The theory of enhanced oil recovery by surfactant flooding (micellarpolymer and “low-tension” floods) is based on three premises: that the chemical slug is 1) less mobile than the crude oil, 2) miscible with the reservoir fluids (oil and brine), and 3) stable over long periods of time (years) in the reservoir environment. We report here a rather simple process in which none of these expensive and exacting requirements have to be met. In this process, relatively small amounts of “EOR-active” substances present in certain petroleum-based sulfonates are found to recover 15–20 percent of the residual oil from waterflooded Berea sandstone cores. The chemicals are injected in the form of slugs of their aqueous solutions. If the chemical slugs are followed with similar slugs of additives such as partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide, acrylamide monomer, urea, EDTA, or anions such as P2O7‴‴‴‴ and PO4‴‴‴, the oil recovery is increased 30–40 percent of the in-place residual oil. The concentrations of the “active” sulfonate and additive in their respective slugs appear to be of the order of 500 ppm or less. Extrapolation of the laboratory data to field conditions indicate that chemical requirements for the recovery of a barrel of tertiary oil are about 0.5–2 lb of sulfonate and a like amount of additive. The main features of the displacement process are: 1) Oil recovery is independent of oil viscosity in the tested range of 0.4–100 cps. 2) The process is essentially an immiscible displacement in which oil recovery depends on the amount of active chemical in the slug and not its concentration. 3) Tertiary oil is produced in the form of a clean “oil bank” and the buildup of a residual oil saturation at the producing end of linear cores occurs during the flood. From the data on hand, it is apparent that the oil recovery mechanism differs basically in character from the conventional Buckley-Leverett-type immiscible displacement. The low level concentrations of sulfonate and additive involved, and the independence of oil recovery with respect to oil viscosity suggest that the recovery mechanism is possibly actuated by certain specific functional groups in the structure of the EOR-active molecule or its anion, and of the additive. The results hold great potential for developing a simple and economical tertiary oil recovery process that can recover, very substantially, more oil (light as well as moderately viscous) than is now considered possible by conventional chemical floods.

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