Griffith, Nicholas (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin) | Ahmad, Yusra (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin) | Daigle, Hugh (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin) | Huh, Chun (Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin)
Interest in silica nanoparticle-stabilized emulsions, especially those employing low-cost natural gas liquids (NGLs), has increased due to recent developments suggesting their use leads to improved conformance control and increased sweep efficiencies. When compared to conventional emulsion- stabilizing materials such as surfactants, nanoparticles are an inexpensive and robust alternative, offering stability over a wider range of temperature and salinity, while reducing environmental impact.
Oil-in-water emulsions with an aqueous nanoparticle phase and either a pentane or butane oil phase at a 1:1 volume ratio were generated at varying salinities for the observations of several emulsion characteristics. The effects of salinity on the stability of silica nanoparticle dispersions and NGL emulsions were observed. Increasing the salinity of the aqueous nanoparticle phase resulted in an increase in effective nanoparticle size due to increased nanoparticle aggregation. Rheology tests and estimates of emulsion droplet sizes were performed. Shear-thinning behavior was observed for all emulsions. Furthermore, overall emulsion viscosity increased with salinity. Nanoparticle-stabilized liquid butane-in-water emulsions were also generated with varying brine concentrations; however, no rheology or droplet size measurements were made due to the volatility of these emulsions.
Residual oil recovery coreflood experiments were conducted (using Boise Sandstone cores) with nanoparticle-stabilized pentane-in-water emulsions as injectant and light mineral oil as residual oil. A recovery of up to 82% residual oil was observed for these experiments. By continuously measuring the pressure drop across the core, a possible mechanism for enhanced oil recovery is proposed. Pentane emulsion coreflood tests indicated that at a slower injection rate, residual oil recovery increases. This contrasts viscous emulsion corefloods (mineral oil or Texaco white oil as the emulsion oil phase), where increasing the injection rate increases the residual oil recovery.