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PETROLEUM SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY Vol. 20, Nos. 7 & 8, pp. 773788, 2002

PRODUCING ULTRALOW INTERFACIAL TENSION AT THE OIL/WATER INTERFACE


T. Al-Sahhaf, A. Suttar Ahmed, and A. Elkamel* Department of Chemical Engineering, Kuwait University, P.O. Box 5969, Safat 13060, Kuwait

ABSTRACT In view of the world-wide shortage of petroleum and the fact that a large amount of residual oil will remain in the reservoir after the primary recovery and water ooding stages, the use of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods to recover as much as possible of this residual oil has become increasingly important worldwide. The predominant and most promising EOR technique is the micellar-polymer ooding process which uses a surface active agent (a surfactant) to decrease interfacial tension and hence allows oil to freely move from its original location through the porous media. The purpose of this paper is to present an experimental study of the factors aecting the equilibrium interfacial tension (IFT) at the oil/water interface. A large number of experiments was conducted to study the variations of IFT as a function of many parameters including reservoir temperature, pressure,

*Corresponding author. E-mail: elkamel@kuc01.kuniv.edu.kw 773


DOI: 10.1081/LFT-120003712 Copyright & 2002 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. 1091-6466 (Print); 1532-2459 (Online) www.dekker.com

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surfactant concentration, and salinity. An Arabian heavy crude oil was used in the analysis along with three dierent synthetic surfactants and two formation waters. The pendent drop technique enhanced by video imaging was employed for measuring IFT. It was found that for the ranges of variables considered in this study, IFT decreases with temperature and salinity, increases with pressure, and decreases exponentially with surfactant concentration. Key Words: Interfacial tension; Enhanced oil recovery; Pendent drop technique; Surfactant

INTRODUCTION In almost all of the oil producing countries, it is necessary to maintain the ow of oil at a substantial level for a sustainable growth of the economy. In the last century, oil exploration, drilling and dependency on oil and oil related products have revolutionized the oil industry. The recovery of this valuable commodity from oil reservoirs is essential for both the user and producer nations. It is realized that sixty percent of the oil remained entrapped in the porous rock of the formation after secondary recovery (Sharma and Shah, 1989 and Gregory, 1994). For extraction of this valuable residual oil, associated gas lift, water or aqueous chemical solution ooding are the most ecient methods in practice. The tertiary oil recovery is mainly dependent on the properties of oil/aqueous/formation interfaces. These are capillary forces, contact angle, wettability, viscous forces and interfacial tension. These properties are represented by a dimensionless group called the capillary number, NC, that is a measure of the mobilization of the occluded oil to enhance the oil recovery:  v  NC 1  cos  where  is the dynamic viscosity of the liquid, v is the velocity,  is the contact angle and  is the interfacial tension (IFT) between the water phase and the oil phase. For better EOR eciencies, the capillary number, NC, has to be maximized by either increasing viscosity or reducing interfacial tension. Viscosity can be increased by ooding with chemical solutions of high apparent viscosity while interfacial tension is reduced by the injection of a surfactant solution to the reservoir. The former option is dearer than

