Enhanced oil recovery by smart waterflooding represents an implementable and attractive emerging oil recovery technology. For sandstone reservoirs, smart waterflooding has shown an outright incremental oil recovery in most laboratory and field tests while some promising experimental data have been presented from carbonates. It seems more difficult to assume a favorable performance for some reservoir formation a priori while dismissing the other, so more data and better understanding of the underlying mechanism in carbonates are needed.

This paper describes a series of experiments on Middle East carbonate core plugs designed to determine the impact of formation water and different versions of seawater (which has its sulfate concentration increased in the ratio (0.5:1:2:4:8) on oil recovery, wettability and surface charge modification. The results obtained lead to the following conclusions:

  • Coreflooding experiments at 2300F and 3000psi with formation brine and various versions of seawater coupled with spiking sulfate concentration executed on carbonate core aged showed an incremental recovery of about 10% OOIC;

  • An increasing concentration of sulfate in the seawater makes a Crude Oil/Brine/Rock system less oil-wet;

  • The higher the sulfate concentration, the greater the repulsive forces in the electrical double layer, thereby forming an aggregate and detaching the oil from the rock surface, while increasing the sulfate concentration beyond four times seems ineffective as it gave a swift increase in pH and rock surface charges;

The results obtained are therefore discussed within the framework of mechanisms previously described for smart water's ability to enhance oil recovery. The study concluded that a relatively economical modification of injection brine composition could considerably increase oil recovery.

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