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Enhanced Oil Recovery by Polymer Flooding: Optimizing Polymer

Badar Al-Shakry, University of Bergen/Uni Research CIPR; Behruz Shaker Shiran, Uni Research CIPR; Tormod
Skauge, Uni Research CIPR; Arne Skauge, University of Bergen

Copyright 2018, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Annual Technical Symposium and Exhibition held in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, 23–
26 April 2018.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s).
Contents of the paper have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not
necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this
paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than
300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE copyright.

Polymer flooding has been widely applied through past decades to increase oil recovery after
waterflood. Water-soluble polymers are used to increase the viscosity of injected water that is a
requirement for better sweep efficiency, but accelerated production due to polymer flooding may be
limited by reduced injectivity. The objective of this paper is to give guidelines for optimizing polymer
injectivity as key parameter for polymer flooding design.

Analysis of polymer injection data from field tests, and different analytical and simulation
approaches from academic or commercial simulators will be discussed. Field realistic laboratory
flooding in porous medium has been performed. Presented experiments study the influence of pre-
injection treatment like pre-shearing or other methods on rheological properties in porous medium.
Injectivity is discussed in relation to polymer molecular weight, polymer concentration, pre-treatment,
and presence of oil.

Field scale injectivity is reviewed from available literature data. Impact of fracturing has been
analyzed in order to isolate the matrix impact on injectivity and compare to laboratory data.
Investigations show that injection pressure build up in the near wellbore region, which is also referred to
as polymer shear thickening behavior, limits the injectivity of polymer solutions. The effect is more
significant when high molecular weight polymer is injected compared to high polymer concentration.
Hence, pre-shearing the polymer solution prior injection weakens the elastic properties of polymer while
maintaining its viscous properties. Also, better polymer injectivity observed when oil is present (two
phase flow) in porous media compared to no oil present (one phase flow).

This paper will discuss polymer injectivity and isolate key parameters for optimizing injectivity. The
data from this study gives guidelines for optimizing polymer injectivity.
SPE-192437-MS 2

Polymer flooding is a broadly applied enhanced oil recovery (EOR) method. Its application gains an
interest especially in current oil prices (Seright, 2016). Polymer flooding with better mobility ratio
improves sweep efficiency compared to conventional waterflooding (Skauge et al., 2014). Generally,
two categories of polymers are used in EOR applications. These are biopolymers such as xanthan and
synthetic polymers such as hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM). HPAM polymers are the main focus in
this study. Polymer flooding by HPAM shows success in different oil recovery applications both
onshore and offshore at different reservoir formations e.g., sandstone, carbonates and dolomite
(Standnes and Skjevrak, 2014). HPAM is also involved in other chemical EOR applications such as
Low Salinity Polymer (LSP) (Skauge and Shiran, 2013, Unsal et al., 2017) and Alkaline Surfactant
Polymer (ASP) flooding (Olajire, 2014).

HPAM viscoelasticity plays an important role on improving sweep efficiency over waterflooding in
general and over pseudo-plastic fluids in particular especially at adverse mobility ratio and when
reservoir heterogeneity is high (Xie et al., 2017). However, the effect of polymer viscoelasticity on
reduction of residual oil saturation is debated (Seright, 2016). For more recent reviews regarding the
effect of polymer viscoelasticity on reduction residual oil saturation, the reader is referred to (Huh and
Pope, 2008, Xie et al., 2017, Qi et al., 2017, Koh et al., 2018). To accelerate oil production, polymer
should be injected at high rates (Sharma et al., 2011, Lüftenegger et al., 2016). However, injection at
high rates may not be achieved due to polymer viscoelastic properties such as shear thickening and
mechanical degradation that limit its injectivity.

One way to improve polymer injectivity is by means of fractures (Seright, 1983, Selle et al., 2013). In
some cases, such high molecular weight polymers that are typically used for EOR applications cannot be
injected into reservoir matrix without fracturing. Hence, inducing a short fracture of 15 m length as
example which could save polymer flooding project by avoiding the concern regarding mechanical
degradation and associated loss in injectivity (Stavland et al., 2010, Rubalcava and Al-Azri, 2016).
Some field injectivity tests were reviewed and presented in Table 1 and 2. Field injectivity tests that
were performed such as in Sarah Maria (Manichand et al., 2013), Dalia Field (Morel et al., 2015) and
Matzen Field (Zechner et al., 2015) show HPAM injection under matrix conditions results in injectivity
loss with significant degradation. These issues were not observed and mitigated during injection under
fracture conditions. The presence of fractures even with short length could reduce the shear rate
significantly (Stavland et al., 2010). Besides fractures, polymer injectivity can be improved by polymer
preshearing process as reported from field injectivity test in West Coyote field, California (Shuler et al.,
1987). The situation where fractures exist naturally in reservoir or reservoir heterogeneity is high such as
in carbonates, polymers are exposed to severe loss in viscosity (Hashmet et al., 2017). Although
fractures might improve polymer injectivity, the knowledge of polymer in-situ behavior serves as a
prime input for fracture design. It is important to keep fractures under control to avoid fractures growth
that might create flow channels (Seright et al., 2009). Whether polymer injected under matrix or
fractured injection, its success depends on injection strategies and reservoir characteristics (Lo and
Jamaludin, 2011). This highly relies on polymer injectivity as its strongly bounds with polymer rheology
(Seright et al., 2009).
SPE-192437-MS 3