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the latter one due to the high cost involved in the pumping of polymer solutions. Displacement by surfactant solutions is one of the important tertiary recovery processes by chemical solutions. The addition of surfactant decreases the interfacial tension between crude oil and formation water, lowers the capillary forces, facilitates oil mobilization, and enhances oil recovery. This process is known in the petroleum industry by several names. Hill et al. (1973), Larson and Hirasaki (1978), Shah and Schechter (1977) named the process as surfactant ooding. The term micellar ooding was used by Davis and Jones (1968), Gogarty (1976), Farouq Ali and Stahl (1972), Gupta and Trushenski (1978), Sayyouh et al. (1981), and Trushenski et al. (1974). Based on interfacial criteria, Foster (1973) named the process low tension water-ooding. The term micro-emulsion ooding was introduced by Heally and Reed (1974, 1977). While Holm (1971) used the term soluble oil ooding. The applications of surfactant in EOR have been studied since the increase in demand of the commercial use of the crude oil. Bansal et al. (1977) investigated the interfacial behavior between aqueous and oil phases. They reported that the recovery of oil is mainly dependent on miscibility and mobility control of oil/water/rock interface. Interfacial tension is the major contributor in miscibility of oil as micro-emulsion and mobility from the formation rock. The lowering of IFT values results in the entrapped oil to move freely out of the rock matrix. Krumrine (1982) discussed the surfactant use in sandstone formations. High concentrations of surfactant in the form of slug were tested either in low concentration of salt or with no salt. Camilleri et al. (1987) have reported the enhancement of the phase behavior by the addition of alcohol as a co-surfactant into the surfactant slug. They claimed that their pseudo-phase equilibrium model could satisfactorily predict the pseudo-phase compositions of pseudo-component for ternary or quaternary representations. A surfactant solution is able to lower the interfacial tension between the oil and the water phase and hence allows the entrapped oil to move freely out of the reservoir or rock matrix. IFT measurements for dierent conditions are therefore essential to evaluate the surfactant ooding technique as a viable EOR technique. One of the methods of measuring IFT is the pendent drop technique. This technique is an important practical technique since it permits continuous study of interfacial phenomena without mechanical interference that occurs when other techniques are used. The technique involves the formation of a drop of oil on the tip of a capillary tube, both immersed in the bulk uid (aqueous phase). In applications of the pendent drop technique, several methods such as the shape factor method and the regression method have been developed by previous

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investigators for extracting IFT information from the shape of pendent drops. Interfacial tension was rst studied using the pendent drop apparatus by Andrease et al. (1938). The technique was improved by Schoettle and Jennings (1968) to enable the measurement of IFT at high pressures and high temperatures. Jennings (1969) was the rst one to report data on the IFT of n-Decane/Water systems at temperatures of up to 176 C, and from 1 to 817 atm. He also found that the eect of temperature was much greater than the eect of pressure. A number of recent improvements to the pendent drop technique appeared recently. Doyle and Carrol (1989) introduced a syringe micrometer head of increased capacity which allowed a wider range of IFTs to be measured. The head is also capable of outputting in BCD form and allowed the technique to be made on-line. Satherley et al. (1990) used a video image process to extend the range of measurements using an inection plane method. Herd et al. (1992) described the method where a camera is used to display an image of the pendent drop on a monitor, which is then processed by a frame digitizer board and computer software to determine the IFT. Lin and Hwang (1994) showed that the technique is useful for the experimental determination of ultralow dynamic interfacial tension. They computed the IFT from a best-t between the coordinates of a digitized drop prole and a theoretical curve obtained from the Laplace equation. Finally, Guo and Schechter (1997) developed a method for ultralow IFT determination on the basis of force balance on the lower half of a pendent drop. They formulated a simple equation relating IFT, uid densities, and drop geometry. A number of studies appeared in the past for measuring IFT of oil against water at reservoir temperatures and pressures. Firoozabadi and Ramey (1988), for instance, presented measurements and graphical correlations for estimating the IFT of hydrocarbon liquids against water. Goebel and Lunkenheimer (1997) presented IFT experimental data for the n-Alkane/Water system. Amin and Smith (1998) presented IFT measurements for three binary systems (methanepentane, methaneheptane, and methanedecane). The eect of pressure and temperature on IFT for these systems was studied. Badakhshan and Bakes (1990) studied the eect of dierent surfactants on IFT for a range of salt concentrations, temperatures, and surfactant concentrations. Three systems were studied: the n-Hexane/ Water, Cycloexane/Water, and Toluene/Water systems. Cai et al. (1996) presented experimental data on IFT of ten hydrocarbon mixtures against water or brine. Al-Sahhaf et al. (2001) presented recently a study that established the variation of IFT of the n-Octane/Water system under a wide range of conditions of temperatures, pressures, salt, and surfactant concentrations. Three dierent surfactants were used: two cationic and one anionic.

