Polymer flooding is a mature EOR technology that has seen an increasing interest over the past decade. Co-polymers of Acrylamide (AMD) and Acrylic Acid (AA) have been the most prominent chemicals to be applied, whereas sulfonated polymers containing 2-Acrylamido-tertiary-butyl sulfonic acid (ATBS) have been used for higher temperature and/or salinity conditions. The objective of this study was to generate guidelines to aid in the selection of appropriate polyacrylamide chemistry for each field case. Our main focus was in sandstone fields operating at the upper end of AMD-AA temperature tolerance, where it needs to be decided whether sulfonation is required. The performance of the polymer throughout the whole residence time in the reservoir was considered since the macromolecule can undergo some changes over this period.
Several key properties of nine distinct polymer species were investigated. The polymers consisted of AMD-AA co-polymers, AMD-ATBS co-polymers and AMD-AA-ATBS ter-polymers. The polymers were studied both in their original state as they would be during the injection (initial viscosity, initial adsorption and in-situ rheology) as well as in the state which they are expected to be in after the polymer has aged in the reservoir (i.e. in a different state of hydrolysis and corresponding viscosity retention and adsorption after ageing for various time periods). We note that the combination of viscosity retention and adsorption during the in-situ ageing process has not been typically investigated in previous literature, and this is a key novel feature of this work. Each of the above parameters has an impact on the effectiveness and the economic efficiency of a polymer flooding project. The content of ATBS was limited to 15 mol%. Buff Berea sandstone was applied in the static and dynamic adsorption experiments.
The majority of the work was carried out in seawater at temperature, T = 58°C. Under these conditions AMD-AA samples showed maximum viscosity and lowest adsorption when the content of AA was moderate (20 mol%). When the AMD-AA polymers were aged at elevated temperature, the AA content steadily increased due to hydrolysis reactions. When the AA content was 30 mol% or higher, the viscosity started to decrease, and adsorption started to increase as the polymer was aged further. Thermal stability improved when ATBS was included in the polymer structure. In addition, sulfonated polyacrylamide samples showed increasing initial viscosity yields and decreasing initial adsorption with increasing ATBS content. For most of the samples, the maximum observed apparent in-situ viscosity increased when the bulk viscosity and relaxation time of the sample solution increased.
The information generated in this study can be used to aid in the selection of the most optimal polyacrylamide chemistry for sandstone fields operating with moderate/high salinity brines at the upper end of AMD-AA temperature tolerance.