Fracture treatment performance in Bakken shale reservoirs can be improved by altering rock wettability, as measured with contact angle (CA), from oil-wet to water-wet. The use of chemical additives for altering wettability also results in alteration of the interfacial tension (IFT). The Young-Laplace equation relates the capillary pressure to IFT and contact angle. Thus, it follows that capillarity is significant in nano-pores associated with unconventional liquid reservoirs (ULR) and complex as the CA and IFT varies simultaneously. We carefully evaluate these interactive variables to improve oil recovery by alteration of capillary pressure by understanding the wetting state of siliceous and carbonate Bakken cores with and without chemical additives. We have observed that wettability can be altered from the ULR natural state of oil-wet to systems favoring frac fluid imbibition. Surfactants can be added to completion fluids, in proper concentrations, to alter wettability while hydraulic fracturing the formation. This experimental study evaluates and compares the efficiency of anionic, nonionic and blended surfactants as well as complex nanofluids (CNF) on recovering liquid hydrocarbons from Bakken shale cores by analyzing the effect of wettability and IFT alteration and their impact on spontaneous imbibition.

The original wettability of Bakken cores is determined by CA measurements. Then, three surfactant types, anionic nonionic and nonionic-cationic, and CNF are evaluated to gauge their effectiveness in altering wettability. The results show that all surfactants and CNF are able to shift core wettability from oil-wet to water-wet. However, chemical additives efficacy strongly depends on rock lithology, surfactant, and CNF type. Moreover, to evaluate further wettability alteration, stability of surfactant and CNF solution films on the shale rock surface is determined by zeta potential measurements. Surfactants and CNF show higher zeta potential magnitudes than water without additives, as an indication of better stability and water-wetness, which agrees with CA results. In addition, the effect of IFT alteration is studied in solutions with surfactants and CNF, and Bakken crude oil. Higher IFT reduction is achieved by anionic surfactants, but all surfactants and CNF perform better than water alone.

Surfactants and CNF potential for improving oil recovery in ultralow permeability Bakken cores is investigated by spontaneous imbibition experiments using modified Amott cells in an environmental chamber. Using computed tomography (CT) scan methods, water imbibition as penetration magnitude is measured in real time. In addition, oil recovery is recorded with time to compare the performance of surfactants, CNF, and completion fluid alone. The results suggest that surfactants and CNF are better on recovering oil from shale core displacing more oil and having higher penetration magnitudes than water without additives. In addition, oil recovery depends on surfactant and CNF type and rock mineral composition. These findings are consistent with CA, zeta potential, and IFT measurements. From the results obtained, it can be concluded that altering wettability and reducing IFT when surfactants and CNF additives are added to completion fluids can improve oil recovery in Bakken cores.

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