Investigating the role of [PF6]− and [BF4]− based ionic liquids for enhanced oil recovery in carbonate reservoirs: Experimental and molecular simulation insights

Sivabalan Sakthivel, Safwat Abdel-Azeim, Bidoor Alsaif, Ridha Al-Abdrabalnabi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In chemical enhanced oil recovery (cEOR), various chemicals such as surfactants, nanofluids, polymers, and co-solvents are used. These chemicals modify molecular interactions at the rock-oil-water interface. Consequently, they enhance oil displacement by changing wettability, capillary forces, viscosity, and relative permeability. This study is focusing on the role of [PF6]− and [BF4]− anions in imidazolium-based ionic liquids (ILs) on enhancing oil displacement in carbonate reservoirs under harsh reservoir conditions. To do so, we ran a series of wettability (static and dynamic), spontaneous imbibition, coreflood oil displacement tests, and molecular simulations. Wettability studies showed that [PF6]− based ILs perform better than [BF4]− ILs. Furthermore, the use of ILs improved the oil recovery by about 18–39 % and 18–24 % in the spontaneous imbibition and coreflood oil displacement tests, respectively. However, in both studies, the [PF6]− based ILs outperformed [BF4]−. The simulations emphasized the significance of molecular charge density in controlling the action mechanism. [PF6]− exhibited lower charge density than [BF4]−, resulting in attenuated interactions with the metal cations and water. This allowed [PF6]− to penetrate more effectively at the oil-rock interface, leading to a more efficient change in wettability to water-wet compared to [BF4]−. Another interesting result of our DFT and MD simulation is that the ILs are more salt-tolerant than the canonical surfactants. They exhibit stronger interactions with the monovalent cations than the divalent, therefore, in presence of Cl− that display higher charge density than the [PF6]− and [BF4]−, the interactions with the metal cations will be minimal. Our results indicate that ionic liquids (ILs) containing larger anions exhibit promising potential for wettability alteration.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123006
JournalJournal of Molecular Liquids
StatePublished - Sep 9 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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