With the ever-growing demand for more environmentally acceptable oilfield chemicals, classic oilfield chemistries are becoming obsolete and new chemical systems are required. Future oil production will be dominated by unconventional oil production with increased amounts of chemicals needed to further improve oil recovery with higher production rates. In addition, environmentally acceptable chemistries will be of increased significance and the use of natural product based chemicals will further ensure a more sustainable oil production.
To achieve the future requirements of environmentally acceptable surfactants for chemical enhanced oil recovery, chemistries with low toxicity and high biodegradability are needed. Renewable based fatty acid amides represent such a class of bio-based surfactants that are environmentally acceptable and show superior performance in enhanced oil recovery applications.
The following paper describes the chemical design of renewable based fatty acid amide surfactants and their use in EOR applications. Extensive phase behavior studies, salinity scans, adsorption studies, IFT measurements and surface tension measurements were performed to present the high efficiency and potential of these products for surfactant polymer- and surfactant flooding on different crude oils. Furthermore, the biodegradation and aqua-toxicity of the renewable based fatty acid amide surfactants will be discussed in detail. This new class of bio-based surfactants represents an environmentally acceptable option to the broadly used internal olefin sulfonates with superior performance, especially for carbonate reservoirs. The non-ionic character of the renewable based fatty acid amide molecule results in much less ability to adsorb on rock surfaces which allows a potential re-injection of the produced water to decrease chemical consumption. Additionally, the viscoelastic behavior of this new class of surfactants will improve the sweep efficiency during a flooding process. Overall, these multi-functional natural-based surfactants will drastically increase oil recovery rates when applied.