Lost circulation has been a serious problem to be solved in many drilling practices during oil, gas and geothermal well drillings. Many materials have been developed and evaluated for the purpose. However, their performance to plug severe leakoff is very limited. Herein, an injectable self-healing hydrogel based on polyampholyte with sulfonated and quaternary ammonium functionalities (P(MPTC-co-NaSS)) was developed and comprehensively evaluated to prevent the severe loss of fluids to formation. By incorporating cation-π (π is for aromatic residues) interaction, the hydrogel shown self-healing property and robustness in severe environment (temperature, salt) by comparison with other hydrogels merely consisting of cation-anion and H-bonding interactions. Aromatic residues enhanced thermal stability above 310 °C. The plugging measurement shown that an addition of 2 wt% dried gel particles can plug high-permeability formation and endure a high pressure of 6 MPa, produce much lower circulation loss and result in a dramatically increased loss volume reduction rate (63.5%) compared with a commercial polymer gel product and an inert material (9.4%) after a self-healing process. Markedly, P(MPTC-co-NaSS) can be used in a wide range of formation temperature (as high as 150 °C) and salt concentrations (NaCl, CaCl2, as high as 15 wt %). In addition to suitable particle size and mechanically robustness, it was also attributed to the soft, swelling, deformable, toughness and self-healable features of P(MPTC-co-NaSS) gel particles as well as the strong adhesion to negatively charged formations in water, even under high thermal and saline condition. These characteristics also contributed to a long-term plugging performance, beneficial to avoid repeated lost circulation in drilling operation. Besides, this self-healing polyampholyte gel particles dispersed well in saline fluid and maintained stable rheological properties after hot rolling, which was favorable to drilling fluid circulation. This study shown the application potential of self-healing materials as plugging material candidate in petroleum drilling industry.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


National Natural Science Foundation of China, Grant 51821092

Keywords and Phrases

Drilling fluid; Hydrogel; Lost circulation; Oil industry; Reservoir damage prevention; Self-healing

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

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© 2023 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2022