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Kaolinite and Silica Dispersions in Low-Salinity Environments: Impact on a Water-in-Crude Oil Emulsion Stability

Wang, Xinya
Alvarado, Vladimir
This research aims at providing evidence of particle suspension contributions to emulsion stability, which has been cited as a contributing factor in crude oil recovery by low-salinity waterflooding. Kaolinite and silica particle dispersions were characterized as functions of brine salinity. A reference aqueous phase, representing reservoir brine, was used and then diluted with distilled water to obtain brines at 10 and 100 times lower Total Dissolved Solid (TDS). Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and X-ray Diffraction (XRD) were used to examine at the morphology and composition of clays. The zeta potential and particle size distribution were also measured. Emulsions were prepared by mixing a crude oil with brine, with and without dispersed particles to investigate emulsion stability. The clay zeta potential as a function of pH was used to investigate the effect of particle charge on emulsion stability. The stability was determined through bottle tests and optical microscopy. Results show that both kaolinite and silica promote emulsion stability. Also, kaolinite, roughly 1 μm in size, stabilizes emulsions better than larger clay particles. Silica particles of larger size (5 μm) yielded more stable emulsions than smaller silica particles do. Test results show that clay particles with zero point of charge (ZPC) at low pH become less effective at stabilizing emulsions, while silica stabilizes emulsions better at ZPC. These result shed light on emulsion stabilization in low-salinity waterflooding.
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