Injections of polymer solutions have been used to improve oil recovery in heavy oil reservoirs (Zaitoun et al. 1998). Most of those polymer flood experiences refer to conditions where the polymer solution propagates through the porous media under low shear rate and exhibits mostly a Newtonian behaviour. On the other hand recent publications indicate injection of polymer solutions at concentration larger than conventional polymer flooding can result in higher recovery at field scale. Typically oil recovery of more than 20% OOIP compared to waterflooding has been reported for light oil (Wang et al; 2011). However injectivity issues have to be considered when injecting concentrated polymer solutions. This study examines whether non polymeric elastic fluids derived from surfactant solutions can represent an alternative approach to elastic polymer floods. The technology we have developed matches the rheological properties of polymer solutions in a broad range of reservoir conditions (temperature & salinity).
Bulk flow properties as well as rheology in a confined geometry have been used to compare flow properties of surfactant and high molecular weight polymer solutions. The elastic properties of both fluids have been characterized in terms of Weissenberg numbers. The data indicate the surfactant solution as opposed to the polymer one is highly elastic at low shear rates even in the presence of brine. Those results are confirmed by comparative experiments made using a Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) technique. Injectivity of concentrated surfactant solutions has been tested in single-phase conditions and indicated a good in depth propagation of the fluid. A series of core-flood experiments has been performed using heavy oil reservoir cores. The surfactant slug has been combined with a conventional low-concentration polymer flooding to benefit from surfactant elasticity and improve oil recovery.