There are many oil reservoirs worldwide with substantial amount of H2S but otherwise very favorable conditions for polymer flooding such as low temperature, high permeability, and moderate to high oil viscosity. However, there is a legitimate concern about the chemical stability of polymers when there is dissolved oxygen in the injection water or injection facility and its high concentrations of H2S in the reservoir.

Several synthetic polymers and biopolymers were selected for stability testing under a wide range of conditions. We focused on identifying the concentration limits for co-presence of H2S and oxygen for which the synthetic and biopolymers are stable for an extended period, using different, widely available brine compositions. Experiments were conducted with and without standard polymer protection packages to evaluate their effects on stability and degradation under sour conditions. Viscosity of polymer solutions with varying concentrations of H2S and oxygen were measured and compared with the oxygen free or H2S free solution viscosities for a period of 6 months. Several methods of safely introducing H2S to the polymer solution were investigated and compared.

The laboratory results indicated that biopolymers were stable at all the concentrations of oxygen and H2S concentrations studied. Three synthetic polymers tested showed some degradation in the presence of oxygen and H2S but were stable when either species is absent. The results indicated that oxygen is the limiting reagent in the degradation reaction with partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) polymers under normal reservoir conditions.

We observed little-to-no difference in degradation between samples with 10 or 100 ppm H2S at 500 ppb oxygen concentration, so H2S is not the limiting reagent under these conditions. Additionally, HPAM exposed to 10 ppm H2S and intermediate levels of oxygen (~0.5 ppm) only partially degrades, while samples exposed to H2S and ambient oxygen completely degrade. We anticipate these results will be useful for operators evaluating the potential of polymer flooding in sour reservoirs to follow a stricter polymer preparation at the surface facility to minimize oxygen concenration.

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