Debunking the impact of salinity on crude oil/water interfacial tension

Mohammad Fattahi Mehraban*, Seyed Amir Farzaneh, Mehran Sohrabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The salt content and composition of the water that is either produced with the oil or injected in an oil reservoir can change the composition of the oil at the oil/water interface. Having identified these compositional changes is key to designing the most optimized water ionic recipe to be used in waterflooding of an oil reservoir. Hence, there is a need to better understand the physicochemical interactions at the oil/water interface because of salinity effects. This study elucidates the effect of salinity on the interfacial interactions through pendant drop measurements of crude oil/water interfacial tension, surface charge evaluation by zeta potential, water content measurements by Karl Fischer titration, Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR), and ultraviolet− visible spectroscopy analyses. The interfacial tension results indicate that the interfacial tension increases with reduction in water salinity, which is shown for the first time by FT-IR and water content measurements to be proportional to the spontaneous formation of water microdispersion as the main mechanism of low salinity water injection. Formation of microdispersions and partitioning of surface-active materials by conjugated acidic compounds and/or acidic asphaltenes and low-molecular weight acidic compounds, respectively, are the main parameters controlling the crude oil/water interactions. Asphaltenes and acidic materials are shown to be the underlying compounds in the crude oil phase promoting the microdispersion formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3766–3779
Number of pages14
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number5
Early online date22 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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