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Application Of The Theory Of Multicomponent, Multiphase Displacement To Three-Component, Two-Phase Surfactant Flooding

George J. Hirasaki

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Abstract The theory presented in a companion paper is illustrated for the case of three-component, two-phase (i.e., constant-salinity) surfactant flooding. The utility of this method is that, in addition to computation of specific cases, it provides a general qualitative understanding of the displacement behavior for different phase diagrams and different injection compositions. The phase behavior can be classified as to whether the partition coefficient is less than or greater than unity. The injection composition of the slug can be classified as to whether it is aqueous or oleic and whether it is inside or outside the region of tieline extensions.The theory provides an understanding of the displacement mechanisms for the three-component, two-phase system as a function of phase behavior and injection composition. This understanding aids the interpretation of phenomena such as the effects of dispersion, salinity gradient, chromatographic separation, and polymer/surfactant interaction. Introduction The phase behavior of surfactant with oil and brine is the underlying phenomenon of most surfactant-flood design philosophies. The surfactant slugs have been formulated either as (1) surfactant in water, (2) surfactant in oil, or (3) microemulsions containing both water and oil. Recovery of oil is thought to occur by solubilization, oil swelling, miscible displacement, and/or low interfacial tensions. The low interfacial tensions occur in a salinity environment such that three phases can coexist. At higher salinities the surfactant is in the oleic phase, and at lower salinities it is in the aqueous phase.Some recent investigators have preferred designing their process at a constant salinity even though their experiments indicated better oil recovery with a salinity contrast. Glover et al. point out that the optimal salinity is not constant in brines containing divalent ions and that phase trapping can result in large retention of surfactant in a system that was at optimal salinity at injected conditions. Nelson and Pope have demonstrated that good oil recovery is possible in systems containing formation brine with 120,000 ppm TDS and 3,000 ppm divalent cations if the drive salinity is sufficiently low such that the surfactant partitions into the aqueous phase. Moreover, the peak surfactant concentration in the effluent occurred in the three-phase environment where the lowest interfacial tension usually occurs.The purpose of this work is to understand better the mechanism of multiphase, multicomponent displacement so that the phase behavior can be used to advantage. The approach used is to examine in detail the displacement mechanism and behavior of a two-phase, three-component system. This understanding will build a foundation for examining more complex systems.Earlier, Larson and Hirasaki showed effects of oil swelling and the retardation of the surfactant front due to the surfactant partitioning into the oleic phase. Recently, Larson extended the work to finite slugs including oleic slugs. He showed the conditions necessary to have miscible or piston-like displacement. His work showed that systems with large partition coefficients are more tolerant to dispersive mixing. We show in this paper that his observation was probably the consequence of having a phase diagram with a constant partition coefficient. Todd et al. show the effect of the partition coefficients on the chromatographic separation and retention for a two-component surfactant system. Pope et al. evaluated the sensitivity of the performance of a surfactant flood to a number of factors. SPEJ P. 191^