In this research, a state-of-the-art experimental core flooding setup is used to assess the efficiency of surfactant flooding as an enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technique in tight carbonate rocks. Specifically, we investigate the role of apparent wettability in governing the effectiveness of surfactant flooding. A series of flooding experiments with well-defined boundary conditions were performed on the low permeability core plug samples of Indiana Limestone (calcite-cemented carbonate grainstones). Experiments were conducted on three samples exhibiting differing apparent wetting characteristics: strongly oil-wet, moderately oil-wet and weakly oil-wet. Initially, the oil-saturated core samples were flooded with brine until the residual oil saturation was achieved, with surfactant flooding performed as a tertiary recovery technique. Interestingly, our experimental results reveal that the efficiency of surfactant flooding increases with the degree of oil-wetness of the tight carbonate rocks. The strongly oil-wet core showed the highest recovery, while the weakly oil-wet core manifested the least additional oil recovery associated with surfactant flooding. Moreover, we provided a pore-scale argument that explains the macroscopic role of surfactant flooding in tight carbonate rocks. We hypothesized that at the pore-scale the presence of thin film plays a critical role in controlling the effectiveness of surfactant flooding in the strongly oil-wet tight carbonate rocks. Overall, we believe that our macroscopic study provides novel insight into the dynamics of surfactant flooding in tight carbonate reservoirs and can aid in optimizing the field development plans for oil recovery.
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