(269c) Method of Moments for Computational Microemulsion Analysis and Prediction in Tertiary Oil Recovery

Tandon, K., Shell
Jain, S., Shell
Handgraaf, J. W., Culgi BV
Buijse, M., Shell

We discuss the application of Helfrich's surface torque density concept to microemulsion design and analysis, from three different angles: (i) from the point of view of coarse-grained molecular simulations, using Dissipative Particle Dynamics, including charge interactions and added salt, (ii) using an approximate double film model for the surface, and (iii) comparison with formulation approaches.  The simulations use that surface torque can be calculated unambiguously from the stress profile, provided the surface is tensionless. Very good agreement is found on predicting optimal salinity (or the absence of that) for a range of surfactants: Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate (AOT), various twin tailed sulfonates and  Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate (SDS).  The simulations are very fast, on par with times for experiments, thus they could lead to a practical tool for discovery of more efficient surfactants, although much remains to be done with respect to other important variables: oil composition, surfactant mixtures, aggregation in solution and so on. The microscopic model (second approach) is highly approximate: it is essentially based on two opposing swelling tendencies, that are both of osmotic nature. According to the model, the tails are swollen by the oil, and the charged head groups are confined in a salty layer in Donnan equilibrium with the salt solution. In this way, the surface interactions are purely entropic.  The comparison of the film model with existing formulation approaches (third approach) covers: interfacial tension minimum, Winsor R theory, Quantitative Structure Property Relations (QSPR), Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Deviation (HLD), and HLD-Net Average Curvature, and temperature coefficients.  Using the surface torque analysis, we succeed in deriving in an 'ab initio' way QSPR empirical coefficients that have been known for decades, but, until now, have been obscure in origin.