Nanoscale Flow Chip Platform For Laboratory Evaluation Of Enhanced Oil Recovery Materials

M. Engel, R.F. Neumann, R. Giro, P.W. Bryant, M.B. Steiner
IBM Research Brazil,

Keywords: EOR, materials for oil and gas, nanofluidics, porous media, lab-on-chip


We present a lab-on-chip platform for the experimental evaluation of Enhanced Oil Recovery [EOR] methods from the nanoscale to the scale of reservoir rock pore networks. We have employed semiconductor process technology to build lab-on-chip flow devices with features at the nanometer scale that allow us to perform controlled flow experiments for calibrating multi-scale flow models. The platform built on silicon semiconductor technology is highly customizable and allows for design adaptation of different physical model representations. The approach enables us to experimentally investigate and validate liquid flow in porous media below the micrometer scale and to deploy calibrated, multi-scale flow simulations in a digital representation of a given rock pore network. The chip implementations of the nanoscale, porous rock network enable systematic flow studies covering various parameters (e.g. effective porosity, viscosity, surface properties) under controlled conditions of physical parameters (e.g. temperature, pressure). High resolution optical microscopy measurement techniques enable us to track individual nanometer size fluorescent tags which allow us to directly determine fluid flow speeds even in sub-micrometer constrictions. We introduce the architecture of the flow chip, discuss how the flow experiments are performed and how the experimental results are used to calibrate the flow simulations. Ultimately, the calibrated flow simulations will be used for predicting the efficiency of a specific EOR agent for improving oil displacement in a pore scale network of reservoir rock. We further discuss the progress in the provision of experimentally calibrated flow simulations through and IT system for reservoir-specific EOR strategies.