Laboratory experiments and field trials have shown that oil recovery from carbonate reservoirs can be increased by modifying the brine composition injected during recovery in a process termed controlled salinity water-flooding (CSW). However, CSW remains poorly understood and there is no method to predict the optimum CSW composition. This work demonstrates for the first time that improved oil recovery (IOR) during CSW is strongly correlated to changes in zeta potential at both the mineral-water and oil-water interfaces. We report experiments in which IOR during CSW occurs only when the change in brine composition induces a repulsive electrostatic force between the oil-brine and mineral-brine interfaces. The polarity of the zeta potential at both interfaces must be determined when designing the optimum CSW composition. A new experimental method is presented that allows this. Results also show for the first time that the zeta potential at the oil-water interface may be positive at conditions relevant to carbonate reservoirs. A key challenge for any model of CSW is to explain why IOR is not always observed. Here we suggest that failures using the conventional (dilution) approach to CSW may have been caused by a positively charged oil-water interface that had not been identified.
Bibliographical noteJackson was funded by the TOTAL Chairs Programme at Imperial College London, and Vinogradov through the TOTAL Laboratory for Reservoir Physics at Imperial College London.
- crude oil
- porous materials