Correlation Between Foam Flow Structure in Porous Media and Surfactant Formulation Properties

  • Eloïse ChevallierEmail author
  • Nils Demazy
  • Amandine Cuenca
  • Max Chabert


The optimization of foam injection in porous media for enhanced oil recovery or soil remediation requires a large screening of surfactant formulations. Tests of foam stability in vials often used quick criteria to accelerate selection and ensure performance in porous media. Using a selection of surfactant formulations of different chemistry and foam behaviors, the correlation between foam in vials and in porous media is investigated. Along with foam stability, foamability which quantifies the ability to create foam is shown to play a role in the maximum apparent viscosity. This is a first evidence that foamability is a key parameter for the maximum apparent viscosity reached in a steady state of apparent viscosity. To account for the relative contribution of foamability and foam stability, a parameter is inspired from the widely accepted model of population balance. These results support a workflow based on large foam screening in a first step and sandpack experiments in a second step, prior to more representative but longer coreflood tests. Finally, these experimental data emphasize the relevance of population balance simulations as a description based on experimental measurement. Second, the flow visualization in the sandpack allows the extraction of a local velocity of the liquid in the flowing foam. This parameter gives an experimental evidence that the transition between the high-quality and low-quality regime corresponds to a change in the efficiency of foam lamellae network to transport gas concomitantly to liquid. The local liquid velocity also represents an indirect and easy measurement of flow structure, and it is shown to change from one formulation to another. This observation highlights the complex relation between local microstructure and physical chemistry of surfactants.


Foam Surfactant Local velocity Apparent viscosity Gas mobility Formulation Workflow Sandpack Lamellae Strong foam Diphasic flow Oil EOR Soil remediation Mobility reduction Bulk foam 

List of Symbols


Gas fraction


Gas fraction recalculated at different positions in sandpack to account for compressibility effect


Gas fraction for maximum of apparent viscosity


Gas fraction at the outlet of sandpack (7 bars)




Permeability of sandpack


Length of sandpack


Number of lamellae


Atmospheric pressure


Back pressure


Pressure created by the foam flow


Gas flow rate


Liquid flow rate


Sandpack section


Average section where foam lamellae are flowing


Average section saturated with water


Foam half-life time (stability)


Average velocity of gas in a bubble


Interstitial velocity


Interstitial velocity recalculated at different positions in sandpack to account for compressibility effect


Velocity of a foam lamellae, as defined by the velocity of the air/liquid interface of a flowing lamellae


Liquid velocity as measured by dyed liquid velocity


Ratio of flowing lamellae over total lamellae


Apparent viscosity of foam


Viscosity of water




Supplementary material

11242_2018_1226_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (145 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 145 kb)