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PRODUCING ULTRALOW INTERFACIAL TENSION

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Flock et al. (1986) used real crude oils to study the eect of temperature on the interfacial tension. They carried out measurements of IFT versus temperature at a constant pressure. The objective of the present study is to investigate the eect of pressure, temperature, salinity, and surfactant concentration on IFT at the oil/water interface. A Kuwaiti crude oil is used in the analysis. Furthermore, three dierent surfactants were used and screened to select the surfactant that most lowers the IFT. The IFT of the crude oil was also measured when formation water is used along with dierent surfactant concentrations. In all measurements, the pendent drop technique enhanced by video imaging was used for the accurate determination of IFT. The IFTs reported in this study are obtained after all formed oil droplets reached a steady state and equilibrium was established between the oil phase and the aqueous phase.

EXPERIMENTAL WORK Material and Equipment For the aqueous phase, double distilled de-ionized water was obtained from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Kuwait University. Two normal hydrocarbons (n-Decane and n-Hexane) with a purity greater than 99% were obtained from Fluka Chemicals. These were used in order to calibrate and check the operation of the equipment by comparing their IFTs against water with published results. A Kuwaiti crude oil with a specic gravity of 0.883 (at 60 F) and an API of 29 was obtained from Kuwait Oil Company (KOC). The crude oil was obtained fresh from well Rawdhatain RA-123T, was protected from the atmosphere, and stored in a carefully cleaned plastic-lined container. Two formation waters that were used in water ooding in KOC were also used in the analysis. The salt solutions were prepared using distilled water. Three surfactants, Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonic Acid Sodium Salt, Sodium Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate (Alcopol O 70 PG), and Hexadecyl Trimethyl Ammonium Bromide (Cetrimide) of commercial grade were purchased from Fluka, Aldrich, and Sigma Chemicals Co., respectively. The measurement of IFT needed a viewable chamber, observation equipment, and temperature and pressure control (Figure 1). A light source was required to illuminate the oil droplet in the glass windowed chamber. The Mitsubishi color video copy processor of Model No. CP 110U and Sony Video recorder MVR-5300 were used to save and print the photograph of the bubbles. For more accuracy, a Polaroid Camera of model No. Nikon UFX-DX Japan No. 613253 was also employed to

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light source

drainage

CCD Camera

Monitor

Function Viewing Cell V.C.R.

Water Pump

Oil Pump

Figure 1.

Experimental apparatus used for measuring IFT.

print the pictures of the bubbles. A heating jacket was used to increase the internal temperature of the cell. A needle tip was screwed onto the top of a needle holder, and this needle assembly was inserted beneath the cell. The bottom of the needle holder was fastened to the lower double valve assembly. The cell employed a sensitive metering valve with a vernier for maximum control of oil drop formation. Other valves served to isolate the system during needle tip change-out, and to allow introduction of the dierent uids. The back pressure regulator plumbed to the top of the cell allowed ushing out through the top. A trinocular microscope was used to view the formation of the oil droplet, and to measure droplet dimensions photographically (by using either the Polaroid attachment or the video camera system or both). The stainless steel needle tip and holder were sealed by Teon gaskets. For the formation of oil droplets, it was very important to compare a needle tip to the behavior of the oil/aqueous phase system under investigation. At the stage when the oil droplet reached equilibrium and was about

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PRODUCING ULTRALOW INTERFACIAL TENSION

779

to detach, the IFT was measured at the required conditions of temperature and pressure. Pressurizing the IFT cell needed an initial pump pressure, a liquid thermal expansion during heating, and a nal pump pressure adjustment.

Procedure and Calculation Method Due to the sensitive nature of IFT measurements, the Pendent Drop cell was thoroughly cleaned between each run. A procedure was developed whereby the cell was successively ushed with chromic acid, hot water, acetone, and then air-dried to insure a contamination-free environment. The cell was also leveled on top of a vibration-free table that reduces the inference of constant low-frequency vibrations. After the Pendant Drop cell was charged with bulk uid, it was pressurized and heated to the working pressure and temperature. The oil phase was introduced through a heated line and forced through the needle into the bulk uid. The investigated temperatures and pressures ranged from 25 to 110 C and 100 to 4500 psi, respectively. The drop parameters were measured from the drop dimension (Figure 2). The IFT was calculated based on the formula:  1=Hgde 2 where
~ density dierence in g/cm3.

