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Surface complexation modelling of the zeta potential at oil-brine and brine- rock interfaces: the application to wettability characterisation and EOR via controlled salinity waterflooding

Project Description

Controlled salinity waterflooding is a promising method of EOR in both carbonate and sandstone reservoirs. The incremental oil recovery by the controlled salinity waterflooding yields up to 40% of oil originally in place to be recovered in addition to initial primary waterflooding. However, in many cases no controlled salinity effect is observed and driving mechanisms are still poorly understood.

It is widely accepted that changes in electrostatic interactions (often described using zeta potential) at rock/brine and brine/oil interfaces are responsible for incremental oil recovery and associated with it wettability alteration. Recently, there have been several attempts to develop a predictive theoretical model to describe these interactions, but they have been limited to relatively low concentrations of electrolytes and have not included an explicit temperature dependence of the zeta potential, despite the fact that many hydrocarbon reservoirs contain highly saline connate water and are at typical temperatures between 40oC and 120oC.

The aim of this project is to develop a comprehensive model to describe zeta potential of rocks saturated with high salinity brines and crude oil at reservoir conditions of salinity and temperature. The model will be developed based on the previously published approaches implementing available theoretical and empirical relationships between the zeta potential and salinity and temperature. The developed model will be tested against the existing experimental data on carbonate/sandstone samples, various types of crude oil and potentially will serve as a predictive tool for screening hydrocarbon reservoirs for positive controlled salinity waterflooding effect. The model will also provide a tool to characterise and/or predict wettability of reservoir rocks saturated with brines and hydrocarbons at reservoir conditions of temperature and salinity.

The successful candidate should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Engineering or Physics.

Knowledge of: Numerical modelling experience is desirable.


Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Informal inquiries can be made to Dr J Vinogradov () with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ().

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. It is for self-funded students only.

How good is research at Aberdeen University in General Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 38.60

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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