The mobility of Winsor III microemulsions, which can form in reservoirs when a surfactant formulation contacts oil, has become a critical parameter for feasibility evaluations of surfactant flooding EOR. The reason is that these bicontinous phases with low mobility are likely to impair the sweep efficiency of the remobilized oil. The common procedures to evaluate microemulsion's mobility are based on viscosity measurements. As they involve rheometers, namely pure shear flows, and conditions where microemulsions are separated from the water and oil phases they should remain equilibrated with, they are not satisfactory. We present a new method to directly determine the mobility of microemulsions at equilibrium and in-situ, namely when flowing in porous media.

The method consists in preforming the Winsor III microemulsion in a buffer cell and then injecting it in a small sized core plug. The bicontinous phase stays at equilibrium because the oil and water phases, present in the buffer cell, remain in contact with it. The mobility is assessed through the resistance factor (or mobility reduction factor), relative to the water phase injected first. This observable accounts for both viscosity and potential permeability impairment effect. As it directly represents the reduction of the mobility of the water phase, it is representative of phenomena taking place in the reservoir. During a typical experiment, the same microemulsion is also injected in a capillary tube, in order to determine its viscosity in a pure shear flow.

Winsor III microemulsions were injected in sandstone plugs of three different permeabilities (1700 to 45 mD), and in a 170 mD carbonate plug. The first outcomes are that the resistance factors in the porous media and capillary relative viscosities have a marked shear-thinning behavior but are always of the same order of magnitude. This indicates that the flow of microemulsions entails no or little permeability impairment.

Based on the experimental determination of the porous media's shape factors, the resistance factors and capillary viscosity data were also plotted against the equivalent wall shear rate. For the highest permeability sandstone, the capillary and porous medium data scaled almost perfectly, showing that, in this case, the microemulsion's transport properties are that of an ideal non-Newtonian fluid. However, increasing deviations were observed when decreasing the sandstone permeability as well as for the carbonate porous medium. This suggests that microemulsions are strongly affected by the composite deformations taking place in complex microscopic pore structures.

These outcomes show the importance of determining the microemulsion-induced resistance factor in representative conditions in order to forecast for the impact of microemulsion's mobility in reservoirs. Furthermore, the method proposed can be applied to investigate close to optimum conditions as well as to study the propagation of microemulsions.

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