Efficiency of low salinity polymer flooding in sandstone cores
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Waterflooding has been used for many decades as a way of recovering oil from petroleum reservoirs. Historically the salinity of the injection water has not been regarded as a key variable in determining the amount of oil recovered. In recent years, however, evidence of increased oil recovery by injection of low salinity water has been observed in laboratories and fields. The technique is getting wider attention in the oil industry because it is more cost-effective than other EOR techniques. The present work demonstrates the synergy of low salinity water flooding and polymer flooding in the laboratory scale. The use of low salinity polymer solution in polymer flooding has significant benefits because considerably lower amount of polymer is required to make the solution of a target viscosity. Low salinity polymer flooding can also increase oil recovery by lowering residual oil saturation and achieve faster oil recovery by improving sweep efficiency. Several coreflood experiments were conducted to study the efficiency of low salinity water flooding and low salinity polymer flooding in mixed-wet Berea sandstone cores. All the core samples were aged with a crude oil at 90oC for 30-60 days before the tests. All the polymer floods were conducted in the tertiary mode. A synthetic formation brine (33,800 ppm) was chosen for high salinity water and a NaCl brine (1,000 ppm) for low salinity water. Medium molecular weight HPAM polymer, FlopaamTM 3330S was used due to the low/moderate permeability of the Berea sandstone cores used in this study. Coreflood tests indicate that injection of low salinity polymer solution reduces residual oil saturation by 5-10% over that of the high salinity waterflood. A part of the residual saturation reduction is due to low salinity and this reduction is achieved in less pore volumes of injection in the presence of polymers. Effluent ion analysis from both low salinity water flooding and low salinity polymer flooding showed a slight increase in divalent cation concentrations after the polymer breakthrough. Cation bridging may play a role in oil wettability and low salinity injection desorbs some of these cations.