Solvent flooding is a well-established method of enhanced oil recovery (EOR), with carbon dioxide (CO2) being the most-often used solvent. As CO2 is both less viscous and less dense than the fluids it displaces, the displacement suffers from poor sweep efficiency caused by an unfavorable mobility ratio and unfavorable gravity number. Creating in-situ CO2 foam improves the sweep efficiency of CO2 floods. Another application is the injection of CO2 foam into saline aquifers for carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The goal of the core flood experiments in this paper was to study the effectiveness of surface coated silica nanoparticles as an in-situ CO2 foaming agent. In each experiment, the pressure drop was measured across five separate sections in the core, as well as along the whole core. In addition, the saturation distribution in the core was calculated periodically using computed tomography (CT) scanning measurements. The experiments consisted of vertical core floods where liquid CO2 displaced brine from the top to the bottom of the core. A flood with surface coated silica nanoparticles suspended in the brine is performed in the same core and at the same conditions to a flood with no nanoparticles, and results from these floods are compared. In these experiments, breakthrough occurred 45% later with foamed CO2, and the final CO2 saturation was also 45% greater than with the unfoamed CO2.
The study shows how nanoparticles stabilize the CO2 front. The results provide quantitative information on, as well as a graphical representation of, the behavior of the CO2 foam front as it advances through the core. This data can be used to upscale the behavior observed and properties calculated from the core-scale to the reservoir-scale to improve field applications of CO2 flooding.