Nanoparticle Catalysts Upgrade Heavy Oil for Continuous-Steam-Injection Recovery

Topics: Heavy oil/tar sands
Universidad Nacional de Colombia - Sede Medellin
Fig. 1—Oil-recovery curves for vapor injection with and without nanoparticles.

The production of heavy and extraheavy oil is difficult because of its rheological properties caused by high asphaltene content. Upgrading these unconventional oils requires large amounts of energy, decreasing the production’s cost-effectiveness. Nanoparticulated catalysts have been shown to improve enhanced recovery of these oils by altering their physicochemical properties, including asphaltene content. This paper presents an investigation into the effect of catalytic nanoparticles on the efficiency of recovery from continuous steam injection.


Several in-situ techniques have been used to enhance heavy- and extraheavy-oil recovery with the objective of upgrading the oil and improving its viscosity and mobility. These techniques include thermal processes, such as steam-­assisted gravity drainage, and cold techniques, such as treatments with diluents. Cold processes improve the crude oil by dilution or destabilization and deposition of asphaltene components in the reservoir with solvents that have a direct effect on viscosity. This paper evaluates the use of nanoparticulated catalysts in steamflooding.

The nanoparticles were selected through batch-adsorption experiments. A methodology was developed for evaluating the effect of the nanoparticulated catalyst in continuous vapor injection. Oil recovery was evaluated by use of a slimtube filled with a nonconfined ­sandpack in steam-injection scenarios in the absence and presence of a water-based nanofluid. A displacement test was conducted by (1) constructing the base curves, (2) estimating the oil recovery by continuous injection of vapor in the absence of the nanofluid, and (3) identifying the influence of the nanoparticles on the enhanced recovery of oil.

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights of paper SPE 179699, “Heavy-Oil Upgrading and Enhanced Recovery in a Continuous Steam-Injection Process Assisted by Nanoparticulated Catalysts,” by C.A. Franco, L. Cardona, S.H. Lopera, J.M. Mejía, and F.B. Cortés, National University of Colombia at Medellín, prepared for the 2016 SPE Improved Oil Recovery Conference, Tulsa, 11–13 April. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
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Nanoparticle Catalysts Upgrade Heavy Oil for Continuous-Steam-Injection Recovery

01 March 2017

Volume: 69 | Issue: 3