Experimental and Modelling Study of Gravity Drainage in a Three-Block System

Hamidreza Erfani, Abtin Karimi Malekabadi, Mohammad Hossein Ghazanfari, Behzad Rostami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gravity drainage is known as the controlling mechanism of oil recovery in naturally fractured reservoirs. The efficiency of this mechanism is controlled by block-to-block interactions through capillary continuity and/or reinfiltration processes. In this study, at first, several free-fall gravity drainage experiments were conducted on a well-designed three-block apparatus and the role of tilt angle, spacers’ permeability, wettability and effective contact area (representing a different status of the block-to-block interactions between matrix blocks) on the recovery efficiency were investigated. Then, an experimental-based numerical model of free-fall gravity drainage process was developed, validated and used for monitoring the saturation profiles along with the matrix blocks. Results showed that gas wetting condition of horizontal fracture weakens the capillary continuity and in consequence decreases the recovery factor in comparison with the original liquid wetting condition. Moreover, higher spacers’ permeability increases oil recovery at early times, while it decreases the ultimate recovery factor. Tilt angle from the vertical axis decreases recovery factor, due to greater connectivity of matrix blocks to vertical fracture and consequent channelling. Decreasing horizontal fracture aperture decreases recovery at early times but increases the ultimate recovery due to a greater extent of capillary continuity between the adjacent blocks. Well match observed between the numerical model results and the experimental data of oil recovery makes the COMSOL multiphysics model attractive for application in multi-blocks fractured systems considering block-to-block interactions. The findings of this research improve our understanding of the role of different fracture properties on the block-to-block interactions and how they change the ultimate recovery of a multi-block system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-494
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number2
Early online date2 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


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