Salinity-Dependent Contact Angle Alteration in Oil/Brine/Silicate Systems: the Critical Role of Divalent Cations

Martinus Everardus Johannes Haagh, Igor Sîretanu, Michel Duits, Friedrich Gunther Mugele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)
740 Downloads (Pure)


The effectiveness of water flooding oil recovery depends to an important extent on the competitive wetting of oil and water on the solid rock matrix. Here, we use macroscopic contact angle goniometry in highly idealized model systems to evaluate how brine salinity affects the balance of wetting forces and to infer the microscopic origin of the resultant contact angle alteration. We focus, in particular, on two competing mechanisms debated in the literature, namely, double-layer expansion and divalent cation bridging. Our experiments involve aqueous droplets with a variable content of chloride salts of Na+, K+, Ca2+, and Mg2+, wetting surfaces of muscovite and amorphous silica, and an environment of ambient decane containing small amounts of fatty acids to represent polar oil components. By diluting the salt content in various manners, we demonstrate that the water contact angle on muscovite, not on silica, decreases by up to 25° as the divalent cation concentration is reduced from typical concentrations in seawater to zero. Decreasing the ionic strength at a constant divalent ion concentration, however, has a negligible effect on the contact angle. We discuss the consequences for the interpretation of core flooding experiments and the identification of a microscopic mechanism of low salinity water flooding, an increasingly popular, inexpensive, and environment-friendly technique for enhanced oil recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3349-3357
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Salinity-Dependent Contact Angle Alteration in Oil/Brine/Silicate Systems: the Critical Role of Divalent Cations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this