Dos and Don’ts When Developing a System to Investigate Spontaneous Imbibition in Unconsolicdated Porous Media
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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This paper describes the development of a consistent model system to measure spontaneous imbibition and determine saturation functions in unconsolidated porous media. Sand grains or glass beads were packed in up to 0.5 m long, transparent glass tubes with optical access to local saturation development during spontaneous imbibition processes. The Two Ends Open-Free spontaneous imbibition (TEOFSI) boundary condition was used, where one end face is exposed to the wetting ﬂuid and the other end to the non-wetting ﬂuid. Dynamic measurement of the advancing displacement front and volumetric production from each open end-face enabled estimation of capillary pressure and relative permeability for the system. A range of wetting- and non-wetting phase viscosities and viscosity ratios was used during spontaneous imbibition in unconsolidated sand or glass packs. Wetting phase (water) viscosity was increased using water soluble glycerol or polymers. Air or mineral oil of varying composition provided a wide range of non-wetting phase viscosities. High permeable systems are extremely sensitive to laboratory properties, which may dominate the viscous resistance and determine ﬂow behaviour. Systematic discrepancies observed in early testing indicated that end effects were present, even in long systems, in the ﬁlters at each end of the glass tube to maintain the grains or beads in place. Different ﬁlters were tested (no ﬁlter, glass, paper and micro-porous discs) to determine the impact of the ﬁlter on spontaneous imbibition. In addition to slower oil recovery than anticipated, developmentof a non-uniform displacement front was observed, demonstrating the large inﬂuence from minute heterogeneities within the packs, and at the end faces. A standard sand grain packing procedure, using a custom-designed packing device, was therefore developed to ensure homogeneous properties throughout theporous media, and limited the spread in porosity and permeability values. Homogeneous sand packs with reproducible properties are necessary, to systematically investigate ﬂow parameters and changes in wettability in unconsolidated porous media.