Reduction of the salinity of injection water has been found to improve the oil recovery in some sandstone reservoir rocks, but for other sandstone rocks disappointing results have been obtained. No mechanism has been widely accepted as the reason for the improved oil recovery in low salinity water flooding (LSWF). Since alteration of wettability to more water-wet conditions has been reported in promising cases, desorption of crude oil components from the minerals surfaces should occur during LSWF. Retention of oil components onto sandstone reservoir rock saturated with brines of different compositions has been studied by injecting crude oils of different compositions. Results from experiments and simulation of rock-brine interactions have been compared.
In the study it has been shown that the compositions of both low salinity water and the crude oil are important for the retention of polar oil components. For the original crude oil with the lowest base/acid ratio, the retention of oil components was found to vary with the brine composition even though the total salinity was the same. For this crude oil the measured decrease in the retention of oil components was found to be in accordance with simulated decrease in the total concentration of divalent cations on clay surfaces. This indicated that the retention of oil components were dominated by bonding of carboxylic groups to clay surfaces by cation-bridging. For treated crude oil with reduced amount of acidic components (highest base/acid ratio), the retention of polar oil components was not sensitive to the brine salinity/composition and was higher than for the original oil (with lowest base/acid ratio). The retention was for this oil probably due to direct adsorption of basic components. The retention was therefore found to be sensitive to the concentration of acids in the crude oil, and was increasing with increasing base/acid ratio.
It has been shown the ionic composition of the low salinity brine and the composition of the crude oil are important for the retention of polar oil components and thereby the wettability. The optimum low salinity water composition will depend on the formation water composition, mineral composition/distribution of reservoir rock and oil composition, and for tertiary LSWF also the composition of earlier injection brine.