Pore-level Ostwald ripening of CO2 foams at reservoir pressure
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionTransport in Porous Media. 2023. 10.1007/s11242-023-02017-0
The success of foam to reduce CO2 mobility in CO2 enhanced oil recovery and CO2 storage operations depends on foam stability in the reservoir. Foams are thermodynamically unstable, and factors such as surfactant adsorption, the presence of oil, and harsh reservoir conditions can cause the foam to destabilize. Pore-level foam coarsening and anti-coarsening mechanisms are not, however, fully understood and characterized at reservoir pressure. Using lab-on-a-chip technology, we probe dense (liquid) phase CO2 foam stability and the impact of Ostwald ripening at 100 bars using dynamic pore-scale observations. Three types of pore-level coarsening were observed: (1) large bubbles growing at the expense of small bubbles, at high aqueous phase saturations, unrestricted by the grains; (2) large bubbles growing at the expense of small bubbles, at low aqueous phase saturation, restricted by the grains; and (3) equilibration of plateau borders. Type 3 coarsening led to stable CO2 foam states eight times faster than type 2 and ten times faster than type 1. Anti-coarsening where CO2 diffused from a large bubble to a small bubble was also observed. The experimental results also compared stabilities of CO2 foam generated with hybrid nanoparticle–surfactant solution to CO2 foam stabilized by only surfactant or nanoparticles. Doubling the surfactant concentration from 2500 to 5000 ppm and adding 1500 ppm of nanoparticles to the 2500 ppm surfactant-based solution resulted in stronger foam, which resisted Ostwald ripening. Dynamic pore-scale observations of dense phase CO2 foam revealed gas diffusion from small, high-curvature bubbles to large, low-curvature bubbles and that the overall curvature of the bubbles decreased with time. Overall, this study provides in situ quantification of CO2 foam strength and stability dynamics at high-pressure conditions.