Polymer-coated nanoparticles for enhanced oil recovery



Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes aim to recover trapped oil left in reservoirs after primary and secondary recovery methods. New materials and additives are needed to make EOR economical in challenging reservoirs or harsh environments. Nanoparticles have been widely studied for EOR, but nanoparticles with polymer chains grafted to the surface—known as polymer-coated nanoparticles (PNPs)—are an emerging class of materials that may be superior to nanoparticles for EOR due to improved solubility and stability, greater stabilization of foams and emulsions, and more facile transport through porous media. Here, we review prior research, current challenges, and future research opportunities in the application of PNPs for EOR. We focus on studies of PNPs for improving mobility control, altering surface wettability, and for investigating their transport through porous media. For each case, we highlight both fundamental studies of PNP behavior and more applied studies of their use in EOR processes. We also touch on a related class of materials comprised of surfactant and nanoparticle blends. Finally, we briefly outline the major challenges in the field, which must be addressed to successfully implement PNPs in EOR applications. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 40576.