Synergistic effect of nanoparticles and polymers on the rheological properties of injection fluids: Implications for enhanced oil recovery

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Energy & Fuels


American Chemical Society


School of Engineering




Edith Cowan University


Al-Anssari, S., Ali, M., Alajmi, M., Akhondzadeh, H., Khaksar Manshad, A., Kalantariasl, A., ... Keshavarz, A. (2021). Synergistic effect of nanoparticles and polymers on the rheological properties of injection fluids: Implications for enhanced oil recovery. Energy & Fuels, 35(7), 6125-6135.


New nanotechnology-based approaches are increasingly being investigated for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), with a particular focus on heavy oil reservoirs. Typically, the addition of a polymer to an injection fluid advances the sweep efficiency and mobility ratio of the fluid and leads to a higher crude oil recovery rate. However, harsh reservoir conditions, including high formation salinity and temperature, can limit the performance of such polymer fluids. Recently, nanofluids, that is, dispersions of nanoparticles (NPs) in a base fluid, have been recommended as EOR fluids; however, such nanofluids are unstable, even under ambient conditions. In this work, a combination of ZrO2 NPs and the polyacrylamide (PAM) polymer (ZrO2 NPs-PAM) was used to formulate a novel nanopolymer injection solution for EOR applications to overcome the limitations of simple PAM solutions by the in situ reservoir conditions including high temperature and salinity. A series of measurements were comprehended at controlled pH values to measure the stability and rheological properties of NPs-PAM combinations at different temperatures, salinities, NP concentrations, and shear rates. It is depicted from the results that a higher salinity decreased the viscosity of the polymer formulation. However, ZrO2 NPs-PAM combinations reduced the effect of increased salinity on viscosity, which is essential for EOR applications. Furthermore, at low and medium shear rates, which are more relevant to the flow scenarios in oil reservoirs, ZrO2 NPs-PAM exhibited a higher viscosity than the PAM solution at the same pH and salinity. In contrast, at higher shear rates, the viscosity of ZrO2 NPs-PAM was less than that of the sole PAM solution. Mechanistically, an increased shear rate endorsed the adsorption of polymer molecules onto the surface of NPs, foremost to a lesser polymer concentration in the solution. Moreover, although ZrO2 nanodispersion was unstable at all NPs and salt concentrations, ZrO2 NPs-PAM was stable over an extensive range of salinities and temperatures. The results suggested that ZrO2 NPs-PAM is more suitable than the sole polymer or NP solutions for EOR projects.



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