As plays mature and depth of inventory shrinks, operators focus on maximizing existing reservoir productivity and extending acreage runway. Over the past few decades, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques like thermal injection and miscible flooding have been used to accomplish this in conventional reservoirs. Typically for these methods, fluid is fed through dedicated injector wells and oil (and gas) is produced from secondary wells.
Ultra-low permeability shale and tight oil formations challenge the feasibility of conventional EOR injector-producer schemes. The tight nature of the rock limits the ability of the injected fluid to reach the producer. A significant amount of oil remains trapped in oily shales; only approximately 5-10% of the original oil in place is recovered during primary production.
In the Eagle Ford, operators are testing a miscible gas injection EOR technique involving a single wellbore for both injection and production. Frequently referred to as “Huff-n-Puff,” the cyclic process involves three distinct steps: injection, soaking and production. Injected rich gas diffuses into the tight rock, achieves miscibility with the oil during the soaking phase and swells. Oil and gas combine to form one homogenous solution that is produced up the wellbore following the shut-in period (Figure 1).
FIGURE 1 | Huff-n-Puff: Breaking It Down
Source | RSEG, Google Earth
Widespread Eagle Ford Huff-n-Puff implementation is uncertain until repeatable oil EUR uplift can be proven. Operators continue to trial pilot locations and the duration of the injection, soaking and production phases. As production data is gathered from pilot sites, operators and investors will be able to evaluate the economic viability of the engineered incremental oil recoveries.
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