Novel Application of Cationic Surfactants for Foams With Wettability Alteration in Oil-Wet Low-Permeability Carbonate Rocks

Ghosh, Pinaki (University of Texas at Austin) | Mohanty, Kishore K. (University of Texas at Austin)

OnePetro 

Summary

Carbonate rocks are typically heterogeneous at many scales, leading to low waterflood recoveries. Polymers and gels cannot be injected into nonfractured low-permeability carbonates (k < 10 md) because pore throats are smaller than the polymers. Foams have the potential to improve both oil-displacement efficiency and sweep efficiency in such carbonate rocks. However, foams have to overcome two adverse conditions in carbonates: oil-wettability and low permeability. This study evaluates several cationic-foam formulations that combine wettability alteration and foaming in low-permeability oil-wet carbonate cores. Contact-angle experiments were performed on initially oil-wet media to evaluate the wettability-altering capabilities of the surfactant formulations. Static foam-stability tests were conducted to evaluate their foaming performance in bulk; foam-flow experiments (without crude oil) were performed in porous media to estimate the foam strength. Finally, oil-displacement experiments were performed with a crude oil after a secondary gasflood. Two different injection strategies were studied in this work: surfactant slug followed by gas injection and coinjection of surfactant with gas at a constant foam quality. Systematic study of oil-displacement experiments in porous media showed the importance of wettability alteration in increasing tertiary oil recovery for oil-wet media. Several blends of cationic, nonionic, and zwitterionic surfactants were used in the experiments. In-house-developed Gemini cationic surfactant GC 580 was able to alter the wettability from oil-wet to water-wet and also formed strong bulk foam. Static foam tests showed an increase in bulk foam stability with the addition of zwitterionic surfactants to GC 580. Oil-displacement experiments in oil-wet carbonate cores revealed that tertiary oil recovery with injection of a wettability-altering surfactant and foam can recover a significant amount of oil [approximately 25 to 52% original oil in place (OOIP)] over the secondary gasflood. The foam rheology in the presence of oil suggested propagation of only weak foam in oil-wet low-permeability carbonate cores.