Injection of foams can be used to optimize different gas injection processes such as CCUS (Carbon Capture Use & Storage) and possibly to boost oil recovery kinetics in heterogenous or naturally fractured reservoirs (Enick R.M. 2012). In this case, foams, which are more viscous and dense than gases, aim at limiting early gas breakthrough during field operation by improving the sweeping efficiency of reservoirs and by blocking the most permeable areas of the latters (A. Al Sumaiti 2017, Chabert M. and D'Souza D. 2016). A large part of the world oil reservoirs that have already been operated by primary and secondary recovery methods are carbonate reservoirs and are mostly located in the Middle East (Talebian S.H. 2014). In these reservoirs, which are often operated by CO2 injection, the adsorption of surfactants on positively charged carbonates may be a major hindrance to foam injection (Pownall 1989, Cui L. and Ma K. 2014). That is why, cationic surfactants have been developed for these CO2 foam applications (Chen Y. 2016). However, these cationics are often hardly soluble at pH>6 (Jian G. 2019) and/or not industrially avalaible (Cui et Dubos 2018).
For this study, we selected three different cationic surfactants. Using automated robotic platforms, we explored a large range of surfactant combination (combining each cationic surfactant with a whole co-surfactant portfolio) at high temperature and in a hard concentrated brine (120g/LTDS, [Ca2+]= 8100ppm). We show that adding co-surfactants to each of these cationics boosts their foaming properties in porous media as well as their solubility at high pH (pH=8) while maintaining low levels of adsorption on carbonates. While a high shear rate is required for cationic surfactants to generate foam in sandpacks, formulations combining cationics and co-surfactants form foams at much lower shear rates. Moreover, the fact that these formulations are soluble at pH=8 means that, on field, the water would no longer need to be acidified at the wellhead to solubilize the surfactant blend. Thus, pipe corrosion induced by the flow of acidified solutions in the surface facilities is prevented. Lastly, all the molecules that are tested in this study are industrially available.