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A novel experimental approach for studying spontaneous imbibition processes with alkaline solutions

Abstract : Spontaneous imbibition processes can play an important role in oil production. It can be enhanced or influenced by wettability changes generated by properly designed chemicals or by the natural surfactants resulting from reactive crude oils in the presence of alkaline solutions. The reaction of basic salts with some components of oil can, indeed, lead to the formation of natural soaps that reduces the interfacial tension between oil and brine. The latter scenario is studied herein on samples and oil from the St Ulrich oil field in the Vienna basin. To that end, spontaneous imbibition experiments were performed with two brines differing by the absence or presence of alkali. We first present a general novel technique to monitor saturation changes on small rock samples for the purpose of assessing the efficiency of a given recovery process. Samples of only 15 mm in diameter and 20 mm in length and set at irreducible saturation were fully immersed in the solution of interest, and the evolution of the samples' saturation with time was monitored thanks to a dedicated NMR technique involving the quantification of the sole oil phase present within the sample. A fully-3D imbibition configuration was adopted, involving counter-current flows through all faces of the sample. The experimental method is fast for two reasons: (i) the kinetics of capillary imbibition process is proportional to the square of sample size, i.e. very rapid if accurate measurements can be acquired on tiny samples, (ii) the present 3D situation also involves faster kinetics than the 1D configuration often used. The NMR technique was crucial to achieve such conditions that cannot be satisfied with conventional volumetric methods. The kinetics of oil desaturation during spontaneous imbibition is interpreted with the help of an analytical 3D diffusion model. For the alkaline solution, the diffusion coefficient is reduced by a factor of only two compared to the non-alkaline brine, although the interfacial tension between the oil and the imbibing solution is reduced by a factor of 10. Hence, a wettability change to a more water wet state has to be assumed when the alkaline solution replaces the non-alkaline solution in the imbibition process. However, no significant impact on the final saturation was observed.
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T. Chevalier, J. Labaume, A. Delbos, T. Clemens, V. Waeger, et al.. A novel experimental approach for studying spontaneous imbibition processes with alkaline solutions. International Symposium of the Society of Core Analysts, Society of Core Analysts, Oct 2018, Trondheim, Norway. pp.04004, ⟨10.1051/e3sconf/20198904004⟩. ⟨hal-02395821⟩

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