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Probing the intrinsically oil-wet surfaces of pores in North Sea chalk at subpore resolution

By T. Hassenkam, L. L. Skovbjerg and S. L. S. Stipp


Pore surface properties control oil recovery. This is especially true for chalk reservoirs, where pores are particularly small. Wettability, the tendency for a surface to cover itself with fluid, is traditionally defined by the angle a droplet makes with a surface, but this macroscopic definition is meaningless when the particles are smaller than even the smallest droplet. Understanding surface wetting, at the pore scale, will provide clues for more effective oil recovery. We used a special mode of atomic force microscopy and a hydrophobic tip to collect matrices of 10,000 force curves over 5- × 5-μm2 areas on internal pore surfaces and constructed maps of topography, adhesion, and elasticity. We investigated chalk samples from a water-bearing formation in the Danish North Sea oil fields that had never seen oil. Wettability and elasticity were inhomogeneous over scales of 10s of nanometers, smaller than individual chalk particles. Some areas were soft and hydrophobic, whereas others showed no correlation between hardness and adhesion. We conclude that the macroscopic parameter, “wetting,” averages the nanoscopic behavior along fluid pathways, and “mixed-wet” samples have patches with vastly different properties. Development of reservoir hydrophobicity has been attributed to infiltrating oil, but these new results prove that wettability and elasticity are inherent properties of chalk. Their variability, even on single particles, must result from material originally present during sedimentation or material sorbed from the pore fluid some time later

Topics: Physical Sciences
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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