Systematic study of foam for improving sweep efficiency in chemical enhanced oil recovery
Foam-assisted low interfacial tension and foam-improved sweep efficiency are attractive enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods with numerous studies and researches have been conducted in the past few decades. For example, CO₂-Enhanced Oil Recovery (CO₂-EOR) is very efficient in terms of oil displacement. However, due to the low viscosity of super critical CO₂, the process usually suffers from poor sweep efficiency. One method of increasing sweep efficiency in CO₂-EOR has been identified through the use of surfactants to create "foams" or more correctly CO₂-in-water (C/W) macroemulsions. Polymer flooding techniques such as Alkali -- Polymer (AP), Surfactant -- Polymer (SP), and Alkali -- Surfactant -- Polymer (ASP) have been the only proven chemical EOR method in sandstone reservoirs with many successful pilot tests and field projects. However, the use of polymer is limited in carbonates due to unfavorable conditions related to natural characteristics of this type of lithology. In this case, foam-assisted EOR, specifically Alkali -- Surfactant -- Gas (ASG) process, can be an alternative for polymer flooding. It is a fact that large amount of the world's oil reserves resides in carbonate reservoirs. Therefore, an increase in oil recovery from carbonates would help meet the world's increasing energy demand. This study consists of two parts: (1) the development of new surfactant for creating CO₂ -- in -- water macroemulsions for improving sweep efficiency in CO₂ -- EOR processes; (2) systematic study of ASG method as a novel EOR technique and an alternative for polymer flooding in carbonate reservoirs. Both studies are related to the use of foam as a mobility control agent. In the first part, the design and synthesis of twin tailed surfactants for use at the CO₂/water interface is discussed. The hydrohobes for these surfactants are synthesized from epichlorohydrin and an excess alcohol. Subsequent ethoxylation of the resulting symmetrical dialkyl glycerin yields the water soluble dual tailed surfactants. The general characteristics of these surfactants in water are described. A comparison is carried out between twin-tailed dioctylglycerine surfactants and linear secondary alcohol surfactant based on results from a core flood. The results show that even above the cloud point of the surfactants, the twin tailed surfactants create a significant mobility reduction, likely due to favorable partitioning into the CO₂ phase. The data covers surfactant structures designed specifically for the CO₂-water interface and can be used by producers and service companies in designing new CO₂-floods, especially in areas that might not have been considered due to problems with reservoir heterogeneity. Second part contains a systematic study of ASG process on carbonate rocks through a series of experiments. The purpose is to demonstrate the performance as well as the potential of ASG as a new EOR technique. In this study, basic concepts in chemical EOR are presented, while the design of chemical formulation, phase behavior, and the role of foam are discussed in details. Experimental results showed relatively good recovery, low surfactant retention. However, pressure drop during chemical injections were high, which indicates the formation of both strong foam and viscous microemulsion at the displacement front when surfactant starts solubilizing oil. Overall, ASG showed good performance on carbonate rocks. Optimization can be made on surfactant formula to form less viscous microemulsion and therefore improve efficiency of the process.