Effect of pressure and methane on microemulsion phase behavior and its impact on surfactant-polymer flood oil recovery
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Reservoir pressure and solution gas can significantly alter the microemulsion phase behavior and the design of a surfactant-polymer flood. This dissertation shows how to predict changes in microemulsion phase behavior from dead oil at atmospheric pressure to live crude at reservoir pressure. Our method requires obtaining only a few glass pipette measurements of microemulsion phase behavior at atmospheric pressure. The key finding is that at reservoir pressure the optimum solubilization ratio and the logarithm of optimal salinity behave linearly with equivalent alkane carbon number (EACN). These trends are predicted from the experimental data at atmospheric pressure based on density calculations of pure components using the Peng-Robinson equation-of-state (PREOS). We show that predictions of the optimum conditions for live oil are in good agreement with the few experimental measurements that are available in the literature. We also present new measurements at atmospheric pressure to verify the established trends. The experiments show that while pressure induces a phase transition from upper microemulsion (Winsor Type II+) to lower microemulsion (Winsor Type II-), solution gas does the opposite. An increase in pressure decreases the optimum solubilization ratio and shifts the optimum salinity to a larger value. Adding methane to dead oil at constant pressure does the reverse. Thus, these effects are coupled and both must be taken into account. We show using a numerical simulator that these changes in the optimum conditions can impact oil recovery if not accounted for in the SP design.