Multimodal Carbonates: Distribution of Oil Saturation in the Microporous Regions of Arab Formations

Perhaps as much as 50% of the oil-in-place in carbonate formations around the world is locked away in the easy to bypass microporosity. If some of this oil is unlocked by the improved recovery processes focused on tight carbonate formations, the world may gain a major source of lower-rate power over several decades. Here, we overview the Arab D formation in the largest oil field on earth, the Ghawar. We investigate the occurrence of microporosity of different origins and sizes using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and pore casting techniques. Then, we present a robust calculation of the probability of invasion and oil saturation distribution in the nested micropores using mercury injection capillary pressure data available in the literature. We show that large portions of the micropores in Arab D formation would have been bypassed during primary drainage unless the invading crude oil ganglia were sufficiently long. We also show that, under prevailing conditions of primary drainage of the strongly water-wet Arab formations in the Ghawar, the microporosity there was invaded and the porosity-weighted initial oil saturations of 60–85% are expected. Considering the asphaltenic nature of crude oil in the Ghawar, we expect the invaded portions of the pores to turn mixed-wet, thus becoming inaccessible to waterflooding until further measures are taken to modify the system’s surface chemistry and/or create substantial local pore pressure gradients.

Patzek, T. W., Saad, A. M., & Hassan, A. (2022). Multimodal Carbonates: Distribution of Oil Saturation in the Microporous Regions of Arab Formations. Energies, 15(3), 1243.

KAUST has funded this project through the Ali I. Al-Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center (ANPERC). We thank all three reviewers for their insightful and constructive remarks.
Ahmed M. Saad and Ahmed Hassan (Ph.D. students) are supported by baseline research funding from KAUST to Tadeusz Patzek.




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