The objective of this research was to develop a model to predict the optimum phase behavior of chemical formulations for a given oil based on the molecular structure of the surfactants and co-solvents. The model is sufficiently accurate to provide a useful guide to an experimental testing program for the development of chemical EOR formulations. There are thousands of combinations of surfactants and co-solvents that could be tested for each oil, so even approximate predictions are very useful in terms of reducing the time and effort required for testing and for prioritizing the chemical combinations to test that are most likely to yield ultra-low IFT at reservoir conditions. The effects of changing molecular structures (e.g. swapping head groups, swapping hydrophobes, increasing the length of hydrophobes, increasing the number of PO and EO groups, adjusting the ratios of surfactants) are shown. The variables with the greatest impact on the optimum salinity and solubilization ratio were identified, and methods are proposed to shift the optimum salinity and the optimum solubilization ratios in any desired direction. The structure-property model was developed and tested using a large dataset consisting of 684 microemulsion phase behavior experiments using 24 oils. The chemical formulations used 85 surfactants and 18 co-solvents in various combinations. Both optimum salinity and optimum solubilization ratio (and thus IFT) are modeled whereas other models have focused almost exclusively on the optimum salinity. Predicting the optimum solubilization ratio is actually of more value because of its relationship to IFT. The models include the effects of co-solvent partitioning, soap formation and the molecular structure of both the surfactants and co-solvents.
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.