Improved Oil Recovery by Nanofluids Flooding: An Experimental Study

Torsater, Ole (Norwegian University of Science & Tech) | Engeset, Bjernar (Norwegian University of Science & Tech) | Hendraningrat, Luky (Norwegian U. of Science & Tech) | Suwarno, Suwarno (Norwegian U. of Science & Tech)


In a past decade, various nanoparticle experiments have been initiated for improved/enhanced oil recovery (IOR/EOR) project by worldwide petroleum researchers and it has been recognized as a promising agent for IOR/EOR at laboratory scale. A hydrophilic silica nanoparticle with average primary particle size of 7 nm was chosen for this study. Nanofluid was synthesized using synthetic reservoir brine. In this paper, experimental study has been performed to evaluate oil recovery using nanofluid injection onto several water-wet Berea sandstone core plugs.

Three injection schemes associated with nanofluid were performed: 1) nanofluid flooding as secondary recovery process, 2) brine flooding as tertiary recovery processs (following after nanofluid flooding at residual oil saturation), and 3) nanofluid flooding as tertiary recovery process. Interfacial tension (IFT) has been measured using spinning drop method between synthetic oil and brine/nanofluid. It observed that IFT decreased when nanoparticles were introduced to brine.
Compare with brine flooding as secondary recovery, nanofluid flooding almost reach 8% higher oil recovery (% of original oil in place/OOIP) onto Berea cores. The nanofluid also reduced residual oil saturation in the range of 2-13% of pore volume (PV) at core scale. In injection scheme 2, additional oil recovery from brine flooding only reached less than 1% of OOIP. As tertiary recovery, nanofluid flooding reached additional oil recovery of almost 2% of OOIP. The IFT reduction may become a part of recovery mechanism in our studies. The essential results from our experiments showed that nanofluid flooding have more potential in improving oil recovery as secondary recovery compared to tertiary recovery.

The oil and gas industry must face the challenges to unlock the resources that are becoming increasingly difficult to reach with conventional technology. Most oil fields around the world have achieved the stage where the total production rate is nearing the decline phase. Hence, the current major challenge is how to delay the abandonment by extracting more oil economically. The latest worldwide industries innovation trends in miniaturization and nanotechnology material. A nanoparticle, as a part of nanotechnology, has size typically less than 100 nm. Its size is much smaller than rock pore throat in micron size. A nanoparticle fluid suspension, so called nanofluid, is synthesized from nano-sized particles and dispersed in liquids such as water, oil or ethylene glycol.

Through continuously increasing of publication addressed on the topic, nanofluid has showed its potential as IOR/EOR in the past decade. It has motivated us to perform research study to reveal the recovery mechanism and performance of nanofluid in porous medium. We focus on liphopobic and hydrophilic silica nanoparticles (LHP). Miranda et al. (2012) has mentioned the benefit of using silica nanoparticles. It is inorganic material that easier produced with a good degree of control/modify of physical chemistry properties. It can also be easily surface functionalized from hydrophobic to hydrophilic by silanization with hydroxyl group or sulfonic acid. Ju et al. (2006) has initially observed LHP with size range 10-500 nm could improve oil recovery with around 9% (with LHP concentration 0.02 vol. %) compared with pure water. They explained that the recovery mechanism involves wettability alteration of reservoir rock due to adsorbed LHP. Besides, they also reported the porosity and permeability impairment of sandpacks during nanofluid flooding.