A Mechanism of Improved Oil Recovery by Low-Salinity Waterflooding in Sandstone Rock



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Injection of low-salinity water showed high potentials in improving oil recovery when compared to high-salinity water. However, the optimum water salinity and conditions are uncertain, due to the lack of understanding the mechanisms of fluid-rock interactions.

The main objective of this study is to examine the potential and efficiency of low-salinity water in secondary and tertiary oil recovery for sandstone reservoirs. Similarly, this study aims to help in understanding the dominant mechanisms that aid in improving oil recovery by low-salinity waterflooding. Furthermore, the impact of cation type in injected brines on oil recovery was investigated.

Coreflood experiments were conducted to determine the effect of water salinity and chemistry on oil recovery in the secondary and tertiary modes. The contact angle technique was used to study the impact of water salinity and composition on rock wettability. Moreover, the zeta potential at oil/brine and brine/rock interfaces was measured to explain the mechanism causing rock wettability alteration and improving oil recovery. Deionized water and different brines (from 500 to 174,000 mg/l), as well as single cation solutions were tested. Two types of crude oil with different properties and composition were used. Berea sandstone cores were utilized in the coreflood experiments.

Coreflood tests indicated that injection of deionized water in the secondary mode resulted in significant oil recovery, up to 22% improvement, compared to seawater flooding. However, no more oil was recovered in the tertiary mode. In addition, injection of NaCl solution increased the oil recovery compared to injection of CaCl2 or MgCl2 at the same concentration.

Contact angle results demonstrated that low-salinity water has an impact on the rock wettability; the more reduction in water salinity, the more a water-wet rock surface is produced. In addition, NaCl solutions made the rock more water-wet compared to CaCl2 or MgCl2 at the same concentration.

Low-salinity water and NaCl solutions showed a highly negative charge at rock/brine and oil/brine interfaces by zeta potential measurements, which results in greater repulsive forces between the oil and rock surface. This leads to double-layer expansion and water-wet systems. These results demonstrate that the double-layer expansion is a primary mechanism of improving oil recovery when water chemical composition is manipulated.