Fundamentals of Wettability

July 6, 2007

Originally Posted on Schlumberger Website

(Multiple Authors)


Understanding formation wettability is crucial for optimizing oil recovery. The oilversus-water wetting preference influences many aspects of reservoir performance, particularly in water flooding and enhanced oil recovery techniques. Making the assumption that a reservoir is water-wet, when it is not, can lead to irreversible reservoir damage.

Wetting forces are in play all around us. They have practical applications, such as making rain bead up on a freshly waxed car so it is protected from rust. And they provide whimsy: wetting forces bind sand grains to hold the shape of a child’s sand castle.

Forces of wetting influence hydrocarbon reservoir behavior in many ways, including satura – tion, multiphase flow and certain log interpre – tation parameters. However, before getting into these details, it is best to first establish what wettability is.

Wettability describes the preference of a solid to be in contact with one fluid rather than another. Although the term “preference” may seem odd when describing an inanimate object, it aptly describes the balance of surface and interfacial forces. A drop of a preferentially wetting fluid will displace another fluid; at the extreme it will spread over the entire surface. Conversely, if a nonwetting fluid is dropped onto a surface already covered by the wetting fluid, it will bead up, minimizing its contact with the solid. 


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What Is Wettability Damage – And Can It Be Reversed?

What if wettability is changed in the wrong direction?

Then you have what is referred to as Wettability Damage. This type of damage occurs when the wettability alteration lowers expected recovery, thereby reducing profitability.

At ESal, we estimate that among all the oilfields in the world, no less than 20% are experiencing this type of damage.

And as you’re about to see from one example, it’s damage that can be outrageously costly.

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