Optimizing nanoparticle-stabilized emulsion behavior in porous media through electrostatic interactions


H. Daigle and Griffith, N., “Optimizing nanoparticle-stabilized emulsion behavior in porous media through electrostatic interactions,” SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. Society of Petroleum Engineers, Dallas, TX, 2018.


We tested how different emulsion characteristics would affect transport through sandstone cores and recovery of residual oil. Our results show that the behavior of nanoparticle-stabilized emulsions flowing through porous media can be described in terms of filtration theory and electrostatic and van der Waals interactions. Residual oil recovery was enhanced by optimizing em—ulsion characteristics such as salinity, method of generation, and zeta potential. We emulsified widely available, low-cost natural gas liquids in brine using polyethylene glycol-coated silica nanoparticles. Emulsions were generated via sonication at varying salinities and zeta potentials for observations of emulsion characteristics. We conducted corefloods in Boise sandstone to assess the effects of different emulsion properties on residual oil recovery of heavy oils, effective permeability reduction capabilities (i.e. conformance control), and in-situ emulsion stability. Emulsions with high salinity content resulted in better in situ emulsion stability and up to 89% recovery of residual mineral oil at low injection rates. By increasing the salinity, the magnitude of the repulsive electrostatic force between emulsion droplets and grain surfaces is decreased, leading to increased droplet interception on grain surfaces. This results in more extensive droplet-pore throat blockage, redirecting the displacing fluid into less permeable zones. Increasing the magnitude of the droplet zeta potential of injected emulsions marginally increased in oil recovery, significantly reduced permeability, and increased in situ emulsion stability. The best residual oil recovery occurs when emulsion droplets can persist without coalescence under the pressures required to push them into small pore throats, while simultaneously moving through the larger pore throats rather than being mechanically or electrostatically retained. Proper emulsion flood design, therefore, must incorporate characterization of both the pore structure and the electrostatic properties of reservoir rocks and how these will interact with the emulsions.


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