Several classes of new surfactants have recently been tested for enhanced oil recovery. These new surfactants were needed for oil field applications under reservoir conditions that made it difficult or impossible to find conventional surfactants with the desired behavior such as ultra-low interfacial tension, aqueous stability, thermal stability at high temperature, low retention, tolerance to high salinity and so forth. We illustrate results for several of these new surfactants and discuss under what conditions they are suitable, how we developed formulations using them and some of the general principles that can be applied to future applications. A common theme of this development is the need for surfactants with large hydrophobes (carbon numbers above 18) even for some light oils. A second common theme is the advantages and flexibility of propylene oxide and ethylene oxide linkages between these large hydrophobes and the sulfate or carboxylate end group. A third common theme is the advantages of highly branched hydrophobes regardless of the other characteristics of the surfactant structure help prevent undesirable viscous phases. Finally, a fourth common theme is the advantages of using surfactant mixtures with diverse structures and sizes. These common elements enable us find surfactant formulations that are highly effective and that can be made from available feedstocks at reasonable cost.


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