There are ongoing efforts to assess the techno-ecnomic viability of surfactant polymer (SP) flooding to increase oil recovery by improving microscopic and macroscopic sweep efficiency. This paper sheds light on a methodology to design an appropriate SP formulation for potential deployment in the Ratqa Lower Fars (RQLF) heavy oil reservoir in Kuwait.

Besides achieving low residual oil saturation due to SP flooding under typical RQLF reservoir conditions, this study focuses on mitigating surfactant retention. Several injection strategies were investigated using alkali, adsorption inhibitors and a variety of water treatment techniques. For each scenario, a specific SP formulation was designed and evaluated through static adsorption tests using crushed reservoir rock. The two most promising options were then evaluated through coreflood experiments. The best option was selected based on in-depth chemical propagation, oil desaturation and surfactant adsorption. Finally, lab-optimization work was performed through additional corefloods to reduce chemical consumption while maintaining favorable oil recovery.

Softened seawater obtained through reverse osmosis was considered as the most appropriate water source to implement the desired SP process. Previous work revealed that the use of unsoftened seawater results in high levels of surfactant adsorption on reservoir rock. Salt addition allows applying an efficient salinity gradient post SP injection. Sodium chloride was used instead of alkali which did not exhibit any benefit in this case. A particular effort was made to reduce the amount of added salt and the corresponding formulation cost. Several injection sequences were investigated to compare polymer and SP flooding. The final coreflood experiment based on SP injection (0.6 PV of surfactant at 4 g/l), followed by a salinity gradient, and involving a polymer drive recovered 80% of the original oil in place. The promising performance of this injection sequence will be further evaluated using the results from a one-spot EOR pilot.

This EOR study on the RQLF shallow heavy oil reservoir in Kuwait provides important insights to select an appropriate surfactant-polymer injection strategy to increase oil recovery while maintaining reduced adsorption levels, thereby improving SP techno-economic viability.

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