution \
Gas Drive
Water Drive

20 40 60 80 20 40 60 80
Oil Produced - % of OOIP Oil Produced - % of OOIP

Figure 1. Reservoir pressure trends by drive mechanism. Figure 2. Producing gas-oil ratio trends by drive mechanism.