Low salinity waterflooding in carbonate reservoirs: Review of interfacial mechanisms

Maryam H. Derkani, Ashleigh J. Fletcher*, Wael Abdallah, Bastian Sauerer, James Anderson, Zhenyu J. Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Carbonate rock reservoirs comprise approximately 60% of the world’s oil and gas reserves. Complex flow mechanisms and strong adsorption of crude oil on carbonate formation surfaces can reduce hydrocarbon recovery of an oil-wet carbonate reservoir to as low as 10%. Low salinity waterflooding (LSW) has been confirmed as a promising technique to improve the oil recovery factor. However, the principal mechanism underpinning this recovery method is not fully understood, which poses a challenge toward designing the optimal salinity and ionic composition of any injection solution. In general, it is believed that there is more than one mechanism involved in LSW of carbonates; even though wettability alteration toward a more desirable state for oil to be recovered could be the main cause during LSW, how this alteration happens is still the subject of debate. This paper reviews different working conditions of LSW, previous studies, and field observations, alongside the proposed interfacial mechanisms which affect the colloidal interactions at oil–rock–brine interfaces. This paper provides a comprehensive review of studies on LSW in carbonate formation and further analyzes the latest achievements of LSW application in carbonates, which helps to better understand the challenges involved in these complicated multicomponent systems and potentially benefits the oil production industry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalColloids and Interfaces
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: MHD thanks the Energy Technology Partnership (ETP) for a PhD scholarship (ETP 120). Z.J.Z. thanks the support from EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account via the University of Birmingham.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Electric double layer
  • Enhanced oil recovery
  • Fluid–fluid interactions
  • Multicomponent ion exchange
  • Recovery factor
  • Surface charge
  • Wettability alteration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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