Experimental Study of Solvent Based Emulsion Injection to Enhance Heavy Oil Recovery



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This study presents the results of nano-particle and surfactant-stabilized solvent-based emulsion core flooding studies under laboratory conditions that investigate the recovery mechanisms of chemical flooding in a heavy oil reservoir. In the study, bench tests, including the phase behavior test, rheology studies and interfacial tension measurement are performed and reported for the optimum selecting method for the nano-emulsion. Specifically, nano-emulsion systems with high viscosity have been injected into sandstone cores containing Alaska North Slope West Sak heavy oil with 16 API, which was dewatered in the laboratory condition. The experiment results suggest that the potential application of this kind of emulsion flooding is a promising EOR (enhanced oil recovery) process for some heavy oil reservoirs in Alaska, Canada and Venezuela after primary production. Heavy oil lacks mobility under reservoir conditions and is not suitable for the application of the thermal recovery method because of environmental issues or technical problems. Core flooding experiments were performed on cores with varied permeabilities. Comparisons between direct injection of nano-emulsion systems and nano-emulsion injections after water flooding were conducted. Oil recovery information is obtained by material balance calculation. In this study, we try to combine the advantages of solvent, surfactant, and nano-particles together. As we know, pure miscible solvent used as an injection fluid in developing the heavy oil reservoir does have the desirable recovery feature, however it is not economical. The idea of nano-particle application in an EOR area has been recently raised by researchers who are interested in its feature-reaction catalysis-which could reduce in situ oil viscosity and generate emulsion without surfactant. Also, the nano-particle stabilized emulsions can long-distance drive oil in the reservoir, since the nano-particle size is 2-4 times smaller than the pore throat. In conclusion, the nano-emulsion flooding can be an effective enhancement for an oil recovery method for a heavy oil reservoir which is technically sensitive to the thermal recovery method.