Foam Generation by Snap-off in Flow Across a Sharp Permeability Transition

S.Y. Shah, Herru As Syukri, Karl-Heinz Wolf, Rashidah M. Pilus, Bill Rossen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Foam reduces gas mobility and can help improve sweep efficiency in an enhanced oil recovery process. For the latter, long-distance foam propagation is crucial. In steady gas-liquid flow, foam is generated in homogeneous porous media by exceeding a critical pressure gradient, which normally only happens near the wellbore. Away from wells, these requirements may not be met, and foam propagation is uncertain. It has been shown theoretically that foam can be generated, independent of pressure gradient, during flow across an abrupt increase in permeability. This could dominate foam generation away from wells in layered or laminated geological formations and can improve the chances of success of a foam application. The objective of this study is to validate theoretical explanations through experimental evidence and to quantify the effect of permeability contrast, velocity and fractional flow on this process. In this study, we validate theoretical predictions through a variety of experimental evidence. Coreflood experiments involving co-injection of gas and surfactant solution at field-like velocities were performed. Layered, consolidated and well-characterized sintered glass cores were used as the porous media. The permeability change in each core was analogous to sharp, small-scale heterogeneities such as laminations and cross-laminations. The experiments were carefully designed not to allow foam generation by mechanisms other than snap-off at the permeability boundary in the core. Local pressure gradient was measured at various locations and was used to identify foam generation and subsequent propagation through the porous medium. Additionally, X-ray computed tomography (CT) was employed to detect changes in phase saturation that accompany foam generation and subsequent propagation downstream. CT-based saturations measurements were also used to qualitatively chart the reduction in capillary pressure across the sharp permeability jump, supporting theoretical explanations behind this process. The effect of permeability contrast, superficial velocity and flowing gas fraction on this process was also investigated. For a given permeability contrast, foam generation was observed at higher gas fractions than predicted by previous theory (Rossen, 1999). Conditions for propagation of foam were explored by successively performing experiments at lower velocities and higher gas fractional flows. Significant fluctuations in pressure gradient accompanied the process of foam generation, indicating a degree of intermittency in the generation rate - probably reflecting cycles of foam generation, dryout, imbibition, and then generation. The intermittency of foam generation was found to increase with decreasing injection velocities and greater permeability contrasts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIOR 2019 20th European Symposium on Improved Oil Recovery
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789462822788
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event20th European Symposium on Improved Oil Recovery - Pau, France
Duration: 8 Apr 201911 Apr 2019


Conference20th European Symposium on Improved Oil Recovery
Abbreviated titleIOR 2019

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


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