Investigation into the Processes Responsible for Heavy Oil Reservoir Recovery by Alkali-Surfactant Flooding

Bryan, J., Mai, A. and Kantzas, A.

DOI: 10.2118/113993-MS
SPE113993, presented at the 2008 SPE Improved Oil Recovery Symposium held in Tulsa Oklahoma, U.S.A., 21-23 April 2008, highlighted JPT 61(1), January 2009.


This paper describes a suite of alkali-surfactant (AS) floods that were performed in systems containing viscous heavy oil (11,500 mPa×s). The study investigates how AS injection can be used to generate oil and water emulsions, which can in turn lead to improved sweep efficiencies and oil recovery. Data is obtained from core flooding, with in-situ saturation measurements made using low field NMR. This work is applicable to the many heavy oil reservoirs in countries like Canada and Venezuela that contain viscous oil that still has some limited mobility under reservoir conditions. In previous studies, improved oil recovery compared to waterflooding was observed. This work provides additional information that can be used to better understand how chemical injection can lead to oil recovery.

The core floods in this study indicate that emulsification is most efficient when used to block pre-formed water channels and improve the sweep efficiency of the flood. Both O/W and W/O emulsions may form in the same system, even under controlled salinity conditions. The re-distribution of water from the flooded channels into emulsified droplets in the oil is at least partially responsible for the pressure increase seen in these systems. W/O emulsification is accompanied by wettability alteration, as evidenced by the NMR spectra obtained. After the chemical flood is completed, it may be possible to restore the original water wet condition of the rock, which can provide potential for future non-thermal improved oil recovery.

A full version of this paper is available on OnePetro Online.