Study of wettability of calcite surfaces using oil-brine-enzyme systems for enhanced oil recovery applications

Alsu Khusainova, Sidsel Marie Nielsen, Hanne Høst Pedersen, John Woodley, Alexander Shapiro

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Enzymes have recently been considered as possible agents for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) acting at the liquid-solid interface. One way to assess this is via measuring the wettability of calcite surfaces, important for EOR methods in carbonaceous reservoirs. In the present work, we have experimentally investigated the effect of enzymes on the wettability of calcite mineral surfaces with oil-brine systems. The action of various enzymes, including esterases/lipases, carbohydrases, proteases and oxidoreductases (along with two commercial mixtures) was studied by contact angle measurements and adhesion behaviour tests. Comparative studies with a surfactant, protein, purified enzyme, enzyme stabiliser using n-decane (as a model for the oil) have also been carried out in order to verify experimental results. The enzymes that have the highest effect on the wettability have been identified. Those enzymes, which were found the most promising from a practical perspective, have shown the ability to fully detach oil from the surface, even at very low enzyme concentrations. For example, esterases/lipases were found to strongly affect the wettability and to remove adhesion at concentrations as low as 0.1% of the enzyme product (corresponding to 0.002-0.005% protein). Likewise, proteases could also improve wettability, although the effect was not consistent and was dependent on impurities. Other enzymes had no effect on the wettability of calcite at the concentration studied. The main mechanism of enzymatic action has been found to be replacement of oil at the solid surface by the enzyme. Other mechanisms (modification of the surface tension or catalytic modification of hydrocarbons resulting in reducing the oil viscosity) have shown to be much less pronounced from the measurements reported here.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Petroleum Science and Engineering
Pages (from-to)53-64
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Adhesion
  • Carbonaceous reservoirs
  • Enhanced oil recovery
  • Enzymes
  • Wettability
  • Calcite
  • Esters
  • Oil shale
  • Paraffins
  • Petroleum reservoir engineering
  • Phase interfaces
  • Proteins
  • Wetting
  • Catalytic modifications
  • Commercial mixtures
  • Comparative studies
  • Enzymatic action
  • Enzyme concentrations
  • Liquid-solid interfaces
  • Oxido-reductases
  • Enhanced recovery


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