Low salinity waterflooding has proven to accelerate oil production at core and field scales. Wettability alteration from a more oil-wetting to a more water-wetting condition has been established as one of the most notable effects of low salinity waterflooding. To induce the wettability alteration, low salinity water should be transported to come in contact with the oil-water interfaces. Transport under two-phase flow conditions can be highly influenced by fluids topology that creates connected pathways as well as dead-end regions. It is known that under two-phase flow conditions, the pore space filled by a fluid can be split into flowing (connected pathways) and stagnant (deadend) regions due to fluids topology. Transport in flowing regions is advection controlled and transport in stagnant regions is predominantly diffusion controlled. To understand the full picture of wettability alteration of a rock by injection of low salinity water, it is important to know i) how the injected low salinity water displaces and mixes with the high salinity water, ii) how continuous wettability alteration impacts the redistribution of two immiscible fluids and (ii) role of hydrodynamic transport and mixing between the low salinity water and the formation brine (high salinity water) in wettability alteration.
To address these two issues, computational fluid dynamic simulations of coupled dynamic two-phase flow, hydrodynamic transport and wettability alteration in a 2D domain were carried out using the volume of fluid method. The numerical simulations show that when low salinity water was injected, the formation brine (high salinity water) was swept out from the flowing regions by advection. However, the formation brine residing in stagnant regions was diffused very slowly to the low salinity water. The presence of formation brine in stagnant regions created heterogeneous wettability conditions at the pore scale, which led to remarkable two-phase flow dynamics and internal redistribution of oil, which is referred to as the "pull-push" behaviour and has not been addressed before in the literature.
Our simulation results imply that the presence of stagnant regions in the tertiary oil recovery impedes the potential of wettability alteration for additional oil recovery. Hence, it would be favorable to inject low salinity water from the beginning of waterflooding to avoid stagnant saturation. We also observed that oil ganglia size was reduced under tertiary mode of low salinity waterflooding compared to the high salinity waterflooding.