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Branched Alkyl Alcohol Propoxylated Sulfate Surfactants for Improved Oil Recovery

Verzweigte Alkylalkoholpropoxysulfate für die tertiäre Erdölförderung
Y. Wu , S. Iglauer , P. Shuler , Y. Tang and W. A. Goddard


This investigation considers branched alkyl alcohol propoxylated sulfate surfactants as candidates for chemcial enhanced oil recovery (EOR) applications. Results show that these anionic surfactants may be preferred candidates for EOR as they can be effective at creating low interfacial tension (IFT) at dilute concentrations, without requiring an alkaline agent or cosurfactant. In addition, some of the formulations exhibit a low IFT at high salinity, and hence may be suitable for use in more saline reservoirs. Adsorption tests onto kaolinite clay indicate that the loss of these surfactants can be comparable to or greater than other types of anionic surfactants. Surfactant performance was evaluated in oil recovery core flood tests. Selected formulations recovered 35–50% waterflood residual oil even with dilute 0.2 wt% surfactant concentrations from Berea sandstone cores.


Diese Studie untersucht verzweigte Alkylalkoholpropoxysulfate für Anwendungen in der tertiären chemischen Erdölförderung (EOR). Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass diese anionischen Tenside besonders für die EOR geeignet sind, da sie die Grenzflächenspannung (IFT) ohne alkalische Zusatzmittel oder Kotenside effektiv senken. Zusätzlich weisen einige Formulierungen eine geringe IFT bei hohen Salzgehalten auf und könnten daher für den Einsatz in Reservoiren mit hohen Salzgehalten brauchbar sein. Die Adsorptionsmessungen an Kaolin machen deutlich, dass der Verlust dieser Tenside vergleichbar oder größer ist als der anderer anionischer Tenside. Die Tensidwirksamkeit wurde in Bohrkernflutungstests ermittelt. Ausgewählte Formulierungen mit einer Tensidkonzentration von nur 0,2 wt% ermöglichten eine Produktion von 35–50% des Restöls aus den Bereasandsteinkernen.

Yongchun Tang, Division of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, Power, Energy Environmental Research (PEER) Center, California Institute of Technology, Covina, CA 91722, U.S.A. E-Mail:

Dr. Stefan Iglauer is a Research Associate at Imperial College London. His research interests include carbon dioxide sequestration, multi-phase flow in porous media, interfacial science, polymer technology and enhanced oil recovery. Dr. Iglauer earned his chemistry degree from the University of Paderborn and received his PhD from the Oxford Brookes University. He worked as a Postdoctoral scholar in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology from 2003–2005.

Dr. Yongfu Wu is a Research Assistant Professor with the Petroleum Engineering Program at Missouri University of Science and Technology (MS&T). Dr. Wu's research interests include surfactants and interfacial phenomena such as adsorption, aggregation, dispersion, emulsion, foaming, spreading and wetting, as well as development of novel surfactants and formulations for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), remediation of aquifer and groundwater and other surfactant-related industrial applications. Currently his research focuses on the fundamental aspects of enhanced oil recovery by chemical technologies.

Dr. Patrick Shuler currently is on the research staff at the PEERI (Power, Environmental, and Energy Research Institute) located in Covina, CA. There he has been directing government and industry-sponsored research projects in chemical-based Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) for the past 9 years. Previous to joining PEERI he worked for over 22 years in Chevron Corporation's upstream R&D organization. While there he specialized in research in chemical EOR and in other aspects of oil and gas production chemistry. Dr. Shuler earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemical engineering degrees from the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Colorado, respectively.

Dr. Yongchun Tang is the director of the Power, Environmental and Energy Research Institute, formerly known as the Power, Environmental and Energy Research (PEER) Center at the California Institute of Technology. He was co-founder of the PEER Center at Caltech, which has now become an independent research institute. From 1998 to 2009, Dr. Tang worked as the director of PEER Center at Caltech where he was PI and coPI for many challenging research projects funded by the DOE, NSF, and many large petroleum industries including Chevron, Shell, Exxon, BP, Conocophillips, Saudi Aramco, ENI-Agip, Total, Devon, PetroChina, and China Petroleum Corporation (Taiwan). Before joining Caltech, Dr. Tang was the senior research scientist and team leader for the molecular simulation group at Chevron. He is currently also adjunct professor at Shanghai University, Cornell University, Beijing University, the Coal Research Institute of Science Academy of China, and the Guangzhou Geochemistry Institute. He was adjunct professor at Cornell University (2001–2003). Dr. Tang got his BS in Chemistry from Shanxi University (1981) and PhD from Ohio University (1985). Dr. Tang joined Chevron in 1988 after his postdoctoral work at Harvard University and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Prof. William A. Goddard III has been a member of the Faculty of the Chemistry Department at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) since November 1964, where he is now Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor in Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics. His research career has focused on developing methods to solve problems in catalysis, materials science, and pharma from first principles (no use of empirical data). He uses multiscale multiparadigm technologies to make first principles methods practical for critical problems in catalysis, nanotechnology, fuel cells, and pharma. Thus, his work bridges between fundamentals of physics and chemistry, new developments in computer science, and practical applications. Professor Goddard has published over 816 scientific articles. See


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Received: 2009-10-04
Published Online: 2013-04-05
Published in Print: 2010-05-01

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