Among the many parameters needed to optimize a polymer flood is the choice of polymer viscosity, mobility ratio and polymer slug size that should be injected to maximize oil recovery. In this paper, a new polymer flooding experimental study is addressed to answer two questions. Firstly, considering a given crude oil, what optimal polymer solution viscosity should be injected? And secondly how much polymer solution should be injected during the polymer flood to maximise recovery?
Experiments were carried out using 1D homogeneous Bentheimer cores of similar properties. The cores were oil flooded using crude oil (µo = 120cP at T=60°C) and aged to obtain intermediate wet conditions. The polymer was a partially hydrolysed polyacrylamide (HPAM) dissolved in a moderate salinity brine. The polymer solutions were prepared at different concentrations (from 1500ppm to 3000ppm) to cover a large range of viscosity ratio ( from 2 to 18) which correspond to end-point mobility ratios of 0.5 and 5.4, respectively.
Corefloods results show as expected, that the polymer is more efficient in terms of oil recovery when viscosity ratio is low. In line with polymer flooding theory, we observed at intermediate wettability conditions, that a maximum oil recovery is reached at M =1 (Rµ = 5) and that oil recovery did not increase when reducing the ratio to M = 0.5 (Rµ= 2). However, when considering aspects such as polymer mass required, injectivity concerns and flow stability, we observe two favorable conditions, corresponding Rµ= 5 and Rµ = 10, for a mobility ratios of 1 and 7, respectively.
Different polymer slug sizes were injected in the cores at the above conditions (Rµ = 5 and Rµ = 10) followed by water flooding (chase water). Both injections (polymer and water injection) were carried out at same flow rate to minimize miscible viscous fingering at the rear of the polymer slug. Results show that an optimal polymer slug size exists for which one can obtain the same microscopic oil recovery than that of continuous polymer injections at Rµ=5 and Rµ=10, an important finding that can impact the economic viability of the process.
In conclusion, our experimental study shows that at 1D scale, optimal values of viscosity ratio, polymer slug size and polymer mass injected lead to the same maximum oil recovery obtained by continuous polymer injection. A necessary starting point before upscaling a polymer flood and studying the impact of heterogeneities.