Visualization of adaptive polymer flow and displacement in medium-permeable 3D core-on-a-chip


Zhang, Y. ; Zhao, X. - Z. ; Han, P. - H. ; Zhang, L. - Y. ; Weitz, D. A. ; Feng, Y. - J. F. Visualization of adaptive polymer flow and displacement in medium-permeable 3D core-on-a-chip. Petroleum Science 2022. Copy at
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Polymer flooding has been witnessed an effective technology for enhancing oil recovery from medium-to low-permeability reservoirs; however, direct visualization of polymer solution flow in such reservoir condition is still lacking. In this work, a three-dimensional (3D) core-on-a-chip device with a permeability of around 200 mD was prepared and employed to visualize the pore-scale flow and displacement of a self-adaptive polymer (SAP, 8.7 × 106 g∙mol−1)−whose microscopic association structure and macroscopic viscosity can reversibly change in response to shear action−versus partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM), by recording their flow curves, monitoring dynamic transportation process via particle imaging velocimetry, and building 3D structure of remaining oil. The results show that, in single-phase flow, all polymer solutions exhibit flow thinning and then thickening regions as flow rate increases, but the transition between two regimes occurs at a small Weissenberg number (10−3−10−1) in this medium-permeable condition. In contrast to HPAM-1 with close weight-average molecular weight (Mw), the adaptive character not only extends SAP's shear-govern region, allowing SAP to propagate piece by piece and achieve higher accessible pore volume, but it also enhances the elastic resistibility of polymer in the extension-dominated regime, increasing the microscopic displacement efficiency. These two effects result in 1.5–3 times more oil recovery factor for SAP than for HPAM-1. Regarding ultra-high-Mw HPAM-2 (25 × 106 g∙mol−1), plugging and chain degradation do occur, thus producing lower oil recovery than SAP. This work provides a direct approach for in-situassessment of polymer-based displacing system under a more authentic condition of practical reservoirs.

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