Crude-Oil/Brine Interaction as a Recovery Mechanism for Low-Salinity Waterflooding of Carbonate Reservoirs
- Joel T. Tetteh (University of Kansas) | Reza Barati (University of Kansas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering
- Publication Date
- August 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 877 - 896
- 2019.Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Low Salinity Waterflooding, Recovery Mechanism, FTIR, Carbonate Reservoirs, Oil-Brine Interaction
- 46 in the last 30 days
- 262 since 2007
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Low-salinity waterflooding in limestone formations has been less explored and hence less understood in enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) literature. The mechanisms leading to improved recovery have been mostly attributed to wettability alteration, with less attention given to fluid/fluid-interaction mechanisms. In this work, we present a thorough investigation of the formation of water-in-oil microdispersions generated when low-salinity brine encounters crude oil and the suppressed snap-off effect caused by the presence of sulfate content in seawater-equivalent-salinity brines as recovery mechanisms in limestone rocks. We believe this is a mechanism that leads to the improved oil recovery experienced with low-salinity waterflooding and seawaterflooding in carbonate formations. This novel interpretation was studied by integrating petrographic and spectroscopic observations, dynamic interfacial-tension (IFT) measurements, thermogravimetrical analyses, and coreflooding techniques.
Our data show that low-salinity brine caused a greater change in the crude-oil composition compared with seawater brine and formation-water brine. Formation-water brine created nearly no changes to the crude-oil composition, indicating its limited effect on the crude oil. These compositional changes in crude oil, caused by the low-salinity brine, were attributed to the formation of water-in-oil microdispersions within the crude-oil phase. Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy data also showed that at brine-concentration levels greater than 8,200 ppm, this phenomenon was not experienced. Oil-production data for nonaged limestone cores showed an improved recovery of approximately 5 and 3% for seawater and low-salinity brines, respectively. Although the wettability-alteration effect was minimized by the use of nonaged cores, improved oil recovery was still evident. This was interpreted to represent the formation of water-in-oil microdispersions when low-salinity water (LSW) of 8,200-ppm salinity and less was used. The formation of the microdispersions is believed to increase the sweep efficiency of the waterflood by swelling and therefore blocking the pore throats, causing low-salinity-brine sweeping of the unswept pore spaces. Improved recovery by seawater brine was attributed to the changes in dynamic IFT measurement experienced using seawater brine as the continuous phase, compared with the use of LSW and formation-water-salinity (FWS) brine. This change caused a higher surface dilatational elasticity, which leads to a suppression of the snap-off effect in coreflooding experiments and hence causes improved oil recovery.
Our studies conclude that the formation of microdispersions leads to improved oil recovery in low-salinity waterflooding of limestone rocks. Furthermore, the use of seawater as a displacing fluid succeeds in improving recovery because of its high surface elasticity suppressing the snap-off effect in the pore throat. We also present an easy and reliable mixing procedure representative of porous media, which could be used for screening brine and crude-oil samples for field application. Fluid/fluid interaction as well as high surface elasticity should be investigated as the causes of wettability alteration and improved recovery experienced by the use of LSW and seawater-salinity (SWS) brines interacting with limestone formations, respectively.
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