Phase Behavior Studies of Two Model Surfactant Systems
- William J. Benton (Carnegie-Mellon U.) | Natoli John (Carnegie-Mellon U.) | Syed Qutubuddin (Carnegie-Mellon U.) | Surajit Mukherjee (Carnegie-Mellon U.) | Clarence M. Miller (Carnegie-Mellon U.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Society of Petroleum Engineers Journal
- Publication Date
- February 1982
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 53 - 60
- 1982. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 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
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William J. Benton, Carnegie-Mellon U. John Natoli, Carnegie-Mellon U. Qutubuddin, Syed SPE, Carnegie-Mellon U. Mukherjee, Surajit, Carnegie-Mellon U. Miller, Clarence M., SPE, Carnegie-Mellon U. Fort Jr., Tomlinson, Carnegie-Mellon U.
Phase behavior studies were carried out for two systems containing pure surfactants but exhibiting behavior similar to that of commercial petroleum sulfonates. One system contained the isomerically pure surfactant sodium-8-phenyl-n-hexadecyl-n-sulfonate (Texas 1). The other contained sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Additional components used in both systems were various pure short-chain alcohols, NaCl brine and n-decane. Aqueous solutions containing surfactant, cosurfactant, and NaCl were studied over a wide range of compositions with polarizing and modulation contrast microscopy, as well as the polarized light screening technique. Viscosity measurements were conducted on selected scans of the Texas 1 system. Maxima and minima of the scans were correlated with textural changes observed with microscopy. The aqueous solutions were contacted with equal volumes of n-decane, and phase behavior and interfacial tensions were determined. The middle microemulsion phase was found to be oil continuous close to the upper phase boundary and water continuous close to the lower phase boundary. Both the Texas 1 and SDS systems showed similar behavior in that the middle microemulsion phase was observed over the entire range of surfactant concentrations studied.
Surfactant systems usually consisting of petroleum sulfonate, an alcohol, salt, and water have been used for enhanced oil recovery. Various parameters important to oil recovery by surfactant flooding, such as interfacial tension and viscosity, are related strongly to the phase behavior of the microemulsion systems. The relationship of ultralow interfacial tensions to phase separation has been treated in our laboratory. The recovery of petroleum from laboratory cores and field tests appears to be related directly to phase behavior. It is important to understand phase behavior to identify the mechanisms involved and improve the efficiency of the oil-recovery process. The physicochemical aspects of the phase behavior of microemulsion systems containing commercial petroleum sulfonates as surfactants have been well documented by Healy and Reed and others. However, the systems studied were not pure, and the commercial surfactants sometimes contained as much as 40% inactive ingredients. There is a need to develop model microemulsion systems using pure components. Such systems would provide an experimental platform for verifying or interpreting the implications of any model for the phase behavior of multicomponent microemulsion systems and also allow the behavior of commercial systems to be predicted and understood. The objective of our work has been to fulfill these needs. Microemulsions have been classified as lower phase (l), upper phase (u), or middle phase (m) in equilibrium with excess oil, excess brine, or both excess oil and brine, respectively. Transitions among these phases have been studied as functions of salinity, alcohol concentration, temperature, etc. The middle-phase microemulsion is particularly significant because microemulsion/excess brine and microemulsion/excess oil tensions can be ultralow simultaneously. The concept of an optimal parameter as proposed originally by Reed and Healy when equal amounts of oil and brine are solubilized in the middle phase has been followed in this paper. We have shown earlier that the structure of petroleum sulfonate solutions exhibits a general pattern of variation with salinity.
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