For many decades, chelating agents have been used successfully as an additive in the oil and gas industry, for example during scale removal, iron control and matrix stimulation. More recently, these chemicals have also been used as standalone fluids for the same applications. However, the traditional chelating agents like ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA), hydroxyethyl ethylene diamine triacetic acid (HEDTA) and nitrilo triacetic acid (NTA) suffer from slow biodegradability and/or an unfavorable health profile. To better meet the stricter health, safety and environmental requirements of the regulatory bodies and the industry, new environmentally friendly chelating agents have been introduced. The question is whether these new chelating agents have the required properties for a versatile downhole application.

This paper compares four commercially available, readily biodegradable amino polycarboxylic acid type chelating agents, including glutamic acid N,N-diacetic acid (GLDA), aspartic acid N,N-diacetic acid (ASDA), methyl glycine diacetic acid (MGDA) and ethanoldiglycine (EDG) on a number of properties relevant for the oil and gas industry. It covers the solubility as a function of pH and in various acids, thermal stability, iron control, corrosion tests with low-carbon steel and Cr-based alloys and coreflood experiments on both carbonate and sandstone cores. The corrosion and coreflood experiments were conducted under realistic temperature and pressure conditions.

Although the structural resemblance of the tested chelates is great, the results proof that even the slightest change in the chemical structure can have a significant impact on the properties and hence the use in the oil and gas industry. Furthermore, the results show that the new generation of chelating agents include candidates that have a lot more to offer than the traditional chelates in terms of corrosion, functionality in matrix acidizing jobs, descaling, impact on tubular, completion and environment. Our studies show that GLDA is the most versatile environmentally friendly chelating agent.

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