In order to improve the oil recovery factor, many oil companies employ surfactant in injected water. On one hand, the injection of surfactant influences the interfacial tension and to a lesser extent, the mobility reduction factor. On the other hand, the efficiency of the surfactant depends strongly on the salinity and temperature conditions. In order to optimize the surfactant injection procedure, the salinity and temperature effects are commonly studied through series of laboratory experiments. However, these types of experiments are often long and expensive. Therefore, engineers use numerical simulations. The present study addresses a numerical model, which allows to take into account the modifications of the interfacial tension (IFT) and the mobility reduction factor due to the salinity and temperature variations during the surfactant injection.
In this work, we propose a coupled numerical model based on five equations: i) two transport equations of water and oil phases modelized by the Darcy's law, ii) two transport equations for the surfactant and the salinity (the surfactant and the salinity are transported only in the water phase) iii) one energy conservation equation to take into account the thermal effect on surfactant flooding. The system of equations includes the salinity and the temperature impacts on the surfactant adsorption and thermal degradation, as well as the interfacial tension. Thus, this model allows improving the analysis of thermal corefloods or reservoir operations resulting from the surfactant injection.
The coupled model is used to reproduce laboratory experiments based on corefloods. We analyze the interaction phenomena between the surfactant, salinity and temperature. Then, we demonstrate a competition between two phenomena: the thermal effect on the viscosity of water on one hand, and the effect of surfactant on the mobility of water on the other hand. This study highlights the efficiency of numerical simulations for the analysis and choice of the surfactant applied to the given reservoir and well conditions.
Obviously, the knowledge of IFT and its dependence on surfactant concentration, salinity and temperature is not sufficient to understand all the physical mechanisms involved in a coreflood study. The phenomena are in fact extremely coupled, and the reservoir simulator coupling all these effects is found to be very helpful for engineers in order to take a good decision about the surfactant species to be used.