Control of the permeability of a porous media using a thermally sensitive polymer



Experiments explore the reduction in permeability of a porous bead pack when a suspension of thermally responsive polymer is injected and the temperature then increased above the thermal activation temperature. The change in permeability is greater with higher polymer concentration, provided that the ionic concentration of the solution is sufficient for floc formation. The time for activation of the blocking effect is within tens of seconds to minutes of when the polymer solution is heated. This is consistent with the timescale for diffusion-limited aggregation, although the detailed value depends on the geometry and polymer concentration. Dynamical experiments demonstrate that once the porous media is blocked, adding additional polymer has no effect. The mechanism for permeability reduction may be modeled in the context of a pore-network model, and we build a simple model to illustrate the permeability reduction as a function of the fraction of pores links which are blocked. © 2014 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 60: 1193–1201, 2014