Table 1 Reservoir and polymer data for given injectivity field tests
Oil Polymer
Ø K 𝐓𝐫𝐞𝐬 𝐏𝐫𝐞𝐬 Salinity 𝛍𝐨 Polymer
Field Gravity Conc. Reference
% (mDarcy) oC (psi) (ppm) cP o Type
API ppm
Southern 28 - 250- 2500 (Anand and
800 - 870 6000 18-21 FP3630s
part of Oman 34 800 3000 Ismaili, 2016)
Mangala 15 - 5267 10- 1000 (Kumar et al.,
5000 65 - 29
Field 30 20 FP3630s 1500 2012)
White Castle Nalco (Shahin and
32 2000 - - 10000 - - 500
Field 3857 Thigpen, 1996)
3118- (Morel et al., 2008,
Dalia Field - 1000 50 52000 1-10 12-23 FP3630s 900
3408 Morel et al., 2015)
Tambaredjo (Moe Soe Let et
Formation 28- 4000- 2500- al., 2012,
38 - 1728 - FP3630s 1000
(Sarah Maria 34 12000 5000 Manichand et al.,
Project) 2013)
Matzen Field (Gumpenberger et
20- 19- 500
8TH 500 50 1160 20000 20 FP3630ss al., 2012, Zechner
30 27 1000
Reservoir et al., 2015)
Bhagyam 20- 1000- 15- (Sharma et al.,
53 - 5000 21-33 - 2000
Field 30 10000 500 2016)
West Coyote 11000- (Shuler et al.,
24 450 54 - 8 27 950 and 2000
Field 13000 1987)

Given the popularity of such types of viscoelastic polymers in EOR applications (Standnes and
Skjevrak, 2014), their in-situ rheological behavior is complex and challenging for prediction. For
instance, shear thinning behavior that observed in pure shear flow such as in viscometer is nearly absent
or its existence in porous media is conditional at comparable shear rates (Seright et al., 2009). In porous
medium, a combination of shear and elongational flow occurs as the polymer molecules are transported
through converging-diverging flow channels (Southwick and Manke, 1988, Sorbie, 1991). This
increases elongational/straining components that impose large extensional stresses on polymer
molecules which results in high resistance to flow. If stretch rates are high enough to break the
molecules, mechanical degradation may occur. Mechanical degradation is one of the main factors that
causes loss in injectivity (Seright et al., 2009). At high shear rates, shear thickening behavior is more
pronounced in porous media which is absent in viscometer as illustrated in Fig. 1. Shear thickening
behavior was ascribed to polymer viscoelasticity (Smith, 1970, Hirasaki and Pope, 1974, Seright, 1983,
Delshad et al., 2008). Polymer viscoelastic characteristics depend on polymer molecular weight,
concentration, salinity, degree of hydrolysis and petrophysical properties of porous media such as
permeability, porosity and tortuosity (Lotfollahi et al., 2016). HPAM thickening behavior could be
optimized by preshearing process (Sorbie, 1991). Exposing HPAM polymers to mechanical degradation
via preshearing will scale down its molecular weight distribution MWD through shearing high
molecular weight species (Seright, 1983, Puls et al., 2016). Understanding polymer rheology and in-situ
behavior is crucial for optimizing polymer flooding design (Seright, 1983, Kaminsky et al., 2007,
Skauge et al., 2016, Fortenberry et al., 2017).
SPE-192437-MS 4

Table 2 Field injectivity tests using polyacrylamide polymers for the fields given in Table 1
Field ΔBHP Frac. Remarks
(cP) (m3 ⁄day) (psi) (cP) (m3 ⁄day) (psi)
250 870 250 1015 145
50 - FPP≈1000-1200
Southern 500 943 500 1233 290
- No psi
part of Oman 250 870 250 972 722
500 943 500 1407 464
2.5 1541 159 - Injection of 30 cP
Mangala 6.5 1543 161 polymer without
- 119 1382 119 -
Field 20 1601 219 injectivity issues
30 1635 253 - No degradation
White Castle
0.5 48 130.7 4 50 165.7 35 Yes - No mech. deg.
- Lower injectivity in
3.3 2067 deviated well
- Excellent
Dalia Field 0.5 - - - - No injectivity in
horizontal well
5.6 1908 - Degradation due to
wellbore damage
Tambaredjo 28 471 45 28 635 164 - FPP≈800psi
0.7 Yes - Strong thickening
(Sarah Maria 55 488 41.5 55 744 256 behavior
- FPP≈2600psi
2610 579 - Significant
Matzen Field
degradation. at
8TH 0.6 400 2031 6 400 yes
matrix injection
Reservoir 2900 869 - Less degradation.
at frac. Injection
10- - Pressure values for
159 450 -
477 200 -
25- - Poor Injectivity due
Bhagyam 477 900 700
- 30 to wellbore damage
- Another well
799 50 636 800 - - - wellbore damage
was minimized.
- FPP≈800psi
10 1700 - Injection
maintained <FPP
- Polymer injection
West Coyote caused formation
- 29 150 29 - -
Field damage
35 2300 - Injectivity
improved by
SPE-192437-MS 5

Reservoir Flow Injection Well

Porous Medium


Slope = 0 Newtonian
Apparent Viscosity

Slope = 0

Slope = 0

Shear Rate
Fig. 1 Schematic illustration of apparent viscosity vs. shear rate of HPAM polymer

There are different analytical models that attempt to describe polymer rheological behavior given in
Fig. 1. For example, non-Newtonian viscosity models that relate apparent viscosity with the applied
shear rate (i.g., Ostwald-de Waele model, Ellis model, Carreau-Yasuda model) can predict polymer
viscosity over shear thinning region (Sochi, 2010). None of these models able to predict the shear
thickening behavior despite the fact that Carreau model predicts viscosity over a wide range of shear
rates including lower and upper Newtonian plateaus. Delshad et al. (2008) developed a model, which is
called UVM that predicts apparent viscosity at the dominant shear thinning and thickening behaviors. In
UVM, shear thinning behavior was modelled by Carreau model. Shear thickening behavior is described
by Deborah number similar to earlier proposed models by Hirasaki and Pope (1974) and Masuda et al.
(1992) with excluding shear viscosity effect. UVM still requires experimental inputs to fit with
maximum viscosity μmax at high rates. The model matched well pressure data in cores and field tests
reported by Lotfollahi et al. (2016).

