Microemulsion properties significantly impact any EOR process that relies on surfactants or soaps to generate ultralow interfacial tension to displace trapped oil. Unfavorable microemulsion viscosity can lead to high chemical retention, low oil recovery, and overall unfavorable performance across all modes. Controlling microemulsion properties is important in conventional approaches like surfactant-polymer (SP) and alkaline-surfactant-polymer (ASP) flooding, in addition to new applications like gravity stable displacements, spontaneous imbibition in fractured carbonates and unstable floods of viscous oil. Despite the central importance, microemulsion viscosity and rheology remain poorly understood.
This paper describes the results of an extensive experimental microemulsion study. We evaluated the effect of polymer on microemulsion viscosity in different microemulsion phase types (i.e. oil in water, bi-continuous, water in oil emulsions). We measured microemulsion viscosities across a broad salinity range for several crudes from light (API >30°) to heavy oils (API<14°) and observed Newtonian rheology for all phase types. The effect of cosolvents on microemulsion viscosity was also evaluated. Finally, we evaluated microemulsions with and without alkali to help understand potential differences between ASP and SP microemulsions.
We include many observations consistent with earlier literature using recently developed surfactants and report the microemulsion viscosity details for many high performance surfactant formulations across a wide range of conditions. We have also describe several observations, including polymer decreasing the required time to achieve equilibrium in microemulsion pipettes and the qualitative change in microemulsion behavior with and without polymer in Windsor Type III microemulsions.
In the case of surfactant EOR, an optimum formulation of surfactant has to be injected in the reservoir. This so-called optimum formulation corresponds to a minimum in the interfacial tension and a maximum in oil recovery and may be obtained with an appropriate balance of the hydrophobic and hydrophilic affinities of the surfactant. Salinity—scan tests are generally used to screen phase behavior of surfactant formulations before conducting time-consuming coreflood tests. The objective of this study was to develop a high-throughput dynamic microfluidic tensiometer, with the aim of studying interfacial phenomena between EOR injected formulations and crude oils and of optimizing chemical EOR processes for pilot or field applications.
We have selected a method based on the Rayleigh-Plateau instability and the analysis of the droplets to jetting transition in a coaxial flow of two fluids. In fact, in coaxial flows, the transition between a droplet and a jetting regime depends on the velocities of each phase, the viscosity ratio, the confinement and the interfacial tension (IFT). As the three first parameters are known, the dynamic interfacial tension can be calculated. This microfluidic device has been specifically designed to support high temperatures (up to 150°C), high pressures (up to 150 bars) and is compatible with complex fluids such as crude oils and solutions of surfactants and polymers.
The method was first developed and validated on a microfluidic device on model fluids at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure for IFTs higher than 1 mN/m. It was then successfully applied for the measurement of IFTs over more than four decades. Measurements were also performed with a crude oil and a typical surfactant formulation. The validation of the HP/HT assembly, which has been designed with the aim to work in reservoir conditions, is currently under progress. By using this tensiometer, it would be quite easy to perform in short time numerous salinity scans on real systems in order to get the evolution of IFT and determine the optimal salinity S*.
Li, Yuxiang (The University of Texas at Austin) | Lu, Jun (The University of Texas at Austin) | Churchwell, Lauren (The University of Texas at Austin) | Tagavifar, Mohsen (The University of Texas at Austin) | Weerasooriya, Upali (The University of Texas at Austin) | Pope, Gary A. (The University of Texas at Austin)
Primary and secondary oil recovery from naturally fractured carbonate reservoirs with an oil-wet matrix is very low. Enhanced oil recovery from these reservoirs using surfactants to alter the wettability and reduce the interfacial tension have been extensively studied for many years, but there are still many questions about the process mechanisms, surfactant selection and testing, experimental design and most importantly how to scale up the lab results to the field. We have conducted a series of imbibition experiments using cores with different vertical and horizontal dimensions to better understand how to scale up the process. There was a particular need to perform experiments with larger horizontal dimensions since almost all previous experiments have been done in cores with a small diameter, typically 3.8 cm. We adapted and modified the experimental method used for traditional static imbibition experiments by flushing out fluids surrounding the cores periodically to better estimate the oil recovery, including the significant amount of oil produced as an emulsion. We used microemulsion phase behavior tests to develop high performance surfactant formulations for the oils used in this study. These surfactants gave ultra-low IFT at optimum salinity and good aqueous stability. Although we used ultra-low IFT formulations for most of the experiments, we also performed tests at higher IFT for comparison. Even for the higher IFT experiments, the capillary pressure is very small compared to gravity and viscous pressure gradients. We also developed a simple analytical model to predict the oil recovery as a function of vertical and horizontal fracture spacing, rock properties and fluid properties. The model and experimental data are in good agreement considering the many simplifications made to derive the model. The scaling implied by the model is significantly different than traditional scaling groups in the literature.
