Transport in Porous Media

, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 265–285 | Cite as

Transport of Nanoparticle-Stabilized CO\(_2\)-Foam in Porous Media

  • Valentina PrigiobbeEmail author
  • Andrew J. Worthen
  • Keith P. Johnston
  • Chun Huh
  • Steven L. Bryant


Foam is injected in the subsurface to improve mobility control through the increase in the effective gas viscosity, e.g., in CO\(_2\)-based enhanced oil recovery processes. As fine-textured foam has higher viscosity, it is envisaged to achieve an optimal foam texture and to maintain it for the entire period of an application. However, mechanisms of foam formation and destruction, which affect texture, are difficult to regulate. In this study, we investigate the synergic effect of nanoparticles and surfactant on the foam texture and the effective gas viscosity (\(\mu _g^f\)) during transport in a porous medium. Experiments using glass-bead packs were performed injecting CO\(_2\) and a solution containing either only surfactant or surfactant and nanoparticles. During each experiment, the pressure drop (\(\Delta p\)) through the porous medium was measured to follow the generation of the foam. A two-phase flow mechanistic model combining the mass conservation law for water and CO\(_2\) and the population balance equation of the lamellae was implemented to analyze the experiments and predict foam transport under the investigated conditions. The constitutive equations for foam generation and destruction were based on the dominant role of pressure gradient on lamella division and of capillary pressure on bubble coalescence, and their parameters were estimated using pressure drop measurements. Both equations were formulated for a surfactant-stabilized foam, and it was the aim of this work to understand their validity also for the case of a nanoparticle-stabilized foam. The experiments compare well with the theory showing that a foam stabilized with nanoparticles and surfactant can be modeled as a surfactant-stabilized foam. Overall, \(\Delta p\) increases smoothly while the foam forms and, upon breakthrough, it stabilizes around a constant value while approaching steady state. During this phase, oscillations occur, particularly when high-quality foam is generated as the system is close to its critical conditions of capillary pressure and water saturation. When steady state is reached, the effective gas viscosity varies with \(f_g\) and solution composition and significantly increases when surfactant and nanoparticles are added. The maximum value of \(\mu _g^f\) is 0.110 Pa s for \(f_g\) = 0.75, which is almost twofold of the maximum value attained when only a surfactant is used, corresponding to 0.067 Pa s at \(f_g\) = 0.4. This suggests that when nanoparticles and surfactant are employed, they can favor the formation of a strong high-quality CO\(_2\)-foam.


CO\(_2\) Foam Nanoparticles Transport in porous media Population balance modeling 



This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under Award Number DE-DE0005917. The authors would like to thank Parth S. Parikh, Tyler R. Dickey, Jefferson S. Liu, and Vu Tran for performing some of the experiments reported in the manuscript and Dr. Ijung Kim for collecting the TEM images. Finally, the authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.

Supplementary material

11242_2015_593_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (docx 25 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentina Prigiobbe
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Andrew J. Worthen
    • 3
  • Keith P. Johnston
    • 3
  • Chun Huh
    • 1
  • Steven L. Bryant
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Petroleum and Geosystems EngineeringThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Department of Civil, Environmental, and Ocean EngineeringStevens Institute of TechnologyHobokenUSA
  3. 3.McKetta Department of Chemical EngineeringThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.Department of Chemical and Petroleum EngineeringThe University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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