This paper presents an overview of both current advancements and field applications of offshore chemical flooding technologies. Along with offshore oilfield development strategies that require the maximization of oil production in a short development cycle, chemical flooding can become a potential avenue to accelerate oil production in secondary oil recovery mode. This makes it different from onshore chemical flooding processes that mostly focus on enhanced oil recovery in mature or maturing reservoirs. The advancements in offshore chemical flooding field applications are reviewed and analyzed. By summarizing offshore application cases, the presented analysis also assesses the chemical formulations applied or studied and injection/production facilities required in offshore environments. The main technical challenges are also discussed for scaling up the applications on offshore platforms or floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) systems.
The chemical flooding technologies reviewed include polymer flooding, surfactant-polymer (SP) flooding, and alkaline-surfactant-polymer (ASP) flooding. By assessing the technology readiness level of these technologies, this study presents their perspectives and practical relevance for offshore chemical flooding applications. It has been long realized that chemical flooding, especially polymer flooding, can improve oil recovery in offshore oil fields. The applications in Bohai Bay (China), Dalia (Angola), and Captain (North Sea) provide the know-how workflows for offshore polymer flooding from laboratory to full-field applications. It is feasible to implement offshore polymer injection either on a platform or in an FPSO system. It is recommended to implement polymer flooding at an early stage of reservoir development to maximize the investment in offshore facilities. By tuning the chemistry of polymer products, they can present very good compatibility with seawaters. Therefore, choosing a proper polymer is no longer a big issue for offshore polymer flooding.
There are also some interesting findings reported on the development of novel surfactant chemistries for offshore applications. The outcome from a number of small-scale trials, including the single-well chemical tracer tests on surfactant, alkaline-surfactant (AS), and SP in offshore Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and South China Sea, provided valuable insights for the feasibility of chemical flooding in offshore environments. However, the technology readiness levels of surfactant-based chemical flooding processes are still low, partially due to their complex interactions with subsurface fluids and the lack of interest in producing residual oil from matured offshore reservoirs. Based on the lessons learned from offshore applications, it can be concluded that several major challenges still need to be overcome in terms of large well spacing, reservoir voidage, produced fluid treatment, and high operational expense to successfully scale up surfactant-based chemical flooding processes for offshore applications.