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Numerical simulations of the Macondo well blowout reveal strong control of oil flow by reservoir permeability and exsolution of gas
Oldenburg, C.M.; Freifeld, B.M.; Pruess, K.; Pan, L.; Finsterle, S.; Moridis, G.J. (2012). Numerical simulations of the Macondo well blowout reveal strong control of oil flow by reservoir permeability and exsolution of gas. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109(50): 20254-20259.
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The Academy: Washington, D.C.. ISSN 0027-8424, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Author keywords
    Gulf oil spill wellbore-reservoir coupling phase interference

Authors  Top 
  • Oldenburg, C.M.
  • Freifeld, B.M.
  • Pruess, K.
  • Pan, L.
  • Finsterle, S.
  • Moridis, G.J.

    In response to the urgent need for estimates of the oil and gas flow rate from the Macondo well MC252-1 blowout, we assembled a small team and carried out oil and gas flow simulations using the TOUGH2 codes over two weeks in mid-2010. The conceptual model included the oil reservoir and the well with a top boundary condition located at the bottom of the blowout preventer. We developed a fluid properties module (Eoil) applicable to a simple two-phase and two-component oil-gas system. The flow of oil and gas was simulated using T2Well, a coupled reservoir-wellbore flow model, along with iTOUGH2 for sensitivity analysis and uncertainty quantification. The most likely oil flow rate estimated from simulations based on the data available in early June 2010 was about 100,000 bbl/d (barrels per day) with a corresponding gas flow rate of 300 MMscf/d (million standard cubic feet per day) assuming the well was open to the reservoir over 30 m of thickness. A Monte Carlo analysis of reservoir and fluid properties provided an uncertainty distribution with a long tail extending down to 60,000 bbl/d of oil (170 MMscf/d of gas). The flow rate was most strongly sensitive to reservoir permeability. Conceptual model uncertainty was also significant, particularly with regard to the length of the well that was open to the reservoir. For fluid-entry interval length of 1.5 m, the oil flow rate was about 56,000 bbl/d. Sensitivity analyses showed that flow rate was not very sensitive to pressure-drop across the blowout preventer due to the interplay between gas exsolution and oil flow rate.

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