Impact of Sulfate Ions on Wettability Alteration of Oil-Wet Calcite in the Absence and Presence of Cationic Surfactant

Mahvash Karimi, Rashid S. Al-Maamari*, Shahab Ayatollahi, Nasir Mehranbod

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


The modification of the surface wetting characteristics in fractured oil-wet carbonate reservoirs, by reversing wettability from oil-wet to water-wet, leads to improved oil recovery. However, in order to obtain a successful oil recovery process, it is crucial to understand the active mechanisms of wettability alteration. This study looks at the effect of sulfate ions as one of the most promising wettability influencing ions on the wetting properties of oil-wet calcite; the effect is studied both with and without the presence of cationic surfactant and possible mechanisms of wettability alteration are explored. A number of analytical techniques were utilized to analyze the mineral surface before and after treatment. The study presents a thorough discussion of the influence of sulfate ions in displacing adsorbed carboxylate from the oil-wet surface, both with and without the presence of cationic surfactant are discussed thoroughly. The interaction between sulfate ions and the calcium ions attached to carboxylate groups on the surface is believed to be the main active mechanism of wettability alteration at high concentration of sulfate ions. Ion-exchange between the hydroxide group and the adsorbed stearate ion on the calcite surface is shown to act as a supplementary mechanism that desorbs stearate ions from the surface. In the treatment of an aged calcite surface with sulfate ions, a combination of these two mechanisms resulted in a more water-wet surface. The copresence of sulfate ions and cationic surfactant resulted in a further reduction in the amount of adsorbed carboxylate on the surface. This can be attributed to the release of adsorbed carboxylate groups on the surface through ion pair formation with the cationic surfactant. The desorption of negatively charged carboxylate groups from the surface facilitates the approach of negatively charged sulfate ions to the aged calcite surface. It can therefore be concluded that sulfate ions accompanied by cationic surfactant molecules can alter the wetting properties toward water-wet state more effectively than sulfate ions alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-829
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 18 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology


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