Time-Resolved, High-Pressure X-Ray Imaging of Bubble Dynamics in Heavy Oil

  • 2019 Technical Conference Program
  • May 28, 2019
  • 4:30 pm - 5:00 pm

WBPC 2019 Abstract #24

Accurate fluid modelling of foamy oil has long been a complex problem in petroleum engineering. This is due in part to the difficulty associated with physical observation and imaging of bubble formation and growth in heavy oil. Attempts have been made to image such systems using traditional microscopy, but these studies are limited to the formation of bubbles at the surface of a transparent container and neglect advective forces. Computed tomography (CT) has also been used to this end in order to probe below the surface, but conventional CT scans require the sample to be static for hours at a time, which make dynamic, time-resolved studies of bubble formation in heavy oil impractical.

Using high-intensity x-rays beams produced by the synchrotron accelerator at the Canadian Light Source, dynamic CT imaging of bubble formation and growth is possible using scan times as low as 1-2 minutes. A specialized x-ray transparent core holder was developed with Ian Gates from the University of Calgary, allowing for dynamic imaging of depressurization events using live oil to be carried out at geologically relevant pressures in real a real geological core. Once the CT datasets are collected, the evolution of bubble geometry can be quantified and resulting analysis can be used to inform the development of new fluid models for foamy oil.