alexa CO2-Soluble, Nonionic, Water-Soluble Surfactants That Stabilize CO2-in-Brine Foams
Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences

Journal of Petroleum & Environmental Biotechnology

Author(s): Dazun Xing, Bing Wei, William J McLendon

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Several commercially available, nonionic surfactants were identified that are capable of dissolving in carbon dioxide (CO2) in dilute concentration at typical minimum- miscibility-pressure (MMP) conditions and, upon mixing with brine in a high-pressure windowed cell, stabilizing CO2-in-brine foams. These slightly CO2-soluble, water-soluble surfactants include branched alkylphenol ethoxylates, branched alkyl ethoxylates, a fatty-acid-based surfactant, and a predominantly linear ethoxylated alcohol. Many of the surfactants were between 0.02 to 0.06 wt% soluble in CO2 at 1,500 psia and 25°C, and most demonstrated some capacity to stabilize foam. The most- stable foams observed in a high-pressure windowed cell were attained with branched alkylphenol ethoxylates, several of which were studied in high-pressure small-angle-neutron-scattering (HP SANS) tests, transient mobility tests using Berea sandstone cores, and high-pressure computed-tomography (CT)-imaging tests using polystyrene cores. HP SANS analysis of foams residing in a small windowed cell demonstrated that the nonylphenol ethoxylate SURFONIC® N-150 [15 ethylene oxide (EO) groups] generated emulsions with a greater concentration of droplets and a broader distribution of droplet sizes than the shorter-chain analogs with 9-12 ethoxylates. The in-situ formation of weak foams was verified during transient mobility tests by measuring the pressure drop across a Berea sandstone core as a CO2/surfactant solution was injected into a Berea sandstone core initially saturated with brine; the pressure-drop values when surfactant was dissolved in the CO2 were at least twice those attained when pure CO2 was injected into the same brine-saturated core. The greatest mobility reduction was achieved when surfactant was added both to the brine initially in the core and to the injected CO2. CT imaging of CO2 invading a polystyrene core initially saturated with 5 wt% KI brine indicated that despite the oil-wet nature of this medium, a sharp foam front propagated through the core, and CO2 fingers that formed in the absence of a surfactant were completely suppressed by foams formed because of the addition of nonylphenol ethoxylate surfactant to the CO2 or the brine.

This article was published in Society of Petroleum Engineers and referenced in Journal of Petroleum & Environmental Biotechnology

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