Another analytical model is given by Stavland et al. (2010) that accounts for polymer mechanical
degradation that occurs at very high shear rates in polymer rheological curve. Besides that, the model
predicts μmax from shear thinning parameters implemented in Carreau model. This model does not
require experimental data for fitting shear thickening behavior as in UVM mentioned earlier. However,
it still requires input parameters from the effluents to predict mechanical degradation.

One of the main challenges faced by analytical models is determining the accurate shear rate in
porous media. In the given analytical models above, the effective shear rate in porous medium is
modelled by using the continuum approach based on capillary bundle model (Cannella et al., 1988).
Such contributions of microscale pore properties are absent. However, this could be improved by pore-
scale network modeling that accounts for both polymer physicochemical characteristics and pore
properties (Sochi, 2010). For example, Berg and van Wunnik (2017) identified the relationship between
Darcy velocity and shear rate is more complex in porous media and depends on pore-space morphology.
Such pore-aspect ratio, tortuosity and inaccessible pore volumes are the main parameters affecting the
SPE-192437-MS 6

shape factor used for translating Darcy velocity into shear rate (for further review see (Zamani et al.,

Currently, it appears that polymer in-situ behavior still cannot be robustly predicted. It could be
inferred either by history matching of injection pressure along with rheological analysis of back
production effluents (Shahin and Thigpen, 1996). Goudarzi et al. (2013) assessed polymer in situ
behavior using the common commercial simulators (i.g., Eclipse and CMG Stars). Lohne et al. (2017)
gave analytical model and reviews on these commercial simulators. Some other analytical models have
given recently in the literature (e.g., (Heemskerk et al., 1984, Ranjbar et al., 1992, Shahin and Thigpen,
1996, Sharma et al., 2011, Yerramill et al., 2013, Li and Delshad, 2014, Li et al., 2017).

Many studies investigated polymer viscoelasticity in single-phase flow. Very few publications were
found in the literature that study polymer behavior in two-phase flow apart from that studies which
investigate the contribution of polymer viscoelasticity on mobilizing residual oil. Prior studies e.g.
Yerramill et al. (2013) identified the main mechanisms that cause injectivity loss are polymer viscosity
and retention. Polymer retention also slows down polymer front propagation which is the key parameter
in polymer flooding (Manichand and Seright, 2014, Unsal et al., 2017). Recent study and reviews are
given in (Hatzignatiou et al., 2013, 2015) focused on the effect of wettability on polymer rheological
behavior in a different range of permeability. They found the effect of wettability alteration becomes
significant in low permeability such as in Berea formation. Lower retention was found in oil-wet cores
compared to strongly water-wet condition. Shiran and Skauge (2015) have found similar results with
lower polymer retention in intermediate-wet cores compared to strongly water wet cores.

Polymer flood guidelines were given in details elsewhere e.g., (Kaminsky et al., 2007, Wang et al.,
2008, Thomas et al., 2013) that correspond to polymer screening or implementation criteria which will
not be discussed in this paper. The given guidelines in this study focus on the investigation of polymer
injectivity analogous to field conditions. This will be accomplished by analyzing polymer rheological
behavior in rheometer along with in-situ rheology in linear cores. Moreover, the study highlights the
impact of oil presence and porous media wettability state on polymer rheological behavior. In addition,
the impact of polymer flow history (pretreatment) on polymer injectivity will be discussed throughout
this paper. The results from this study aim to improve the mathematical representation of polymer
transport into porous medium and serve as inputs for polymer field simulations.

Experimental Section
A synthetic brine of 1 wt.% NaCl was prepared by dissolving NaCl powder into deionized water. The
brine was then filtered through 0.45µm cellulose nitrate filter to avoid any insoluble particles.

Different types of oil were used in this study for different purposes (see Table 3). Marcol-152 and
crude oil-1 were mainly used for drainage and aging process, respectively. Decane and crude oil-2 were
used as experimental oil during displacement process. Crude oil are dead oil and were filtered through
0.5 µm Swagelok inline filter.
SPE-192437-MS 7

Table 3 Viscosity of oil used in this study measured at 𝛄 =10 𝐬 −𝟏 at 22 oC

Oil Viscosity (cP)
Decane 0.94
Marcol-152 62.70
Crude oil-1 3248
Crude oil-2 3.36

Two types of Partially Hydrolyzed Polyacrylamide (HPAM) were used with different polymer
molecular weights and concentrations as given in Table 4. The polymers were received in powder form
from SNF Floerger, France. Initially, a stock solution of 5000 ppm was prepared which in turn diluted
into required concentration. The selected polymer concentrations were designed to give similar shear

Table 4 Physicochemical properties of polymers. Viscosity was measured at 𝛄 =10 𝐬 −𝟏

Polymer (Flopaam) grade Molecular weight Concentration Viscosity
(106 g/mol = MDa) (mg/L =ppm) (mPa.s = cP)
A 3330 8 1000 8.25 +0.5
B 3630 18 500 7.37 +0.5

Polymer Characterization
Polymer shear viscosity was measured at 22 oC using Malvern Kinexus Pro Rheometer. The viscosity
was measured at a broad range of shear rate (0.1-1000 s − ) using double gap geometry.

Polymer Pre-Treatment
Polymer pretreatment processes were performed in short Bentheimer core plugs ( L=5 cm) at low and
high flow rates. The core-plugs that were used in pretreatment processes are similar to main cores. The
pretreated polymer at low and high flow rate was denotes as prefiltered and presheared polymer
respectively. A flow rate of Q=0.5 cc/min was used during prefiltering all the solutions and Q=26 and 12
cc/min were used during preshearing polymer A and B, respectively.

