Nanoparticles for Mobility Control in Heavy Oil Recovery Processes
A fundamental obstacle to achieving recovering large fractions of heavy oil in place is poor volumetric sweep. Robust mobility control is a thus an important long-term goal.
We have shown that surface-modified silica nanoparticles stabilize crude oil/water emulsions, and with proper surface coating, the emulsion internal structure and rheology could be controlled. Emulsifying low viscosity injected fluids like light hydrocarbons, CO2, steam, etc. with these particles would avoid the problems of thermal stability and chemical losses common to emulsifier surfactants. And unlike colloidal-particle-stabilized emulsions, our laboratory coreflood experiments indicate that nanoparticles can be transported through sedimentary rocks even at very large concentrations.