Surfactants in Enhanced Petroleum Recovery Processes: An Overview

  • Mahendra K. Sharma


This paper reviews various aspects of surfactant flooding for enhanced petroleum recovery. Surfactants have been suggested and tested in several forms such as foams, macroemulsions and microemulsions to recover additional oil from petroleum reservoirs which is unrecoverable by conventional methods. Several important parameters such as optimal salinity, surfactant adsorption, surfactant/polymer interactions, ultralow interfacial tension, interfacial viscosity, emulsion and foam stability, foaminess, bubble size and size distribution, surface charge, and propagation of oil ganglia were described in relation to oil displacement in porous media. For the foam flooding process, the effect of polymer flooding on oil recovery was reported. Results indicated that the surface properties of the foaming agents significantly influenced the oil displacement, whereas bulk properties of the fluid in porous media did not influence the oil recovery. For microemulsion flooding, the optimal salinity of the system can be shifted to a desired value by varying the concentration and structure of the surfactant and cosurfactant. The surfactant formulations composed of petroleum sulfonates and ethoxylated sulfonates are relatively insensitive to divalent cations. Based on the experimental findings, a maximum in oil recovery was observed when a minimum in interfacial tension, apparent viscosity, surfactant loss and coalescence rate of oil droplets occurred at an optimal salinity.


Interfacial Tension Nonionic Surfactant Optimal Salinity Polymer Flooding Surfactant Formulation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mahendra K. Sharma
    • 1
  1. 1.Research LaboratoriesEastman Chemical companyKingsportUSA

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