Probing Methane Foam Transport in Heterogeneous Porous Media: An Experimental and Numerical Case Study of Permeability-Dependent Rheology and Fluid Diversion at Field Scale

Yongchao Zeng, Ridhwan Z. Kamarul Bahrim, J. A. W. M. Groot, Sebastien Vincent Bonnieu, Jeroen Groenenboom , Siti Rohaida Mohd Shafian, Arif A. Abdul Manap, Raj D. Tewari, Erfan Mohammadian , Amin Azdarpor , Hossein Hamidi, Sibani L. Biswal* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This paper advances the understanding of foam transport in heterogeneous porous media for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Specifically, we investigate the dependence of methane foam rheology on the rock permeability at the laboratory scale and then extend the observations to the field scale with foam modeling techniques and reservoir simulation tools.

The oil recovery efficiency of conventional gasflooding, waterflooding, and water-alternating-gas (WAG) processes can be limited by constraints such as bypassing effects (including both viscous fingering and channeling mechanisms) and gravity override. The problem can be more severe if the reservoir is highly fractured or heterogeneously layered in the direction of flow. Foam offers the promise to address the three issues simultaneously by better controlling the mobility of injected fluids. However, limited literature data of foam-flooding experiments were reported using actual reservoir cores at harsh conditions. In this paper, a series of methane (CH4) foam-flooding experiments were conducted in three different actual cores from a proprietary reservoir at an elevated temperature. It is found that foam rheology is significantly correlated with the rock permeability.

To quantify the mobility control offered by foam, we calculated the apparent viscosity on the basis of the measured pressure drop at steady state. Interestingly, the apparent viscosity was found to be selectively higher in the high-permeability cores compared with that in the low-permeability zones. We parameterized our system using a texture-implicit-local-equilibrium model (STARS simulator, Computer Modelling Group, Calgary, Alberta, Canada) to illustrate the dependence of foam parameters on rock permeability.

In addition, we created a two-layered model reservoir using an in-house simulator called modular reservoir simulator (MoReS; Shell Research, Rijswijk, The Netherlands) to elucidate the role of different driving forces for fluid diversion at the field level. We took into consideration the combined effect of gravitational, viscous force, and capillary forces in our simulation. We show that the gravitational forces prevent the gas from sweeping the lower part of the reservoir. However, the poor sweep can be ameliorated by intermittent surfactant injection to generate foam. In addition, the capillary force which hinders the gas (nonwetting phase) from entering the low-permeability region can be effectively leveraged to redistribute the fluids in the porous media, resulting in better sweep efficiency. We conclude that foam if properly designed can effectively improve the conformance of the WAG EOR in the presence of reservoir heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1697-1710
Number of pages14
JournalSPE Journal
Issue number4
Early online date26 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

We gratefully acknowledge Petronas and Shell for granting the permission to publish this work. We also thank Drs. George Hirasaki, Rouhi Farajzadeh, Yi Svec, and M Razib Raub for their tremendous support to this project.


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