During an Alkaline-Surfactant-Polymer (
In this study, steady-state (
For brine/oil systems some dependence of apparent viscosity on rock permeability was observed; for systems with surfactants no such trend was noticable. The addition of surfactants substantially reduced the apparent viscosities; the viscosity reducing impact of surfactants could be balanced by the addition of polymer. Fractional flow analysis showed that the addition of surfactants reduces the impact of capillary forces resulting in straightened relative permeability curves and higher aqueous phase relative permeability end points.
It is anticipated that this study leads to a fast and fit for purpose characterization method of
Jang, Sung Hyun (The University of Texas at Austin) | Liyanage, Pathma Jith (The University of Texas at Austin) | Tagavifar, Mohsen (The University of Texas at Austin) | Chang, Leonard (The University of Texas at Austin) | Upamali, Karasinghe A. N. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Lansakara-P, Dharmika (The University of Texas at Austin) | Weerasooriya, Upali (The University of Texas at Austin) | Pope, Gary A. (The University of Texas at Austin)
The chemical cost to recover an incremental barrel of oil is directly proportional to the surfactant retention, so the single most effective way to reduce the cost is to reduce surfactant retention. The main objective of this research was to demonstrate how surfactant retention could be reduced to almost zero by careful optimization of the chemical formulations for different crude oils. Although surfactant retention has been studied for many years over a wide range of reservoir conditions, its dependence on the rheological behavior of the microemulsion that forms in-situ has not been adequately studied. Thus, in this paper we emphasize the importance of microemulsion rheology and demonstrate how to develop and test formulations with properties that give very low surfactant retention. Novel co-solvents (iso-butanol (IBA) alkoxylates and phenol alkoxylates) were tested in some of the formulations with excellent results. Unlike classical co-solvents used to optimize chemical formulations, the new co-solvents cause only a slight increase in the interfacial tension. A series of ASP corefloods were performed in sandstone cores with and without oil to measure surfactant and co-solvent retention and to elucidate the effects of microemulsion viscosity, salinity gradient, clay content, surfactant concentration and other variables. Dynamic adsorption was measured in cores with the same mineralogy and compared with the retention from oil recovery corefloods to determine the component of the retention due to phase trapping.
Khorsandi, Saeid (The Pennsylvania State University) | Qiao, Changhe (The Pennsylvania State University) | Johns, Russell T. (The Pennsylvania State University) | Torrealba, Victor A. (The Pennsylvania State University)
Reservoir simulation is a valuable tool for assessing the potential success of enhanced recovery processes. Current chemical flooding reservoir simulators, however, use Hand's model to describe surfactant-oil-brine systems even though Hand's model is not predictive, and can fit only a limited data set. Hand's model requires the tuning of multiple empirical parameters using experimental data that usually consist of salinity scans at constant reservoir temperature and atmospheric pressure. Given experimental data supporting the change in microemulsion phase behavior with key formulation properties (e.g. temperature, pressure, salinity, EACN, and overall composition), there is a need for an improved model that can capture changes in these relevant parameters at the reservoir scale. The recent EOS proposed for microemulsion phase behavior (
In this paper, the EOS model with the extension to two-phase regions is incorporated for the first time into the chemical flooding simulators, UTCHEM, and our new in-house simulator PennSim. Hand's model is only used for comparison purposes, and is no longer needed even for flash calculations in the type II- and type II+ regions. The results show excellent agreement between UTCHEM and PennSim both in composition space and for composition/saturation profiles. Further, the HLD-NAC based EOS model and Hand's models are fitted to the same experimental data and the results of these simulations are nearly identical when variations of salinity, pressure and temperature are small. For large gradients, the results of the physics-based EOS deviates from Hand's model, and shows it is critical to incorporate these gradients in recovery predictions at large scale.
Jong, Stephen (University of Texas at Austin) | Nguyen, Nhut M. (University of Texas at Austin) | Eberle, Calvin M. (University of Texas at Austin) | Nghiem, Long X. (Computer Modelling Group Ltd.) | Nguyen, Quoc P. (University of Texas at Austin)
Low Tension Gas (LTG) flooding is a novel EOR process which can address challenging reservoir conditions such as high salinity, high temperature, and tight rock. Current process understanding is limited, and a joint experimental and modeling approach allows for both interpretation and insight into the complex interactions between the key process parameters of salinity gradient, foam strength, microemulsion phase behavior, and phase desaturation in order to achieve a physically correct and predictive process model.
We performed a series of corefloods in high permeability Berea sandstones (~500 mD) to demonstrate the impact of salinity gradient on the LTG process and interactions between key mechanisms such as microemulsion phase behavior and foam stability. In order to provide additional insight into the experimental study and improve understanding of the LTG process, we used our newly developed LTG simulator which we built within CMG GEM.
