Commercial polymer floods have generally used partially hydrolyzed Polyacrylamide (HPAM) as the polymer of choice, since HPAM generates high viscosities in relatively fresh brines at a reasonable cost. In high salinity or hardness brines, the anionic charges on the HPAM polymer chain interact with the dissolved cations, shrinking the hydrodynamic size of the polymer molecules. The smaller hydrodynamic radius generates lower viscosities and requires higher polymer concentrations. In order to reduce the polymer loading in saline brines, a series of hydrophobically modified biopolymers have been synthesized. The non-ionic nature of hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC) provides an ideal polymer back bone since it does not interact with the dissolve cations. Hydrophobic groups (aliphatic hydrocarbon chains) are attached to the backbone of the polymer to impart associating properties between polymer molecules. The inter-molecular interaction between the hydrophobic moieties led to a significant viscosity increase in comparison to polymers without hydrophobic groups. Several screening steps were used throughout the product development to arrive at practical polymer formulations: 1) Filtration; 2) Sandpack tests; 3) Corefloods in the presence of oil. By varying molecular weight of the base HEC polymer and the amount of hydrophobic content, practical polymer products were developed for polymer flood applications. Coreflood tests showed that the hydrophobically modified HEC generated significant resistance factor in saline brines, outperforming the HPAM polymers.

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