Wettability Alteration of Carbonates with Seawater and Higher Salinity Brines Explored Using a 3D Micromodel

Ro, Grecia (Stanford)



We provide experimental evidence of wettability alteration using seawater salinity brine of an oil-wet system composed of a three-dimensional carbonate micromodel, crude oil, and connate-water brine salinity. We designed this procedure as a first step for evaluation of using seawater as an Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) agent. Our innovative design combines two main experimental best practices: micromodels, for repeatable experiments and X-ray computed tomography (CT) as a non-invasive technique for monitoring in situ fluid distribution. Both practices merge into a new three-dimensional micromodel set-up that uses only reservoir species (no high x-ray contrast chemicals).

Wettability alteration plays a key role to improve oil recovery from matrix blocks surrounded by water-invaded fractures in carbonate reservoir rocks. We designed a simple and replicable experimental apparatus and procedure to quantify contact angle distributions inside of porous media with a controlled level of heterogeneity in roughness and mineralogy. This experiment consists of visualizing the in-situ contact angle distribution of the aqueous phase inside a three-dimensional carbonate micromodel. Using Micro Computerized Tomography (MicroCT), we obtained three-dimensional images of fluid distribution with a voxel size of 3.8 microns.

We successfully studied the wettability state after connate water displacement and we also altered wettability of the carbonate porous medium from more oil wet to less water wet conditions. The water contact angle of the ganglia showed a 70% reduction in contact angle from an oil-wet to a water-wet system using an approximate seawater salinity and a 63% reduction in contact angle in the case of a full synthetic seawater. The initial average contact angles were 140° and 142° for the two solutions, respectively. After EOR seawater flooding, the average contact angle declined to 44° and 51°, respectively.