Reservoir simulation
Reservoir simulation is an area of reservoir engineering
Reservoir engineering
Reservoir engineering is a branch of petroleum engineering that applies scientific principles to the drainage problems arising during the development and production of oil and gas reservoirs so as to obtain a high economic recovery....

 in which computer models are used to predict the flow of fluids (typically, oil, water, and gas) through porous media.


Reservoir simulation models are used by oil and gas companies in the development of new fields. Also, models are used in developed fields where production forecasts are needed to help make investment decisions. As building and maintaining a robust, reliable model of a field is often time-consuming and expensive, models are typically only constructed where large investment decisions are at stake. Improvements in simulation software have lowered the time to develop a model. Also, models can be run on personal computers rather than more expensive workstations.

For new fields, models may help development by identifying the number of wells required, the optimal completion of wells, the present and future needs for artificial lift, and the expected production of oil, water and gas.

For ongoing reservoir management, models may help in improved oil recovery by hydraulic fracturing. Highly deviated or horizontal wells can also be represented. Specialized software may be used in the design of hydraulic fracturing, then the improvements in productivity can be included in the field model. Also, future improvement in oil recovery with pressure maintenance by re-injection of produced gas or by water injection into an aquifer can be evaluated. Water flooding resulting in the improved displacement of oil is commonly evaluated using reservoir simulation.

The application of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes requires that the field possesses the necessary characteristics to make application successful. Model studies can assist in this evaluation. EOR processes include miscible displacement by natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, , or nitrogen and chemical flooding (polymer, alkaline, surfactant, or a combination of these). Special features in simulation software is needed to represent these processes. In some miscible applications, the "smearing" of the flood front, also called numerical dispersion, may be a problem.

Reservoir simulation is used extensively to identify opportunities to increase oil production in heavy oil deposits. Oil recovery is improved by lowering the oil viscosity by injecting steam or hot water. Typical processes are steam soaks (steam is injected, then oil produced from the same well) and steam flooding (separate steam injectors and oil producers). These processes require simulators with special features to account for heat transfer to the fluids present and the formation, the subsequent property changes and heat losses outside of the formation.

A recent application of reservoir simulation is the modeling of coalbed methane
Coalbed methane
Coalbed methane or Coal Bed Methane, coalbed gas or coal mine methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds. In recent decades it has become an important source of energy in United States, Canada, and other countries...

 (CBM) production. This application requires a specialized CBM simulator. In addition to the normal fractured (fissured) formation data, CBM simulation requires gas content data values at initial pressure, sorption isotherms, diffusion coefficient, and parameters to estimate the changes in absolute permeability as a function of pore-pressure depletion and gas desorption.


Traditional finite difference
Finite difference
A finite difference is a mathematical expression of the form f − f. If a finite difference is divided by b − a, one gets a difference quotient...

 simulators dominate both theoretical and practical work in reservoir simulation. Conventional FD simulation is underpinned by three physical concepts: conservation of mass
Conservation of mass
The law of conservation of mass, also known as the principle of mass/matter conservation, states that the mass of an isolated system will remain constant over time...

, isothermal fluid phase behavior, and the Darcy
A darcy and millidarcy are units of permeability, named after Henry Darcy. They are not SI units, but they are widely used in petroleum engineering and geology. Like other measures of permeability, a darcy has the same units as area.-Definition:Permeability measures the ability of fluids to...

 approximation of fluid flow through porous media. Thermal simulators (most commonly used for heavy oil
Heavy oil
Heavy oil may refer to:*Fuel oil that contains residual oil left over from distillation.*Heavy crude oil, viscous crude oil.*Coal tar creosote, a wood preservative and waterproofing agent....

 applications) add conservation of energy
Conservation of energy
The nineteenth century law of conservation of energy is a law of physics. It states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant over time. The total energy is said to be conserved over time...

 to this list, allowing temperatures to change within the reservoir.

