Effect of Nanoparticles on Oil-Water Flow in a Confined Nanochannel: a Molecular Dynamics Study

Wu, Jianyang (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)) | He, Jianying (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)) | Torsater, Ole (NTNU) | Zhang, Zhiliang (NTNU)


Nanotechnology has contributed to the technological advances in various industries, such as medicine, electronics, biomaterials and renewable energy production over the last decade. Recently, a renewed interest arises in the application of nanotechnology for the upstream petroleum industry; such as exploration, drilling, production and distribution. In particular, adding nanoparticles to fluids may drastically benefit enhanced oil recovery and improve well drilling, such as changing the properties of the fluid, wettability alternation of rocks, advanced drag reduction, strengthening sand consolidation, reducing the interfacial tension and increasing the mobility of the capillary-trapped oil. In this study, we focus on the fundamental understanding of the role of nanoparticles on the oil-water binary mixture in a confined nanochannel. A series of computational experiments of oil-water-nanoparticle flow behaviour in confined clay nanochannels are carried out by molecular dynamics simulations. Three sizes of nanochannels and different numbers of nanoparticles are considered. The results show that the pressure to drive the oil-water binary mixture through a periodic confined channel increases dramatically with the reduction of the channel size. In the absence of nanoparticles the pressure increases with the propelled displacement. Interestingly, an opposite behavior is observed in the oil-water system mixed with a small amount of nanoparticles: the pressure decreases with the increase of the displacement. The findings from molecular dynamics simulations may elucidate the role of nanoparticles on the transport of oil in nanoscale porous media, although the exact mechanisms remain to be further explored.