We designed a hands-on laboratory exercise to demonstrate why injecting an aqueous polymer solution into an oil reservoir (commonly known as “polymer flooding”) enhances oil production. Students are split into three groups of two to three. Each group is assigned to a packed Hele–Shaw cell pre-saturated with oil, our laboratory model of an oil reservoir, and is given an aqueous solution of known polymer concentration to inject into the model reservoir to “push” the oil out. At selected intervals, students record the oil produced, take photos of the cell using their smartphones, and demarcate the invading polymer front on an acetate sheet. There is ample time for students to observe the experiments of other groups and compare the different flow patterns that arise from different polymer concentrations. Students share their results with other groups at the end of the session, which require effective data presentation and communication. Both the in-session tasks and data sharing require team work. While this experiment was designed for a course on Enhanced Oil Recovery
for final year undergraduate and MSc students in petroleum engineering, it can be readily adapted to courses on groundwater hydrology or subsurface transport by selecting different test fluids.
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