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Primary Recovery Mechanisms

For a proper understanding of reservoir behavior and predicting future performance, it is necessary to have knowledge of the driving mechanisms that control the behavior of fluids within reservoirs. The overall performance of oil reservoirs is largely determined by the nature of the energy, i.e., driving mechanism, available for moving the oil to the well bore. There are basically six driving mechanisms that provide the natural energy necessary for oil recovery:

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  • Rock and liquid expansion drive
  • Depletion drive
  • Gas cap drive
  • Water drive
  • Gravity drainage drive
  • Combination drive

These driving mechanisms are discussed as follows:

Rock and Liquid Expansion

When an oil reservoir initially exists at a pressure higher than its bubble- point pressure, the reservoir is called an under saturated oil reservoir. At pressures above the bubble-point pressure, crude oil, connate water, and rock are the only materials present. As the reservoir pressure declines, the rock and fluids expand due to their individual compressibility.

The reservoir rock compressibility is the result of two factors:

  • Expansion of the individual rock grains
  • Formation compaction

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Both of the above two factors are the results of a decrease of fluid pressure within the pore spaces, and both tend to reduce the pore volume through the reduction of the porosity. As the expansion of the fluids and reduction in the pore volume occur with decreasing reservoir pressure, the crude oil and water will be forced out of the pore space to the well bore. Because liquids and rocks are only slightly compressible, the reservoir will experience a rapid pressure decline. The oil reservoir under this driving mechanism is characterized by a constant gas-oil ratio that is equal to the gas solubility at the bubble point pressure. This driving mechanism is considered the least efficient driving force and usually results in the recovery of only a small percentage of the total oil in place.

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