The influence of formation calcium and magnesium on the effectiveness of generically different barium sulphate oilfield scale inhibitors

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    Using chemical scale inhibitors is one of the most common methods of preventing downhole and topside mineral scale formation in oil fields. Several aspects of the brine composition may affect the performance of the various scale inhibitors. In this paper, we focus on the roles of calcium and magnesium ion concentrations. The calcium concentration in a particular reservoir and in the inhibitor slug often determines the extent to which the inhibitor species is retained in the near-wellbore area (i.e., on its adsorption or precipitation behavior). What is less well understood is the effect of divalent cations on the inhibition process itself. Common ion effects are well known; however, for pentaphosphonate inhibitor species (e.g., DETPMP), significant improvements in inhibition efficiency have been reported by increasing the calcium concentration in the solution. In this paper, we expand significantly on such observations. The effect of calcium and magnesium cation concentrations is examined for a wide range of generically different inhibitor species, including pentaphosphonate, hexaphosphonate, phosphinopolycarboxylate, polyvinyl sulphonate, and sulphonated polyacrylate copolymers. The results clearly indicate how different inhibitor species are affected quite differently by changes in [Ca2+] and [Mg2+ ] and how this difference relates to the cation affinity of the inhibitors active functional groups. The results were obtained by comparing the barium sulphate inhibition efficiency of various species in mixtures of a low/medium scaling (Brent type) formation brine and seawater (SW) and also in a more severe scaling (Forties type) formation brine/SW mixture. Barium sulphate inhibition efficiencies were examined by static inhibition efficiency tests, with residence times ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours.

    Phosphonates are shown to be poor inhibitors at very low [Ca2+], indicating that their effectiveness is controlled by the formation of Ca2+ /phosphonate inhibitor complexes, as discussed in previous works.1,2 On the other hand, polymeric polycarboxylate inhibitors are shown to be effective even at very low [Ca2+], indicating that the formation of multiple bonds between the polymer and the crystal surface allows for stronger adsorption and, thereby, inhibition. However, it appears that strong ionic bonds involving calcium cation bridging are required for the phosphonate-based species. Conversely, when the magnesium ion concentration is increased, the performance of the phosphonate is significantly reduced, whereas the other polymeric species are relatively unaffected.

    This can be accounted for in terms of the cation affinity of different inhibitor functional groups in a similar manner as comparative adsorption and inhibitor/brine compatibility effects. For the polycarboxylate inhibitor species examined in this work, a clear maximum in inhibition efficiency is observed with increasing calcium concentration. This is explained, from related experiments, in terms of complexation (incompatibility) and differences in the adsorption modes at the scale surface.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)28-44
    Number of pages17
    JournalSPE Production and Facilities
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003


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