Study of Foam Mobility Control in Surfactant Enhanced Oil Recovery Processes in One-Dimensional, Heterogeneous Two-Dimensional, and Micro Model Systems

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

The focus of this thesis was conducting experiments which would help in understanding mechanisms and in design of surfactant enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes in various scenarios close to reservoir conditions such as heterogeneity, effects of crude oil, wettability, etc. Foam generated in situ by surfactant alternating gas injection was demonstrated as a substitute for polymer drive in a 1-D FOR process. It was effective in a similar process for a 266 cp crude oil even though the system did not have favorable mobility control. Foam enhanced sweep efficiency in a layered sandpack with a 19:1 permeability ratio. Foam diverted surfactant from the high- to the low-permeability layer. Ahead of the foam front, liquid in the low-permeability layer crossflowed into the high-permeability layer. Foam completely swept the system in 1.3 TPV (total pore volume) fluid injection while waterflood required 8 TPV. When the same 2-D system was oil-wet, the recovery by watertlood was only 49.1% of original oil-in-place (OOIP) due to injected water flowing through high-permeability zone leaving low-permeability zone unswept. To improve recovery, an anionic surfactant blend (NI) was injected that altered the wettability and lowered the interfacial tension (IFT) and consequently enabled gravity and capillary pressure driven vertical counter-current flow to occur and exchange fluids between layers during a 42-day system shut-in. Cumulative recovery after a subsequent foamflood was 94.6% OOIP. The addition of lauryl betaine to NI at a weight ratio of 2:1 made the new NIB a good IFT-reducing and foaming agent with crude oil present. It showed effectiveness in water-wet homogeneous and oil-wet heterogeneous sandpacks. The unique attribute of foam with higher apparent viscosity in high- than in low-permeability regions makes it a better mobility control agent than polymer in heterogeneous systems. One single surfactant formulation such as NIB in this study that can simultaneously reduce IFT and generate foam will improve the microscopic displacement and sweep efficiency from the beginning of a chemical flooding process. Foam generation mechanisms, alkaline/surfactant processes, and foam stability in presence of crude oil were investigated in a glass micro model. Total acid number measurement with spiking method was discussed.

Doctor of Philosophy
Applied sciences, Enhanced oil recovery, Foam mobility, Mobility control, Wettability, Surfactants, Chemical engineering, Petroleum engineering

Li, Robert F.. "Study of Foam Mobility Control in Surfactant Enhanced Oil Recovery Processes in One-Dimensional, Heterogeneous Two-Dimensional, and Micro Model Systems." (2011) Diss., Rice University.

Forms part of
Published Version
Link to license
Citable link to this page