This study focuses on the investigation of the total pressure drop with regards to the shear, elongational and frictional forces experienced by the viscoelastic EOR polymers during the flow through porous media. The main analysis is performed to these forces occurring at low Reynolds numbers. Single-phase flooding experiments were conducted in Bentheimer core plugs and micromodels. Moreover, observations at pore-scale level are included by streamlines visualization analysis.

The overall approach can be summarized in the following sequence: 1) Single phase polymer flooding through Bentheimer core plugs 2) Analysis regarding the correlation between the pressure drop and the apparent flow behavior. This analysis also focuses on the contribution of shear, elongational and frictional forces to the pressure drop at low Reynolds number 3) Porescale streamline visualization experiments using micromodels 4) Analysis regarding the elastic instabilities or turbulences observed during the flow at low Reynolds number from streamline visualization experiments.

The preliminary evaluation from core flooding experiments shows a significant additional increase in pressure drop during the viscoelastic EOR polymers flow through porous media. The analysis regarding the cause of the additional increase in pressure drop indicates that shear and frictional forces are not the main determinants during the flooding process. This leads to a strong indication that the elongational forces experienced by the EOR polymers while flowing through the pores are the primary reason for the additional increase in pressure drop. A correlation between elongational forces and flow instabilities during the experiments was observed. It was also observed that at a given shear rate the onset of elasticity occurs. The onset of elasticity was evaluated by the observation of the normalized data obtained by taking the ratios between apparent and bulk viscosity.

Further evaluations from the porescale streamlines visualization experiments showed a clear occurrence of elastic instabilities during the flow at low Reynolds numbers in the form of vortices, crossing streamlines, and steadily changing flow directions of streamlines. These flow instabilities account for the additional increase in pressure drop.

This study provides a novel comprehensive evaluation approach to characterize the pressure drop observed during the EOR polymers flow through porous media with regards to their viscoelastic behavior. It should help to understand porescale polymer displacement and the contribution of viscoelastic properties on additional oil recovery. Furthermore, this paper provides evidence of the flow instabilities through visualization experiments and detailed analysis.

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