Porous Medium
Several core plugs of Bentheimer sandstone were used with average diameter and length of 3.8 and
10 cm respectively. Core petrophysical properties are listed in Table 5.
Table 5 Petrophysical properties of unaged cores
Core-ID L D 𝜙 PV Ki 𝐒𝐰𝐢
(cm) (cm) (%) (cc) (Darcy) (% PV)
L1 9.28 3.79 22.63 23.70 1.81 100
L2 10.22 3.77 24.33 27.75 2.40 100
L3 9.37 3.76 22.78 26.47 2.59 100
L4 9.44 3.78 21.89 26.45 2.18 100
U1 9.78 3.77 23.16 25.28 2.01 9.21
U2 9.86 3.78 23.61 26.11 2.08 11.31 2-Phase
U3 10.44 3.78 23.20 27.18 1.83 8.17 Unaged
U4 9.26 3.79 22.16 23.15 1.78 8.17
SPE-192437-MS 8

Aging Process
Two cores which are given in Table 6 were aged at Swi for 3 weeks at 60 oC. Crude oil-1 with high
viscosity was used for aging process. During aging process, the cores were flushed with crude oil once a
week to ensure enough supply with polar components that is believed to cause wettability alteration.
Reverse injection was applied during aging to achieve homogenous wettability alteration (Graue et al.,

After aging, the crude oil were replaced by flushing Marcol-152 at low flow rate (Q=0.1 cc/min) for
more than 2 PV followed by increasing the flow rates for the next 3 PV. Permeability to Marcol-152 was
measured after aging. It was found the effective permeability of the cores was reduced after aging as
given in Table 6. The wettability alteration was observed from oil production profiles given in Results
and Discussion section.

Table 6 Properties of aged cores

Core-ID L D 𝜙 PV Ki 𝐒𝐰𝐢 𝐊 𝐛𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐨𝐥 𝐊 𝐚𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐨𝐥 𝐊 𝐚𝐂𝐫𝐮𝐝𝐞 𝐨𝐢𝐥𝟐
(cm) (cm) (%) (cc) (Darcy) (% PV) (Darcy) (Darcy) (Darcy)
A1 9.85 3.78 22.74 25.14 2.27 10.85 2.26 0.64 0.77
A2 10.06 3.79 22.33 25.34 2.07 10.39 2.12 1.06 1.26
b:Indicates measurements were performed before aging.
a: Indicates measurements were performed after aging.

Coreflood Procedures
Initial core characterizations were carried out by measuring core’s absolute porosity and
permeability. Absolute porosity ϕ was determined by using well-known weight method. The cores were
vacuumed and saturated with brine for at least 2 days to ensure ionic equilibrium before mounted them
for permeability measurements. Permeability was measured at steady state condition by increasing
injection rate in stepwise manner. During permeability measurements, backpressure regulator (BPR) of
5 bar was connected to the core holder to devoid any air within the coreflood setup. BPR was
dismounted before polymer in-situ measurements to avoid degradation of polymer caused by
backpressure regulator. Permeability (K) was calculated using the given Darcy equation:

Q .µ .L
K= Eq. 1

where, Q is injection flow rate, μ is fluid viscosity, ΔP is pressure drop across the core, L and A are
core length and cross-sectional area, respectively. Note that, interstitial velocity (v) was obtained from
Darcy velocity (vD ) using the following equation(Zaitoun and Kohler, 1988):

Q vD
v= = ϕ( Eq. 2
A.ϕ( −Sor ) −Sor )

The Sor value used in above equation was at SorPF after tapering.

Establishing Swi
Marcol-152 was injected at low flow rate during drainage for more than 1 PV followed by increasing
flow rate in stepwise manner. More than 5 PV were injected in total until no more water produced.
Then, permeability to Marcol-152 was measured.
SPE-192437-MS 9

Establish 𝑺𝒐𝒓𝑾𝑭 by Waterflooding

The synthetic brine was injected at low flow rate (Q=0.1 cc/min) until no more oil produced (at least
2 PV injected ). Then, the injection flow rate was increased to higher flow rates for waterflooding in
stepwise manner. This was performed to bring the core to lowest possible SorWF condition. The effective
permeability to brine at SorWF was measured and end-point permeability KrwWF was determined.

Establish 𝑺𝒐𝒓𝑷𝑭 by Polymerflooding

After waterflooding, pretreated polymer solution was injected at low flow rate (Q=0.1cc/min) for at
least 2 PV. Then, the flow rate was increased in stepwise manner until the highest flow rate was
achieved. The highest flow rate was determined when the difference between overburden and pump
pressure was 10 bar. This was performed in order to achieve stable core saturation conditions, which
afterwards form as base line for polymer in-situ rheology measurements. It is important to have a
constant permeability during investigation of polymer in-situ viscosity. The effective permeability to
brine at SorPF was measured and end-point permeability K rwPF was determined. In order to achieve a
correct permeability to brine, the core was tapered before water post-flush. Tapering was performed in
two constitutive steps by injecting diluted polymer of 50 and 25% of initial concentration to remove
retained polymer. Using polymer effluent from the main experiment during tapering is important to
avoid any large constituents such as large molecular species or gel aggregates that can exclude the effect
of pretreatment on measuring RRF.

In-Situ Viscosity Measurements

Polymer in-situ rheology was measured in porous media at SorPF that is considered as a stable
saturation condition. Pretreated polymer either prefiltered or presheared was injected at low flow rate
(Q=0.1cc/min) for at least 1 PV until achieving a stable pressure drop across the core. Then, the polymer
flow rate was increased in stepwise manner until the highest flow rate was achieved. Different injection
schemes (e.g., injection from highest to lowest flow rates and vice versa ) were applied to examine
injection hysteresis effects. Also it was performed to examine if any change occurs on saturation state
that might cause some errors on RF measurements. Resistance Factor (RF) was calculated as following:
RF = Eq. 3

where, ΔPp is the pressure drop of polymer during polymer flow and ΔPb is the pressure drop during
brine flow before polymer injected into porous medium. However, in case oil is present in the core, for
2-phase experiments, ΔPb is the pressure drop during brine flow at SorPF after initial tapering.

Along with polymer injection, samples of effluents at different flow rates were collected for shear
viscosity measurements. Mechanical degradation was calculated according to the following:
µi −µe
Deg(%) = 100% Eq. 4
µi− µb

where, μi is the injected polymer viscosity, μe is effluent viscosity and μb is brine viscosity which
was found 1.04 cP.

