This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of paper SPE 209418, “Surfactant Enhanced Oil Recovery From Tight Carbonates: Core-Scale Experiments to Reservoir-Scale Modeling,” by Yue Shi, SPE, and Kishore Mohanty, SPE, The University of Texas at Austin. The paper has not been peer reviewed.


Most carbonate reservoirs are oil-wet/mixed-wet and heterogeneous at multiple scales. The majority of the injected water flows through the high-permeability regions and fractures and bypasses the oil in the matrix because of high negative capillary pressure (Pc). To enhance oil recovery from such reservoirs, the sign of the Pc should be changed by wettability alteration (WA) or the Pc should be reduced by lowering interfacial tension (IFT). In the complete paper, surfactants that can either alter wettability or develop ultralow IFT were identified through laboratory measurements for the target carbonate reservoir.


Contact-angle, IFT, phase-behavior, and imbibition tests were first performed, and surfactants that can either alter wettability or develop ultralow IFT were identified. Then, a laboratory-scale imbibition model was built with commercial reservoir simulation software. A sensitivity study was performed to evaluate the effects of residual oil saturation (Sor), alteration of Pc and relative permeability (Kr), IFT, and matrix scale on oil recovery by surfactant. Next, the laboratory-scale imbibition model was used to history match the experimental data and parameters were tuned for reservoir-scale simulation. Finally, a 3D layered field-scale model was developed to study the performance of the selected surfactants in injection/soak/production (ISP) tests.


Eight anionic surfactants (An 1 through An 8) and two quaternary ammonium cationic surfactants (Cat 1 and 2) were used. Silurian dolomite (SD) outcrop cores were used in this study. Fluid samples were obtained from a West Texas dolomite-rich reservoir. The oil has a density of 0.84 g/mL at 25°C and a viscosity of 7.46 cp at reservoir temperature (35°C). It has an acid number of 0.25 mg KOH/g and a base number of 1.0 mg KOH/g. The reservoir has been waterflooded for years, and total dissolved solids of brine has decreased from 112,668 to 40,393 ppm for recent produced water (PW). The authors detail the methodology for aqueous-stability, contact-angle-measurement, IFT-measurement, phase-behavior, and spontaneous-imbibition tests in the complete paper.

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