(626b) Solutions of C6F13- and C4F9-Based Polyfluoroacrylates in CO2; Solubility, Viscosity, and Adsorption Onto Cement

LeMaire, P. III - Presenter, University of Pittsburgh
Koronaios, P. - Presenter, University of Pittsburgh
Alenzi, A., University of Pittsburgh
Crandall, D., NETL
High molecular weight poly(fluorinated acrylates) (PFAs) have drawn interest in the chemical and petroleum engineering fields due to their remarkable solubility in liquid and supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) without the need for any co-solvent. This study does not include any examples of PFA based on monomers with the -C8F17 moiety because the ultimate hydrolysis degradation products of such polymers leads to the formation of PFOA, a compound deemed unsafe by the EPA. Instead, we have synthesized PFA based on fluoroacrylayte monomers containing the -C6F13 group (the functionality used in current commercial fluoroacrylate copolymers). These -C6F13-based polymers would degrade to form perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) that, while significantly safer than PFOA, is also receiving more scrutiny from regulatory agencies in recent days. Therefore, we have also synthesized PFA based on monomers containing the -C4F9 functionality. The -C4F9-PFA ultimate degradation products include perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA), which is significantly more environmentally benign than the -C6F13-based PFA. Therefore, one of the main objectives of this study was to determine if -C4F9-PFA retained the remarkable CO2-solubility and CO2-thickening capability as PFA based on the -C6F13 PFA and previously reported -C8F17-based PFA.

Many samples of PFA based on the -C6F13 and -C4F9-based fluoroacrylate monomers and varying ratios of initiator:monomer were bulk polymerized and then characterized for molecular weight and polydispersity. The -C4F9-PFA was shown to be nearly identical in CO2-solubility as the -C6F16-PFA. Between 1-4 wt% PFA, the solubility of PFA in CO2 was nearly independent of PFA molecular weight. Further, the cloud points loci for mixtures of CO2-C4F9-PFA were nearly identical to the cloud point curves for the CO2-C6F13-PFA at each temperature, with higher pressure required at higher temperature. This demonstrated that the -C4F9-PFA was just as CO2-soluble as the -C6F13-PFA. Further, both polymers were capable of thickening CO2 in dilute concentration to a comparable degree (e.g. a 6-fold increase in viscosity with 4 wt% C4F9 PFA, 1.24x106 Da PFA in CO2 at low shear rate).

PFA has previously been considered for use as a “CO2 thickener” in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations. Unlike common chemical engineering applications where low viscosity is beneficial to reduce mass transfer resistance, low CO2 viscosity is often problematic for EOR because it leads to viscous fingering (mobility control problems) and preferential loss of disproportionate amounts of CO2 to high permeability “thief zones” that contain little recoverable oil (conformance control problems). However, in 2019 it was shown that PFA dissolved in CO2 adsorbs so strongly onto sandstone or carbonate rock that the use of PFA in large-scale EOR projects to address mobility control would not be feasible, although near-wellbore conformance control applications (i.e. injecting the CO2-PFA into isolated thief zones) may be viable.

In the current study, however, we are attempting to exploit the adsorption of PFA on solid surfaces for improved wellbore integrity. We are proposing to inject PFA-CO2 solutions into small cracks within cement or between steel and cement (i.e. microannular cracks), thereby allowing a portion of the PFA to absorb and greatly reduce the crack permeability or completely seal the crack. Because PFA is a high molecular weight, amorphous, transparent, sticky, stretchy, oil-repellant, water-repellant polymer that is insoluble in water, oil or natural gas, it is a promising sealant for wellbore applications. Even though PFA is inherently expensive, this is a small volume application in which the cost of PFA would not exclude its consideration. Relative to other sealants (cement, resins, aqueous emulsions), PFA-CO2 solutions are orders of magnitude less viscous, which would allow them deeper access into smaller cracks than other options. The PFA-CO2 solutions would, however, be an inappropriate selection for the remediation of extremely large cracks or voids in cement.

In order to lay the groundwork for this proposed application, we have also determined the equilibrium adsorption of PFA onto Portland cement particles. This was accomplished by a direct measurement of the mass gain of a known quantity of sieved (22-30 mesh) Portland cement particles that was immersed in a PFA-CO2 fluid of specified original composition (e.g. 4 wt% PFA). The equilibrium concentration of PFA in the liquid CO2 was determined via mass balance (original PFA placed in the cell – the amount of PFA found to adsorb onto the cement). This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first report of polymeric adsorption levels of solid surfaces immersed in CO2-polymer solutions