Visual Investigation of Improvement in Extra-Heavy Oil Recovery by Borate-Assisted CO2-Foam Injection

Seyed Amir Farzaneh*, Mehran Sohrabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
87 Downloads (Pure)


The significant reduction in heavy oil viscosity when mixed with (Formula presented.) is well documented. However, for (Formula presented.) injection to be an efficient method for improving heavy oil recovery, other mechanisms are required to improve the mobility ratio between the (Formula presented.) front and the resident heavy oil. In situ generation of (Formula presented.)-foam can improve (Formula presented.) injection performance by (a) increasing the effective viscosity of (Formula presented.) in the reservoir and (b) increasing the contact area between the heavy oil and injected (Formula presented.) and hence improving (Formula presented.) dissolution rate. However, in situ generation of stable (Formula presented.)-foam capable of travelling from the injection well to the production well is hard to achieve. We have previously published the results of a series of foam stability experiments using alkali and in the presence of heavy crude oil (Farzaneh and Sohrabi 2015). The results showed that stability of (Formula presented.)-foam decreased by addition of NaOH, while it increased by addition of (Formula presented.). However, the highest increase in (Formula presented.)-foam stability was achieved by adding borate to the surfactant solution. Borate is a mild alkaline with an excellent pH buffering ability. The previous study was performed in a foam column in the absence of a porous medium. In this paper, we present the results of a new series of experiments carried out in a high-pressure glass micromodel to visually investigate the performance of borate–surfactant (Formula presented.)-foam injection in an extra-heavy crude oil in a transparent porous medium. In the first part of the paper, the pore-scale interactions of (Formula presented.)-foam and extra-heavy oil and the mechanisms of oil displacement and hence oil recovery are presented through image analysis of micromodel images. The results show that very high oil recovery was achieved by co-injection of the borate–surfactant solution with (Formula presented.), due to in-situ formation of stable foam. Dissolution of (Formula presented.) in heavy oil resulted in significant reduction in its viscosity. (Formula presented.)-foam significantly increased the contact area between the oil and (Formula presented.) significantly and thus the efficiency of the process. The synergy effect between the borate and surfactant resulted in (1) alteration of the wettability of the porous medium towards water wet and (2) significant reduction of the oil–water IFT. As a result, a bank of oil-in-water (O/W) emulsion was formed in the porous medium and moved ahead of the (Formula presented.)-foam front. The in-situ generated O/W emulsion has a much lower viscosity than the original oil and plays a major role in the observed additional oil recovery in the range of performed experiments. Borate also made (Formula presented.)-foam more stable by changing the system to non-spreading oil and reducing coalescence of the foam bubbles. The results of these visual experiments suggest that borate can be a useful additive for improving heavy oil recovery in the range of the performed tests, by increasing (Formula presented.)-foam stability and producing O/W emulsions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487–513
Number of pages27
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Early online date13 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • $$\mathrm{Co}_{2}$$Co2- foam
  • Alkaline
  • Borate
  • Heavy oil
  • Micromodel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemical Engineering


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