Interfacial Viscoelasticity of Crude Oil/Brine: An Alternative Enhanced-Oil-Recovery Mechanism in Smart Waterflooding
- Mehrnoosh M. Bidhendi (University of Wyoming (now with NALCO Champion, an Ecolab company)) | Griselda Garcia-Olvera (University of Wyoming (now with PEMEX)) | Brendon Morin (University of Wyoming) | John S. Oakey (University of Wyoming) | Vladimir Alvarado (University of Wyoming)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Journal
- Publication Date
- June 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 803 - 818
- 2018.Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Interfacial Rheology, Smart Waterflooding, EOR, Low Salinity Waterflooding
- 6 in the last 30 days
- 446 since 2007
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Injection of water with a designed chemistry has been proposed as a novel enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) method, commonly referred to as low-salinity (LS) or smart waterflooding, among other labels. The multiple names encompass a family of EOR methods that rely on modifying injection-water chemistry to increase oil recovery. Despite successful laboratory experiments and field trials, underlying EOR mechanisms remain controversial and poorly understood. At present, the vast majority of the proposed mechanisms rely on rock/fluid interactions. In this work, we propose an alternative fluid/fluid interaction mechanism (i.e., an increase in crude-oil/water interfacial viscoelasticity upon injection of designed brine as a suppressor of oil trapping by snap-off). A crude oil from Wyoming was selected for its known interfacial responsiveness to water chemistry. Brines were prepared with analytic-grade salts to test the effect of specific anions and cations. The brines’ ionic strengths were modified by dilution with deionized water to the desired salinity. A battery of experiments was performed to show a link between dynamic interfacial viscoelasticity and recovery. Experiments include double-wall ring interfacial rheometry, direct visualization on microfluidic devices, and coreflooding experiments in Berea sandstone cores. Interfacial rheological results show that interfacial viscoelasticity generally increases as brine salinity is decreased, regardless of which cations and anions are present in brine. However, the rate of elasticity buildup and the plateau value depend on specific ions available in solution. Snap-off analysis in a microfluidic device, consisting of a flow-focusing geometry, demonstrates that increased viscoelasticity suppresses interfacial pinch-off, and sustains a more continuous oil phase. This effect was examined in coreflooding experiments with sodium sulfate brines. Corefloods were designed to limit wettability alteration by maintaining a low temperature (25C) and short aging times. Geochemical analysis provided information on in-situ water chemistry. Oil-recovery and pressure responses were shown to directly correlate with interfacial elasticity [i.e., recovery factor (RF) is consistently greater the larger the induced interfacial viscoelasticity for the system examined in this paper]. Our results demonstrate that a largely overlooked interfacial effect of engineered waterflooding can serve as an alternative and more complete explanation of LS or engineered waterflooding recovery. This new mechanism offers a direction to design water chemistry for optimized waterflooding recovery in engineered water-chemistry processes, and opens a new route to design EOR methods.
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