It is now common knowledge among EOR practitioners that the combination of ferrous iron (Fe2+) and oxygen causes severe oxidative degradation to EOR polymers, resulting in a lowering of molecular weight and hence a loss of viscosity. During the design of polymer flooding projects, an important question is thus the acceptable levels of Fe2+ and dissolved oxygen that can be tolerated in injection water specifications. Furthermore, we would like to be able to predict the extent of degradation in the case of excess Fe2+ or oxygen ingress.
However, despite over fifty years of research and a general understanding of the degradation mechanism involved, quantitative prediction of the extent of degradation has proven elusive and dependent on the measurement protocol. This is likely due to the fastidious experimental protocols required to work under anaerobic or limited-oxygen conditions.
We examine existing protocols and demonstrate that experiments in which either Fe2+ or oxygen are the limiting reagent yield equivalent results when the stoechiometry of the Fe2+ oxidation reaction with oxygen is taken into account. Based upon these findings, a novel, easy approach is proposed to quantify polymer oxidative degradation as a function of either dissolved oxygen or Fe2+ content.
The limits of 225 ppb Fe2+ and 32 ppb dissolved oxygen are fixed for Flopaam 3630S in 6 g/l brine in the concentration range 500-1500ppm in order to ensure degradation of low-shear plateau viscosity does not exceed 10%. Higher levels will lead to severe polymer degradation. The influence of polymer concentration, temperature and salinity is also investigated. At last, evolution of redox potential and pH during Fe2+ oxidation are discussed.
There is a direct practical application of these finding for the design of surface facilities for polymer dissolution and transport and for the prediction of degradation in case of oxygen ingress. Moreover, a simple and easily performed protocol is proposed for the evaluation of polymer oxidative degradation.