  1. Almajid, M.M., Kovscek, A.R.: Pore-level mechanics of foam generation and coalescence in the presence of oil. Adv. Colloid Interface Sci. (2015). Google Scholar
  2. Bartsch, O.: Über Schaumsysteme. Kolloidchemische Beihefte 20, 1–49 (1924)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blaker, T., Celius, H.K., Lie, T., Martinsen, H.A., Rasmussen, L., Vassenden, F.: Foam for gas mobility control in the Snorre field: the FAWAG project. In: SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. Society of Petroleum Engineers, Houston (1999)Google Scholar
  4. Bretherton, F.P.: The motion of long bubbles in tubes. J. Fluid Mech. 10, 166 (1961). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cantat, I., Cohen-Addad, S., Emias, F., Graner, F., Hohler, R., Pitois, O., Rouyer, F., Saint-Jalmes, A., Flatman, R., Cox, S.: Foams: Structure and Dynamics. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2013). ISBN: 978-0-19-966289-0 0-19-966289-4 978-0-19-966289-0 978-0-19-150545-4Google Scholar
  6. Chabert, M., Nabzar, L., Cuenca, A., Beunat, V., Chevallier, E.: Improved mobility reduction of non dense gas foam in presence of high residual oil saturation. Presented at the April 14 (2015)Google Scholar
  7. Chambers, K.T., Radke, C.J.: Capillary phenomena in foam flow through porous media. Interfacial Phenom. Pet. Recovery 36, 191 (1991)Google Scholar
  8. Chevallier, E., Chabert, M., Gautier, S., Ghafram, H., Khaburi, S., Alkindi, A.: Design of a combined foam EOR process for a naturally fractured reservoir. Presented at the OGWA Conference (2018)Google Scholar
  9. Cuenca, A., Lacombe, E., Morvan, M., Le Drogo, V., Giordanengo, R., Chabert, M., Delamaide, E.: Design of thermally stable surfactants formulations for steam foam injection (2014).
  10. Delamaide, E., Cuenca, A., Chabert, M.: State of the art review of the steam foam process. In: SPE Latin America and Caribbean Heavy and Extra Heavy Oil Conference. Society of Petroleum Engineers, Lima (2016)Google Scholar
  11. Dong, P., Puerto, M., Ma, K., Mateen, K., Ren, G., Bourdarot, G., Morel, D., Biswal, S.L., Hirasaki, G.: Ultralow-interfacial-tension foam injection strategy investigation in high temperature ultra-high salinity fractured carbonate reservoirs. Presented at the IOR Tulsa (2018)Google Scholar
  12. Falls, A.H., Hirasaki, G.J., Patzek, T.W., Gauglitz, D.A., Miller, D.D., Ratulowski, T.: Development of a mechanistic foam simulator: the population balance and generation by snap-off. SPE Reserv. Eng. 3, 884–892 (1988). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Farajzadeh, R., Wassing, L.B.M., Boerrigter, P.M.: Foam assisted gas oil gravity drainage in naturally-fractured reservoirs. In: SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition. Society of Petroleum Engineers, Florence (2010)Google Scholar
  14. Farajzadeh, R., Vincent-Bonnieu, S., Bourada Bourada, N.: Effect of gas permeability and solubility on foam. J. Soft Matter 2014, 1–7 (2014). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hourtane, V., Bodiguel, H., Colin, A.: Dense bubble traffic in microfluidic loops: selection rules and clogging. Phys. Rev. E 93, 032607 (2016). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jones, S.A., van der Bent, V., Farajzadeh, R., Rossen, W.R., Vincent-Bonnieu, S.: Surfactant screening for foam EOR: correlation between bulk and core-flood experiments. Colloids Surf. A Physicochem. Eng. Asp. 500, 166–176 (2016). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jones, S.A., Getrouw, N., Vincent-Bonnieu, S.: Foam flow in a model porous medium: II. The effect of trapped gas. Soft Matter 14, 3497–3503 (2018). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kovscek, A.R., Radke, C.J., Engineering, U. of C.D. of C., Division, L.B.L.E.S., United States. Department of Energy, B.E.R.C.: Fundamentals of Foam Transport in Porous Media-: Topical Report. Bartlesville Project Office, U.S. Department of Energy (1993)Google Scholar
  19. Kovscek, A.R., Patzek, T.W., Radke, C.J.: A mechanistic population balance model for transient and steady-state foam flow in Boise sandstone. Chem. Eng. Sci. 50, 3783–3799 (1995). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kovscek, A.R., Tang, G.-Q., Radke, C.J.: Verification of roof snap off as a foam-generation mechanism in porous media at steady state. Colloids Surf. A Physicochem. Eng. Asp. 302, 251–260 (2007). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Li, Z., Song, X., Wang, Q., Zhang, L., Guo, P., Li, X.: Enhance foam flooding pilot test in Chengdong Of Shengli Oilfield: laboratory experiment and field performance. In: International Petroleum Technology Conference. International Petroleum Technology Conference, Doha (2009)Google Scholar
  22. Mast, R.F.: Microscopic behavior of foam in porous media (1972).
  23. Moradi-Araghi, A., Johnston, E.L., Zornes, D.R., Harpole, K.J.: Laboratory evaluation of surfactants for CO2-foam applications at the South Cowden Unit. Presented at the (1997)Google Scholar
  24. Nakagaki, M.: Studies on foams. (I). The foaminess and foam stability of liquid mixtures. Bull. Chem. Soc. Jpn. 21, 30–36 (1948). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Osei-Bonsu, K., Grassia, P., Shokri, N.: Investigation of foam flow in a 3D printed porous medium in the presence of oil. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 490, 850–858 (2017). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Osterloh, W., Jante Jr., M.: Effects of gas and liquid velocity on steady-state foam flow at high temperature. Presented at the SPE/DOE Enhanced Oil Recovery Symposium (1992)Google Scholar
  27. Owete, O.S., Brigham, W.E.: Flow behavior of foam: a porous micromodel study. SPE Reserv. Eng. 2, 315–323 (1987). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Radke, C.J., Gillis, J.V.: A dual gas tracer technique for determining trapped gas saturation during steady foam flow in porous media (1990).
  29. Saint-Jalmes, A., Langevin, D.: Time evolution of aqueous foams: drainage and coarsening. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 14, 9397–9412 (2002). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tang, G.-Q., Kovscek, A.R.: Trapped gas fraction during steady-state foam flow. Transp. Porous Media 65, 287–307 (2006). CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Van der Bent, V.: Comparative Study of Foam Stability in Bulk and Porous Media. Tu Delft (2014)Google Scholar
  32. Zhang, Z.F., Freedman, V.L., Zhong, L.: Foam Transport in Porous Media—A Review (2009).

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rhodia Laboratoire du futurSolvayPessac CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations