Synthetic polymers in enhanced oil recovery – from molecular behaviour to bulk properties

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Synthetic polymers such as partially hydrolysed polyacrylamide (HPAM) are the most commonly used polymers for enhanced oil recovery applications. The implementation of polymer EOR methods is challenging, since several inherent and external parameters govern polymer behaviour. Understanding the polymer at a molecular level helps understanding its bulk properties. This literature review focusses on the (non-Newtonian) rheological properties of synthetic polymers as a result of molecular properties and the influence of external parameters. The inherent molecular parameters include molecular weight distribution, charge distribution, monomer composition and monomer types. Environmental parameters, which can influence the rheological behaviour, are temperature, pressure, salinity (mono- and di-valent ions), shear flow, extensional flow, degradation (mechanical/ chemical) and reservoir rock type.


  1. Provide detailed information on the molecular structure of HPAM (co-polymer and sulfonated ter-polymer).
  2. Description of the reported non-newtonian bulk behavior of HPAM polymer (co-polymer and sulfonated ter-polymer).
  3. Description of the reported influence of inherent molecular parameters on the rheological behavior.
  4. Description of the influence of environmental parameters on the rheological behavior.


  • J. J. Sheng, Modern Enhanced Oil Recovery, 2011, Elsevier
  • T. Schröder, Rheologie der Kunststoffe, 2018, Carl Hanser Verlag München
  • D. Wever, F. Picchioni, A. Broekhuis, Polymers for enhanced oil recovery: A paradigm for structure-property relationship in aqueous solution, 2011, Progress in Polymer Science

Additional relevant literature sources are to be included by the student.