Hydrocarbon baildown tests involve the rapid removal of floating hydrocarbon from an observation or production well, followed by monitoring the rate of recovery of both the oil/air and oil/water interfaces. This test has been used erroneously for several years to calculate the “true thickness” of hydrocarbon in the adjacent formation. More recent analysis of hydrocarbon distribution by Farr et al. (1990), Lenhard and Parker (1990), Huntley et al. (1994), and others have shown that, under vertical equilibrium conditions, there is no thickness exaggeration of hydrocarbon in a monitoring well, though there is a significant volume exaggeration. This body of work can be used to demonstrate that the calculation of a “true hydrocarbon thickness” using a baildown test has no basis in theory. The same body of work, however, also demonstrates that hydrocarbon saturations are typically much less than one, and are often below 0.5. Because the relative permeability decreases as hydrocarbon saturation decreases, the effective conductivity and mobility of the hydrocarbon is much less than that of water, even ignoring the effects of increased viscosity and decreased density.

It is important to evaluate this decreased mobility of hydrocarbon due to partial pore saturation, as it has substantial impacts on both risk and remediation. This paper presents two analytic approaches to the analysis of hydrocarbon baildown test results to determine hydrocarbon transmissivity. The first approach is based on a modification of the Bouwer and Rice (1976) analysis of slug withdrawal test data. The second approach is based on a modification of Jacob and Lohman's (1952) constant drawdown—variable discharge aquifer test approach. The first approach can be applied only when the effective water transmissivity across the screened interval to water is much greater than the effective hydrocarbon transmissivity. When this condition is met, the two approaches give effectively identical results.