A Novel Technique to Estimate Water Saturation and Capillary Pressure of Foam in Model Fractures

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Foam is applied in enhanced oil recovery to improve the sweep of injected gas and increase oil recovery, by greatly reducing the mobility of gas. In the laboratory, X-ray computed tomography is commonly used to evaluate the performance of foam in core plugs. However, foam properties, such as bubble size and capillary pressure, are much more difficult to measure. In recent years, microfluidic models have gained much attention because they easily facilitate the imaging study of in-situ foam. However, it is still challenging to estimate capillary pressure, in a model with a uniform depth of etching. In this paper, we report a novel technique to estimate water saturation and capillary pressure of foam in two 1-meter-long model fractures. Both model fractures are made of glass plates. They have different roughness and hydraulic apertures. Unlike microfluidics with uniform depth of etching, our model fractures each has a variation of aperture. We characterize the roughness and represent the aperture distribution of the fracture as a network of pore bodies and pore throats. In this study, foam is pre-generated and then injected into the fractures. The inlet and outlet valves are closed for 24 hr after foam reaches steady-state. We use a high-speed camera to visualize foam in the fractures. We use ImageJ software to analyze foam texture and quantify bubble density, average bubble size and polydispersivity. In addition, we estimate water saturation and capillary pressure by analyzing images in terms of fracture geometry. We found that water in foam resides in locations of narrow aperture, Plateau borders, lamellae between bubbles, and water films on glass walls. Water-filled zones of narrow aperture and Plateau borders account for almost all the water. During the re-distribution of water and gas in static foam, in-flow and out-flow of water must take paths along the network of Plateau borders and water-occupied zones, as they are the only continuous paths for water flow. In both model fractures, the decrease in water saturation coincides with an increase in capillary pressure, as expected. This novel technique of estimation of water saturation and capillary pressure of foam provides insights for studies of foam in naturally fractured reservoirs with complex geometry, where measuring such foam properties is challenging. This analysis is possible because aperture varies along our model fractures, unlike most microfluidic devices. Our technique would also have an application to foam aquifer remediation and CO 2 sequestration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127800
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalColloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Aperture distribution
  • Capillary pressure
  • Foam
  • Fractures
  • Image analysis
  • Lamella
  • Plateau border
  • Water saturation


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