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waterflooding with polymer and surfactant

Injecting water sweeps oil along the reservoir. Injecting water thickened with polymer sweeps it better. Add in surfactants, which safely scrub oil like normal household soap loosens grease from pots and pans, and increase the potential for huge, new enhanced oil recovery (EOR) worldwide.

Chevron waterfloods have helped sweep more than 4.5 billion barrels from the giant Minas Field in Indonesia. Now the company is employing polymer-thickened water to push a specially designed solution of surfactant-spiked water through Minas, targeting hundreds of millions of additional barrels in the world’s largest surfactant EOR pilot.

It began with rock samples and white lab coats. Now it’s a $200-million-plus push to open an EOR frontier. It won’t be easy, but Chevron is working to perfect this technology for large-scale application. New oil output could follow as well, possibly decreasing the decline of the largest oil field in Asia.

Updated: July 2015