SmartWater flooding through the injection of optimized chemistry water has lately become an attractive proposition for enhanced oil recovery in carbonate reservoirs. The wettability alteration towards water-wet conditions caused by favorable surface charge alteration is identified as the main mechanism responsible for oil recovery.

In this experimental investigation, the impact of SmartWater/surfactant synergy on wettability alteration was thoroughly studied by measuring zeta-potentials at calcite/brine and crude oil/brine interfaces using electrophoresis technique. Different types of surfactants are considered including: anionic, amphoteric and non-ionic. Four different water recipes representing SmartWater (10-times reduced salinity) were chosen at a fixed lower salinity as well as the high salinity water (HSW).

The results showed that both anionic surfactants increased the magnitude of the negative zeta-potentials at the interfaces by almost same order of magnitude. The negative zeta-potentials of calcite and crude oil were increased the most with anionic surfactants in NaCl brine. SmartWater showed relatively higher negative zeta-potentials for calcite when compared to Na2SO4 brine and HSW in the presence of anionic surfactant. These results indicate that both NaCl brine and SmartWater can synergistically combine with anionic surfactants for effective wettability alteration in carbonates. Amphoteric surfactant showed a negligible impact on electrical double layer (EDL) expansion and consequently the wettability alteration. The nonionic surfactant induced electrostatic repulsion forces at both calcite/brine and crude oil/brine interfaces in high salinity seawater and as a result it can be considered as the best chemical formulation to reduce interfacial tension and cause wettability alteration in conventional chemical flooding processes. The negligible impact of adding surfactant chemicals on the measured di-electric constant of different brines confirmed the robustness of zeta-potential values reported in this study.

This work for the first time evaluated the synergistic effects of different brines including the SmartWater with surfactant chemicals by measuring zeta-potentials at calcite/brine and oil/brine interfaces. The optimally suited water recipes were identified to synergistically combine with these chemicals to enhance wettability alteration in carbonates. The new knowledge gained from this electro-kientic study will provide practical guidance on how to design efficient chemical flooding processes for enhanced oil recovery in carbonate reservoirs.

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