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Microfluidic Investigation of Salinity-Induced Oil Recovery in Porous Media during Chemical Flooding

  • Sung wan Park
    Sung wan Park
    Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, United States
  • Jonghyun Lee
    Jonghyun Lee
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering & Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, United States
    More by Jonghyun Lee
  • Hongkyu Yoon
    Hongkyu Yoon
    Geomechanics Department, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87123, United States
    More by Hongkyu Yoon
  • , and 
  • Sangwoo Shin*
    Sangwoo Shin
    Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, United States
    *Email: [email protected]
    More by Sangwoo Shin
Cite this: Energy Fuels 2021, 35, 6, 4885–4892
Publication Date (Web):March 2, 2021
Copyright © 2021 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract Image

    High and low salinity water flooding are common oil recovery processes performed in the oil fields for extracting crude oil from the reservoir. These processes are often performed sequentially, naturally establishing non-uniform salinity in the porous subsurface. In this article, we investigate oil transport in porous media induced by salinity change upon flooding with high and low salinity water. As we observe a large number of impervious dead-ends from three-dimensional imaging of the actual reservoir, we identify that these areas play an important role in oil recovery where the oil transport is governed by the salinity change rather than hydrodynamics. The salinity gradients induced upon high salinity water flooding provide pathways to enhance the transport of oil drops trapped in the dead-end regions via non-equilibrium effects. However, above a critical salinity, we observe a rapid aggregation of drops that lead to the complete blockage of the pore space, thereby inhibiting oil recovery. We also find that, at an intermediate salinity where the drop aggregation is modest, the aggregation rather promotes the oil recovery. Our observations suggest that there exist optimal salinity conditions for maximizing oil recovery during chemical flooding.

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    • (Movie S1) Migration of decane drops in dead-end pores upon high and low salinity water injection (play speed is 30×) (AVI)

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