At the end, the retained polymer was flushed out from the core in two steps tapering mentioned above
in order to re-measure permeability to brine after RF measurements. Residual resistance factor was
calculated using the following equation:
SPE-192437-MS 10

RRF = Ki Eq. 5

where, K i is the absolute permeability to brine before polymer flow and K f is the permeability to
brine after polymer tapering. In case oil is present in the core, K i is the effective permeability to brine at
SorPF after primary tapering denoted by K w@SorPF while K f is the final meaured permeability to brine
after secondary tapering. Hence, RRF ∗ is given:

RRF ∗ = Eq. 6

Results and Discussion

Oil Production Profiles
Unaged cores
The purpose of presenting oil recovery profiles (Fig. 2 and 3 ) is to give an overview of core history
before discussing polymer in-situ rheology. Oil recovery profiles depict oil recovery factors, flow rates
and differential pressure values versus pore volume of injected fluid. For unaged cores, it was observed
a stable oil displacement until water breakthrough due to favorable viscosity ratio (μr > 1). Oil recovery
factor (RFWF) after waterflooding was approximately 52 %OOIP for cores U1, U2 and U3. Water
breakthrough occurred after approximately 0.47 PV injected for all unaged cores. Oil production after
breakthrough was not observed even after water injection rate was increased from 0.1 to 50 cc/min.
Unexpected scenario occurs in core U4 in which oil production during waterflooding after breakthrough
occurs at high injection rate. End-points permeability are given in Table 7. Low end-points permeability
and no oil production after water breakthrough is a conventional known behavior of strongly water-wet
cores (Skauge and Shiran, 2013). This confirms the investigated cores U1,U2 and U3 were strongly
water wet.

The polymer was injected after waterflooding at SorWF . At typical field injection rate (Q=0.1cc/min),
it was observed no oil production due to polymer flooding for both polymers. Similar observation was
found in previous experimental studies performed by Shiran and Skauge (2015). As increasing polymer
injection rate recovery factor increases. The onset of oil production due to polymer flooding occurs
when the polymer injection rate increases beyond (Q=5.0 and 1.0 cc/min for polymer A and B,
respectively). Note that, the increase in oil recovery factor with respect to polymerflooding as injection
rate increases occurred earlier for high molecular weight polymer B. This was found corresponding to
the beginning of shear thickening behavior of each polymer.
SPE-192437-MS 11

80 24 80 21
Recovery Factor(WF) Recovery Factor (WF)
70 Recovery Factor(PF) 21 70 Recovery Factor (PF)
Flow Rate Flow Rate

Recovery Factor (%OOIP)

Recovery Factor (%OOIP)

Differential Pressure (bar)

60 Differential Pressure 18 60 Differential Pressure

Differential Pressure (bar)


Flow Rate (cc/min)

Flow Rate (cc/min)

50 15 50
40 12 40
30 9 30
20 6 6
10 3 10 3

0 0 0 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 0 2 48 6
10 12 14 16 18
PV Injected PV Injected
a) Pre-Filtered Polymer A in Core U1 b) Pre-Sheared Polymer A in Core U2

80 24 90 18
Recovery Factor (WF) Recovery Factor (WF)
70 Recovery Factor (PF) 21 80 Recovery Factor (PF)

Recovery Factor (%OOIP)


Differential Pressure (bar)

Flow Rate Flow Rate
Recovery Factor (%OOIP)

Differential Pressure (bar)

60 Differential Pressure 18 70 Differential Pressure

Flow Rate (cc/min)

Flow Rate (cc/min)

60 12
50 15
40 12 9
30 9
30 6
20 6 20
10 3 10
0 0 0 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22
PV Injected PV Injected
c) Pre-Filtered Polymer B in Core U3 d) Pre-Sheared Polymer B in Core U4

Fig. 2 Oil recovery profiles in water-wet cores during water and polymer flooding using both polymers.

Aged cores
The alteration of core wettability due to aging was observed from oil production profiles given in Fig.
3. The water breakthrough occurs at 0.37 and 0.43 PV for core A1 and A2 respectively, which is an
earlier water breakthrough time compared to that of water-wet cores. Oil production continues after
water breakthrough at constant injection rate (Q=0.1cc/min). Significant oil was produced after water
breakthrough and oil recovery factor increases with increasing water injection rate. The early water
breakthrough and tail production profile are typical observations for non-water wet cores (Shiran and
Skauge, 2015).

The end-point water relative permeability for aged cores given in Table 7 are within the same range
of unaged ones. Such these low values are not expected for non-water cores and cannot be inferred from
these values that wettability has not been altered. However, this effect could be attributed to
permeability reduction due to high viscous crude oil that used in aging process.

Although the results here indicate the efficiency of polymer flooding was higher in water-wet
compare to non-water wet cores, it is not conclusive. As flooding processes in this study were not
designed to quantify polymer efficiency rather than establishing a stable saturation conditions. The oil
content after waterflooding in water wet and non-water-wet cores were not similar. It is not comparable
for flooding efficiency as the cores have different saturation state after waterflood.
SPE-192437-MS 12

Recovery Factor(WF) Recovery Factor(PF) Recovery Factor(WF) Recovery Factor(PF)

Flow Rate Differential Pressure Flow Rate Differential Pressure
80 24 80 24

70 21 70 21
Recovery Factor (%OOIP)

Recovery Factor (%OOIP)

Differential Pressure (bar)

Differential Pressure (bar)
60 18 60 18
Flow Rate (cc/min)

Flow Rate (cc/min)

50 15 50 15

40 12 40 12

30 9 30 9

20 6
20 6
10 3
10 3
0 0
0 0 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
PV Injected
PV Injected
a) Pre-Filtered b) Pre-Sheared

Fig. 3 Oil recovery profiles in non water-wet cores during water and polymer flooding using Polymer B.

