Enhanced Oil Recovery by Polymer Flooding: Direct, Low-Cost Visualization in a Hele-Shaw Cell

Yukie Tanino* (Corresponding Author), Amer Syed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


We designed a hands-on laboratory exercise to demonstrate why injecting an aqueous polymer solution into an oil reservoir (commonly known as “polymer flooding”) enhances oil production. Students are split into three groups of two to three. Each group is assigned to a packed Hele–Shaw cell pre-saturated with oil, our laboratory model of an oil reservoir, and is given an aqueous solution of known polymer concentration to inject into the model reservoir to “push” the oil out. At selected intervals, students record the oil produced, take photos of the cell using their smartphones, and demarcate the invading polymer front on an acetate sheet. There is ample time for students to observe the experiments of other groups and compare the different flow patterns that arise from different polymer concentrations. Students share their results with other groups at the end of the session, which require effective data presentation and communication. Both the in-session tasks and data sharing require team work. While this experiment was designed for a course on Enhanced Oil Recovery for final year undergraduate and MSc students in petroleum engineering, it can be readily adapted to courses on groundwater hydrology or subsurface transport by selecting different test fluids.
Original languageEnglish
Article number186
Number of pages10
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding: This research received no external funding.

Acknowledgments: This manuscript contains materials designed and prepared for University of Aberdeen course Enhanced Oil Recovery. The use of student performance metrics for this manuscript has been reviewed and approved by the University of Aberdeen Physical Sciences and Engineering Ethics Board. The authors thank the University for granting us permission to publish the material. The Hele–Shaw cells were fabricated and the experiments undertaken in the School of Engineering at University of Aberdeen. The authors acknowledge the School of Engineering Mechanical Workshop for the fabrication of the cells and PhD students Ahmed eltom Eltaib Bashir, Xanat Zacarias Hernandez, and Olalekan O. Ajayi for their feedback as demonstrators.


  • mass transport
  • flow visualization
  • petroleum engineering
  • laboratory instruction
  • collaborative/cooperative learning
  • hands-on learning


Dive into the research topics of 'Enhanced Oil Recovery by Polymer Flooding: Direct, Low-Cost Visualization in a Hele-Shaw Cell'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this