ACS Omega. 2023 Jul 25;8(31):28060-28079. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.2c08059. eCollection 2023 Aug 8.
In situ combustion (ISC) is one of the oldest thermal enhanced oil recovery methods to have been applied in Venezuela to increase the production of highly viscous crude oils, with a first field application in 1959 in the Tia Juana Field-Lake Maracaibo Basin. This method, which is characterized by high energy efficiency, consists of injecting air into the reservoir where exothermic oxidation reactions initiate to increase the mobility of the oil. Compared to other thermal enhanced oil recovery methods such as steam injection, ISC has a lower environmental impact in terms of water and fuel consumption, and emission of gases as the produced gases can be reinjected or stored. Several ISC projects have been carried out in Venezuela in Tia Juana, Morichal, Miga, and Melones fields. Although the technical results have been satisfactory in terms of viscosity reduction and improved crude oil properties (such as °API), other important aspects of project evaluations have not been convincing due to the following factors: high temperatures in producing wells, acid gases management, generation of complex emulsions, corrosion, and high CAPEX and OPEX costs. Nevertheless, additional research work has been conducted on process optimization, using catalysts and hydrogen donors, to better address these other factors. Due to the great need to increase hydrocarbon production in Venezuela and to the advantages of ISC as an upgrading technique where low-carbon fuels and hydrogen as byproducts are generated, this paper presents a revisit of ISC projects in Venezuela from R&D technical aspects to field applications. It seeks to identify the main insights regarding the success and failure of the evaluated projects and make substantiated recommendations in the case of future applications of this technology.