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Zolotukhin Reservoir Engineering

Zolotukhin Reservoir Engineering

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Published by: sotork on Feb 28, 2011
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An interface is known as the boundary region between two adjacent bulk phases. The equilib-
rium bulk phases can be:

• Liquid-vapor (LV).
• Liquid-liquid (LL).
• Liquid-solid (LS).
• Solid-vapor (SV).

(Gases are basically miscible and thus, no interfacial tension is observed between gases.)
Any surface that is in the state of lateral tension, leads to the concept ofsurface tension.
For curved interfaces, the definition is similar but slightly more complex. The surface tension,
denoted by σ, can be related to the work or energy required to establish the surface area.
If two fluids, say water and oil is forming an interface, as seen in Fig.6.1, the molecules at-
tached tothe oil-water interface do necessarily have less kinetic energy than the bulk molecules,
on average. The molecules on or close to the interface may not move with the same degree of
freedom and speed, due to the constraint put on them by the interface. Since the total energy of



Chapter 6. Wettability and Capillary Pressure

the molecules is mainly a function of temperature, the potential energy of molecules attached
to the interface is greater than the potential energy of the bulk molecules.



Figure 6.1: Molecular motion in bulk and close to the oil-water in-

Generally speaking, a molecule at a surface is in a state of higher potential energy than a
bulk molecule, due to anisotropy and intermolecular interactions. This means that energy is
required to move a molecule from the interior to the surface of a phase, i.e., to increase the
surface area of the system. Since a proportionality exist between surface area and potential
energy of the system of molecules and since equilibrium is reached at minimum potential
energy (actually minimum Gibbs energy), the surface area of a system is always minimised.
Keeping the temperature, pressure and amount of material in the system constant, the fol-
lowing expression for surface tension may be written,

σ =





Here G is the Gibbs free energy and A is the surface area. The unit of surface tension is
therefore, the unit of energy pr. area, i.e., J/m2

or more commonly N/m. Note, that what is
called surface or interfacetension is in fact surface or interfaceenergy and quite often it is more
advantageous to use the energy perspective than it is to deal with tension and forces.
The surface tension between a pure liquid and its vapour phase is usually in the range of 10
to 80 mN/m. The stronger the intermolecular attractions in the liquid, the greater is the work
needed to bring bulk molecules to the surface, i.e., the larger is the interfacial tensionσ. In
Table6.1 some typical values for surface - and interfacial tensions are listed.

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