The results demonstrate that decreasing slug injection salinity can lead to a 15% increase in residual oil in place (ROIP) recovery over a slug injected at optimum salinity, with earlier breakthrough and steeper recovery slope. In addition, there is evidence of a late time pressure buildup as salinity is decreased through mixing with drive salinity which is indicative of increasing foam stability. This may be due to an inverse relationship between oil-water IFT and foam stability and thus designing an optimal salinity gradient for an LTG process requires balancing oil mobilization due to ultralow IFT and effectively displacing mobilized oil with adequate foam mobility control.
We introduce and show the strength our compositional LTG simulator in a pioneering laboratory and simulation study that sheds light on the interaction between salinity, microemulsion phase behavior, and foam strength. Our conclusions indicate a significant departure from traditional ASP understanding and methodology when designing an LTG salinity gradient and serve as a foundation for future investigation.
Tagavifar, Mohsen (The University of Texas at Austin) | Herath, Sumudu (The University of Texas at Austin) | Weerasooriya, Upali P. (The University of Texas at Austin) | Sepehrnoori, Kamy (The University of Texas at Austin) | Pope, Gary (The University of Texas at Austin)
We made measurements of microemulsion rheology with mixtures of oil, brine, surfactant, co-solvent, and in some cases polymer to systematically investigate the effects of salinity, co-solvents and polymers. A microemulsion rheology model was developed and used to interpret the experimental results. We show that the optimum microemulsion-to-oil viscosity ratio is roughly 5 to 6 without co-solvent, but it can be reduced to a more favorable ratio of ~2 by adding co-solvent. Even though the amount of co-solvent needed is case dependent, a clear trend of microemulsion viscosity reduction with increasing co-solvent concentration was observed. Limited evidence suggests that large hydrolyzed polyacrylamide molecules with a narrow molecular weight distribution have negligible partitioning to type II and III microemulsions.
Jin, Luchao (University of Oklahoma) | Budhathoki, Mahesh (University of Oklahoma) | Jamili, Ahmad (University of Oklahoma) | Li, Zhitao (The University of Texas at Austin) | Luo, Haishan (The University of Texas at Austin) | Delshad, Mojdeh (The University of Texas at Austin) | Shiau, Ben (University of Oklahoma) | Harwell, Jeffrey H. (University of Oklahoma)
The surfactant screening process to develop an optimum formulation under reservoir conditions is typically time consuming and expensive. Theories and correlations like HLB, R-ratio and packing parameters have been developed. But none of them can quantitatively consider both the effect of oil type, salinity, hardness and temperature, and model microemulsion phase behavior.
This paper uses the physics based Hydrophilic Lipophilic Difference (HLD) Net Average Curvature (NAC) model, and comprehensively demonstrated its capabilities in predicting the optimum formulation and microemulsion phase behavior based on the ambient conditions and surfactant structures. By using HLD equation and quantitatively characterized parameters, four optimum surfactant formulations are designed for target reservoir with high accuracy compared to experimental results. The microemulsion phase behavior is further predicted, and well matched the measured equilibrium interfacial tension. Its predictability is then reinforced by comparing to the empirical Hand's rule phase behavior model. Surfactant flooding sandpack laboratory tests are also interpreted by UTCHEM chemical flooding simulator coupled with the HLD-NAC phase behavior model.
The results indicate the significance of HLD-NAC equation of state in not only shorten the surfactant screening processes for formulators, but also predicting microemulsion phase behavior based on surfactant structure. A compositional reservoir simulator with such an equation of state will increase its predictability and hence help with the design of surfactant formulation.
Favorable microemulsion rheology is required for achieving low surfactant retention and economic viability of chemical EOR. Co-solvents play a pivotal role in obtaining favorable microemulsion rheology as well as many other aspects of chemical EOR. We measured the partitioning of co-solvents between phases to better understand their behavior and how to select the best co-solvent for chemical EOR. There is an optimal co-solvent partition coefficient for microemulsion systems. Commercial co-solvents used for chemical EOR are actually mixtures of different components. We used HPLC to measure the partitioning of the constitutive components of phenol ethoxylate co-solvents between oil and water phases and between microemulsion and excess oil and water phases. These measurements show that the components partition independently and the partitioning of individual components is often different from the average. The co-solvent partition coefficients between oil and water were systematically evaluated as functions of the number of ethylene oxide groups, number of propylene oxide groups, temperature, salinity, and the equivalent alkane carbon number (EACN) of the oil. Novel alkoxylate co-solvents were also evaluated for chemical EOR. The novel alkoxylate co-solvents can be more effectively tailored to match the characteristics of different crude oils. Coreflood experiments were conducted to investigate co-solvent transport and retention. Co-solvents were identified that showed excellent performance and low retention.