Experimental and Numerical Evaluation of Polymer Viscoelasticity Effects during EOR Applications


01.07.2018 - 30.06.2021


Polymer flooding is a mature technology in the field of enhanced oil recovery. It is commonly accepted in the industry that viscous polymer solutions lead to a more stable displacement of the oil phase and hence improve the volumetric sweep of the reservoir. However, laboratory investigations as well as field observations indicate that the shear-thickening (viscoelastic) properties of synthetic polymer solutions improve oil displacement also at the microscopic scale.

This research project aims to investigate the efficiency of viscoelastic effects of polymer solutions to enhance oil recovery. The evaluation is driven by a detailed investigation of the polymer viscoelastic phenomenon. To define mechanistic and quantitative explanations for the viscoelasticity effects, the project focuses on three complementary aspects: 

  1. Laboratory investigation of polymer viscoelasticity in porous media
  2. Interpretation of experimental results and derivation of mathematical descriptions
  3. Validation of laboratory performance and oil recovery predictions

First, the flow behaviour is addressed at the microscale by using microfluidics or lab-on-a–chip systems. This approach has recently gained much attention, although it has been used for several years for many industrial applications. Second, flooding experiments performed in core plugs are part of the macroscale evaluation. This is the most common and industrially accepted approach to define the flow performance. Finally, the variety of complex fluid phenomena requires sophisticated mathematical models in order to describe and predict their behaviour.

Applying experimental evaluations and numerical modelling, in tandem, will enable to differentiate inherent features of the polymers, from critical behaviours related to its interaction with the complex pore structure of the reservoir, providing insights that can be used to enhance performance and projects design. This, in turn, could have a significant impact to the oil industry on providing clear evidences whether or not polymer viscoelasticity will enhance oil recovery. Therefore, considerable amount of investment could be saved.


Nils Langanke
Rafael Hincapie

Sponsoren und Partner

This project is funded by Royal Dutch Shell and SNF Floerger via the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI).