The application of nanotechnology to the petroleum industry has sparked recent interest to increase oil recovery while reducing environmental impact. Nanocellulose is an emerging nanoparticle that is derived from trees and may provide an environmentally friendly alternative to current enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technologies. However, before nanocellulose can be applied as an EOR technique, further understanding of its transport behavior and retention in porous media is required. The research documented in this paper examines retention mechanisms that occur during nanocellulose transport. In a series of experiments, nanocellulose particles dispersed in brine were injected into sandpacks and Berea sandstone cores. The resulting retention and permeability reduction were measured. The experimental parameters that were varied include sand grain size, nanocellulose type, salinity, and flow rate. Under low salinity conditions, the dominant retention mechanism was adsorption and when salinity was increased, the dominant retention mechanism shifted towards log-jamming. Retention and permeability reduction increased as grain size decreased, which results from increased straining of nanocellulose aggregates. In addition, each type of nanocellulose was found to have significantly different transport properties. The experiments with Berea sandstone cores indicate that some pore volume was inaccessible to the nanocellulose. As a general trend, the larger the size of aggregates in bulk solution, the greater the observed retention and permeability reduction. Salinity was found to be the most important parameter affecting transport. Increased salinity caused additional aggregation, which led to increased straining and filter cake formation. Higher flow rates were found to reduce retention and permeability reduction. Increased velocity was accompanied by an increase in shear which is believed to promote breakdown of nanocellulose aggregates.
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