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Determination of concentration-dependent dispersion of propane in vapor extraction of heavy oil

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posted on 08.06.2021, 11:39 authored by Hadil Abukhalifeh
Vapex (vapor extraction) is a solvent-based non-thermal in-situ heavy oil recovery process. In Vapex process, a vaporized hydrocarbon solvent is injected into an upper horizontal well where the solvent mixes with the heavy oil and reduces its viscosity. The diluted oil drains under gravity to a bottom production well. Two mechanisms control the production rates of heavy oil in Vapex: mass transfer of solvent into heavy oil, and gravity drainage. Both are governed by dispersion, which is composed of molecular diffusion, convection, and other mechanisms that enhance mixing in porous medium. The accurate determination of solvent dispersion in Vapex is essential to predict effectively the amount and time scale of oil recovery as well to optimize the field operations. Motivated by limited dispersion data in the literature, a novel technique is developed to determine experimentally the concentration-dependent dispersion coefficient of propane in Vapex process, The technique employs live oil production rates obtained from Vapex experiments at 21ºC and 0.790 MPa. The salient feature of this technique is that it does not impose any functional form on dispersion as a function of concentration, but allows its natural and realistic determination. The technique could be applied to determine other solvents dispersion coefficient used in the in-situ recovery of heavy oil. Propane dispersion coefficient is determined by the minimization of the difference in experimental and calculated cumulative live oil produced. The necessary conditions for the minimum are fundamentally derived, utilizing the theory of optimal control. A computational algorithm is formulated to calculate the propane dispersion function simultaneously with propane-heavy oil interface mass fraction. Physical models of glass beads of different permeabilities (204-51 Darcy) and drainage heights (25-45 cm) were used to conduct the Vapex experiments. The results show that dispersion of propane is a unimodal function of its concentration in heavy oil, and lies in the range, 0.5x10⁻⁵- 7.933x10⁻⁵ m²/s. Convectional mixing is promoted by higher model drainage heights and lower permeability. Finally, propane dispersion is correlated as a function of propane mass fraction in heavy oil and the packed medium permeability, as well as the drainage height.





Doctor of Philosophy


Chemical Engineering

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Ali Lohi Simant Ranjan Upreti