Achieving mobility control of steam in porous media has been approached by the implementation of foaming surfactant additives; however, foam generated with surfactants lack stability at high temperatures (≥ 200 °C). In this study, a nanofluid was formulated for steam co-injection to address common issues with surfactants as steam additives. The nanofluids were formulated using synergistic interaction of nanoparticles and surfactants (both readily available) to address thermal stability, and foam stability at the conditions encountered in thermal enhanced oil recovery processes such as steam assisted gravity drainage.

Zeta potential analysis, static tests, and high temperature aging tests were performed to obtain the ideal mixture of nanoparticles and surfactants. A steam/foam core flooding apparatus was used to evaluate the mobility reduction of nanofluids using multiple differential pressure transmitters situated along the length of a 40 cmsand pack to confirm foam propagation. The tests were first conducted at 200 °C with nitrogen as a non-condensable gas carrier. Upon confirming nanofluid mobility reduction characteristics at 200 °C with gas, a successful nanofluid was co-injected with superheated steam at backpressure corresponding to a saturation temperature of 200 °C inside an oven with that set point. Mobility reduction characteristics were obtained for each formulation by normalizing the differential pressure of additive multiphase flow to their respective baselines.

Statictests and high-temperature core floods demonstrated a strong synergy between appropriate combinations of surfactants and nanoparticles.None of thesurfactants and nanoparticlesyielded mobility reduction when used on their own; however, when selected according to a design basis, nanoparticle/surfactant mixtures exhibit strong mobility control with steam as well as hot gas. The foam produced in the porous media was held in a visual cellat 150 °C for 24 h with no loss in foam height. Furthermore, foam generated with the nanoparticle-surfactant hybrid remained stable in static tests in the presence of heavy crude oil for more than one week.

The primary novelty of this study is the ability to use less exotic surfactants and nanoparticles as steam mobility control agents, increased foam stability in the presence of oil, and demonstrable synergy between commodity molecules (i.e., surfactant) and nanoparticles at steam flooding conditions. The successful additive mixture was developed with scalability in mind such that manufacturing will not hinder the feasibility of scale-up for industrial use.

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