One of the unanswered issues with steam applications is the wettability state during the process. Removal of polar groups from the rock surface with increasing temperature improves water wettability; however, other factors, including phase change, play a reverse role on it. In other words, hot water or steam will show different wettability characteristics, eventually affecting the recovery. On the other hand, wettability can be altered using steam additives. The mechanism of these phenomena is not yet clear. The objective of this work is to quantitatively evaluate the steam-induced wettability alteration in different rock systems and analyze the mechanism of wettability change caused by the change of the phase of water and chemical additives.

Heavy-oil from a field in Alberta (27,780 cP at 25°C) was used in contact angle measurements conducted on mica, calcite plates, and rock pieces obtained from a bitumen containing carbonate reservoir (Grosmont). All measurements were conducted at a temperature range up to 200°C using a high-temperature high-pressure IFT device. To obtain a comprehensive understanding of this process, different factors, including the phase of water, pressure, rock-type, and contact sequence were considered and studied separately.

Initially, the contact angles between oil and water were measured at different pressures to study the effect of pressure on wettability by maintaining water in the liquid phase. Secondly, the contact angle was measured in pure steam by keeping pressure lower than the saturation pressure. The influence of contacting sequence was investigated by reversing the sequence of generating steam and introducing oil during measurement. These measurements were repeated on different substrates. Different temperature resistant chemicals (surfactants and alkalis) were added to steam during contact angle to test their wettability alteration characteristics at different temperature and pressure conditions (steam or hot-water phases). The results showed that wettability of tested substrates is not sensitive to pressure as long as the phase has not been changed. The system, however, was observed to be more oil-wet in steam than in water at the same temperature, for example, in the case of calcite.

Analysis of the degree of the wettability alteration induced by steam (or hot-water) and temperature was helpful to further understand the interfacial properties of steam/bitumen/rock system and useful in the recovery performance estimation of steam injection process in carbonate and sand reservoirs.

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