Contribution of Wettability Alteration to Imbibition Oil Recovery in Low and High Permeability Conditions

Xiao Deng, Muhammad Shahzad Kamal, Shirish Patil, Syed Muhammad Shakil, Dhafer Al Shehri, Xianmin Zhou, Mohamed Mahmoud, Emad Walid Al Shalabi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Low permeability rock usually holds a large amount of residual oil after flooding. The two most important mechanisms for residual oil recovery are interfacial tension (IFT) reduction and wettability alteration (WA). There is confusion around the coupled effect between the two mechanisms. Permeability is found to be a critical factor on the coupled effect. In this study, the spontaneous imbibition oil recovery results from core plugs of different permeability by using two surfactants were compared. The comparison helps understand the impact of permeability on the coupled effect of IFT reduction and WA. Filtered crude oil (density 0.87 g/mL, viscosity 12.492 cP), Indiana limestone cores of different permeabilities, two locally synthesized cationic gemini surfactants, GS3 and GS6, were used in this study. The spinning drop method and static contact angle method were used to measure the oil/water IFT and the wettability. Spontaneous imbibition experiments using Amott cells were conducted at the ambient condition to relate IFT reduction and WA performance to the oil recovery contribution. Results showed that although the selected surfactants had comparable IFT reduction performance, GS3 is much stronger than GS6 in altering oil-wet carbonate rock to water-wet conditions. In core plugs with the same dimensions and comparable low permeabilities, the oil recovery values accorded with the WA performance. GS3 obtained faster and higher oil recovery (24%) than and GS6 (14%), indicating that enhancing WA alone contributes to oil recovery. The main difference between the selected surfactants was the spacer structure. It appeared that introducing unsaturation into the spacer group harmed the WA performance. Comparing different permeability conditions, GS6 obtained much higher oil recovery in a high permeability condition (922 mD) than in a low permeability condition (7.56 mD). Though permeability significantly impacted the whole imbibition process, it was more auspicious when IFT reduction became the main driving force. This study studied the WA mechanism alone by adopting surfactants with comparable oil/water IFT values. It also features the impact of permeability by comparing the recovery curve by the same surfactant under different permeability, showing that IFT reduction contributes more to oil recovery in high permeability rock.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSociety of Petroleum Engineers - SPE Western Regional Meeting, WRM 2023
PublisherSociety of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)
ISBN (Electronic)9781613999585
StatePublished - 2023
Event2023 SPE Western Regional Meeting, WRM 2023 - Anchorage, United States
Duration: 22 May 202325 May 2023

Publication series

NameSPE Western Regional Meeting Proceedings


Conference2023 SPE Western Regional Meeting, WRM 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Society of Petroleum Engineers.


  • Enhanced Oil Recovery
  • Imbibition
  • Permeability
  • Wettability Alteration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Contribution of Wettability Alteration to Imbibition Oil Recovery in Low and High Permeability Conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this