More recently polymer flooding recovery processes are becoming increasingly attractive due to the improvements in polymer manufacturing, hydration and implementation successes worldwide. This is especially true in the application of polymer for enhancing heavy oil recovery. It has been suggested that the elastic nature of the polymer is equally important to the viscous properties.
In the present study, a specialized rheometer was used to determine the viscoelastic properties of both hydrolyzed polyacrylamides (HPAM) and hydrophobically associating polyacrylamides (HAP) used in heavy enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes. The rheometer has the capability to measure rheological properties in porous capillary plugs providing a more representative picture of non-Newtonian fluid flow in reservoirs. The rheological parameters were determined as influenced by polymer type, concentration, molecular weight, hydrophobicity, salinity and temperature. Increases in elastic tendencies were observed as a function of the first four; however, salinity and temperature were found to have a slightly negative effect. A medium density, hydrophobic polymer showed an earlier onset of elastic contribution at in-depth reservoir shear rates as determined by its Weissenberg number. For heavy oil reservoirs utilizing higher polymer concentrations, the viscoelastic properties of a polymer system should be evaluated in the screening process.
Recent studies suggest that viscoelastic polymers can reduce the residual oil saturation below that to waterflood with two different plausible mechanisms at play, depending whether the media is water- or oil-wet. However, in both theories, polymer elasticity is believed to be the dominant force that contributes to the additional reduction in oil saturation. Aside from measuring the elasticity directly, other parameters that quantify a polymer's elastic potential are its relaxation time and Weissenberg number; therefore, the change in these parameters with respect to dynamic shear rate or flow velocity can be further useful for screening purposes.