Wettability Contrasts in Kaolinite and Illite Clays: Characterization by Infrared and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopies

Jean-Louis Bantignies, Christophe Cartier dit Moulin and Hervé Dexpert
Laboratoire pour l'Utilisation du Rayonnement Electromagnétique, CNRS-CEA-MENESRIP, bâtiment 209D, Université Paris-Sud, 91 405 Orsay, France

Abstract: A reservoir rock is a porous geological formation in contact with 2 liquids, brine and oil. An improved knowledge of rock wettability is of primary importance to estimate the amount of crude oil in underground resources. The petroleum industries have observed that wettability contrasts in sedimentary reservoir rocks are largely correlated to the presence of clays, illite and/or kaolinite in the rocks' intergranular space.

More precisely, the grain surfaces of illite show a preference for brine. Kaolinite preferentially adsorbs oil, which imparts its hydrophobic characteristics to the mineral surface. Using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, we studied the adsorption process of asphaltenes in the presence of water at the microscopic level. We demonstrate experimentally that the wettability contrasts observed in kaolinite and illite are related to structural differences between these 2 clays, and we show the role of the grain surface hydroxyls. With clay materials, the purity of the samples is the most important limitation of the quantitative use of extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS).

Key Words: Adsorption • Clay • EXAFS • Illite • Infrared • Kaolinite • Wettability • XANES

Clays and Clay Minerals; April 1997 v. 45; no. 2; p. 184-193; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1997.0450206
© 1997, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)