de maximum diameter of the unmagnied drop in cm. g gravitational constant at the point of measurement in cm/s2. 1/H shape factor based on the ratio of d(s)/d(e) f(S). dn the actual needle tip diameter in cm. do the diameter of the needle after magnication in cm. The magnication factor is determined by the ratio of dn/do where do is the measured tip diameter as obtained from the photograph of the drop. The value of 1/H was obtained from the tables relating H and S as determined by Bartell and Niederhauser (1949) for the range of S of 0.461.03, and by Stauer (1965) for the extended range to values of S down to 0.30. The experimental procedure was checked by taking each experiment at least thrice. In addition, to further check our measurement procedure for IFT, we made two extra runs, one for n-Decane and one for n-Hexane. Our value of 52.431 dyne/cm at 25 C for the n-Decane/Water system was in excellent agreement with the value of 51.79 dyne/cm at 25 C

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AL-SAHHAF, AHMED, AND ELKAMEL

de

de

ds

dn
Figure 2. Oil droplet dimensions for the calculation of IFT.

reported by Motomura (1983) and our value of 50.68 dyne/cm at 25 C for the n-Hexane/Water system was also in excellent agreement with the value of 51.10 reported in the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (1979). We concluded from these results that our procedure for obtaining pure liquids and cleaning the apparatus provides interfaces practically free of contamination.

EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS The interfacial tension between heavy crude oil and injection water under reservoir conditions plays an important role in oil recovery studies. It is well known that temperature is the most signicant factor aecting IFT. The addition of surfactants decreases IFT further, thus improving the eciency of oil recovery. The dominant mechanism is the reduction of IFT at the oil/water interface resulting in the mobilization of oil by in-situ emulsication. The purpose of this section is to study the eect of surfactant addition and temperature on the IFT of a Kuwaiti crude oil. In addition, the eect of salinity of the injected water and reservoir pressures is also investigated. Two formation waters that are employed in water ooding were also considered. Various experiments were conducted varying the dierent

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PRODUCING ULTRALOW INTERFACIAL TENSION

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factors mentioned above. The quantication of the relationship of IFT with these factors is important in the assessment of the application of enhanced oil recovery using surfactants. Three dierent surfactants were considered: 1) Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonic Acid Sodium Salt. The molecular weight of this surfactant is 348.48 g and the chemical formula is: CH3 CH2 11 C6 H4 SO3 Na CH3 C11 H22 C6 H4 SO3 Na C12 H25 C6 H5 HSO3 Na 2) Hexadecyl Trimethyl Ammonium Bromide. The molecular weight of this surfactant is 364.46 g and its formula is: CH3 CH2 15 NCH3 3 BrCH3 C15 H30 NCH3 3 Br C16 H33 NCH3 3 Br 3) Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate Sodium Salt. The molecular weight of this surfactant is 444.55 g and its formula is: CH3 CH3 3 CHC2 H5 CH2 O2 C CH2 CHSO3 NaCO2 CH2 C2 H5 :CH2 3 CH3 C19 H37 SO7 Na A number of experiments were rst carried out to screen the various surfactants. Figure 3 shows the variation of IFT with pressure at a temperature of 65 C for the three surfactants. Surfactant (1) has the most eect on lowering IFT. The eectiveness of this surfactant was also checked at other temperatures and salinities. It was always lowering the IFT the most as compared to

Figure 3. Variation of IFT with the various kinds of surfactants at 65 C and 1 wt% surfactant concentration.

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AL-SAHHAF, AHMED, AND ELKAMEL

Figure 4.

Variation of IFT of crude oil with pressure and temperature.

