Scientific Computation and Applied & Industrial Mathematics: Margot Gerritsen

  • Date: 01/15/2013
  • Time: 12:30
Margot Gerritsen, Stanford University

University of British Columbia


A computational mathematician combusts - simulation of in-situ combustion for heavy oil recovery


Large-scale production of very heavy oil is gaining momentum. Unfortunately, production of such reservoirs typically leads to large environmental impacts. One promising technique that may mitigate these impacts is in-situ combustion (ISC). In this process, (enriched) air is injected into the reservoir. After ignition a combustion front develops in situ that burns a small percentage of the oil in place and slowly moves through the reservoir producing steam along the way. The steam moves ahead of the front, heats up the oil, makes it runnier and hence easier to produce. A side benefit of this process is that the heat thus generated often cracks the oil into heavy, undesirable components that stay behind in the reservoir and lighter, more valuable components that can be brought up to the surface. In the last few years, my colleagues and I plunged into heavy oil recovery to see if computational mathematics could make a difference in pushing this process over less environmentally friendly processes in the industry. ISC processes are notoriously hard to predict. We developed a workflow involving laboratory experiments, various simulation tools and upscaling methods that increases the confidence of the oil reservoir engineer in ISC. We hope that this will lead to a wider acceptance and use of this technique.

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Location: ESB 4133