A New Approach to Polymer Flooding: Effects of Early Polymer Injection and Wettability on Final Oil Recovery

Juárez-Morejón, Jose L. (University of Bordeaux) | Bertin, Henri (University of Bordeaux) | Omari, Aziz (University of Bordeaux) | Hamon, Gerald (Total) | Cottin, Christophe (Total) | Morel, Danielle (Total) | Romero, Carolina (Total) | Bourdarot, Gilles (Total)



An experimental study of polymer flooding is presented here, focusing on the influence of initial core wettability and flood maturity (volume of water injected before polymer injection) on final oil recovery. Experiments were performed using homogeneous Bentheimer Sandstone samples of similar properties. The cores were oilflooded using mineral oil for water-wet conditions and crude oil (after an aging period) for intermediate-wet conditions; the viscosity ratio between oil and polymer was kept constant in all experiments. Polymer, which is a partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM), was used at a concentration of 2,500 ppm in a moderate-salinity brine. The polymer solution was injected in the core at different waterflood-maturity times [breakthrough (BT) and 0, 1, 1.75, 2.5, 4, and 6.5 pore volumes (PV)].

Coreflood results show that the maturity of polymer injection plays an important role in final oil recovery, regardless of wettability. The waterflood-maturity time 0 PV (polymer injection without initial waterflooding) leads to the best sweep efficiency, whereas final oil production decreases when the polymer-flood maturity is high (late polymer injection after waterflooding). A difference of 15% in recovery is observed between early polymer flooding (0 PV) and late maturity (6.5 PV). Concerning the effect of wettability, the recovery factor obtained with water-wet cores is always lower (from 10 to 20%, depending on maturity) than the values obtained with intermediate-wet cores, raising the importance of correctly restoring core wettability to obtain representative values of polymer incremental recovery. The influence of wettability can be explained by the oil-phase distribution at the pore scale. Considering that the waterflooding period leads to different values of the oil saturation at which polymer flooding starts, we measured the core dispersivity using a tracer method at different states. The two-phase dispersivity decreases when water saturation increases, which is favorable for polymer sweep.

This study shows that in addition to wettability, the maturity of polymer flooding plays a dominant role in oil-displacement efficiency. Final recovery is correlated to the dispersion value at which polymer flooding starts. The highest oil recovery is obtained when the polymer is injected early.