Microfluidics – A Window to Your Reservoir

Dec 10, 2019
7 min read
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HOT Microfluidics (HOT) showcased ‘InspIOR’, its benchtop microfluidics system for reservoir-condition enhanced oil recovery (EOR) investigations.  This system, in combination with HOT’s transparent micromodels and advanced image analysis algorithms, allows you to visualise oil mobilisation, displacement and trapping in porous systems.

This technology facilitates a truly systematic screening of EOR chemicals using real displacement experiments

What is Microfluidics?

Oil displacement experiments are performed under reservoir conditions using reservoir clones.  Transparent glass-silicon-glass micromodels allow real-time visualisation of oil mobilisation, displacement and trapping at pore scale.

Microfluidics opens a new era of screening EOR chemicals and designing EOR field applications.  This disruptive technology drastically shortens the elapsed time for EOR application planning and provides an unmatched workflow for systematic dynamic screening and optimisation of EOR processes.  It mitigates the risk of EOR pilot & (full) field applications.

Microfluidics – an Established Technology

Based on 10+ years of research, development & application in collaboration with industry & academia, HOT’s technology has been applied for EOR field application planning on African, European and Middle Eastern reservoirs.  EOR processes screened included chemical (cEOR), microbial (mEOR), gas injection, foam and nano-particles. 

Why Using Microfluidics for Planning EOR Field Applications?

When designing and preparing an EOR field application, a large number of chemicals need to be tested to identify the optimum chemical formula for a specific reservoir.  The industry standard has been to de-risk chemical EOR technology by a sequence of phase behaviour tests and core floods before conducting single well tests in the field. 

However, the information from these classical experiments is rather limited as the phase behaviour is usually measured in test tubes and not under realistic flow (mixing) conditions in porous media, and core floods are limited mainly to global recovery estimation and pressure differential measurement. 

HOT’s Microfluidics Technology is a Game Changer:

> It combines aspects of phase behaviour and flow (while the traditional phase behaviour tests only test aspects of phase behaviour).

> It is like a ‘window’ to oil reservoirs, giving insight through visual access to oil mobilisation and displacement processes within porous media. This includes aspects such as fluid-fluid interaction, front stability, tortuosity, break-through performance, displacement efficiency, residual oil saturation distribution, recovery factor and others.

> It facilitates the systematic screening of EOR chemicals and EOR process optimisation, as a full cycle EOR microfluidic flooding experiment takes only a few hours, compared to weeks when using conventional core flooding techniques.

> It requires only small fluid volumes (1 – 3 ml/experiment) and does not consume physical core material.

You watch how oil is trapped, mobilised and displaced

Microchips are Clones of Key Reservoir Rock-types and/or Formations

Based on high-resolution images from CT scans or similar, we design, characterise (by pore-scale simulation of permeability, porosity, grain size distribution and tortuosity) and manufacture bespoke micromodels which resemble key rock types or reservoirs with respect to porosity, permeability, heterogeneity and wettability.  We not only produce chips with identical properties, but we also re-use chips (more than 100 times) following an established cleaning, wetting and re-saturation procedure.  This facilitates unmatched repeatability and comparability of individual experiments. 

Image shows phase distribution after water flooding in a layered sandstone-clone micromodel. Clearly visible is the by-passed oil in the low permeability sections (top & bottom layers)


Observe your chemicals react with oil and water in porous systems

A microfluidic EOR experiment takes a few hours only – unimaginable with conventional core flooding

Conformance Control – A Further Field of Application

Microfluidics is also used for screening and dynamically testing chemicals for conformance control applications.