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Green Anionic Surfactants for EOR in Petroleum Industry

Technology Overview

Indonesia's oil fields are mature, marked by a decrease in crude oil production and higher water content. The condition is worsened by the dynamic condition of the world oil market, and oil and gas industry players have to save costs due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused a decline in fuel consumption by up to 35% at the national level, further adding to the slump in the upstream-downstream oil and gas industry. Low-cost oil production has become a challenge with the current conditions.

Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) is an advanced method to increase reserves and production of advanced oil but comes at high cost. The cost of EOR chemicals, such as surfactants, is up to 80% of the implementation cost. In most processes, the surfactants used are petroleum based, requiring environmentally friendly and more economical substitutes.

Indonesia as the largest palm oil producer has crude palm oil (CPO) derivatives in the form of oleate which can be synthesized into anionic surfactants through esterification and sulfonation reactions. The team has developed a method of manufacturing anionic surfactants based on CPO derivatives. As research on palm oil-based surfactants for EOR is relatively new, this allows differentiation from other products.

The team is seeking partners for further research collaboration, including optimisation of the surfactant composition, so that it may lead to technology transfer in the form of technology acquisition or technology licensing.

Technology Features, Specifications and Advantages

Several studies have explored the process of making anionic polymeric surfactants based on CPO derivatives, but the problem with using oleic acid as the raw material is that it is not completely modified, which causes the non-uniform shape of the surfactant molecules and affects the physical and chemical properties of the product. This impacts the effectiveness of the surfactant performance and the economics of the resulting product.

One of the reasons is the expensive auxiliary materials and unpredictable manufacturing process conditions. In this development, the use of glycol polymer compounds can improve the physical and chemical properties of the product in addition to simplifying the process and reducing production costs.

Developed EOR surfactants will need to satisfy several criteria in accordance with the needs, namely compatibility with reservoir fluids, reducing the interfacial tension between water and oil, stability to reservoir temperature, and have low adsorption power. Here, the developed surfactant has been tested on a pilot scale in an Indonesian oil field and produced a fairly good performance.

Potential Applications

Currently, the main application of this material is for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

But polymeric surfactants show interesting association phenomena in selective solvents, which results in peculiar rheological behavior and the formation of self-assembled structures. For these reasons, they have received increasing attention in the last few decades, in particular for their actual and potential applications in several fields including mini emulsion polymerizations, coatings, biotechnology, nanotechnology, medicine, pharmacology, cosmetics, agriculture, water purification, electronics, and optoelectronics. The developed technology and available know-how may be adapted for these different applications according to the technical needs and requirements.

Customer Benefit

  • Abundant availability of environmentally friendly, renewable raw materials based on vegetable oil derivatives
  • Simpler process reactions
  • Lower production costs
Contact Person

Ario Tutuko Suwarno


National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) (Green and Sustainable Future)

Technology Category

  • Chemicals
  • Polymers/Plastic
  • Energy
  • Manufacturing
  • Chemical Processes

Technology Readiness Level


Anionic Surfactant Production Process