Improvement of Heavy Oil Recovery by Nonionic Surfactant/Alcohol Flooding in Light of the Alkane Carbon Number and Interfacial Tension Properties

Ahmad Mohamed Alsabagh, Amany A. Aboulrous* (Corresponding Author), Mohamed Mahmoud Abdelhamid, Tahany Mahmoud, Amin Sharifi Haddad* (Corresponding Author), Roozbeh Rafati

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


In this work, we prepared nonionic surfactants from waste cooking oil materials. Hydrolysis was carried out for palm and palm kernel waste cooking oils to get a mixture of free fatty acids. The mixture of free acids was esterified with sorbitan and then ethoxylated at different ethylene oxide units. Two surfactants exhibited promising surface-active properties among the six prepared surfactants based on the results of surface tension. The interfacial tension (IFT) around the critical micelle concentration was measured against a series of n-hydrocarbon to detect the minimum alkane carbon number (ACN) (Πmin) for each of these surfactants. The effect of normal and branched alcohols on Πmin was also studied to design the surfactant/alcohol mixture for the chemical flooding process. From the results of IFT, the ethoxylated ester derivatives of palm kernel fatty acids (EPK-20) exhibited minimum IFT γmin (0.06 mN m–1) at Πmin equal to 12, and the ethoxylated ester derivatives of palm fatty acids (EP-40) achieved γmin equal to 0.09 mN m–1 at Πmin of 10. Branched alcohols shifted Πmin to a higher value to reach the equivalent ACN of the crude oil and decrease the IFT to lower values. The flooding process showed that the maximum oil recovery was obtained by EPK-20 (54.2% when used purely and 66.2% when used with isoamyl alcohol). In comparison, EP-40 exhibited that oil recovery equals 46% without alcohol and 46.4% with iso-butanol alcohol. The results were interpreted and discussed based on interfacial properties, wettability alteration, and the ACN.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18668–18683
Number of pages16
JournalACS Omega
Issue number29
Early online date12 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

The Egyptian authors were supported by the Science, Technology & Innovation Funding Authority (STDF) under grant 30894. The authors from the UK would like to acknowledge the financial support from an Institutional Links grant, ID 352343681, under the Newton-Mosharafa Fund partnership. The grant is funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and delivered by the
British Council. The authors would like to thank the EPRIEOR unit and staff as the surface and interfacial tension and contact angle measurements and chemical flooding tests were conducted at the EPRI-EOR unit.


  • Surface tension
  • Lipids
  • Interfaces
  • Oil Recovery
  • Surfactants


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