Destabilization, Propagation, and Generation of Surfactant-Stabilized Foam during Crude Oil Displacement in Heterogeneous Model Porous Media
Vavra, Eric D.
Hirasaki, George J.
Biswal, Sibani L.
Foam flooding in porous media is of increasing interest due to its numerous applications such as enhanced oil recovery, aquifer remediation, and hydraulic fracturing. However, the mechanisms of oil-foam interactions have yet to be fully understood at the pore level. Here, we present three characteristic zones identified in experiments involving the displacement of crude oil from model porous media via surfactant-stabilized foam, and we describe a series of pore-level dynamics in these zones which were not observed in experiments involving paraffin oil. In the displacement front zone, foam coalesces upon initial contact with crude oil, which is known to destabilize the liquid lamellae of the foam. Directly upstream, a transition zone occurs where surface wettability is altered from oil-wet to water-wet. After this transition takes place, a strong foam bank zone exists where foam is generated within the porous media. We visualized each zone using a microfluidic platform, and we discuss the unique physicochemical phenomena that define each zone. In our analysis, we also provide an updated mechanistic understanding of the "smart rheology" of foam which builds upon simple "phase separation" observations in the literature.