Alkali flooding in heavy oil reservoirs is known to stabilize emulsion in-situ and improve the recovery beyond that of conventional waterflood under certain boundary and initial conditions. The overarching goal of this study is to develop a systematic approach to optimize this process and capture underlying recovery mechanisms. Therefore, we experimentally evaluated the performance of alkali flood as a function of emulsion type and viscosity. Phase behavior and viscosity of the microemulsion are modified by introducing seven different surfactants. Microscope imaging techniques are employed to measure the droplet size distribution for type I and II emulsions. Viscosities of generated emulsions are measured with a rotational rheometer at low temperatures and with an electromagnetic viscometer at reservoir conditions. Finally, corefloods are conducted at different conditions to evaluate the performance of displacement as a function of emulsion type and viscosity. Enhanced alkali floods showed an incremental recovery of 8 – 50% beyond that of waterflood. Formation of higher viscosity emulsion has a large contribution on the sweep efficiency and therefore improved oil recovery during alkali flood; however, other mechanisms (e.g. entrainment and entrapment) also have contribute to the incremental recovery. Results of our experiments indicated that the incremental recovery is a strong function of emulsion type, emulsion viscosity, and the droplet size distribution.

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