Oil-wetness and heterogeneity are two key reasons for low oil recovery by waterflooding in carbonate reservoirs. Surfactants have been effective in altering the oil-wet matrix to a more water-wet condition and initiating spontaneous imbibition. Because it takes time for the surfactant to alter wettability, oil recovery from the tight matrix is slow and sometimes not economically feasible. Acids have the potential of dissolving minerals, which may alter wettability. In this study, the enhanced oil recovery (EOR) performance of an acid-assisted surfactant solution, a novel technique, was evaluated for low-temperature applications. A set of acids and their acetates were tested. Bulk rock-acid reaction, wettability alteration (WA) tests, and spontaneous imbibition measurements were conducted at reservoir temperature (35°C) to identify effective candidates. Coreflood tests were then performed to evaluate the selected acid-surfactant formulations. Before and after a coreflood test, the core was scanned using micro-computed tomography (CT) to investigate pore structure alteration. Bulk reaction measurements showed that weak acids, especially acetic acid (AA), have the desired low reaction rates at 35°C. WA tests showed that AA can remove the crude oil off the rock surface and alter wettability through mineral dissolution. The surfactant can reduce contact angles from 160° to 58°; adding acid into the surfactant can further reduce it to 52°. Spontaneous imbibition experiments showed the synergy between the acid and the surfactant; the AA-surfactant solution had the highest oil recovery (62.6%) among acid-surfactant formulations. The acid improves the WA efficiency by the surfactant through surface mineral dissolution and lower ζ-potential. The imbibition transports the acid-surfactant solutions into the matrix, which minimizes face dissolution. Coreflood tests show that the AA-surfactant flood can increase the oil recovery rate and recover about 8% more oil compared to the surfactant flood. Micro-CT showed that a few mineral particles were transported along the core and partially plugged pore throats, which reduced permeability and diverted flow leading to improved oil recovery. The transport of the acid in reservoirs and the potential plugging issues have to be carefully evaluated in future studies.

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