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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V002937/1
Title: Foam Improved Oil Recovery: Effects of Flow Reversal
Principal Investigator: Lue, Dr L
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemical and Process Engineering
Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2021 Ends: 31 December 2023 Value (£): 256,728
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Continuum Mechanics Numerical Analysis
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
31 Aug 2020 EPSRC Mathematical Sciences Prioritisation Panel September 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The context of this project is improved oil recovery.

In petroleum extraction operations, only a fraction of the oil manages

to flow out of a reservoir under the reservoir's own pressure.

After that, petroleum engineers resort to injecting fluids into the

reservoir to try to push out remaining oil.

Foam (consisting of bubbles of gas dispersed in aqueous surfactant

liquid) is a promising candidate injection fluid to achieve that.

Because oil and gas reservoirs are difficult to access (being

underground and often in harsh environments), it is generally not

possible to observe directly how an injected foam flows inside them.

Having a mathematical model of the reservoir flow is therefore

very valuable.

This project will develop one such model, so called ``pressure-driven

growth'', which is particularly computationally efficient, as it

focusses just on a foam front as it propagates through the reservoir,

rather than on the state of the entire reservoir away from the front.

Despite its computational efficiency, the pressure-driven growth model

currently has a number of limitations.

One such limitation is that the model is not currently able to

describe a situation in which the foam front undergoes a sudden change

in direction.

This is an issue since, during foam improved oil recovery, foam that

is already within the reservoir after a period of foam injection into

a given well, may change its direction of motion if a new adjacent

injection well is brought online.

The purpose of this project is to adapt the pressure-driven growth

model to describe situations such as this.

However in order to do this, we need first to explore another model

(namely so called ``fractional flow'' theory) which underpins

pressure-driven growth.

Fractional flow theory actually contains a finer level of detail than

pressure-driven growth does, providing very specific information about

exactly what is happening at a foam front at which gas and liquid


Such information includes how gas and liquid fraction profiles vary

across the foam front, how thick the front is, and how mobile it is:

all this information then feeds into parameters governing the less

detailed description given by pressure-driven growth.

Our aim therefore is to explore how fractional flow theory responds to

changes in flow directions, and to use the fractional flow results to

re-parameterise pressure-driven growth.

Having achieved this, our objective will be to test the

re-parameterised pressure-driven growth model in a number of petroleum

engineering situations that involve flow direction changes.

Results from the model will also be compared against a much more

computationally intensive ``entire reservoir'' approach, which is

conventionally employed in petroleum engineering.

The main application area that will benefit is of course oil and gas,

with the oil and gas industry managing to recover more fluids and

hence generate more revenue from existing sites.

In certain cases, e.g. for very mature oil fields, employing foam

improved oil recovery might even make the difference between keeping a

field open or needing to shut it down.

By using modelling tools predicting how foam improved oil recovery

proceeds, oil companies will be able to plan and optimise operations,

prior to performing any costly drilling, thereby limiting the need to

resort to trial and error approaches.

Although benefits of the project focus mostly on oil and gas, wider

benefits are also anticipated.

The front propagation models that we will study for foam fronts in oil

reservoirs are remarkably similar to models governing a number of

other systems, including mechanics of solid-liquid suspensions,

supersonic flow through air, spread of epidemics, pedestrian flow and

fire front propagation, amongst others.

New insights into other systems such as these can therefore derive

from the project.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.strath.ac.uk