With the increasing global demand for energy, great attention has been focused on utilizing heavy oil and bitumen, which cannot be easily recovered. This has been achieved by reservoir heating using conventional methods such as steam. However, these approaches are often accompanied by high energy consumption, large amounts of wastewater generation, and undesirable environmental damage. Recently, nanoparticles have become an attractive agent for enhancing oil recovery (EOR) in the laboratory scale. In addition, nanotechnology was chosen as an alternative method to unlock the remaining oil resources during the last decade. Consequently, this research provides one of the promising techniques for in-situ heavy oil recovery using metal-based nanoparticles to maintain in-situ heat generated by steam. Several core flood experiments were conducted to compare the recovery of Kuwaiti heavy oil using; hot water, superheated steam (SH), nanofluids, and combination of nanofluids and SH team.
Initially, the individual hydrophilic nanoparticles (HFNPs) including; zirconium dioxide (ZrO2), titanium dioxide (TiO2), zinc oxide (ZnO), and iron oxide (alpha) (Fe2O3-α), of average particle size (APS) of 20–50 nm and different thermal conductivities, were dissolved in formation water to create stable nanofluids. The results of the nanofluids coreflooding showed that ZrO2 provides higher oil recovery than TiO2, Fe2O3-α, or ZnO. However, the combination of ZrO2 (low thermal conductivity) at a concentration of 0.05 wt% with SH at 1 PV exhibits highest oil recovery near 46.9%, followed by combination of ZnO (high thermal conductivity) at same concentration with SH which had a recovery of 42.7%, then followed by SH steam of 35% recovery. This indicates the ability of HFNP with low APS and low thermal conductivity of providing promising EOR results when combined with low steam consumption and low produced water.