Nanofluids (dispersion of nanoparticles in a base fluid) have been suggested as promising agents in subsurface industries including enhanced oil recovery. Nanoparticles can easily pass through small pore throats in reservoirs formations; however, physicochemical interactions between nanoparticles and between nanoparticles and rocks can cause a significant retention of nanoparticles. This study investigated the transport, attach, and retention of silica nanoparticles in core plugs.
The hydrophilic silica nanoparticles were injected into limestone core as nanofluid of different nanoparticles size (5 nm, and 20 nm), concentration (0.005 – 0.1 wt% SiO2), and base fluid salinity (0 – 3 wt% NaCl) at different temperatures (23, and 50 °C). Deposition and transport of nanoparticles were measured via nanoparticle concentration of effluent fluid, and energy distractive spectroscopy (EDS) measurement on the limestone core.
It was found that silica nanoparticles dispersed in brine (NaCl) solutions are increasingly retained in limestone core as the solution ionic strength increases. On the other hand, less significant retention was measured when the nanoparticles were dispersed in DI water. The EDS measurements also reported the same trend of increased nanoparticles retention with salinity due to larger aggregates that result from the screening effect of the electrolyte on repulsive forces between nanoparticles. Thus, the observed change in surface wettability from oil to water-wet and the increase in oil production that reported in many core flooding laboratory studies are mainly related to the high adsorption rate of hydrophilic silica nanoparticles on carbonate surfaces.