The characterization study of inhibited silica/silicate scale using vinyl sulfonated copolymer (VS-Co)

R. A. B. Sazali, K. S. Sorbie, L. S. Boak, A. Z. Azman, I. B. Mohd Saaid, A. B. Dollah, N. Z. B. Kassim Shaari, K. N. B. Ismail

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Purpose: Silica/silicate scale is a significant problem, especially in oilfield production during Alkaline Surfactant Polymer (ASP) flooding, where chemical inhibitors are the preferred method to prevent them. In this study, the effect of inhibitor vinyl sulfonated copolymer (VS-Co) on silica/silicate scale formation was analysed using X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR).

Design/methodology/approach: The functional group type of VS-Co are sulfonate ions, SO3-, and these interact in the scaling process. Bulk-inhibited scaling brine tests were conducted at 60°C and pH 8.5. During these tests, the silicon brine (with VS-Co) representing the inhibited ASP leachate was mixed with a magnesium brine representing the connate water to replicate reservoir conditions during ASP flooding. The samples tested in this study were non-inhibited Si/Mg mixed brine of 60 ppm Mg2+ and 940 ppm Si4+ (60Mg:940Si) as a blank, and inhibited 60Mg:940Si mixture with various VS-Co concentrations of 20 ppm, 50 ppm, and 100 ppm. The inhibition efficiency of the VS-Co was determined, followed by the characterisation study of the silica/silicate scale deposited from both test conditions.

Findings: The IR spectra of all 60Mg:940Si samples show a similar peak at 1050 cm-1 to 1080 cm-1, attributed to a Si-O covalent bond and a band at 790 cm-1 to 800 cm-1 showing the presence of Si-O-Si stretching. XRD patterns produced a broad scattering peak for all samples at 2θ of 24° showing that the samples are amorphous silica. For tests of high Mg2+ in the brine mix, 900Mg:940Si, a mix of crystalline silica and crystalline magnesium silicate was produced. Based on these results, it can be concluded that the scale formed even with 100 ppm of VS-Co present. Further studies are required to address how to mitigate scale formation effectively in the future.

Research limitations/implications: Based on the research conducted, we can conclude that the VS-Co alone could not significantly inhibit the formation of silica/silicate scale even at the highest concentration (100 ppm) of VS-Co. However, having VS-Co present caused an alteration in IR spectra frequency which requires further investigation to assess how best to develop the inhibiting properties of the VS-Co product. The application of nanoparticles and their successful stories spark the interest of authors in searching for an efficient method of managing the silica/silicate scale where the modification of potential scale inhibitor (SI) with nanoparticles may be able to improve the inhibition efficiency towards the silicate/silicate scale.

Practical implications: The presence of VS-Co in the scaling brine only slightly inhibits the Mg2+ ion (initially comes from connate water) from reacting. It is worth further investigation on how this VS-Co can make it happen. Hence, the functional groups responsible for this may be altered by adding other functional groups to provide a synergistic effect in preventing this silica/silicate scale; or by modifying the VS-Co with nanoparticles to improve their adsorption/ desorption capacity.

Originality/value: The newly developed technique in analysing the inhibition mechanism of a chemical inhibitor using various spectroscopic analysis is promising where an alteration in the spectra may provide proof of the chemical’s inhibition efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-70
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Achievements in Materials and Manufacturing Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Alkaline surfactant polymer (ASP) flooding
  • Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Silica/Silicate scale
  • Vinyl sulfonated copolymer (VS-Co)
  • X-ray diffraction (XRD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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