Wettability alteration and oil recovery by surfactant assisted low salinity water in carbonate rock: The impact of nonionic/anionic surfactants

Maissa Souayeh, Rashid S. Al-Maamari*, Mahvash Karimi, Mohamed Aoudia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Combining low salinity water (LSW) and chemicals to enhance oil recovery has recently received more attention in the oil industry. In this study, a systematic experimental procedure was conducted to evaluate the performance of low salinity nonionic surfactant with/without anionic surfactant in wettability alteration and oil recovery of oil-wet carbonate having high salinity formation water (FW) (196 g/L) and moderate temperature (75 °C). A polyethoxylated nonionic surfactant (C13EO12) and two anionic surfactants: sulfonate (IOS 20–24) and carboxylate (AEC 938) were used in this study. Contact angle (CA) results showed that low salinity nonionic surfactant was effective in altering the wettability of oil-wet calcite toward water-wet state. While the low salinity anionic surfactants' systems were only able to reduce the oil-wetness of the oil-wet calcite. When nonionic surfactant is mixed with anionic surfactant, the wettability of oil-wet calcite was altered toward intermediate-wet or only a reduction of its oil-wetness occurred depending on the type of the anionic surfactant. Spontaneous imbibition tests using oil-wet limestone cores showed that among the low salinity single surfactants’ systems, carboxylate anionic surfactant resulted in the highest oil recovery (61% of oil initially in place (OIIP)) and sulfonate anionic surfactant resulted in the lowest oil recovery (31% of OIIP). The low salinity nonionic surfactant recovered 51% of OIIP by spontaneous imbibition. Addition of sulfonate anionic surfactant to the nonionic surfactant resulted in an oil recovery of 49% of OIIP while addition of carboxylate anionic surfactant to the nonionic surfactant considerably improved the oil recovery to 74% of OIIP. Hence, selection of proper surfactant class is crucial for a successful oil recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108108
JournalJournal of Petroleum Science and Engineering
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anionic surfactants
  • Carbonates
  • Nonionic surfactants
  • Spontaneous imbibition
  • Wettability alteration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Fuel Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology

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