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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Note that in a WAG injection, we may consider that water saturation Sw is high and does not depend significantly on gas fraction due to the very high mobility of gas.

  2. 2.

    Provided the ratio fw/αw does not significantly depend on gas fraction, which was evidenced by Tang and Kovscek (2006).

  3. 3.

    This is explained by the fact that liquid flows more rapidly in lamellae network than gas trapped in the foam.

Abbreviations

f g :

Gas fraction

fg :

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

f g * :

Gas fraction for maximum of apparent viscosity

f g 0 :

Gas fraction at the outlet of sandpack (7 bars)

H0 :

Foamability

K :

Permeability of sandpack

L :

Length of sandpack

N :

Number of lamellae

P atm :

Atmospheric pressure

P BP :

Back pressure

P flow :

Pressure created by the foam flow

Q g :

Gas flow rate

Q liq :

Liquid flow rate

S :

Sandpack section

Smobile :

Average section where foam lamellae are flowing

Sw :

Average section saturated with water

t 1/2 :

Foam half-life time (stability)

v gas :

Average velocity of gas in a bubble

v i :

Interstitial velocity

vi :

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

v lamellae :

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

v liq :

Liquid velocity as measured by dyed liquid velocity

α mobile :

Ratio of flowing lamellae over total lamellae

η app :

Apparent viscosity of foam

η water :

Viscosity of water

Φ :

Porosity

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Correspondence to Eloïse Chevallier.

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Chevallier, E., Demazy, N., Cuenca, A. et al. Correlation Between Foam Flow Structure in Porous Media and Surfactant Formulation Properties. Transp Porous Med 131, 43–63 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11242-018-01226-2

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Keywords

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