Enhancing oil recovery by Smart Water Injection: New methods to determine the zeta potential on crude oil / water interfaces

A call for a two-year postdoc in the joint research laboratory between TOTAL – one of world’s leaders in oil and gas, and ESPCI – french top research institution. The lab is located in the R&D center of TOTAL in Lacq (PERL – Pôle d’Etudes et de Recherche de Lacq), in the southwest of France.

Scientific project :
The rate of primary and secondary oil recovery is typically lower than 40%, and further production relies on Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods. Smart Water Injection Methods (SWIM, also known as low salinity or controlled salinity water flooding) is a promising low-cost EOR technique, whose underlying mechanisms are still debated, and the results of SWIM are not easily predictable.
The working hypothesis in SWIM is that the pore-scale electrostatic interactions between liquid-liquid (LL) and liquid-solid (LS) interfaces alter the wettability of the rock and that the SWIM strategy can be optimized if the zeta potential of the interfaces can be determined for a given brine composition.
Recently the technology for the assessment of the LS interfaces via streaming potential measurements in core flooding [1] was made available in PERL. At the same time the assessment of the LL interfaces remains a challenge. The method described in [1] is insufficient since measuring streaming potential of a heterogeneous surface suggests that the distribution of the LL and LS surfaces is known, which is not the case in core flooding.
Applying standard zetametry to crude oil emulsions is often not straightforward, mainly due to the instability of crude oil emulsions, fast creaming and the high salinity of the relevant brines. The two former problems can be addressed with microfluidics, however this technology still needs to be tested in the relevant spectrum of parameters.
The limit of high salinity remains a challenge for electrophoresis, which implies that other electrokinetic phenomena should be considered.
The goals of the postdoc will be the following:

  1. To continue the testing of the microfluidic solutions.
  2. To explore the feasibility of using acousto-phoresis or sedimentation potential for measuring the zeta potential of oil emulsions.
  3. To devise a setup in which the LL interface can be isolated from SL in a way that would enable measurement of streaming potential.
    Methods :
    microfabrication, image analysis, electrokinetic measurements
    Required profile :
    PhD in physics, physical chemistry, chemistry, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering
    Strong background in electrochemistry and electrokinetics in an advantage.
    Independence and creativity in problem solving
    Out-of-the box thinking, solid technical skills
    Duration : Two years; Starting date : 2020
    Location : Lacq, France
    Contacts :
    Michael Levant : michael.levant@total.com
    Nicolas Passade-Boupat : nicolas.passade-boupat@total.com
    Francois Lequeux : francois.lequeux@espci.fr
    References :
    [1] M. D. Jackson , D. Al-Mahrouqi and J.Vinogradov : Zeta potential in oil-watercarbonate systems and its impact on oil recovery during controlled salinity water-flooding, Scientific RepoRts | 6:37363 | DOI: 10.1038/srep37363
    [2] S. Uddin, M. Mirnezami and J.A. Finch : A surface charge characterization device using sedimentation potential for single and mixed particle systems, Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochem. Eng. Aspects 371 (2010) 64–70
    [3] R.Greenwood : Review of the measurement of zeta potentials in concentrated aqueous suspensions using electroacoustics, Advances in Colloid and Interface Science 106 (2003) 55–