Surfactant-enhanced spontaneous imbibition process in highly fractured carbonate reservoirs
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Highly fractured carbonate reservoirs are a class of reservoirs characterized by high conductivity fractures surrounding low permeability matrix blocks. In these reservoirs, wettability alteration is a key method for recovering oil. Water imbibes into the matrix blocks upon water flooding if the reservoir rock is water-wet. However, many carbonate reservoirs are oil-wet. Surfactant solution was used to enhance spontaneous imbibition between the fractures and the matrix by both wettability alteration and ultra-low interfacial tensions. The first part of this study was devoted to determining the wettability of reservoir rocks using Amott-Harvey Index method, and also evaluating the performance of surfactants on wettability alteration, based on the contact angle measurement and spontaneous imbibition rate and ultimate oil recovery on oil-wet reservoir cores. The reservoir rocks have been found to be slightly oil-wet. One cationic surfactant BTC8358, one anionic surfactant and one ultra-low IFT surfactant formulation AKL-207 are all found to alter the wettability towards more water-wet and promote oil recovery through spontaneous imbibition. The second part of the study focused on the parameters that affect wettability alteration by surfactants. Some factors such as core dimension, permeability and heterogeneity of porous medium are evaluated in the spontaneous imbibition tests. Higher permeability leads to higher imbibition rate and higher ultimate oil recovery. Heterogeneity of core samples slows down the imbibition process if other properties are similar. Core dimension is critical in upscaling from laboratory conditions to field matrix blocks. The imbibition rate is slower in larger dimension of core. Further, we investigated the effects of EDTA in surfactant-mediated spontaneous imbibition. Since high concentration of cationic divalent ions in the aqueous solution markedly suppresses the surfactant-mediated wettability alteration, EDTA improved the performance of surfactant in the spontaneous imbibition tests. It is proposed in the thesis that surfactant/EDTA-enhanced imbibition may involve the dissolution mechanism. More experiments should be conducted to verify this mechanism. The benefits of using EDTA in the surfactant solution include but not limited to: altering the surface charge of carbonate to negative, producing the in-situ soap, reducing the brine hardness, decreasing the surfactant adsorption, and creating the water-wet area by dissolving the dolomite mineral.