Primary recovery of heavy-oil is remarkably low due to high viscosity and low energy by solution gas exsolution to drive the oil. Gas injection to improve foamy flow and also to dilute the oil in such reservoirs has been proposed as a secondary recovery method. However, because of the high costs of injected gases, efforts are needed to optimize the process by selection of proper gas type (or gas combinations) and suitable injection scheme. To achieve this goal, an experimental procedure was followed with rigorous analyses of the output. A 1.5 m long and 5 cm diameter sand-pack was first saturated with brine, which was replaced with dead oil. Then, gas solvents were injected to dead-oil containing core-holder until nearly reaching 500 psi followed by a two-day soaking period. Pressures all along the sand-pack were recorded with eight pressure transducers. Different combinations of various gas solvents (methane, CO2, and air) aiming to select the most competitive and economic formula were tested with a certain set of pressure depletion rates.
The physics of the foamy oil flow for different solvent mixtures and depletion conditions were analyzed using pressure profiles acquired, recorded oil/gas data with time, and gas chromatography and SARA analyses of the produced gas and oil. Three huff-n-puff cycles were applied. Compared with other light hydrocarbon solvents and carbon dioxide, air has its high advantage in terms of accessibility and lowered cost. Hence, attention was given to air that was mainly used to pressurize the system and increase oil viscosity due to oxidation process with an expectation of better foam quality when injected with other gases such as CO2 and methane. Methane (CH4) yielded the quickest response in terms of gas drive but, in the long run, CO2 was observed to be more effective technically. Air was observed to be effective if mixed with CO2 or methane from an economics point of view. To sum up the results, air Huff-n-Puff (HnP) followed by 2-cycles of CH4 HnP yielded 36.21% recovery, while air HnP followed by 2-cycles of CO2 HnP delivered 30.36% oil. When the gases are co-injected, air 50%-CO2 50% and air 50%-CH4 50% recovered 29.85% and 23.74% of total oil-in-place, respectively.