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Abstract: Polymer flooding is the most used chemical method to enhance oil recovery. However, laboratory studies and field applications of polymer injections often encounter polymer-induced clogging due to polymer transport and entrapment, leading to permeability reduction and diminished recovery performance. In this work, we focus on understanding polymer flow behavior using microfluidics devices and fluorescence microscopy.
The microfluidic devices were designed to mimic the pore-size distribution of oil-bearing conventional reservoir rocks, with pore-throats ranging from 1 to 10 μm. We present various flow experiments to study polymer transport and the underlying mechanisms of polymer retention in porous media. We assess the polymer-induced clogging of partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamides - HPAMs, using tracers. Afterwards, we use commercially fluorescent polymer with microfluidics and single-molecule microscopy to give insights about individual molecule dynamics. Furthermore, we perform numerical simulations to replicate and extend the experimental work. As these experiments were done using commercially fluorescent polymer of low molecular weight and due to limitations of tracers to track polymers, we aimed to investigate the transport behavior of the most used polymer for oil recovery, the HPAMs, at molecule-scale. However existent methods in the literature are not suitable for fluorescently labelling ultra-high molecule weight polymers. Therefore, we present a new method for the synthesis of dye-labelled polymers that successfully tagged the HPAMS.
The findings highlight a limitation in some polymer screening workflows in the industry that suggest selecting the candidate polymers based solely on their molecular size and the size distribution of the rock pore-throats. Moreover, we present, for the first time, direct visualization of the three main mechanisms underlying polymer retention in porous media. We bring the first molecular evidence of polymer pore-clogging and permeability reduction reversibility, which sheds light on the controversy in the literature. In addition, we propose a new method for fluorescent labelling water-soluble ultra-high molecular weight polyacrylamides-based polymers that preserves their viscosifying properties. The method can be extended to any polymers containing carboxyl groups or groups that can be functionalized into carboxyls, and therefore, the applicability covers any fields that employ polymers.
Biography: Antonia Sugar is a Ph.D. student in the Energy Resources and
Petroleum Engineering Program, in Prof.’s Hussein Hoteit group at
KAUST. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering
from Oil&Gas University of Ploiesti, in Romania, and her Master’s
degree in Reservoir Engineering from Montanuniversität Leoben, in
Austria. Currently, Antonia’s research focuses on studying chemical
enhanced oil recovery methods using microfluidics and advanced
imagining techniques, in collaboration with Prof.’s Satoshi Habuchi
group from Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering at