Transport in Porous Media

, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 317–343 | Cite as

Recovery of Light Oil by Medium Temperature Oxidation

  • A. A. Mailybaev
  • J. Bruining
  • D. Marchesin


We study one aspect of combustion in porous media for the recovery of light oil. We assume that there is a temperature range above low temperature combustion where oxygen is added to the aliphatic oils to form oxygenated compounds and below the temperature where cracking and coke formation occurs. In the intermediate range oil is combusted to form small combustion products like water, CO\(_2\), or CO. We call this medium temperature oxidation (MTO). Our simplified model considers light oil recovery when it is displaced by air at medium pressures in linear geometry, for the case when water is absent. The resulting MTO combustion displaces all the oil. There are adjacent vaporization and combustion zones, traveling with the same speed. The MTO reaction is assumed to be slow, so that vaporization is much faster. The solution of the model equations leads to a thermal wave upstream, a MTO wave in the middle and a cold isothermal Buckley–Leverett gas displacement process downstream. One of the unexpected results is that vaporization occurs upstream of the combustion zone. In the initial period the recovery curve is typical of gas displacement, but after a critical amount of air has been injected the cumulative oil recovery increases linearly until all oil has been recovered. In our model, the oil recovery is independent of reaction rate parameters, but the recovery is much faster than for gas displacement. Finally, the recovery is slower for higher boiling point and higher oil viscosity, but faster at higher injection pressure. We give a simple engineering procedure to compute recovery curves for a variety of different conditions.


In-situ combustion Light oil recovery Air injection Traveling wave  Porous media 

List of Symbols


MTO pre-exponential factor (1/s)

\(c_\mathrm{l}, c_\mathrm{g}\)

Heat capacity of liquid and gas [J/(mol\(\cdot \)K)]


Heat capacity of porous rock [J/(m\(^{3}\)K)]


Gas diffusion coefficient (m\(^2\)/s)


Fractional flow function for liquid phase


Leverett \(J\)-function


Rock permeability (m\(^2\))

\(k_\mathrm{l}, k_\mathrm{g}\)

Liquid and gas phase permeabilities (m\(^2\))


Rate constant for evaporation [mol/(m\(^{3}\) s)]


MTO reaction order with respect to oxygen


Prevailing gas pressure (Pa)


MTO reaction enthalpy per mole of oxygen at reservoir temperature (J/mol)


Oil vaporization heat at reservoir temperature (J/mol)


Ideal gas constant [J/(mol\(\cdot \)K)]

\(s_\mathrm{l}, s_\mathrm{g}\)

Saturations of liquid and gas phases


Time (s)


Temperature (K)


Boiling temperature of liquid (K)


Reservoir temperature (K)


MTO activation temperature (K)

\(u_\mathrm{l}, u_\mathrm{g}, u\)

Liquid, gas, and total Darcy velocities (m/s)


Darcy velocity of component \(j\) = h, o, r in gas phase (m/s)


Injection Darcy velocity of gas (m/s)

\(W_\mathrm{v}, W_\mathrm{r}\)

Vaporization and MTO reaction rates [mol/(m\(^{3}s\))]


Spatial coordinate (m)

\(Y_\mathrm{h}, Y_\mathrm{o}, Y_\mathrm{r}\)

Gas molar fractions: hydrocarbons, oxygen, remaining components (mol/mol)


Oxygen fraction in injected gas

\(\varphi \)


\(\lambda \)

Thermal conductivity of porous medium [W/(m\(\cdot \)K)]

\(\mu _\mathrm{l}, \mu _\mathrm{g}\)

Viscosity of liquid and gas (Pa\(\cdot \)s)

\(\nu _\mathrm{l}, \nu _\mathrm{g}\)

Stoichiometric coefficients in the MTO reaction (2.1)

\(\rho _\mathrm{l}, \rho _\mathrm{g}\)

Molar density of liquid and gas (mol/m\(^{3}\))

\(\sigma \)

Liquid oil surface tension (N/m)

\(\varTheta \)

Liquid oil/rock contact angle



This research was carried out within the context of the ISAPP Knowledge Centre. ISAPP (Integrated Systems Approach to Petroleum Production) is a joint project of the Netherlands Organization of Applied Scientific Research TNO, Shell International Exploration and Production, and Delft University of Technology. The paper was also supported by grants of PRH32 (ANP 731948/2010, PETROBRAS 6000.0061847.10.4), FAPERJ (E-26/102.965/2011, E-26/111.416 /2010, E-26/110.658/2012, E-26/110.237/2012, E-26/111.369/2012), and CNPq (301564/2009-4, 472923/2010-2, 477907/2011-3, 305519/2012-3, 402299/2012-4, 470635/2012-6). The authors thank TU Delft and IMPA for providing the opportunity for this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e AplicadaRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Civil Engineering and GeosciencesTU DelftDelftThe Netherlands

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