Mechanistic Investigation of LSW/Surfactant/Alkali Synergism for Enhanced Oil Recovery: Fluid-Fluid Interactions

Ali Esfandiarian, Amin Azdarpour*, Rafael M. Santos* (Corresponding Author), Erfan Mohammadian, Hossein Hamidi, Milad Sedaghat, Parham B. Dehkordi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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The combination of chemical enhanced oil recovery (CEOR) and low salinity water (LSW) flooding is one of the most attractive enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods. While several studies on CEOR have been performed to date, there still exists a lack of mechanistic understanding on the synergism between surfactant, alkali and LSW. This synergism, in terms of fluid-fluid interactions, is experimentally investigated in this study, and mechanistic understanding is gained through fluid analysis techniques. Two surfactants, one cationic and one anionic, namely an alkyltrimethylammonium bromide (C19TAB) and sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate (SDBS), were tested, together with NaOH used as the alkali, diluted formation brine used as the LSW, and the crude oil was collected from an Iranian carbonate oil reservoir. Fluids were analyzed using pendant drop method for interfacial tension (IFT) measurement, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy for determination of aqueous and oleic phase chemical interaction. The optimum concentration of LSW for IFT reduction was investigated to be 1000 ppm. Additionally, both surfactants reduced IFT significantly, from 28.86 mN/m to well below 0.80 mN/m, but in the presence of optimal alkali concentration the IFT dropped further to below 0.30 mN/m. IFT reduction by alkali was linked to the production of three different types of in situ anionic surfactants, while in the case of anionic and cationic surfactants, saponification reactions and the formation of the C19TAOH alcohol, respectively, were linked to IFT reduction. The critical micelle concentration and optimal alkali concentration when using cationic C19TAB were significantly lower than with the anionic surfactant; respectively: 335 vs 5000 ppm, and 500 vs 5000 ppm. However, it was found that SDBS was more compatible with NaOH than C19TAB, due to occurrence of alkali deposition with the latter beyond the optimal point.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30059–30072
Number of pages14
JournalACS Omega
Issue number46
Early online date13 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge and appreciate the Department of Petroleum Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Marvdasht Islamic Azad University (Marvdasht, Iran), and the School of Engineering, University of Guelph (Guelph, Canada), for supporting this work.


  • Lipids
  • Organic compounds
  • Petrochemicals
  • Surfactants
  • Molecules


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