The oil recovery potential of acrylamide-based, associative thickening polymers has recently been evaluated in a coreflood study of our department. Associative polymers are anionic, water-soluble copolymers modified with varying degress of pendant hydrophobic groups. By intermolecular interactions of these hydrophobic moieties a fully reversible network of polymer coils can be formed.
The oil recovery efficiency of a series of copolymers based on acrylamide, 2-acrylamidopropane sulfonic acid (ATBS) in combination with a hydrophobic comonomer has been determined in linear coreflood experiments at a temperature of 60°C. Synthetic sea water was used as brine and Bentheimer sandstone as core material. The evaluated polymers differed in molecular weight and associative groups' content.
While anionic polyacrylamide (APAM) shows very similar resistance factors (RF) in coreflood experiments with and without oil, a significantly reduced RF in the presence of oil has been found for the associative polymers. The magnitude of this decrease in resistance factor was dependent on the specific type of associative polymer.
The effect can be ascribed to the weakend intermolecular interaction of the hydrophobic groups in the associative polymers in the presence of oil. Even though the RF value is reduced in the presence of oil, it still remains higher than that of regular APAM.
At low flow rates representing reservoir conditions a high resistance factor was observed and oil production was improved. This observation can be explained by an increase of the capillary number caused by the high RF of the polymer drive. A good correlation between oil production and capillary number was established.
Permeability reduction effects explained the high mobility reduction observed with the associative polymers, as the bulk viscosity data did not correlate with the in-situ flow properties of the polymers in porous media.