Table 7 Summary of important results for water and polymer flooding.

Core -Polymer 𝐊 𝐰@𝐒𝐨𝐫𝐖𝐅 𝐊 𝐰@𝐒𝐨𝐫𝐏𝐅 𝐊 𝐫𝐰𝐖𝐅 𝐊 𝐫𝐰𝐏𝐅 𝐒𝐨𝐫𝐖𝐅 𝐒𝐨𝐫𝐏𝐅 𝐑𝐅𝐖𝐅 𝐑𝐅𝐅
(ID) (Darcy) (Darcy) (-) (-) (%PV) (%PV) (%OOIP) (%OOIP)
U1-A 0.35 1.09 0.17 0.54 42.71 19.78 52.95 78.22
U2-A 0.37 1.13 0.18 0.54 42.13 22.60 52.49 74.52
U3-B 0.31 0.40 0.17 0.22 43.79 20.61 52.31 77.56
U4-B 0.27 0.69 0.15 0.39 33.91 9.72 63.07 89.41
A1-B 0.16 0.27 0.07 0.12 35.68 21.72 59.98 75.64
A2-B 0.34 0.28 0.16 0.13 26.17 22.18 70.80 75.25

Shear Rheology of polymers

Shear rheology is used to characterize polymer viscosity which is an important parameter considered
in polymer flooding design. Shear viscosity of both polymers is depicted in Fig. 4. At γ = 10 s− , the
shear viscosity of polymer A and B were 8.3 and 7.4 cP, respectively. Polymer shear viscosity is a
function of applied shear rate. At low shear rates, Newtonian behavior followed by shear thinning
behavior at medium to high shear rates. At high shear rates, e.g., γ > 200 s− , elastic turbulence was
occurred due to high rotational speed cause instability and artefact on shear measurements for polymer
B. The measured data were well fit with power-law model at mid-range of shear rate with power-law
fitting parameters given in Fig. 4. Although, shear viscosity of both polymer appears to be close, the
slope of shear thinning was found higher for Polymer B with high molecular weight.
SPE-192437-MS 13

Polymer A Polymer B Polymer A B
n 0.85 0.81
K 11.78 11.54
Shear Viscosity (cP)


1 10 100 1000
Shear Rate (s-1)
Fig. 4 Shear viscosity verses shear rate measured in rheometer for both polymers A and B. Solid lines represent power law model.

Polymer In-Situ Rheology

Apparent Viscosity
Base case (1 phase)
Although the evaluated polymers possess similar shear viscosity (Fig. 4), their in-situ rheological
behaviors were found significantly different. Polymer injected in cores at 100% S w at which no oil was
present are considered as base case in this study for comparison later with the flow of polymer at SorPF. It
can be seen from Fig. 5 that, at low velocities, RF values were ~9 and 12 for both polymers A and B,
respectively regardless of their pretreatment methods. These RF values are higher than shear viscosity at
typical reservoir shear rate γ = 10 s − especially for high molecular weight polymer (polymer B). This is
due to high retention associated with the flow of high molecular weight polymer (Manichand and
Seright, 2014). At high flow velocities, both prefiltered polymers exhibit shear thickening behavior at
different extents. The magnitude of shear thickening of Polymer B was more than 4 times higher than
that of low molecular weight polymer at comparable velocity. In addition, onset of shear thickening
occurred earlier for prefiltered polymer B compared to that of polymer A. This is in agreement with
previous studies in which high molecular weight polymers possess stronger viscoelastic properties that
are the dominating factor at high flow rates (Skauge et al., 2015).

Preshearing process results in a considerable variation of polymer viscoelastic properties specifically

at high flow velocities i.g., near wellbore region. This is apparent from the shift of onset of shear
thickening to higher velocities. Besides, polymer-preshearing process causes a reduction on the degree
(slope) of shear thickening. The effect of preshearing was higher for high molecular weight polymer
(Polymer B).

The lower two curves for each polymer given by dashed lines in Fig. 5 represent polymer effective
viscosity given by RF/RRF. The term RF/RRF decouples polymer retention from RF values hence it
appears lower than apparent viscosity. RRF values play a substantial rule on determining polymer
effective viscosity. It was found RRF values for prefiltered and presheared polymer A were 1.6. Higher
RRF values were found for prefiltered and presheared polymer B which they were 1.8 and 2.7
SPE-192437-MS 14

respectively (see Table 8). The unexpected high RRF value of 2.7 for presheared polymer B explains
why the RF/RRF curve was shifted to lower values compared to prefiltered one. RRF measurements
were influenced by tapering and water post-flush processes that might lead in artefact on measurements
of true RRF. How to measure ‘true’ RRF in porous media is controversial (Seright, 2016).

100 100 1000 1000

1-Phase, Pre-Filtered 1-Phase, Pre-Filtered

1-Phase, Pre-Sheared 1-Phase, Pre-Sheared

Resistance Factor (-)

Resistance Factor (-)

100 100


10 10

10 10

1 1 1 1
0.1 1 10 100 1000 0.1 1 10 100
Interstitial Velocity (m/day) Interstitial Velocity (m/day)

a) Polymer A b) Polymer B

Fig. 5 Resistance factor verses interstitial velocity for both polymers A and B without oil present in the cores. Dashed lines
represent RF/RRF.

Unaged Cores
Before proceeding further on the discussion, it is important to note that, resistance factor (RF) in case
oil is present in the core was calculated as a pressure drop during polymer flow divided by pressure drop
during water flow at SorPF . In other words, this could be equivalent to the term RF/RRF discussed above
for polymer flowing in cores with 100% Sw. Fig. 6 shows the RF values at reservoir velocities of
prefiltered polymers A and B were ~6 and 4, respectively. These RF values are lower than
aforementioned RF values observed for same polymers injected in 100% Sw given in Fig. 5. At high
velocities shear thickening is predominant. The onset of shear thickening were 7.6 and 2.6 m/day for
polymer A and B, respectively. These values are consistent with onsets of shear thickening during the
polymers injected in clean core without oil presence. However, the presence of oil results in a reduction
of the slope and the magnitude of shear thickening. Polymer A with lower molecular weight has less
influence by Sor which is in contrast to polymer B.

