Critical Review of Foamy Oil Flow

James Sheng, B. B. Maini, R. E. Hayes, W. S. Tortike

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


'Foamy oil flow' is a term coined to describe a form of two-phase oil-gas flow that appears to occur during solution gas drive in some heavy oil reservoirs and does not fit the classical models of two-phase flow. Most of the evidence supporting the presence of this unusual flow mechanism is circumstantial and comes from attempts to explain much higher than expected well productivity and primary recovery factors in several heavy oil reservoirs. This paper is a review of the available literature on foamy oil flow in primary production of heavy oils under solution gas drive. The mechanisms operating in solution gas drive in heavy oil reservoirs are briefly discussed. The issues related to supersaturation in oil phase, bubble nucleation, critical gas saturation, and relative permeability are discussed. The possible role of rate processes related to the release of solution gas and the formation of a segregated gas phase is reviewed. The pore-scale mechanisms involved in creation and propagation of dispersed gas flow are discussed. Several published mathematical models of foamy solution gas drive are reviewed with focus on their limitations. The review shows that the theoretical and experimental investigations of foamy oil flow are still in early stages. Although the occurrence of foamy oil flow has been verified in laboratory experiments, its existence at the reservoir scale has not been confirmed. The theoretical understanding of the mechanisms underlying foamy oil flow remains poor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-187
JournalTransport in Porous Media
StatePublished - 1999


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