Effects of surfactant partition coefficient and interfacial tension on the oil displacement in low-tension polymer flooding
Complex surfactant formulations have been applied to generate an ultra-low interfacial tension (IFT) (e.g., 10⁻³ mN/m) between the displacing water phase and the displaced oil phase in chemical enhanced oil recovery (CEOR), where the residual oil after waterflooding can be largely recovered as an oil bank. This thesis is concerned with a simpler, lower-cost CEOR, in which a sole additive of surface active solvent (SAS) makes low-tension displacement fronts in polymer flooding (e.g., 10⁻² mN/m) without involving ultra-low IFT microemulsion phase behavior. The main objective of this research is to technically verify such low-tension polymer (LTP) flooding for a secondary-mode oil displacement through a sandpack of 9.5 Darcy. Previous research found that 2-ethylhexanol-7PO-15EO (2-EH-7PO-15EO, or “7-15”) as SAS was able to reduce the IFT between polymer solution and reservoir oil from 15.8 mN/m to 0.025 mN/m. In this research, the effect of SAS partition coefficient on LTP flooding was studied as an additional factor for SAS optimization. In particular, the comparison between two SAS species, 2-EH-4PO-15EO (4-15) and 2-EH-7PO-25EO (7-25), was important, because they had similar IFT values, but markedly different partition coefficients. The IFT was 0.18 mN/m with 4-15 and 0.20 mN/m with 7-25; and the partition coefficients were 1.61 with 4-15 and 0.68 with 7-25 at the experimental temperature, 61°C. These two SAS species were compared in secondary-mode LTP flooding with a slug of 0.5 wt% SAS for 0.5 pore-volumes injected (PVI). The oil recovery factor at 1.0 PVI was 65% with 4-15 and 67% with 7-25. At 5.0 PVI, it was 74% with 4-15 and 84% with 7-25. Although these two SAS species gave similar IFT values, their oil-displacement efficiencies were quite different because 7-25 propagated more efficiently in the sandpack with the smaller partition coefficient. The smaller partition coefficient helped the SAS flow more efficiently in the aqueous phase with less retention in the remaining oil. Optimization of SAS likely requires taking a balance between lowering the partition coefficient and lowering the IFT. The SAS recovery at the effluent was 61% for the 4-15 SAS and 78% for the 7-25 SAS. The propagation of the 4-15 SAS was retarded approximately by 1.0 PVI in comparison to that of the 7-25 SAS. The adsorption of the 4-15 and 7-25 SAS was 0.019 mg/g sandpack and 0.020 mg/g sandpack, respectively. With a similar IFT reduction, the SAS with a smaller partition coefficient (i.e., 7-25) resulted in less retention, less retardation, and more oil production for a given amount of injection.