Numerical techniques and approaches that are common in modern simulators:
  • Most modern FD simulation programs allow for construction of 3-D representations for use in either full-field or single-well models. 2-D approximations are also used in various conceptual models, such as cross-sections and 2-D radial grid models.
  • Theoretically, finite difference models permit discretization of the reservoir using both structured and more complex unstructured grids to accurately represent the geometry of the reservoir. Local grid refinements (a finer grid embedded inside of a coarse grid) are also a feature provided by many simulators to more accurately represent the near wellbore multi-phase flow affects. This "refined meshing" near wellbores is extremely important when analysing issues such as water and gas coning in reservoirs.
  • Representation of faults and their transmissibilities are advanced features provided in many simulators. In these models, inter-cell flow transmissibilities must be computed for non-adjacent layers outside of conventional neighbor-to-neighbor connections.
  • Natural fracture simulation (known as dual-porosity and dual-permeability) is an advanced feature which model hydrocarbons in tight matrix blocks. Flow occurs from the tight matrix blocks to the more permeable fracture networks that surround the blocks, and to the wells.
  • A black oil
    Black-oil equations
    The black-oil equations are a set of partial differential equations that describe fluid flow in a petroleum reservoir, constituting the mathematical framework for a black-oil reservoir simulator....

     simulator does not consider changes in composition of the hydrocarbons as the field is produced. The compositional model, is a more complex model, where the PVT properties of oil and gas phases have been fitted to an equation of state
    Equation of state
    In physics and thermodynamics, an equation of state is a relation between state variables. More specifically, an equation of state is a thermodynamic equation describing the state of matter under a given set of physical conditions...

     (EOS), as a mixture of components. The simulator then uses the fitted EOS equation to dynamically track the movement of both phases and components in field.

The simulation model computes the saturation change of three phases (oil, water and gas)and pressure of each phase in each cell at each time step. As a result of declining pressure as in a reservoir depletion study, gas will be liberated from the oil. If pressures increase as a result of water or gas injection, the gas is re-dissolved into the oil phase.

A simulation project of a developed field, usually requires "history matching" where historical field production and pressures are compared to calculated values. In recent years optimisation tools such as MEPO has helped to accelerate this process, as well as improve the quality of the match obtained. The model's parameters are adjusted until a reasonable match is achieved on a field basis and usually for all wells. Commonly, producing water cuts or water-oil ratios and gas-oil ratios are matched.

Other types of simulators include finite element and streamline
Streamline may refer to:* Streamlines, streaklines, and pathlines, in fluid flows* Streamline Airlines** Streamliner, any vehicle shaped to be less resistant to air...


Other engineering approaches

Without FD models, recovery estimates and oil rates can also be calculated using numerous analytical techniques which include material balance equations (including Havlena-Odeh and Tarner method), fractional flow curve methods (1-D displacement by Buckley-Leverett, Deitz method for inclined structures, coning models), sweep efficiency estimation techniques for water floods and decline curve analysis. These methods were developed and used prior to traditional or "conventional" simulations tools as computationally inexpensive models based on simple homogeneous reservoir description. Analytical methods generally cannot capture all the details of the given reservoir or process, but are typically numerically fast and at times, sufficiently reliable. In modern reservoir engineering, they are generally used as screening or preliminary evaluation tools. Analytical methods are especially suitable for potential assets evaluation when the data are limited and the time is critical, or for broad studies as a pre-screening tool if a large number of processes and / or technologies are to be evaluated. The analytical methods are often developed and promoted in the academia or in-house, however commercial packages also exist.

See also

  • Black-oil equations
    Black-oil equations
    The black-oil equations are a set of partial differential equations that describe fluid flow in a petroleum reservoir, constituting the mathematical framework for a black-oil reservoir simulator....

  • Reservoir modeling
    Reservoir modeling
    In the oil and gas industry, reservoir modeling involves the construction of a computer model of a petroleum reservoir, for the purposes of improving estimation of reserves and making decisions regarding the development of the field....

  • Geologic modeling
  • Petroleum engineering
    Petroleum engineering
    Petroleum engineering is an engineering discipline concerned with the activities related to the production of hydrocarbons, which can be either crude oil or natural gas. Subsurface activities are deemed to fall within the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry, which are the activities of...

  • Computer simulation
    Computer simulation
    A computer simulation, a computer model, or a computational model is a computer program, or network of computers, that attempts to simulate an abstract model of a particular system...

  • Seismic to Simulation
    Seismic to simulation
    Seismic to Simulation is the process and associated techniques used to develop highly accurate static and dynamic 3D models of hydrocarbon reservoirs for use in predicting future production, placing additional wells, and evaluating alternative reservoir management scenarios...

Open Source Reservoir Simulators (If you know others, please add to the list!)
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