Sharma, Himanshu (The University of Texas at Austin) | Panthi, Krishna (The University of Texas at Austin) | Ghosh, Pinaki (The University of Texas at Austin) | Weerasooriya, Upali (The University of Texas at Austin) | Mohanty, Kishore (The University of Texas at Austin)
Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques involving surfactants such as surfactant floods, foam floods, and wettability alteration have been studied to recover remaining oil after primary and secondary floods. In these processes, a surfactant solution is injected to promote one (or more) of the following: lowering of capillary forces, improvement in sweep efficiency, and wettability alteration. Although significant advances have been made in designing surfactant molecules to achieve the above mentioned objectives efficiently, surfactant price is often the key limiting factor for a field-scale operation. Most surfactant molecules have a hydrocarbon chain (for example alkyl chain) or an aromatic ring as the main hydrophobe. The hydrocarbon chain (or ring) imparts hydrophobicity (and surface activity) to the surfactant molecule. However, these hydrophobes also result in additional cost. In this study, we discuss low-cost surfactants developed without hydrocarbon chains (or rings) for chemical EOR processes in general. The focus of this paper, however, is on their application in surfactant floods. These novel surfactants were developed by using methanol as the starting material, followed by the addition of propylene oxide (PO) and ethylene oxide (EO) groups, and an anionic head group. The surface tension and critical micelle concentration (CMC) values of these surfactants were measured. A screening study was performed to identify promising candidates; which showed ultralow interfacial tension (IFT) with various crude oils as well as aqueous stability at reservoir conditions. A comparison between novel surfactants with traditional surfactants was made based on the screening study. Oil recovery corefloods were performed in Berea and Boise sandstone cores to test the ultralow IFT formulations. These surfactants were found to have very low CMC values, and lowered the surface tension to about 32 dynes/cm. Their aqueous stability at a given temperature was found to be dependent on the number of PO and EO groups. Phase behavior experiments showed low IFT formulations with different crude oils by using these surfactants by themselves as well as in combination with internal olefin sulfonates (IOS). Moderate oil recoveries were obtained in coreflood experiments using these surfactants.
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.
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.