Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Petroleum Engineering

Document Type



Among numerous foam applications in a wide range of disciplines, foam flow in porous media has been spotlighted for improved/enhanced oil recovery processes in petroleum-bearing geological formations and shallow subsurface in-situ NAPL (non-aqueous phase liquid) environmental remediation in contaminated soils and aquifers. In those applications, foams are known to reduce the mobility of gas phase by increasing effective gas viscosity and improve sweep efficiency by mitigating subsurface heterogeneity. This study investigates how surfactant/foam process works fundamentally for environmental remediation purpose by using MoC (Method of Characteristics) based foam modeling and simulation techniques. It consists of two main parts: Part 1, developing foam model using three-phase fractional flow theory accounting for foam flow rheology such as foam strength and stability at different phase saturations; and Part 2, extending the model to investigate the mechanisms of surfactant/foam displacement in multi-layer systems. Part 1 investigates six scenarios such as different levels of foam strength (i.e., gas mobility reduction factors), different initial conditions (i.e., initially oil/water or oil/water/gas present), foam stability affected by water saturation (Sw), oil saturation (So), and both together, and uniform vs. non-uniform initial saturations. The process is analyzed by using ternary diagrams, fractional flow curves, effluent histories, saturation profiles, time-distance diagrams, and pressure and recovery histories. The results show that the three-phase fractional flow analysis presented in this study is robust enough to analyze foam-oil displacements in various conditions, as validated by an in-house numerical simulator built in this study. The use of numerical simulation seems crucial when the foam modeling becomes complicated and faces multiple possible solutions. Part 2 first shows how to interpret theoretically the injection of surfactant preflush and following foams into a single-layer system at pre-specified rock and fluid properties, and then extends the knowledge gained into multi-layer systems where the properties vary in different layers. The results in general show that the mechanisms of foam displacement strongly depend on foam properties such as gas-phase mobility reduction factors (MRF), limiting water saturation (Sw*), critical oil saturation (So*), and so on as well as petrophysical properties of individual layers such as porosity (φ), permeability (k), relative permeability and so on. The overall sweep efficiency in a multi-layer system is very difficult to predict because of the complexity, but the mathematical framework presented in this study is shown to be still reliable. The in-house foam simulator is also extended to compare with modeling results.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Kam, Seung