The effect of pressure on the phase behavior of surfactant systems: An experimental study

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Enhanced oil recovery is employed in many mature oil reservoirs to maintain or increase the reservoir recovery factor. In this context, surfactant flooding has recently gained interest again. Surfactant flooding is the injection of surfactants (and co-surfactants) into the reservoir, in order to create microemulsions at the interface between crude oil and water, thus obtaining very low interfacial tension, which consequently helps mobilize the trapped oil.In this work a surfactant system, which has been thoroughly described at atmospheric pressure, is examined at elevated pressure. The effect of temperature is also explored. It was found that the phase behavior in the system water/sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)/1-butanol/heptane/sodium chloride was significantly changed by an increase in pressure. When an increase in pressure is combined with an increased temperature the phase behavior of the system is influenced to an even greater extent. It was concluded that at certain compositions of the surfactant system (near to the phase boundary found at atmospheric pressure) the increase in pressure changed the phase behavior (for example causing the system to move from two phases to three or vice versa). The sensitivity of the surfactant system depends very much on the overall composition as well as the magnitude of the pressure and temperature change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalColloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
Pages (from-to)159-166
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Phase behavior
  • Surfactants
  • Emulsions
  • High pressure
  • IFT
  • Enhanced oil recovery
  • Surfactant flooding


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