Multiple-mixing-cell method for three-hydrocarbon-phase displacements

Liwei Li, Saeid Khorsandi, Russell T. Johns, Kaveh Ahmadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Low-temperature oil displacements by carbon dioxide involve complex phase behavior, in which three hydrocarbon phases can coexist. Reliable design of miscible gasflooding requires knowledge of the minimum miscibility pressure (MMP), which is the pressure required for 100% recovery in the absence of dispersion or as defined by slimtube experiments as the "knee" in the recovery curve with pressure in which displacement efficiency is greater than 90%. There are currently no analytical methods to estimate the MMP for multicomponent mixtures exhibiting three hydrocarbon phases. Also, the use of compositional simulators to estimate MMP is not always reliable. These challenges include robustness issues of three-phase equilibrium calculations, inaccurate three-phase relative permeability models, and phase identification and labeling problems that can cause significant discontinuities and failures in the simulation results. How miscibility is developed, or not developed, for a three-phase displacement is not well-known. We developed a new three-phase multiple-mixing-cell method that gives a relatively easy and robust way to determine the pressure for miscibility or, more importantly, the pressure for highdisplacement efficiency. The procedure that moves fluid from cell to cell is robust because it is independent of phase labeling (i.e., vapor or liquid), has a robust way to provide good initial guesses for three-phase flash calculations, and is also not dependent on three-phase relative permeability (fractional flow). These three aspects give the mixing-cell approach significant advantages over the use of compositional simulation to estimate MMP or to understand miscibility development. One can integrate the approach with previously developed two-phase multiple-mixing-cell models because it uses the tie-line lengths from the boundaries of tie triangles to recognize when the MMP or pressure for high-displacement efficiency is obtained. Application of the mixing-cell algorithm shows that, unlike most two-phase displacements, the dispersion-free MMP may not exist for three-phase displacements, but rather a pressure is reached in which the dispersionfree displacement efficiency is maximized. The authors believe that this is the first paper to examine a multiple-mixing-cell model in which two- and three-hydrocarbon phases occur and to calculate the MMP and/or pressure required for high displacement efficiency for such systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1339-1349
Number of pages11
JournalSPE Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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