PhD Studentship: Experimental investigation of the effect of chemical flooding on the effective zeta potential in rock samples - improved understanding of enhanced oil recovery

University of Aberdeen

Chemical flooding (e.g. alkaline, surfactant, polymer) is a promising method of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in both carbonate and sandstone reservoirs. It is widely accepted that presence of chemicals in rock pore space saturated with fluids results in alteration of rock wettability, hydrocarbons/water mobility or interfacial tension. These changes lead to a release of oil trapped in the pore space and ultimately to improved oil recovery.

Changes in petrophysical properties of rocks-water-hydrocarbons systems associated with chemical flooding that are routinely measured at the moment, do not include electrical interfacial properties and thus are not conclusive. It is known that electrostatic interaction between rock mineral and saturating fluids plays an important role that determines rock wettability. Therefore, changes in the effective zeta potential (i.e. overall electrical potential at water-hydrocarbons and water-rock interfaces) measured in a rock are correlated to and affect the occupancy of the pore space by reservoir fluids.

The aim of this project is to develop a comprehensive experimental method to measure the zeta potential in rocks saturated with high salinity brines, crude oil and chemicals at reservoir conditions of salinity and temperature. The project will exploit the unique expertise of Dr Jan Vinogradov in this area and the results of the project will test the hypothesis that changes in the effective zeta potential during chemical flooding are correlated with the changes in rock wettability, interfacial tension and ultimately oil recovery. The measurements will be carried out on various carbonate/sandstone samples, different types of crude oil and typical chemicals used in the chemical EOR, and will be conducted at reservoir conditions of brine salinity and temperature (up to 120oC). Due to simplicity and reliability of this experimental approach, the impact of the project is two-fold: i) the method will complement the existing methods to characterise rock wettability and interfacial tension; ii) the method will carry a predictive capability for screening reservoirs for successful chemical flooding, thus mitigating economic risks of this expensive method of EOR.

Essential Background: Equivalent of 2.1 Honours Degree in Physics or Engineering. Knowledge of: Experience in experimental work and hands-on experience is desirable.

Funding Notes

Tuition Fees and stipend will be met by EPSRC Doctoral Training Grant for the successful applicant. The University will only consider applications from UK applicants for this competitive award.


Informal inquiries can be made to Dr J Vinogradov, ( with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter.

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