Optimum Formulation of Surfactant/Water/Oil Systems for Minimum Interfacial Tension or Phase Behavior
- J.L. Salager (U. of Texas) | J.C. Morgan (U. of Texas) | R.S. Schechter (U. of Texas) | W.H. Wade (U. of Texas) | E. Vasquez (U. of Texas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Society of Petroleum Engineers Journal
- Publication Date
- April 1979
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 107 - 115
- 1979. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.4.7 Chemical Flooding Methods (e.g., Polymer, Solvent, Nitrogen, Immiscible CO2, Surfactant, Vapex), 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 5.5.2 Core Analysis
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A screening test used to help select surfactant systems potentially effective for oil recovery is to identify those formulations that yield middle-phase microemulsions when mixed with sufficient quantities of oil and brine. A correlation is presented to link these variables regarding their presented to link these variables regarding their contributions to middle-phase formation: structure of the sulfonated surfactant, alkane carbon number (ACN), and alcohol type and concentration. WOR and temperature effects are introduced as correction terms added to the empirical correlation. Sets of variables that give middle-phase microemulsions are shown as identical to those defining the low tension state without observable middle phases. This generally occurs for low surfactant phases. This generally occurs for low surfactant concentrations.
Healy and Reed and Healy et al. have shown that the phase behavior of surfactant/brine/oil systems is a key factor in interpreting the performance of oil recovery by microemulsion performance of oil recovery by microemulsion processes. By systematically varying salinity, processes. By systematically varying salinity, they found low interfacial tensions and high solubilization of both oil and water in the microemulsion phase to occur in or near the salinity ranges giving phase to occur in or near the salinity ranges giving three phases. Since both low interfacial tensions and a high degree of solubilization are considered desirable for oil recovery, the conditions for three-phase formation assume added importance. Similar conclusions have been reported in other recent papers. Several investigators have considered the effect of different variables on the range of salinities for which three phases form. This optimum salinity (a more precise definition is given in a subsequent section) has been found to decrease with increasing surfactant molecular weight, and to increase with increasing chain length of the alcohol cosurfactant. Studies on the effect of alcohols by Jones and Dreher and Salter provided results similar to those reported by Hsieh and Shah. The interfacial tension at surfactant concentrations low enough so that a discernible third phase does not form has been the subject of considerable phase does not form has been the subject of considerable investigation regarding surfactant molecular weight and structure, oil ACN, salinity and surfactant concentration, and alcohol addition. A recent paper was a first attempt to tie together the low paper was a first attempt to tie together the low tension state observed at low surfactant concentrations and the three-phase region observed at higher surfactant concentrations. All indications point to an inextricable intertwining of phase point to an inextricable intertwining of phase behavior, surfactant partitioning, solubilization, and low tensions. This paper corroborates the equivalence of three-phase behavior and minimum tension as criteria for optimum formulation and presents a correlation that quantifies the trends presents a correlation that quantifies the trends observed previously.
Aqueous phases containing surfactant, electrolyte (NaCl), and alcohol were contacted with an oil phase by shaking and allowed to stand until phase phase by shaking and allowed to stand until phase volumes became time independent for 2 days. All concentrations are expressed in grams of chemical per cubic centimeter of aqueous phase (g/cm3) per cubic centimeter of aqueous phase (g/cm3) before contacting with the hydrocarbon phase. Unless otherwise noted, the oil phase represents 20% of the initial total volume. All measurements, unless otherwise noted, were conducted at room temperature (25 plus or minus 1 degrees C).
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