Effects of shear-thinning fluids on residual oil formation in microfluidic pore networks
Two-phase immiscible displacement in porous media is controlled by capillary and viscous forces when gravitational effects are negligible. The relative importance of these forces is quantified through the dimensionless capillary number Ca and the viscosity ratio M between fluid phases. When the displacing fluid is Newtonian, the effects of Ca and M on the displacement patterns can be evaluated independently. However, when the injecting fluids exhibit shear-thinning viscosity behaviour the values of M and Ca are interdependent. Under these conditions, the effects on phase entrapment and the general displacement dynamics cannot be dissociated. In the particular case of shear-thinning aqueous polymer solutions, the degree of interdependence between M and Ca is determined by the polymer concentration. In this work, two-phase immiscible displacement experiments were performed in micromodels, using shear-thinning aqueous polymer solutions as displacing fluids, to investigate the effect of polymer concentration on the relationship between Ca and M, the recovery efficiency, and the size distribution of the trapped non-wetting fluid. Our results show that the differences in terms of magnitude and distribution of the trapped phase are related to the polymer concentration which influences the values of Ca and M.