This paper describes a simulation study of the low-salinity effect in sandstone reservoirs. The proposed mechanistic model allows differentiation of water composition effects and includes multi-ionic exchange and double layer expansion. The manifestation of these effects can be observed in coreflood experiments.

We define a set of chemical reactions, to describe the contribution of van der Waals forces, ligand exchange, and cation bridging to mobilization of residual oil. The reaction set is simplified by incorporating wettability weighting coefficients that reflect the contribution of different adsorbed ions to the wettability of the rock. Changes in wettability are accounted for by interpolation of the relative permeability and capillary pressure curves between the low and high salinity sets. We also construct and test simplified phenomenological models, one relating the change of the relative permeability to the concentration of a dissolved salinity tracer and another one to the concentration of a single adsorbed tracer.

The full mechanistic model, with multiple ion tracking, is in good qualitative agreement with experimental data reported in the literature. A very close agreement with the mechanistic model was obtained for a coreflood simulation using single tracer phenomenological models. The similarity of the results is explained by the fact that the most critical factor influencing the flow behavior was the function used to interpolate between the oil- and water-wet sets of saturation curves. Similar interpolation functions in different models lead to similar oil recovery predictions.

This study has developed a detailed chemical reaction model that captures both multicomponent ion exchange and double layer expansion effects, and can be used to improve understanding of low-salinity recovery mechanisms by analyzing their relative contributions. The approach of matching a tracer model to a detailed mechanistic model promises a route to the development of simplified, less computationally demanding proxy models for full field simulation studies.

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