The effect of wettability on capillary trapping in carbonates Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. We use an organic acid (cyclohexanepentanoic acid) to alter the wettability of three carbonates: Estaillades, Ketton and Portland limestones, and observe the relationship between the initial oil saturation and the residual saturation. We take cores containing oil and a specified initial water saturation and waterflood until 10 pore volumes have been injected. We record the remaining oil saturation as a function of the amount of water injected. In the water-wet case, with no wettability alteration, we observe, as expected, a monotonic increase in the remaining oil saturation with initial saturation. However, when the wettability is altered, we observe an increase, then a decrease, and finally an increase in the trapping curve for Estaillades limestone with a small, but continued, decrease in the remaining saturation as more water is injected. This behavior is indicative of mixed-wet or intermediate-wet conditions, as there is no spontaneous imbibition of oil and water. In contrast, Ketton did not show indications of a significant wettability alteration with a similar observed trapping profile to that observed in the water-wet case. Portland limestone also showed a monotonic increasing trend in remaining saturation with initial saturation but with a higher recovery, and less trapping, than the water-wet case. Again, this is intermediate-wet behavior with no spontaneous imbibition of either oil or water, and slow production of oil after water breakthrough. Finally, we repeat the same experiments but instead we age the three carbonates with a high asphaltenic content and high viscosity crude oil at 70 °C mimicking reservoir conditions. The results show a monotonic increase in residual saturation as a function of initial saturation but with higher recovery than the water-wet cases for Estaillades and Portland, with again no indication of wettability alteration for Ketton. We discuss the results in terms of pore-scale recovery process and contact angle hysteresis. In these experiments, water-saturated micro-porosity appears to protect the solid surfaces from a strong wettability alteration, particularly in Ketton.

author list (cited authors)

  • Alyafei, N., & Blunt, M. J.

citation count

  • 30

publication date

  • April 2016