steamflood | Energy Glossary

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1. n. [Heavy Oil, Enhanced Oil Recovery, Well Completions]

A method of thermal recovery in which steam generated at surface is injected into the reservoir through specially distributed injection wells. When steam enters the reservoir, it heats up the crude oil and reduces its viscosity. The heat also distills light components of the crude oil, which condense in the oil bank ahead of the steam front, further reducing the oil viscosity. The hot water that condenses from the steam and the steam itself generate an artificial drive that sweeps oil toward producing wells. Another contributing factor that enhances oil production during steam injection is related to near-wellbore cleanup. In this case, steam reduces the interfacial tension that ties paraffins and asphaltenes to the rock surfaces while steam distillation of crude oil light ends creates a small solvent bank that can miscibly remove trapped oil. Steamflooding is also called continuous steam injection or steam drive.

See: cyclic steam injectionenhanced oil recoveryhot waterfloodingin-situ combustionparaffinsecondary recovery