Figure 5. Variation of IFT with the concentration of surfactant (1) at 500 psi, 50 C, and three dierent NaCl concentrations.

the other two surfactants. Therefore, only this surfactant was considered for further investigation. In the initial stages of the experiments, only pure water was used. No surfactant was added and no salt, either. Figure 4 shows the variation of IFT as a function of both temperature and pressure. The gure shows that both temperature and pressure aects IFT. The eect of temperature is more pronounced. The eect of surfactant concentration and salt is shown in Figure 5. As can be seen, the addition of surfactant has a great eect on lowering the

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IFT. The lowering of IFT by the surfactant is almost exponential. NaCl also lowers IFT. The eect of temperature and pressure on IFT in the presence of NaCl is shown in Figure 6. The same behavior is exhibited as in Figure 4. The eect of temperature and pressure on IFT in the presence of surfactant and NaCl is shown in Figure 7. Again, the same eect is observed. The IFTs in this gure are, however, much lower due to the presence of the surfactant. The IFTs of the crude oil versus two dierent formation waters were also investigated. Figure 8 shows the variation of IFT for the rst formation water. This water has a density of 1.1663 g/cm3 at 25 C and a pH of 3.85. Figure 9 shows the variation of IFT for the second formation

Figure 6. NaCl.

Eect of temperature and pressure on IFT in the presence of 1 wt%

Figure 7. Variation of IFT with temperature and pressure in the presence of 1 wt% NaCl and 1 wt% surfactant (1).

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Figure 8. Variation of IFT as a function of temperature and pressure for the rst formation water.

Figure 9. Variation of IFT as a function of temperature and pressure for the second formation water.

water. This water has a density of 1.0016 g/cm3 and a pH of 7.19. The conditions of the 1st formation water are more favorable for lowering IFT (Figure 10).

CONCLUSION The mechanism of tertiary oil recovery depends heavily on the properties of the crude oil/aqueous/rock interfaces. In the present study,

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Figure 10. Comparison for the variation of IFT as a function of pressure for the two formation waters and at three dierent temperatures.

an attempt was made in order to quantify the IFT at the crude oil/aqueous interface. The measurements of IFT were conducted using the Pendent Drop apparatus enhanced by video imaging. Four dierent variables were investigated in this study: temperature, pressure, salinity, and surfactant concentration. In addition, three dierent surfactants were screened in order to nd out which lowers IFT at the oil/water interface the most. These surfactants were: Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonic Acid Sodium Salt (1), Hexadecyl Trimethyl Ammonium Bromide (2), and Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate Sodium Salt (3). It was found that surfactant (1) has the greatest eect on reducing IFT. This result was the same at dierent temperatures, pressures, and salinities. Two formation waters used in water ooding were also screened in order to determine which water favors the lowering of IFT. For the ranges of the experiments considered

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in this study and with the heavy Kuwaiti crude oil, IFT was found to decrease with increasing temperatures and salinities, increase with increasing pressures, and exponentially decrease with increasing surfactant concentrations.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT The authors would like to thank the research administration unit at Kuwait University for sponsoring this research under grant EC072. We would also like to thank Prof. El-Gibaly for many helpful discussions at the beginning of this work.

