The goal of this project was to identify new, potentially more cost-effective surfactant formulations for Improved Oil Recovery (IOR). The project emphasized searching for surfactants that can reduce the interfacial tension (IFT) between surfactant solutions and oil to ultra-low levels and at a low cost.
This project was selected in response to DOE's Oil Exploration and Production solicitation DE-PS26-01NT41048 (focus area: Enhanced Oil Recovery, or EOR). The goal of the solicitation was to promote innovative methods for cost-effective surfactant flooding.
California Institute of Technology
This 3-year project began in September 2001 as an effort to identify more cost-effective surfactants for IOR. The motivation for this study is that the oil industry had a history from the previous "boom" period of the late 1970s and early 1980s of developing chemical IOR in the laboratory and having moderately successful technical field tests. However, its economics prevented widespread commercial deployment of the technology, due in large part to the high cost of the chemicals required for the process.
The project did identify promising new candidate formulations (based on alkyl polyglycosides [APG] and alkyl propoxy sulfate [APS] surfactants). These more recently available products offer key technical advantages and may in fact be more economical in future commercial applications.
The project used a combined experimental and theoretical approach to identify new surfactant chemistries for IOR. These newer products (not available commercially during previous intense research in chemical EOR more than two decades ago) offer performance advantages such as less sensitivity to salinity and temperature for low IFT.
This project benefits the industry by identifying a wider spectrum of surfactant products that may be useful for IOR. Having these alternatives offers more choices and more competition (resulting in lower costs) for an oil company that is selecting a surfactant for IOR.
The state and the public benefit of this research is that it provides further impetus for the industry to practice chemical IOR and thereby increase domestic oil supply. There also is a general benefit because the project approach is a successful example for other researchers to follow where complementary chemical molecular-level simulation studies are synergistic with the experimental chemistry investigation and thus produce better results.
Significant accomplishments for this project include:
Since the formal completion of the project, work continues on multiple papers and publications that will document additional details of this effort to the public domain. For example, there will be a paper presented at the 2005 SPE Fall Meeting concerning the performance of the APS surfactants. Also, experiences gained during the execution of this project were helpful in writing additional chemical IOR proposals and securing further funding from DOE in this technical area. There have been 4 presentations at American Chemical Society meetings.
Final Report: Lower-Cost Methods for Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) via Surfactant Flooding, DOE Project: DE-FC26-01BC15362, October 2004.
Iglauer, S., Wu, Y., Shuler, P.J., Blanco, M., Tang, Y., and Goddard III, W.A., "Alkyl Polyglycoside Surfactants for Improved Oil Recovery," SPE/DOE 89472, presented at the 2004 SPE/DOE 14th Symposium on Improved Oil Recovery, Tulsa, OK, April 17-21, 2004.
Jang, S.S., Lin, S.T., Maita, P.K., Blanco, M., Goddard III, W.A., Shuler, P.J.,and Tang, Y., "Molecular Dynamics Study of a Surfactant-Mediated Decane-Water Interface: Effect of Molecular Architecture of Alkyl Benzene Sulfonate," Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 108, 12130-12140, 2004.
$180,058 (20% of total)