An Investigation of the Effect of Gravity on Foam in Model Fractures

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Gas-injection EOR processes have poor sweep efficiency due to conformance problems including channelling, gravity override and fingering. In naturally fractured reservoirs, sweep efficiency is further jeopardized, because gas breaks through fractures first, leaving most oil behind in the matrix. Strong foam can be created in fractures[1][2], thus diverting the flow of gas into matrix and hence increasing the oil recovery[3]. In the field, natural fractures are usually vertically oriented, because the least principle stress is in horizontal direction in most formations. Foam performance in fractured reservoirs is not only affected by fracture roughness, aperture, etc., but also by gravity.
In this study, we investigate how gravity affect foam in fractures. To this end, we have conducted several sets of foam-scan experiments (i.e., a set of constant-total-velocity experiments each with a different gas fractional flow) on three glass model fractures (model A, model B and model C) with hydraulic aperture of 78, 99 and 128 µm respectively.
The models have the same dimensions of 1 m x 0.15 m (L x W) and the same fracture roughness pattern. The transparency of glass models allows a direct investigation of foam texture inside the fracture using a high-speed camera. All experiments have been carried out at 20°C and 1 atm. Nitrogen is the gas phase, and surfactant solution is 1 wt % AOS C14-16.
Experiments were carried out on all three models by placing the model either horizontally or on its side. Stable foam was created and reached local equilibrium in all horizontal-flow experiments, i.e., the rate of foam lamella creation was equal to the rate of destruction. The roughened fracture surface provided sufficient generation sites to re-create foam bubbles in sections further from the entry, hence maintaining a stable foam.
In the sideways flow experiment, the effect of gravity on foam stability was not significant when fracture aperture was small (model A). As hydraulic aperture increased (model B and model C), the effect of gravity was more pronounced. Drier foam propagated along the top part of the fractures and wetter foam along the bottom. Gas saturation was 23% greater at the top than the bottom for model B, and 34% for model C. Foam was still stable during the sideways flow experiments in model B. However, foam breakage alternated with re-generation near the top in model C.
We conclude that the application of foam in vertical natural fractures (meters tall and tens of meter long) with a aperture of hundreds of microns is problematic. The gravity segregation of phases for this foam would disable its capacity to divert gas flow from a tall fracture like our model into the matrix. As a result, there will be a gas-rich regime at the top of the fracture and a liquid-rich regime at the bottom. The regimes segregate more as the aperture increases.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventInterpore 12th Annual Meeting, 2020 (Qingdao, China) - Online, Qingdao, China
Duration: 31 Aug 20204 Sep 2020


ConferenceInterpore 12th Annual Meeting, 2020 (Qingdao, China)
Internet address


  • Gravity effect
  • Foam
  • Fractures


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