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Camilleri, D.; Fil, A.; Pope, G.A.; Sepehrnoori, K. Improvements in Physical Property Models Used in Micellar/Polymer Flooding, SPE Reser. Eng. 1987, 433440. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 59th Ed.; Weast, R.C., Ed.; CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, Sec. F, 1979; 4547. Davis, J.A. Jr.; Jones, S.C. Displacement Mechanism of Micellar Solutions, J. Pet. Tech. 1968 December. Doyle, P.J.; Carroll, B.J. An Improved and Semi-Automated Version of the Drop Volume Technique for Interfacial Tension Measurement, J. Phys. E: Sci. Instrum. 1989, 22, 431433. Farouq Ali, S.M.; Stahl, C.D. Tertiary Recovery of the Bradford Crude Oil by Micellar Solutions from Linear and Two-Dimensional Porous Media, Paper SPE 3994. Presented at the 47th Annual Fall Meeting, Texas, 1972. Firoozabadi, A.; Ramey, H.J. Surface Tension of WaterHydrocarbon Systems at Reservoir Conditions. Reservoir Engineering 1988, 27(3), 4148. Flock, D.L.; Gibeau, J.P. The Eect of Temperature on the Interfacial Tension of Heavy Crude Oils Using the Pendent Drop Apparatus, The Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology 1986, MarchApril, 7277, Montreal. Foster, W.R. Low-Tension Water Flooding Process, J. Pet. Tech. 1973, 25, 205. Goebel, A.; Lunkenheimer, K. Interfacial Tension of the water/n-alkane Interface. Langmuir 1997, 13, 369372. Gogarty, W.B. Status of Surfactant of Micellar Floods. J. Pet. Tech. 1976, January, 93102. Gregory, A.T. DTIs Improved Oil Recovery Strategy. Trans. Ichem. E. 1994, 72(Part A) 137143. Guo, B.; Schechter. A Simple and Accurate Method for Determining Low IFT from Pendant Drop Measurements, Paper SPE 37216, Presented at the International Symposium on Oileld Chemistry, Houston, Texas, 1821 February, 1997, 5970. Gupta, S.P.; Trushenski, S.P. Micellar Flooding the Design of the Polymer Mobility Buer Bank. Soc. Pet. Eng. J. 1978, February, 512. Healy, R.N.; Read, R.L. Physicochemical Aspects of Microemulsion Flooding, Soc. Pet. Eng. J. 1974, 14, 491501. Healy, R.N.; Reed, R.L. Immiscible Microemulsion Flooding, Soc. Pet. Eng. J. April, 1977, 129139. Herd, M.D.; Lassahn, G.D.; Thomas, C.P.; Bala, G.A.; Eastman, S.L. Interfacial Tensions of Microbial Surfactants Determined by Real-Time Video Imaging of Pendant Drops, SPE/DOE paper 24206, Presented at

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the Eighth Symposium on Enhanced Oil Recovery, Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 2224, 1992, 513519. Hill, H.J.; Reisberg, H.; Stegemeier, G.L. Aqueous Surfactant System for Oil Recovery, J. Pet. Tech. 1973, 25, 186. Holm, L.W. Use of Soluble Oil for Oil Recovery. J. Pet. Tech. December, 1971, 14751483. Jennings, H.Y. The Eect of Temperature and Pressure on the IFT of BenzeneWater and n-DecaneWater. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 1969, 24(3), 323329. Krumrine, P.H. The Eect of Alkaline Additives on IFT, Surfactamnt Adsorption, and Recovery Eciency. Soc. Pet. Eng. J. August, 1982. Larson, R.G.; Hirasaki, G. Analysis of Physical Mechanisms in Surfactant Flooding, Soc. Pet. Eng. J. 1978, February. Lin, S.Y.; Hwang, F.H. Measurement of Low Interfacial Tension by Pendant Drop Digitization. Langmuir 1994, 10, 47034709. Motomura, K. Journal of Colloid and Interfacial Science 1983, 93(1), 264269. Satherley, J.; Girault, H.H.J.; Schiin, D.J. The Measurement of Ultralow Interfacial Tension by Video Digital Techniques, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 1990, 136(2). Shah, D.O.; Schechter, R.S. Improved Oil Recovery by Surfactant and Polymer Flooding. Academic Press Inc., 1977. Sayyouh, M.H.; Farouq Ali, S.M.; Stahl, C.D. Rate Eect in the Tertiary Micellar Flooding of the Bradford Crude Oil, Soc. Pet. Eng. J. August, 1981, 469479. Schoettle, V.; Jennings, H.Y. High-Temperature Visual Cell for IFT Measurements, The Review of Scientic Instruments, 1968, 24(3). Sharma, M.K.; Shah, D.O. Use of Surfactants in Oil Recovery, In Enhanced Oil Recovery II Processes and Operations, Erle, C. Donaldson, George V. Chilingarian, The Fu Yen, Eds.; Elsevier: New York, 1989; 253315. Stauer, C.E. The Measurement of Surface Tension by the Pendent Drop Technique. J. Phys. Chem. 1965, 69, 1933. Trushenski, S.P.; Dauben, D.L.; Parrish, D.R. Micellar FloodingFluid Propagation, Interaction, and Mobility. Soc. Pet. Eng. J. 1974, December. Received July 21, 2001 Accepted October 1, 2001