Direct Pore-Level Visualization and Verification of In Situ Oil-in-Water Pickering Emulsification during Polymeric Nanogel Flooding for EOR in a Transparent Three-Dimensional Micromodel


Different from inorganic nanoparticles, nanosized cross-linked polymeric nanoparticles (nanogels) have been demonstrated to generate more stable Pickering emulsions under harsh conditions for a long term owing to their inherent high hydrophilicity and surface energy. In both core and pore scales, the emulsions are found to be able to form in situ during the nanofluid flooding process for an enhanced oil recovery (EOR) process. Due to the limitation of direct visualization in core scale or deficient pore geometries built by two-dimensional micromodels, the in situ emulsification by nanofluids and emulsion transport are still not being well understood. In this work, we use a three-dimensional transparent porous medium to directly visualize the in situ emulsification during the nanogel flooding process for EOR after water flooding. By synthesizing the nanogel with a fluorescent dye, we find the nanogels adsorbed on the oil-water interface to lower the total interfacial energy and emulsify the large oil droplets into small Pickering oil-in-water emulsions. A potential mechanism for in situ emulsification by nanogels is proposed and discussed. After nanogel flooding, the emulsions trapped in pore throats and those in the effluents are all found encapsulated by the nanogels. After nanogel flooding under different flow rates, the sphericity and diameter changes of remaining oil droplets are quantitatively compared and analyzed using grouped boxplots. It is concluded that in situ emulsification happens during nanogel injection due to the reduction of interfacial tension, which helps to increase the oil recovery rate under different flow rates and pore geometries.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Second Department

Mathematics and Statistics


This research was supported by National Science Foundation grants 1722647. This research was also supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (no. 3205002108C3).

Keywords and Phrases

Emulsions; Lipids; Nanogels; Liquids; Emulsification

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1520-5827; 0743-7463

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2021 American Chemical Society (ACS), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Nov 2021