Development of Structure-Property Relationships for Steam Foam Additives for Heavy Oil Recovery
- Thu Nguyen (Sasol Performance Chemicals) | Ajay Raj (Sasol Performance Chemicals) | Renke Rommerskirchen (Sasol Performance Chemicals) | Jorge Fernandez (Sasol Performance Chemicals)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE International Conference on Oilfield Chemistry, 8-9 April, Galveston, Texas, USA
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2019. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 5.4.6 Thermal Methods, 2 Well completion, 5.4 Improved and Enhanced Recovery, 2.4 Hydraulic Fracturing
- heavy oil recovery, surfactants, thermal, steam foam additives
- 3 in the last 30 days
- 196 since 2007
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Low steam viscosity during steam injection can cause steam override and channeling issues for heavy oil recovery, resulting in high operating cost and low oil recovery. One of the common methods to increase the viscosity of steam is by co-injecting surfactants that generate stable foams with steam. The objective of this research is to develop structure-property relationships for surfactants in order to identify surfactant candidates as the steam foam additives for heavy oil recovery.
In this study, alkyl propoxy ethoxy ether carboxylate (alkyl PO EO ECA) surfactants were evaluated. Surfactant solutions at 1 wt% prepared in 1 wt% NaCl were aged at up to 250 °C in Parr reactors for up to 2 weeks. The degradation of the surfactants was quantified based on High Performance Liquid Chromatography profiles of the surfactants before and after the aging process. The foaming performance of the surfactants was evaluated at 1 wt% concentration at varied temperatures from 100 to 250 °C in a high temperature high pressure visual cell. Sand-packed columns were performed to evaluate the ability of the surfactant to increase the apparent viscosity of steam.
The results showed that alkyl PO EO ECA surfactants exhibit excellent chemical stability at up to 250 °C. However, the chemical stability of these surfactants are dependent on the hydrophobe structure as well as the numbers of PO and EO units of the surfactants. Among the studied surfactants, only ECA surfactants with specific structures were able to generate stable foam at 250 °C. It was found that the ECA surfactants with both PO and EO units and a long branched hydrophobe demonstrated to be excellent foaming agents that were able to increase the apparent viscosity of steam by three orders of magnitude at 250 °C in sand-pack columns. In the presence of bitumen, these surfactants were able to increase the steam apparent viscosity by two orders of magnitude. This increase in the steam apparent viscosity is sufficient to overcome the steam override and channeling during steam injection.
Past research has randomly identified some sulfonate and ether carboxylate surfactants as foaming agents for steam EOR processes. This work, however, evaluated these surfactants systematically in order to develop the structure-property relationships that can be used to optimize surfactants as steam foaming agents for thermal EOR processes at up to 250 °C.
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