Novel Observations of Salinity Transport in Low-Salinity Waterflooding

Hasan Al-Ibadi, Karl Stephen, Eric Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Low-salinity waterflooding (LSWF) is a promising process that could lead to increased oil recovery. To date, the greatest attention has been paid to the complex oil/water/rock chemical reactions that might explain the mechanisms of LSWF, and it is generally accepted that these result in behavior equivalent to changing oil and water mobility. This behavior is modeled using an effective salinity range and weighting function to gradually switch from high- to low-salinity relative permeability curves. There has been limited attention on physical transport of fluids during LSWF, particularly at large scale. We focus on how the salinity profile interacts with water fronts through the effective salinity range and dispersion to alter the transport behavior and change the flow velocities, particularly for the salinity profile.

We examined a numerical simulation of LSWF at the reservoir scale. Various representations of the effective salinity range and weighting function were also examined. The dispersion of salinity was compared with a theoretical form of numerical dispersion based on input parameters. We also compared salinity movement with the analytical solution of the conventional dispersion/advection equation.

From simulations we observed that salinity is dispersed as analytically predicted, although the advection velocity might be changed. In advection-dominated flow, the salinity profile moves at the speed of the injected water. However, as dispersion increases, the mixing zone falls under the influence of the faster-moving formation water and, thus, speeds up. To predict the salinity profile theoretically, we have modified the advection term of the analytical solution as a function of the formation- and injected-water velocities, Péclet number, and effective salinity range.

This important result enables prediction of the salinity transport by this newly derived modification of the analytical solution for 1D flow. We can understand the correction to the flow behavior and quantify it from the model input parameters. At the reservoir scale, we typically simulate flow on coarse grids, which introduces numerical dispersion or must include physical dispersion from underlying heterogeneity. Corrections to the equations can contribute to improving the precision of the coarse-scale models, and, more generally, the suggested form of the correction can also be used to calculate the movement of any solute that transports across an interface between two mobile fluids. We can also better understand the relative behaviors of passive tracers and those that are adsorbed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1108-1122
Number of pages15
JournalSPE Journal
Issue number3
Early online dateJan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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