Wettability and Prediction of Oil Recovery From Reservoirs Developed With Modern Drilling and Completion Fluids


We report on progress in three areas. In part one, the wetting effects of synthetic base oils are reported. Part two reports progress in understanding the effects of surfactants of known chemical structures, and part three integrates the results from surface and core tests that show the wetting effects of commercial surfactant products used in synthetic and traditional oil-based drilling fluids. An important difference between synthetic and traditional oil-based muds (SBM and OBM, respectively) is the elimination of aromatics from the base oil to meet environmental regulations. The base oils used include dearomatized mineral oils, linear alpha-olefins, internal olefins, and esters. We show in part one that all of these materials except the esters can, at sufficiently high concentrations, destabilize asphaltenes. The effects of asphaltenes on wetting are in part related to their stability. Although asphaltenes have some tendency to adsorb on solid surfaces from a good solvent, that tendency can be much increased near the onset of asphaltene instability. Tests in Berea sandstone cores demonstrate wetting alteration toward less water-wet conditions that occurs when a crude oil is displaced by paraffinic and olefinic SBM base oils, whereas exposure to the ester products has little effect on wetting properties of the cores. Microscopic observations with atomic forces microscopy (AFM) and macroscopic contact angle measurements have been used in part 2 to explore the effects on wetting of mica surfaces using oil-soluble polyethoxylated amine surfactants with varying hydrocarbon chain lengths and extent of ethoxylation. In the absence of water, only weak adsorption occurs. Much stronger, pH-dependent adsorption was observed when water was present. Varying hydrocarbon chain length had little or no effect on adsorption, whereas varying extent of ethoxylation had a much more significant impact, reducing contact angles at nearly all conditions tested. Preequilibration of aqueous and oleic phases appeared to have little influence over surfactant interactions with the mica surface; the solubility in water of all three structures appeared to be very limited. Commercial emulsifiers for both SBM and OBM formulations are blends of tall oil fatty acids and their polyaminated derivatives. In part three of this report, we integrate observations on smooth surfaces with those in Berea sandstone cores to show the effects of low concentrations of these products with and without the added complexity of adsorbed material from crude oils. Unlike the polyethoxylated amines studied in part two, there are significant non-equilibrium effects that can occur when water first contacts oil with dissolved surfactant. Very oil-wet conditions can be produced on first contact. Surfactant dissolved in oil had less effect on wetting alteration for one combination of crude oil and surfactant, although the generality of this observation can only be assessed by additional tests with crude oils of different composition. The wettability-altering effect of surfactants on both mica and Berea sandstone was most significant when they contacted surfaces after adsorption of crude oil components. Tests without crude oil might underestimate the extent of wetting change possible with these SBM and OBM emulsifiers

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