Dynamics of Low-Interfacial-Tension Imbibition in Oil-Wet Carbonates
- Mohsen Tagavifar (University of Texas at Austin) | Matthew Balhoff (University of Texas at Austin) | Kishore Mohanty (University of Texas at Austin) | Gary A. Pope (University of Texas at Austin)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE Journal
- Publication Date
- June 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,092 - 1,107
- 2019.Society of Petroleum Engineers
- oil-wet carbonate rocks, phase change, wettability alteration, surfactant imbibition, mechanisms, scaling
- 50 in the last 30 days
- 237 since 2007
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Surfactants induce spontaneous imbibition of water into oil-wet porous media by wettability alteration and interfacial-tension (IFT) reduction. Although the dependence of imbibition on wettability alteration is well-understood, the role of IFT is not as clear. This is partly because, at low IFT values, most water/oil/amphiphile(s) mixtures form emulsions and/or microemulsions, suggesting that the imbibition is accompanied by a phase change, which has been neglected or incorrectly accounted for in previous studies. In this paper, spontaneous displacement of oil from oil-wet porous media by microemulsion-forming surfactants is investigated through simulations and the results are compared with existing experimental data for low-permeability cores with different aspect ratios and permeabilities. Microemulsion viscosity and oil contact angles, with and without surfactant, were measured to better initialize and constrain the simulation model. Results show that with such processes, the imbibition rate and the oil recovery scale differently with core dimensions. Specifically, the rate of imbibition is faster in cores with larger diameter and height, but the recovery factor is smaller when the core aspect ratio deviates considerably from unity. With regard to the mechanism of water uptake, our results suggest, for the first time, that (i) microemulsion formation (i.e., fluid/fluid interface phenomenon) is fast and favored over the wettability alteration (i.e., rock-surface phenomenon) in short times; (ii) a complete wettability transition from an oil-wet to a mixed microemulsion-wet and surfactant-wet state always occurs at ultralow IFT; (iii) wettability alteration causes a more uniform imbibition profile along the core but creates a more diffused imbibition front; and (iv) total emulsification is a strong assumption and fails to describe the dynamics and the scaling of imbibition. Wettability alteration affects the imbibition dynamics locally by changing the composition path, and at a distance by changing the flow behavior. Simulations predict that even though water is not initially present, it forms inside the core. The implications of these results for optimizing the design of low-IFT imbibition are discussed.
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