Nanoparticle Stabilized Carbon Dioxide in Water Foams for Enhanced Oil Recovery

Worthen, Andrew (U. of Texas at Austin) | Bagaria, Hitesh (University Of Texas At Austin) | Chen, Yunshen (U Of Texas At Austin) | Bryant, Steven Lawrence (U Of Texas At Austin) | Huh, Chun (U. of Texas at Austin) | Johnston, Keith P. (U Of Texas At Austin)


Viscous C/W foams were generated without the use of polymers or surfactants by shearing CO2 and an aqueous phase containing partially hydrophobic silica nanoparticles in a beadpack filled with 180µm glass beads. Silica particles with 50% SiOH coverage were chosen because they have a hydrophilicity that falls between the 42% SiOH optimum foaming ability for A/W foams (Binks and Horozov 2005) and the 67% SiOH which gave maximum O/W emulsion stability (Binks and Lumsdon 2000). These 50% SiOH silica nanoparticles were found to be interfacially active for CO2-water systems, and stabilized the desired curvature of C/W foams. When the HCB of the nanoparticles is tuned to give contact angles less than 90°, the particles reside primarily in the water phase and C/W foams can be formed. Formation of C/W emulsions stabilized solely with nanoparticles is desirable because it does not require solvation of surfactant tails or polymer chains by CO2. Interfacially active nanoparticles can adsorb at the CO2 water interface without the need for solvation in CO2.

Properly designed nanoparticles generated foams that were more stable than foams generated with polymer-coated nanoparticles or with the nonionic surfactant Tergitol™ 15-S-20 alone. Macroscopic observations showed foams generated solely with 50% SiOH nanoparticles stayed bright white and opaque over 23 hours, while foams generated with PEG-coated silica particles or with surfactant alone resolved nearly completely. Foams generated solely with Tergitol™ 15-S-20 were unstable because surfactant molecules dynamically enter and leave the interface and thus do not provide long-term stabilization. Foams generated with PEG-coated silica particles, though initially very viscous, showed poor long-term stability because of the small particle size and poor solvation of PEG chains in CO2. The larger 50% SiOH nanoparticles strongly adsorbed at the CO2-water interface and provided a barrier around the CO2 bubbles, resulting in very stable foams.