Feng’s rheological investigation on oil-laden foams could improve oil recovery


Julia Park

Jie Feng
Jie Feng
Assistant Professor Jie Feng has received a Doctoral New Investigator (DNI) Grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (PRF).

PRF DNI grants provide start-up funding for scientists and engineers in the United States who are within the first three years of their first academic appointment at the level of Assistant Professor or equivalent. Funding supports fundamental research in the petroleum field.

Feng’s funded project, “Mechanistic Study for Pore-scale Dynamics of Oil-laden Foam Flows in Porous Media,” will investigate the pore-scale dynamics of foam flows with trapped oil droplets by measuring the rheological response through narrow channels.

In application of foams for enhanced oil recovery, oil is emulsified and dispersed in the aqueous phase of the foams as droplets, as one of the main mechanisms to remove the residual oil. Such a particulate structure has been found to significantly affect the stability of the foam, but how the presence of oil droplets quantitatively influences the mobility of the foam flows in porous media remains largely unexplored. The yield stress fluid behavior with the emulsion droplets dispersed in the aqueous phase may change the microscale flow processes and the hydrodynamic resistance of the foam flows. Thus, Feng aims to identify through systematic experiments how the micromechanical processes governing the foam rheology are modified by the oil droplets. His research group will develop a mechanistic understanding of the pore-scale dynamics of oil-laden foam flows and will provide guidelines for modeling and application of foams in the geological environment.

Aqueous foams are concentrated dispersions of gas bubbles within a continuous surfactant solution. The use of these foams in enhanced oil recovery significantly reduces the required amount of liquid and surfactant needed for cleanup. Although the influence of oil on foam stability and evolution has been studied, how the change of the interstitial fluid compositions affects the foam rheology in porous media remains largely unexplored. Feng’s experiments into the micromechanical properties of this interaction will hopefully offer new insight into the modeling of foam flooding for improved oil recovery.

Approximately 75 DNI grants are awarded each year. Feng’s funding is for $110,000 over two years and will support a graduate researcher. As part of the grant, he will also lead outreach activities for high school students through WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering) and for elementary school students in collaboration with the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in Champaign.

Feng leads the Fluids, Interfaces & Transport (FIT) Laboratory. His group is interested in understanding micro-scale transport phenomena of structured complex fluids, to derive new fundamental insights in multi-phase soft matter systems, as well as for their applications to engineering materials for solving challenging problems in environment remediation and human health. Examples include flows involving bubbles and drops with a complex interface, self-assembly kinetics of polymers, and particulate flows for drug delivery.