Preshearing process still lead to reduction of polymers viscoelastic properties as can be observed
from the reduction and delay of shear thickening behavior. The reduction of shear thickening degree was
lower compared to that found in 100% Sw cores.
SPE-192437-MS 15

1000 1000
1-Phase, Pre-Filtered 1-Phase, Pre-Filtered
1-Phase, Pre-Sheared 1-Phase, Pre-Sheared
2-Phase, Pre-Filtered 2-Phase, Pre-Filtered
2-Phase, Pre-Sheared 2-Phase, Pre-Sheared
Resistance Factor (-)

Resistance Factor (-)

100 100

10 10

1 1
1 10 100 1000 0.1 1 10 100 1000
Interstitial Velocity (m/day) Interstitial Velocity (m/day)

a) Polymer A b) Polymer B

Fig. 6 Resistance factor verses interstitial velocity for both polymers in waterwet cores

Shear viscosity for each polymer was measured from the effluents collected at different flow
velocities during the polymer flooding (see Fig. 7). Insignificant loss of shear viscosity occurs at low
velocities. This is inline with Seright et al. (2009) at which polymer starts to loss the viscosity at high
velocities due to mechanical degradation. At high velocities, Polymer A show insignificant mechanical
degradation as the polymer injected into porous media which is in contrast to that of high molecular
weight polymer B. The highest shear degradation was observed for prefiltered polymer B injected in
100% Sw core that was ~ 22%. Both polymers did not show mechanical degradation in water wet cores
in the presence of Sor.

12 12

10 10
Shear Viscosity(cP)

Shear Viscosity(cP)

8 8

6 6

4 4
1-Phase ,Pre-Filtered 1-Phase, Pre-Sheared
1-Phase, Pre-Filtered 1-Phase, Pre-Sheared
2 2
2-Phase,Pre-Filtered 2-Phase,Pre-Sheared
2-Phase, Pre-Filtered 2-Phase, Pre-Sheared
0 0
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90

Interstitial Velocity (m/day) Interstitial Velocity (m/day)

a) Polymer A b) Polymer B

Fig. 7 Shear viscosity verses interstitial velocity for both polymers.

Aged cores
The observed flow behavior for polymer B injected in non-water wet cores: Newtonian behavior at
low velocities followed by shear thickening at high velocities (see Fig. 8a). The effluent data given in
Fig. 8b appear quite stable for (v<30 m/day), then shear degradation occurred as velocity increased.
Mechanical degradation was found 18 and 11% for prefiltered and presheared polymer, respectively.
SPE-192437-MS 16

Aged, 2-Phase, Pre-Filtered
Aged, 2-Phase, Pre-Sheared

Shear Viscosity(cP)
Resistance Factor (-)


Pre-Filtered Pre-Sheared

1 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
0.1 1 10 100
Interstitial Velocity (m/day) Interstitial Velocity (m/day)

a) Polymer B Resistance Factor b) Polymer B Shear Viscosity

Fig. 8 Resistance factor profiles and shear viscosity for Polymer B in aged cores.

Table 8 Polymer rheological properties

Core -Polymer Polymer Pretreatment μ𝐢 μ𝐞 vc m RRF RRF*

(ID) Type (cP) (cP) (m/day) (m/day)

L1-A 3330 Prefiltered 9.11 9.40 7.0 0.54 1.6 -

L2-A 3330 Presheared 8.52 8.42 12.2 0.59 1.6 -
L3-B 3630 Prefiltered 7.11 5.79 2.5 7.68 1.8 -
L4-B 3630 Presheared 7.13 7.21 4.0 4.32 2.7 -
U1-A 3330 Prefiltered 9.17 8.92 7.6 0.39 - 1.1
U2-A 3330 Presheared 8.17 8.21 15.5 0.23 - 0.8
U3-B 3630 Prefiltered 6.65 6.77 2.6 1.51 - 1.1
U4-B 3630 Presheared 6.20 6.17 4.7 1.34 - 1.1
A1-B 3630 Prefiltered 6.99 5.90 2.1 1.06 - 1.0
A2-B 3630 Presheared 6.93 6.26 4.0 0.77 - 0.8

The flow of polymer B at different states of wettability and flow conditions is presented in Fig. 9.
The shape of resistance factor profiles appears to have identical trend except for the shift towards lower
values in case oil was present in porous media. For instance, RF of prefiltered polymer that was injected
in aged cores was lower than that for unaged cores even both have quite similar pore volume available
for polymer to flow as they have similar value of SorPF. Also, it is observable in aged cores (non-water
wet) the polymer exhibit lower resistance factor in general although the effective permeability was lower
compared to unaged cores. This could be referred to less adsorption surface available to the polymer in
non-water wet cores due to the presence of oil films. Also, the presence of oil films can smooth the grain
surface that results in lower retention. (Broseta et al., 1995, Bennetzen et al., 2014), hence better
polymer injectivity in non-water wet cores.

Moreover, the onset of shear thickening roughly appears to be independent of oil present in porous
media and state of wettability that is inline with previous studies (Southwick and Manke, 1988). The
SPE-192437-MS 17

magnitude and slope of shear thickening are influenced by oil presence and state of wettability in porous

1-Phase, Pre-Filtered 1-Phase, Pre-Sheared
Unaged, 2-Phase, Pre-Filtered Unaged, 2-Phase, Pre-Sheared
Aged, 2-Phase, Pre-Filtered Aged, 2-Phase, Pre-Sheared
Resistance Factor (-)



0.1 1 10 100
Interstitial Velocity (m/day)
Fig. 9 Resistance factor verses interstitial velocity of polymer B at different wettability state of porous media.

