An Experimental Investigation of In Situ Combustion in High Permeability Contrast Systems

Deniz-Paker M., Çınar M.

Journal of Energy Resources Technology, Transactions of the ASME, vol.144, no.7, 2022 (Journal Indexed in SCI Expanded) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 144 Issue: 7
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1115/1.4052250
  • Title of Journal : Journal of Energy Resources Technology, Transactions of the ASME
  • Keywords: oil/gas reservoirs, petroleum engineering, unconventional petroleum


© 2021 by ASMEA significant portion of world oil reserves reside in naturally fractured reservoirs and a considerable amount of these resources includes heavy oil and bitumen. Thermal enhanced oil recovery methods (EOR) are mostly applied in heavy oil reservoirs to improve oil recovery. In situ combustion (ISC) is one of the thermal EOR methods that could be applicable in a variety of reservoirs. Unlike steam, heat is generated in situ due to the injection of air or oxygen enriched air into a reservoir. Energy is provided by multi-step reactions between oxygen and the fuel at particular temperatures underground. This method upgrades the oil in situ while the heaviest fraction of the oil is burned during the process. The application of ISC in fractured reservoirs is challenging since the injected air would flow through the fracture and a small portion of oil in the/near fracture would react with the injected air. Only a few researchers have studied ISC in fractured or high permeability contrast systems experimentally. For in situ combustion to be applied in fractured systems in an efficient way, the underlying mechanism needs to be understood. In this study, the major focus is permeability variation that is the most prominent feature of fractured systems. The effect of orientation and width of the region with higher permeability on the sustainability of front propagation are studied. The contrast in permeability was experimentally simulated with sand of different particle size. These higher permeability regions are analogous to fractures within a naturally fractured rock. Several ISC tests with sand-pack were carried out to obtain a better understanding of the effect of horizontal, vertical, and combined (both vertical and horizontal) orientation of the high permeability region with respect to air flow to investigate the conditions that are required for a self-sustained front propagation and to understand the fundamental behavior. Within the experimental conditions of the study, the test results showed that combustion front propagated faster in the higher permeability region. In addition, horizontal orientation almost had no effect on the sustainability of the front; however, it affected oxygen consumption, temperature, and velocity of the front. On the contrary, the vertical orientation of the higher permeability region had a profound effect on the sustainability of the combustion front. The combustion behavior was poorer for the tests with vertical orientation, yet the produced oil API gravity was higher. Based on the experimental results, a mechanism has been proposed to explain the behavior of combustion front in systems with high permeability contrast.