A novel approach to improve viscous and viscoelastic properties by exploiting the pH and salinity sensitivity of HPAM polymer is proposed in this paper. Polymer flooding is a well-developed and effective enhanced oil recovery technique. The design of the makeup brine is one of the most critical phases of a polymer flood project, since the brine composition, salinity, and pH directly influence the polymer viscosity and viscoelasticity. However, the viscoelastic properties of hydrolyzed polyacrylamide polymers have not been given much consideration during the design phase of polymer flood projects. Our experimental study focuses on the optimization of the makeup water design for polymer flooding by evaluating the optimum solution salinity and pH for better stability and improved viscoelastic behavior of the polymer. Initially, the brine salinity and ionic composition is adjusted and then hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) polymer solutions of varying pH are prepared using the adjusted brine. Rheological experiments are conducted over a temperature range of 25-80 °C and at different aging times. Polymer thermal degradation as a function of pH is assessed by examining the solutions at 80 °C for 1 week. Amplitude sweep and frequency sweep tests are performed to determine the viscoelastic properties such as storage modulus, loss modulus, and relaxation time. A 15-40% increase in the polymer solution viscosity and a 20 times increase in relaxation time is observed in the pH range of 8-10 in comparison to the neutral solution. This can be attributed to the low-salinity ion-adjusted environment of the makeup brine and further hydrolysis and increased repulsion of polymer chains in an alkaline environment. These results indicate that the viscoelastic properties of a polymer are tunable and a basic pH is favorable for better synergy between the brine and the polymer. Alkaline low-salinity polymer solutions have exhibited 60% higher thermal stability in comparison to acidic solutions and thus can be successfully applied in high-temperature reservoirs. The results of this study show that polymer solutions with an optimum pH in the basic range exhibit a higher viscoelastic character and an increased resistance toward thermal degradation. Hence, the polymer solution salinity, ionic composition, and pH should be adjusted to obtain maximum oil recovery by the polymer flooding method. Finally, this study shows that more effective polymer solutions can be prepared by adjusting the pH and designing a low-salinity water/polymer recipe to get the additional benefit of polymer viscoelasticity. The optimized low-salinity alkaline conditions can reduce the residual oil saturation by stronger viscous and viscoelastic forces developed by more viscous polymers. The findings of this study can be employed to design an optimum polymer recipe by tuning the brine pH and salinity for maximum incremental oil recovery, particularly in high-temperature and high-salinity formations.
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