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Thermal method for enhanced oil recovery (EOR)

By Ludek | Ludo | 1 Feb 2021

After primary and secondary production stages of oil wells enhanced oil

recovery (EOR) methods should be used to increase and stabilize the uplift.

EOR methods include thermal, gas, chemical and physical technologies and

hydrofracturing. The technologies are usually based on decreasing the

interfacial forces in pores within the rock formation and reducing the viscosity

of the fluid. Each of these techniques has specific advantages and

disadvantages. That’s why the use of a concrete technique highly depends

on the geological characteristic and history of concrete fields. Many of the

mentioned above methods have been already used for decades. Currently

there is a big demand on new technologies in this field, which are applicable

also for wells which have been subjects of EOR in the past and for wells with

high-viscous and heavy oil. This is based on the fact that the categorization

of the reserves is deteriorating constantly. This chapter deals with the novel

methods in the field of EOR analyzing their advantages over the old

technologies and the new opportunities provided by them. The main attention

in this chapter is paid to the most promising technologies of hydrofracturing

and the ultrasonic technology of EOR, which showed very good results in

the last decade


The influence of thermal EOR methods on the formation is the highest.

When these methods are applied, the reservoir is affected by thermal energy,

which is transported by thermal carriers or released directly into the

reservoir during exothermic chemical reactions (combustion). Often this

technology is used simultaneously to hydro- and thermodynamic methods.

Thermal EOR is accompanied by radical changes in physical and chemical

parameters of oil, a variety of phase transitions, etc. For example, when

the oil is heated from 25°C to 120°C, its viscosity decreases from 500-1000

mPa.s to 5-20 mPa.s. Apart of high temperature the reservoir is also

affected by high pressure.

Thermal EOR is used in cases with the most difficult physical and

geological conditions. These methods can be used to extract oil with the

viscosity up to 1000 mPa.s and natural bitumen. In case of thermal EOR 30-

58% of oil can be recovered. The following thermal EOR methods are

currently used:

  • In-situ combustion
  • Continuous steam drive
  • Hot water drive
  • Cycling steam injection
  • Combined thermochemical treatment

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