Alkali-surfactant foam improves extraction of oil from porous media

Pacelli L.J. Zitha*, Hua Guo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Capillary forces result in the trapping of the oleic phase in porous media even after extensive flushing with brine. Alkali-surfactant-polymer formulations drastically diminish capillary forces, whereas adding polymer to the water phase increases viscous forces, resulting in highly efficient extraction of the residual oil. However, by virtue of its scale, the above process requires a large quantity of chemicals, which poses a threat to the environment. Here, we demonstrate that replacing the polymer with a gas such as nitrogen, flue gas, or carbon dioxide achieves equally superior oil extraction efficiency when using a much smaller amount of chemicals. Mobilized oil is first displaced as a continuous phase (oil-bank) and then as an oil-in-water dispersion. Microflow visualization experiments reveal that dispersed oil spreads at the gas–liquid interface (surfactant solutions) due to the presence of adsorbed surfactant molecules. Our dry-cleaning extraction of hydrocarbons has a wide spectrum of applications and is particularly useful for the production of hydrocarbons from underground formations while mitigating the impact of chemicals on the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1416
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Journal of Chemical Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • alkali
  • cleaning
  • dry
  • foam
  • oil
  • porous media
  • surfactant

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