Polymer Flooding: Past, Present, and Future: A Conversation with Dr. Gary Pope
Tuesday, November 8, 2022, Noon Central
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Polymer flooding is a mature method of enhanced oil recovery with commercial applications in many oil fields around the world. First a brief review of polymer flooding principles and mechanisms will be presented with the emphasis on improved displacement sweep efficiency since it is the dominant mechanism for increased oil recovery by polymer flooding in heavy oil reservoirs. Next a brief overview of the available polymers and the type of polymer to use under different reservoir conditions will be presented. Although polymer flooding is simpler and more robust than most other EOR methods, there are still many ways to make mistakes when applying it under different conditions and a few of the more common mistakes will be mentioned. Good performance predictions require an integrated approach to the design and operation of any polymer flood. The key roles of laboratory experiments, reservoir simulation and reservoir engineering will be highlighted. Increasing the temperature of the injected polymer solution by moderate heating of the water (hot polymer flooding) can be used to reduce the oil viscosity and extend the application of polymer flooding to heavier oils in high porosity sands. The application of polymer flooding to carbonate reservoirs is both challenging and has enormous potential. Carbonates typically have a much wider pore size distribution than sandstones, so the residual oil saturation can be reduced at a relatively low capillary number using commercially available polymers. Recent research has shown very favorable laboratory behavior using polyethylene oxide polymers in low permeability carbonates. The addition of alkali and co-solvents to the polymer solution (ACP flooding) is another improvement that has huge potential for enhanced oil recovery of heavy oils at low cost.  


Gary A. Pope is professor emeritus in the Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin where he taught from 1977 to 2019. He holds a BS degree from Oklahoma State University and a PhD from Rice University, both in chemical engineering. He started his career at Shell in 1971 doing research on the use of polymers and surfactants for enhanced oil recovery. He has co-authored more than 400 technical papers and is inventor on 30 patents. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1999 for his contributions to understanding multiphase flow and transport in porous media and applications of these principles to improved oil recovery and aquifer remediation. His awards include SPE Honorary Member Award, AIME Environmental Conservation Award, Distinguished Service Award, Hocott Distinguished Centennial Engineering Research Award, SPE IOR Pioneer Award, SPE/AIME Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal, SPE John Franklin Carll Award, SPE Distinguished Achievement Award, SPE Distinguished Member Award, and SPE Reservoir Engineering Award.