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Transport of emulsions in porous media is relevant to several subsurface applications. Many enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes lead to emulsion formation and as a result conformance originating in the flow of a dispersed phase may arise. In some EOR processes, emulsion is injected directly as a mobility control agent. Modeling the flow of emulsion in porous media is extremely challenging due to the complex nature of the associated flows and numerous interfaces. The descriptions based on effective viscosity are not valid when the drop size is of the same order of magnitude as the pore-throat characteristic length scale. An accurate model of emulsion flow through porous media should describe this local change in mobility. The available filtration models do not take into account the variation of the straining and capturing rates with the local capillary number. In this work, we present experiments of emulsion flow through sandstone cores of different permeability and a first step on a capillary network model that uses experimentally determined pore-level constitutive relationships between flow rate and pressure drop in constricted capillaries to obtain representative macroscopic flow behavior emerging from microscopic emulsion flow at the pore level. A parametric analysis is conducted to study the effect of the permeability and dispersed phase droplet size on the flow response to emulsion flooding in porous media. The network model predictions qualitatively describe the oil-water emulsion flow behavior observed in the experiments.




©2011 American Physical Society

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