Low Salinity Waterflooding (LSF) is an emerging improved oil recovery (IOR) technology that has been shown to work in a number of cases, while sometimes – unexpectedly – no incremental oil production is observed. Industry has not yet reached consensus on the mechanism behind LSF, which precludes effective screening and prioritization of LSF candidate fields. In this paper a workflow is introduced that improves the way fields are screened for their LSF potential. It employs closely interlinked experiments and modeling work from the molecular scale to the macroscopic Darcy scale, thereby closing gaps that previously impeded the predictability of the low salinity effect. The new workflow is based on the notion that wettability is a surface phenomenon. Elucidation of the low salinity mechanism should thus not be based on bulk measurements, but rather on the characterization of surface compositions and forces. The main insights that follow from this work are:  Application of successful LSF leads to a wettability modification towards more water-wet, which is consistently observed at the atomic scale and at the core scale;  The surface alterations that occur during LSF correlate with macroscopic observations such as oil recovery from core plugs;  The time scales involved in wettability modification towards a more water-wet state can easily be long enough to lead to false negatives in common SCAL experiments; It is demonstrated that double layer expansion (DLE) is likely behind the low salinity mechanism, as processes involving cation exchange are expected to only occur long after breakthrough of the low salinity bank. Even though the workflow has been developed for LSF in sandstones, it is also being employed for LSF in carbonates. The fundamental insight that surface properties dominate the response does not only impact how LSF research and related SCAL experiments are being conducted, but impacts all other EOR processes relying on interfacial phenomena, as well as oil field science in general.


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