Probing Chemical Interactions of Asphaltene-like Compounds with Silica and Calcium Carbonate in the Context of Improved Oil Recovery

  • Saleh Hassan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Crude oil recovery is related to surface wettability, which is controlled by crude interactions with rock surfaces. Understanding these interactions is associated with studying the complex asphaltenes that (1) are irreversibly deposited from oil-brine interfaces onto reservoir mineral surfaces, (2) are bulky super-molecules and (3) incorporate several chemical groups by stacking aromatic rings together. This is a difficult task because of varying crude oil composition, asphaltene interfacial and chemical activity, and the potential of irreversibly contaminating analytical equipment by such substances. To overcome these challenges, we split the problem into parts by studying how different mono- and poly-functional groups mimic asphaltene interaction with mineral surfaces, such as silica and calcium carbonate. The amine, carboxylate, and sulfate groups were identified as the highest potential functional groups responsible for asphaltene adsorption. Experiments included quartz crystal micro-balance with dissipation, bulk adsorption, and core samples. Adsorption tests for the mono-functional surfactants studied were fully reversible and, therefore, not representative of asphaltenes. Poly-functional compounds demonstrated irreversible adsorption, mimicking asphaltenes, through ion exchange and ion-bridging, depending on the type of functional group, chain length, mineral surface, and brine ionic composition. Poly-amines adsorb irreversibly onto silica and calcium carbonate surfaces regardless of the brine ionic composition or surface charge. However, irreversible adsorption of poly-sulfates and poly-carboxylates onto surfaces requires (1) sufficiently long chains and (2) an abundant presence of calcium ions in solution to allow ion-bringing mechanism. These findings suggest that crudes containing amine groups and long chains of carboxylates or sulfates have a higher tendency to be adsorbed onto surfaces and change wettability. This is important for designing an efficient detachment of asphaltenic oil from rock surfaces, where no complete desorption or drastic wettability change is required. The weakening of asphaltene interactions may be sufficient to induce spontaneous imbibition and consequently increase the efficiency of two-phase displacement. This work emphasizes the importance of understating crude-brine-rock interactions for the purpose of oil recovery. In summary, evaluating potential candidates for deploying enhanced oil recovery, such as low salinity waterflooding, should consider rock and crude types, as successful implementation requires “specific” properties collaborating together to enable incremental oil production
Date of AwardNov 2020
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorTadeusz Patzek (Supervisor)


  • Wettabilility Alteration
  • Oil Adsorption
  • Low Salinity Waterflooding
  • Asphaltene
  • Improved Oil Recovery

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