Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) polymer systems such as hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) solutions flowing in porous media at high fluxes were reported to cause shear-thickening, a nonlinear viscoelastic (NLVE) phenomenon. Bulk rheological studies are usually performed to characterize the viscous and viscoelastic behaviors of polymer solutions in porous media. To characterize the viscoelastic properties, oscillatory shear rheology based on linear viscoelastic (LVE) data and extensional rheology based on NLVE data have been used. Although both extensional flow and high-speed shear flow can stretch and thicken polymer solutions in a nonlinear fashion, steady-shear rheometry has been used to measure only the viscous and thinning behavior of HPAM systems. In this paper, (a) the thickening ability of HPAM polymer systems formulated with contrasting salinity and molecular weight (MW) concentration is characterized in bulk shear rheometry to analyze if the thickening in the pure shear field correlates with the thickening behavior reported in porous media and other rheometry and (b) the thickening intensity of the polymer solutions of varying salinity concentration in the bulk shear field is compared with the reported mechanical degradation effects in the literature.
The shear-thickening index obtained by fitting a power-law model to thickening data in steady-shear rheograms is higher for the high-saline, high-MW low-concentration HPAM systems that have inherently higher nonlinear viscoelasticity. Furthermore, the thickening behavior observed due to salinity variation in bulk steady shear contrasts with linear oscillatory shear behavior but conforms to the thickening behavior observed in porous media and in the extensional field. This signifies that polymer-EOR researchers performing comparative studies on low-salinity and high-salinity polymer floods, and having a shear rheometer at their disposal, must look beyond linear oscillatory rheology and make use of nonlinear steady-shear rheology. There is a direct relation between the shear-thickening index of saline HPAM solutions and their mechanical degradation intensity. This paper shows that the high-speed data in steady-shear rheometry that are usually ignored in EOR literature have useful information and the notion that HPAM solutions are purely thinning in the bulk shear field needs to be reconsidered.