Polymer Injectivity
The major concern of the success of polymer flooding applications is polymer injectivity rather than
economical feasibility (Kumar et al., 2012). Therefore, it is desirable that EOR polymer has good
injectivity and preserves its designed viscosity as it is transported deep into reservoir. One of the ideal
rheological characteristic of EOR polymer is that shear thinning at high velocities i.g., near wellbore
area (Delshad et al., 2008). However, for weak semi-dilute solutions, linear cores studies show
predominantly shear thickening behavior instead. In addition, there is an ongoing argument in the
literature on modelling polymer injectivity which concerns about the observed shear thickening in linear
cores it might be exaggerated.

One reason could justify this, despite the fact that polymer flow into reservoir is not purely linear
flow; it could be radial, pseudoradial, cone-shaped or spherical flow especially at the vicinity of
wellbore region. For simplicity, most of reservoir studies conceptualize the flow near wellbore area as
radial flow (Satter et al., 2007). Referring to such study performed by Skauge et al. (2016) at which they
found polymer injectivity was underestimated in linear cores to that found in radial disks of Bentheimer
conducted at 100% Sw. This could be expected in linear cores as the flow velocity assumed constant
over core length in contrast to radial flow at which the velocity decrease away from injector. Hence,
shear thickening in linear cores seems to have stronger effect compared to that in radial flow. Despite
the fact, experiments that are performed in linear cores attempt to simulate the radial flow by varying
injection rates.

Polymer injectivity for high molecular weight polymer in linear cores at 100% Sw was
underestimated compared to that where oil was present in porous media. Polymer injectivity was
improved at the presence of oil and in non-water wet condition. This is due to lower retention which is
SPE-192437-MS 18

economically favored (Broseta et al., 1995). This is consistent with previous findings (Al-Maamari et
al., 2016).

Preshearing processes cause a considerable variation of polymer viscoelastic properties. Exposing

polymer to mechanical degradation is beneficial for polymer injectivity without reduction in in-situ
viscosity as found in this study. This implies that, polymer can be injected at higher rates to accelerate
oil production which improves project economy (Sharma et al., 2011).

The aim of this paper was to extend the analysis of polymer rheology to improve the description of
polymer injectivity through realistic rheological study. The in-situ rheological behavior of partially
hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) has been evaluated with and without the presence of oil at different
wettability and pretreatment conditions. The following points summarize the presented study:
 To our knowledge, still available EOR analytical models have limitations to accurately describe
the flow of polymer at high shear rates i.g., near injector, that leads to underestimating or
overestimating polymer injectivity.
 Presence of oil has an impact on polymer rheology.
- The presence of oil permitted the similar flow behavior of polymer compared to flow of
polymer in 100% Sw . Shear thickening behavior is dominant at high flow velocities (e.g.,
near wellbore region) and Newtonian behavior at low flow velocities (e.g., deep in a
reservoir). This is a general behavior of polymer in porous media with and without the
presence of oil.
- Shear thinning behavior is absent in porous media for the given polymer concentrations
while it is predominant in rheometer measurements.
- Shear thickening behavior of HPAM polymer is pronounced with and without the
presence of oil in porous media but with different extents. Its extent found to be less in the
presence of oil and far less in aged cores. Shear thickening was absent on shear viscosity
measurements that show predominant shear thinning behavior instead.
- The onset of shear thickening for all polymer investigated occurs almost at approximately
similar velocity which seems independent of oil presence and porous media state of
- The degree of shear thickening was found lower when the oil is present.
- Viscoelastic properties of high molecular weight polymer were more affected by the
presence of oil in porous media.
 Preshearing process alters polymer viscoelastic properties such as onset and degree of shear
thickening behavior while maintaining its in-situ viscosity.
- The onset of shear thickening was shifted to higher flow velocities for presheared polymer
compared to prefiltered polymer.
- Presheared polymers have a lower degree of shear thickening behavior.
- Presheared polymers are more tolerant of mechanical degradation.
 Better polymer injectivity was found in aged cores. Polymer injectivity was underestimated in
100% Sw cores.
As guidelines, during polymer flooding design, polymer viscosity should be considered for a wide
range of velocities to encounter aforementioned rheological behaviors. In addition, wettability alteration
SPE-192437-MS 19

should be considered specifically when designing for high molecular weight polymers. Preshearing
methods could be implemented to improve polymer injectivity without losing its in-situ viscosity.

We acknowledge Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) for study scholarship for Badar Al-Shakry.

A = cross-sectional area (cm2)
BPR= backpressure regulator
BHP= bottom hole pressure (psi)
D = core dimeter (cm)
Deg = mechanical degradation (%)
EOR = enhanced oil recovery
FPP = formation parting pressure (psi)
HPAM = partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide
k = viscosity constant
K i = absolute permeability to brine (Darcy)
K rw = end point relative permeability, dimensionless
K w = effective brine permeability, Darcy
L = core length (cm)
MW = molecular weight (MDa)
MWD = molecular weight distribution
n = power law index, dimensionless
OOIP =original oil in place
PV = pore volume, dimensionless
Q = flow rate (cc/min)
RF = resistance factor, dimensionless
RRF = residual resistance factor (1 phase) , dimensionless
RRF* = residual resistance factor (2 phase), dimensionless
RFWF = recovery factor after waterflood, (% OOIP)
RFF = final recovery factor after polymerflooidng, (% OOIP)
Sw = water saturation
Sor = residual oil saturation
SorWF= residual oil saturation after waterflood
SorPF = residual oil saturation after polymerflood
v = interstitial velocity (m/day)
v = onset of shear thickening (m/day)
vD = Darcy velocity (m/day)
ΔPp = pressure drop during polymer flow (bar)
ΔPw = pressure drop during water flow (bar)
μe = effluent viscosity (cP)
μi = injected solution viscosity(cP)
μr = viscosity ratio= viscosity of brine to viscosity of oil, dimensionless
μb = brine viscosity (cP)
𝜙 = porosity, dimensionless
γ = shear rate (s− )
SPE-192437-MS 20

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