1 Center for Energy Resources Engineering, Center, Technical University of Denmark2 Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark3 CERE – Center for Energy Ressources Engineering, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark4 Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark5 Center for Process Engineering and Technology, Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark
Enzymes are well-known biological agents and have been applied previously in petroleum industry. However, only recently they have been introduced into the field of enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Although initially reported results of the application of enzymes for EOR are quite positive and promising (Nasiri et al., 2009), working mechanisms are poorly known and understood. The main goal of the present work is to establish possible mechanisms in which enzymes may enhance oil recovery. Improvement of the brine wettability of the rock and decrease of oil adhesion to it by addition of an enzyme is one of the possible mechanisms of enzymatic action. This mechanism has been investigated experimentally, by measurements of the contact angles between oil drops and enzyme solutions in brine on the mineral surfaces. Fifteen enzyme samples belonging to different enzyme classes, such as esterases/lipases, carbohydrases, proteases and oxidoreductases, provided by Novozymes, have been investigated. Two commercial mixtures containing enzymes: Apollo-GreenZyme™ and EOR-ZYMAX™ have also been applied. The North Sea dead oil and the synthetic sea water were used as test fluids. Internal surface of a carbonate rock has been mimicked using calcite crystals. Overall, the group of esterases/lipases has demonstrated the best performance in terms of wettability alteration. Particularly, a non-specific esterase product has been found to turn the mineral surfaces into non-adhesive state at concentrations of 0.1-0.5% wt. Proteases appear to be relatively ambiguous, while carbohydrases and oxidoreductases have the lowest potential for EOR in the light of the present experiments. Suggested mechanisms for wettability improvement for esterases/lipases are adsorption of enzymes onto the mineral and/or formation of additional interfacially active oil compounds. Application of the commercial product Apollo-GreenZyme™ has also resulted in positive wettability changes, but according to the observations the working mechanisms are different. In an attempt to assess validity of the proposed mechanisms, the reference experiments have been conducted with concentrated enzymes, enzyme product stabilizers, surfactant and protein.