An Experimental Investigation of Polymer Mechanical Degradation at the Centimeter and Meter Scale

Asen, Siv Marie (UIS, IRIS, and The National IOR Centre of Norway) | Stavland, Arne (IRIS) | Strand, Daniel (IRIS) | Hiorth, Aksel (UIS, IRIS, and The National IOR Centre of Norway)

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Siv Marie Åsen, UiS, IRIS, and The National IOR Centre of Norway; Arne Stavland and Daniel Strand, IRIS; and Aksel Hiorth, UiS, IRIS, and The National IOR Centre of Norway Summary In this work, we examine the common understanding that mechanical degradation of polymers takes place at the rock surface or within the first few millimeters of the rock. The effect of core length on mechanical degradation of synthetic enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) polymers was investigated. We constructed a novel experimental setup for studying mechanical degradation at different flow velocities as a function of distances traveled. The setup enabled us to evaluate degradation in serial mounted core segments of 3, 5, 8, and 13 cm individually or combined. By recycling, we could also evaluate degradation at effective distances up to 20 m. Experiments were performed with two different polymers [high-molecular-weight (MW) hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) and low-MW acrylamide tertiary butyl sulfonic acid (ATBS)] in two different brines [0.5% NaCl and synthetic seawater (SSW)]. In the linear flow at high shear rates, we observed a decline in degradation rate with distance traveled. Even after 20 m, some degradation occurred. However, the observed degradation was associated with high pressure gradients of 100 bar/m, which at field scale is not realistic. It is possible that oxidative degradation played a significant role during our experiments, where the polymer was cycled many times through a core.