Dr. Barrufet was the Dean Fellow for Innovation in Distance Learning (2012-2013), Baker Hughes Endowed Chair of Petroleum Engineering, Adjunct Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Director of Distance Learning Program Petroleum Engineering. Her research activities are mainly focused in the area of Reservoir Simulation and Modeling; hydrocarbon characterization methods; development of multiphase equilibria Equations of State (EOS); Enhanced Oil Recovery; Thermodynamics; and transport phenomena applied to chemical, miscible and thermal recovery processes. She has received numerous awards and has served as consultant for both national and global energy corporations since 1988.
Reservoir and Surface Facilities Coupling Through a Fully-Implicit Approach Honoring Consistency, Accuracy, and Stability
This aspect of our research program focuses on the development of an integrated reservoir-network facilities simulator using an Equation of State with a fully-implicit formulation model. Rigorous mathematical coupling allows comprehensive modeling of the entire production system, providing improved forecasts that account for the impact of separator conditions, choke size, inline equipment, and interaction between wells on the surface network, among other variables, on production. Computational performance and accuracy of solutions are improved by applying a lumping/de-lumping schemes for the fluid characterization in reservoir and in productions systems.
Most software packages currently use externally coupled workflows. Although this method has the advantage of using the framework of existing simulators (for both reservoir and production network), the explicit nature of the connection often leads to instability, oscillations, and possible material balance errors. The fully-implicit coupling approach developed hereby overcomes these limitations by solving reservoir and network components combined into a single system of equations, ensures stable solutions, fast convergence, and conservation of mass.
Results from this tool allow assessing the impact of coupled simulation on key performance parameters and quantifies the effect of integrating subsurface and surface for properly designing operations and optimizing asset management strategies.
Multi-scale/Multi-physics reservoir simulation combining fluid flow and heat transfer
This project focuses on developing a comprehensive multi-scale and multi-physics reservoir simulator incorporating fluid flow and heat transfer for thermal recovery processes with a rigorous description of the fluid system using a thermodynamic Equation of State (usually referred a compositional approach). Modeling complex transport phenomena in the reservoir often require detailed discretization of the simulation grid, resulting in high computational requirements or loss of resolution due to upscaling procedures. The proposed approach is based on splitting the calculations across multiple scales to capture the physical behavior of each domain (nano, micro, and macro) accordingly. Solutions are computed regionally and coupled to capture the small scale effect on the large scale, avoiding the computation cost of solving the system using only the small scale features. The use of multi-scale simulation would allow full-field modeling of complex processes while reducing the computational requirements compared to conventional reservoir simulation.
Improved Hydrocarbon Recovery by CO2 /Polymer Injection
The impact in sweep efficiency and oil recovery of the addition of polymers to the water during WAG (water-alternating-gas) CO2 EOR in medium crude oil reservoirs is investigated from an experimental stand point. Core flooding tests in homogeneous outcrops cores and in heterogeneous actual reservoir cores are used to compare the performance of continuous CO2 injection, WAG and polymer aided WAG. The long term stability of commonly used EOR polymers in the presence of CO2 is investigated by monitoring their viscosity retention over time when aged at reservoir temperature. This research can potentially lead to improvements in sweep efficiency of CO2 injection, the most applied EOR scheme in the United States, resulting in incremental oil recovery and consequent addition of crude oil reserves.
Two-Phase Flow in Annular Spaces: Modeling and Experimental
There exists a vast literature on gas-liquid flow in open pipes; however, only a limited amount of work has been done on two-phase flow in annular spaces. Having that in mind and the importance of the annular geometry in the oil industry, we intend to create correlations between field and laboratory experiments by using a mixture of tap water and compressed air in a 130-feet, vertical flow loop composed of a 5-1/2 in. outer-pipe and a 2-3/8 in. inner-pipe. Thus, our goal is to phenomenologically characterize gas-liquid flow in annular space, investigating possible causes of common field problems, like the unexpected periodic formation of liquid slugs in the annulus. We also expect to assess potential effects of eccentricity of the inner pipe and test ramp-up sequences to try to mimic possible subsequent accumulation of liquid in the annulus. This work will contribute to advances in the understanding of gas-liquid flow phenomena observed in the field, both in wells and in risers, when localized liquid flow reversal and/or accumulation may lead to gas production impairments. This work also sheds some light on how to best operate wells and facilities, and particularly on how to manage production ramp-ups.
An Integrated Approach for Incorporating Thermal Membrane Distillation in Treating Water in Heavy Oil Recovery using SAGD
The production of heavy oil and bitumen requires unconventional methods. One such approach is the steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). This technology has key advantages but is characterized with substantial levels of water consumption and discharge. Therefore, there is a need for effective water treatment and reuse methods in SAGD. This research examines the use of an emerging technology: thermal membrane distillation (TMD) as an integral part of water treatment for SAGD. Synergistic effects are exploited from heat and mass integration of SAGD and TMD. Specifically, the hot produced water and blowdown water are evaluated for treatment using TMD because of their thermal content and because of the need for high levels of purity which can be achieved by TMD. Several design configurations and scenarios are proposed and evaluated to assess the technical and economic viability of including TMD as an element in water-management systems for SAGD. This concept can be extended to treat other waste water products from oilfield processes including hydraulic fracturing and produced water from mature fields.