Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) from carbonate reservoirs can be a great challenge. Carbonate reservoirs are mostly oil-wet and naturally fractured. For this type of reservoirs, primary production is derived mainly from the high permeability fracture system which means that most of the oil will remain unrecovered in the low permeability matrix blocks after depletion. Further difficulties arise under high pressure and high temperature conditions.

Oil recovery from carbonated rocks may be improved by designing the composition and salinity of flood water. The process is sometimes referred to as smart water injection. The improvement of oil recovery by smart water injection is mainly attributed to wettability modification in the presence of certain ions at high temperature. The resultant favourable wettability modification is especially important for naturally fractured reservoirs where the spontaneous imbibition mechanism plays a crucial role in oil recovery.

The objective of the work presented here was to experimentally investigate the performance of smart water injection for heavy oil recovery from carbonate rocks under high reservoir temperature. A series of coreflood experiments were performed using a group of carbonate cores in which smart water injection was tested under both secondary and tertiary injection conditions. The experiments were conducted at 92 °C using an extra-heavy oil. Seawater from Gulf of Mexico (GOM) was used in the seawater injection experiments and the smart water used in the tests was obtained by 10 times dilution of the seawater. Although concentration of SO42− is lower in the smart water, the occurrence of SO42− as anhydrite in carbonates may be sufficient to stimulate a similar reaction between the carbonated rock and the injected water with lower salinities at high temperatures. Seawater injection resulted in oil recovery ranging between 30% and 40% whereas smart water injection resulted in 60% oil recovery from the same system.

Additionally, analyses of brine composition before and after coreflood experiments confirmed that the effluent concentrations of SO42−, Mg2+ and Ca2+ changed compared to its original values in the injected water. The results indicated that, for some cases, the source of these ions was dissolution from the rock surface. The reactivity of the rock increased when lower salinity water was used.

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