Water-soluble hydrophobically associating polymers are reviewed with particular emphasis on their application in improved oil recovery (IOR). These polymers are very similar to conventional water-soluble polymers used in IOR, except that they have a small number of hydrophobic groups incorporated into the polymer backbone. At levels of incorporation of less than 1 mol%, these hydrophobic groups can significantly change polymer performance. These polymers have potential for use in mobility control, drilling fluids and profile modification. This review includes synthesis, characterization, stability, rheology and flow in porous media of associating polymers. Patents relating to the use of associating polymers in IOR are also examined.

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