Utilization of Nanoparticles to Enhance Hydrocarbon Recovery: An Experimental Study
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In any producing formation, significant amounts of hydrocarbons will be unrecoverable due to strong capillary forces that keep the hydrocarbons trapped within the formation pores. The force needed to displace the oil or gas droplets through the pore throat is the capillary pressure which is influenced by the formation rockâ s wettability and the oil-water interfacial tension. Several techniques have been implemented in the field to enhance the recovery of hydrocarbons based on this relationship. Surfactant flooding is an EOR (enhanced oil recovery) method where a small amount of surfactant is added to an injected fluid in order to sweep the reservoir. The surfactants cause a decrease in the interfacial tension between the oil and water phases which mobilizes the crude oil. Several field applications of nanoparticle dispersions were recently implemented or are still under investigation. One of these applications is utilizing nanoparticles to improve the efficiency of surfactants in enhancing oil recovery. Nanoparticles also have many properties that make them great candidates for EOR applications. Students will complete a literature review that will help them design experiments specifically for their case studies of different combinations of brines, oils, surfactants, cores, and nanoparticle concentrations. These will be evaluated through contact angle measurements, imbibition tests, and core-flooding tests. Hence, this research aims to experimentally verify the feasibility of utilizing nanoparticles to enhance oil recovery through the reduction of interfacial tensions and alteration of the wetting angle. Even the slightest increase in the fraction of oil or gas that can be recovered from the formation pores will mount to sizeable increases in production on a large scale.