Pore-scale dynamics of nanofluid-enhanced NAPL displacement in carbonate rock

Tianzhu Qin, Lamia Goual, Mohammad Piri, Zhongliang Hu, Dongsheng Wen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study presents a pore-scale investigation of two-phase flow dynamics during nanofluid flooding in subsurface formations containing non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) such as crude oils. The goal was to gain fundamental understanding of the dominant displacement mechanisms of NAPL at different stages of nanofluid injection in a carbonate rock using x-ray microtomography integrated with a miniature core-flooding system. The nanofluid consisted of surfactant-based microemulsions with in-situ synthesized silica nanoparticles. After establishing its initial wettability state, the carbonate core sample was subjected to various pore volumes (PV) of nanofluid flooding (from 0.5 to 10) to examine the impact on NAPL flow dynamics. We found that most NAPL mobilization occurred within the first PV of injection, removing nearly 50% of NAPL from the rock. The nanofluid invaded into larger pores first due to a sharp decrease in NAPL/brine interfacial tension (from 14 to 0.5 mN/m) and contact angle (from 140 to 88°). With higher amount of nanofluid delivered into the pores through advection, over 90% of NAPL droplets were emulsified and their size decreased from 9 to 3 μm. Subsequent nanofluid injection could further remove NAPL from the smaller pores by altering the thickness of NAPL layers adsorbed on the rock. This dynamic solubilization process reached equilibrium after 5 PV of injection, leading to a reduced layer thickness (from 12 to 0.2 μm), a narrower in-situ contact angle distribution around 81°, and an additional 16% of NAPL removal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103598
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquifer remediation
  • Crude oil
  • Enhanced oil recovery
  • Microemulsion
  • Nanoparticle
  • Pore-scale dynamics


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