A mechanistic model for wettability alteration by chemically tuned waterflooding in carbonate reservoirs

C. Qiao, L. Li, R. T. Johns, J. Xu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

90 Scopus citations


Injection of chemically tuned brines into carbonate reservoirs has been reported to enhance oil recovery by 5-30% original oil in place (OOIP) in coreflooding experiments and field tests. One proposed mechanism for this improved oil recovery (IOR) is wettability alteration of rock from oil-wet or mixed-wet to morewater- wet conditions. Modeling of wettability-alteration experiments, however, is challenging because of the complex interactions among ions in the brine and crude oil on the solid surface. In this research, we developed a multiphase and multicomponent reactive transport model that explicitly takes into account wettability alteration from these geochemical interactions in carbonate reservoirs. Published experimental data suggest that desorption of acidicoil components from rock surfaces make carbonate rocks more water-wet. One widely accepted mechanism is that sulfate (SO2-4 ) replaces the adsorbed carboxylic group from the rock surface, whereas cations (Ca2+, Mg2+) decrease the oil-surface potential. In the proposed mechanistic model, we used a reaction network that captures the competitive surface reactions among carboxylic groups, cations, and sulfate. These reactions control the wetting fractions and contact angles, which subsequently determine the capillary pressure, relative permeabilities, and residual oil saturations. The developed model was first tuned with experimental data from the Stevns Klint chalk and then used to predict oil recovery for additional untuned experiments under a variety of conditions where IOR increased by as much as 30% OOIP, depending on salinity and oil acidity. The numerical results showed that an increase in sulfate concentration can lead to an IOR of more than 40% OOIP, whereas cations such as Ca2+ have a relatively minor effect on recovery (approximately 5% OOIP). Physical parameters, including the total surface area of the rock and the diffusion coefficients, control the rate of recovery, but not the final oil recovery. The simulation results further demonstrate that the optimum brine formulations for chalk are those with relatively abundant SO2-4 (0.096 mol/kg water), moderate concentrations of cations, and low salinity (total ionic strength of less than 0.2 mol/ kg water). These findings are consistent with the experimental data reported in the literature. The new model provides a powerful tool to predict the IOR potential of chemically tuned waterflooding in carbonate reservoirs under different scenarios. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first model that explicitly and mechanistically couples multiphase flow and multicomponent surface complexation with wettability alteration and oil recovery for carbonate rocks specifically.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSPE Journal
PublisherSociety of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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