Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Mechanisms of Mobility Control with Foam
This project is part of the Natural Gas and Oil Technology Partnership, Oil
and Gas Recovery Technology. The program partners the National Laboratories
with petroleum industry organizations to develop advanced technologies for improved
natural gas and oil recovery.
The goal of this project was to devise effective surfactant packages and a mechanism-based
simulator of foam displacement in porous media for mobility control in improved
oil recovery (IOR) processes.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)
A fully 3-D, mechanistic population-balance foam simulator has been developed,
including the kinetics of oil destabilization of foam. A mechanistic description
of oil destabilization of foam by the rupture of lamellae as they encounter
oil has been successfully implemented.
The simulation tool developed in this project will enable operators to predict
where the use of foam mobility control is advantageous and thereby increase
Increasing oil recovery is a crucial problem, since many domestic reservoirs
are nearing depletion with standard production techniques. Modern IOR practice
is well-developed in the area of dislodging trapped oil, for example, by establishing
ultralow tensions with exquisitely designed surfactant formulations. However,
mobility control is not well-developed, even though the basic principles are
understood. Because reservoirs are naturally heterogeneous, all current enhanced
oil recovery processes (including steam flooding, hydrocarbon injection, CO2
flooding, alkaline flooding, and surfactant flooding) require mobility control.
This work focuses on use of gas-aqueous surfactant dispersions (also called
generically "foams") as a general mobility control agent both in establishing
macroscopic sweep efficiency and microscopic displacement efficiency and for
a range of IOR processes. Foams for both in-depth sweep improvement and local
well profile modification are under development.
Project milestones include the following:
- A fully 3-D, mechanistic population-balance foam simulator has been developed,
including the kinetics of oil destabilization of foam. The new foam simulator
is constructed to be compatible with currently available state-of-the-art reservoir
simulators. Its advantage over available treatments of foam flow is that verifiable
physical phenomena are incorporated so that scaling from laboratory to reservoirs
can be accomplished. The simulator has been updated to predict foam generation
based on snap-off in constricted cornered pores and on effective-medium theory.
Also, the basic principles by which bubbles trap, coalesce by gas diffusion,
and remobilize into the flowing regime have been elucidated.
- A mechanistic description of oil destabilization of foam by the rupture of
lamellae as they encounter oil has been implemented successfully. To improve
understanding of surfactant design, a novel thin-film balance is being employed
that allows simultaneous measurement of disjoining pressures and longitudinal
electrical conductivities and seconds an atomic force microscopy (AFM) that
presses bubbles against solid surfaces to measure reservoir wettability and
aqueous film rupture pressures. In particular, how drops are configured at solid/liquid
interfaces in the presence of thin films has been determined (Colloids and Surfaces,
1999), a new theory for how foam films are stabilized has been derived (Adv.
Coll. Int. Sci. 2001), and a new understanding of oil spreading (JCIS, 2000;
Langmuir) has been devised.
- A new theory to garner disjoining forces from AFM was accomplished. Molecular
simulations of the disjoining pressures in thin foam films using MD and MC algorithms
have been conducted. An oscillating drop tensiometer to gauge the film-forming
behavior of the crude oil/water interface has been constructed. An adhesion
test of crude oils against mica surfaces, including AFM examination of the molecular
architecture of the deposited films, has been performed.
Current Status (October 2005)
The project has been completed.
Bhatt, D., Newman, John, and Radke, C.J., Molecular Simulation of Surface
Tensions of Aqueous Electrolyte Solutions, J. Phys. Chem. B, 2004.
Bhatt, D., Chee, R., Newman, John, and Radke, C.J., Molecular Simulation of
the Surface Tension of Simple Aqueous Electrolytes and the Gibbs Adsorption
Equation, submitted to Current Opinion in Colloid and Interface Science, 2004.
Bhatt, D., Newman, John, and Radke, C.J., Monte Carlo Simulation of Disjoining-Pressure
Isotherms for Lennard-Jones Surfactant-Stabilized Free Thin Films, submitted
to J. Chem. Phys. B, 2004.
Freer, E.M. and Radke, C.J., Relaxation of Asphaltenes at the Toluene/Water
Interface: Diffusion and Surface Rearrangement, J. Adhesion, 2004.
Kovscek, A.R., and Radke, C.J., Pressure-Driven Capillary Snap-Off of Gas
Bubbles at Low Wetting Liquid Content, Colloids and Surfaces A, 212(2-3),
2003, pp. 99-108.
Svitova, T.F., Weatherbee, M., and Radke, C.J., Dynamics of Surfactant Adsorption
at the Air/Water Interface: Continuous Flow Tensiometry, J. Coll. Int. Sci.,
Yaros, H.D., Newman, John, and Radke, C.J., Evaluation of DLVO Theory with
Disjoining-Pressure and Film-Conductance Measurements of Common Black Films
Stabilized with Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate, J. Colloid Int. Sci., 2003.
Freer, E.M., Svitova, T., and Radke, C.J., The Role of Interfacial Rheology
in Reservoir Mixed Wettability, J. Petroleum Science and Engineering, 2003.
Project Start: October 1, 1984
Project End: April 15, 2005
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $4,597,000
Performer Contribution: $0
NETL - Sue Mehlhoff (email@example.com or 918-699-2044)
LBNL - Clayton Radke - (firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-642-5204)