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Pilot® IOR Surfactant 
Product Line

Pilot's IOR Surfactant product line offers synergistic surfactant blends for Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) applications in shales and carbonates. These field-ready, robust surfactant blends can alter the wettability of oil-wet tight formations to strongly water-wet and increase the oil production. 

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The Key Attributes of Pilot® IOR Surfactants are: 

Inducing surfactant imbibition resulting in higher and faster hydrocarbon recovery

Robust aqueous stability even under high temperature and high TDS brines

Does not form undesirable emulsions 

Changing the wettability of oil-wet shale surfaces to strongly water-wet 

Pilot® IOR Surfactant Application: 

Pilot® IOR Surfactant products are intended to be used in flushes during the production phase of the well’s lifetime. A typical application would involve squeezing 1-2 wellbore volumes of Pilot®  IOR Surfactant solution (surfactant concentration: 2-5 gallons per thousand gallons of water) into the formation. The wells are then shut in for a few days/weeks before being put back on production. Pilot has petroleum engineering expertise to assist with these designs for specific formations. 

Have Questions? Ask the Engineer

Dr. Singh is a research scientist at Pilot Chemical Company in the oil & gas division at the Pilot Innovation Center in Pittsburgh. His work is focused on research and new product development for improved oil recovery in conventional and unconventional reservoirs and paraffin inhibition for flow assurance and corrosion inhibition. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include chemical- and gas-enhanced oil recovery, unconventional EOR, nanotechnology, colloids, reservoir simulation, and shale stimulation. He has published over 23 journal and conference papers and filed 4 patents in these areas. He holds a B.Tech. degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. He has previously worked in downstream industry as well.

Ask the Engineer

Robin Singh, Ph.D.

Research Scientist




Wettability Alteration

Contact angle experiments can measure the changes in the wettability of the shale before and after treatment with surfactant formulations. Figure C illustrates the initial contact angle of ~180° for untreated oil-wet Eagle Ford shale samples and compares the performance of three current commercial products with three Pilot™ IOR Surfactant formulations.

Strongly Water-Wet Surface

The three current commercial products resulted in an oil-wet (OW) or neutral-wet (NW) surface, while Pilot™ IOR Surfactant resulted in a desirable strongly water-wet (WW) surface.

Fig. C shows the comparison of Pilot™ IOR surfactants with current commercial products in altering the wettability of originally oil-wet shale samples.

Spontaneous Imbibition Tests: 
Tight Rocks

Spontaneous imbibition tests evaluate the performance of surfactant formulations in inducing imbibition to recover crude oil. When oil-saturated tight rocks (carbonates/shale) are submerged in Pilot® IOR Surfactant formulations, oil droplets emerge on the surface (Figure D) in a few hours indicating the Pilot® formulations effectiveness in recovering trapped oil. 

Fig. D shows the emergence of crude oil from (a) carbonates (b) shale cores when submerged in Pilot® IOR Surfactant solutions.

Fig. E shows the plot of % OOIP recovered during spontaneous imbibition tests using oil-wet tight cores for the Pilot™ IOR Surfactant formulations in comparison with brine without surfactant.

Pilot® IOR Surfactant Can Recover a Significant Amount of Oil in Shales

Figure E depicts the % original oil-in-place (OOIP) recovered versus time for Pilot™ IOR Surfactant formulations using oil-wet tight carbonate cores. The final cumulative recovery for the base case, brine (5 wt% KCl) with no surfactant, was 6.1 % OOIP. The Pilot™ IOR Surfactant formulations resulted in 22.2 to 30.8 % OOIP, indicating the value-added potential of these blends for field-scale IOR applications. Similarly, the oil recovery during spontaneous imbibition tests using Pilot™ IOR Surfactant formulations in Eagle Ford and Wolf Camp shales were 13% OOIP and 22.4% OOIP, respectively. 

Significant Decline in Hydrocarbon Production

Hydraulic fracturing significantly enhances the hydrocarbon production from shale reservoirs. Production rates typically decline rapidly and are often reduced by more than 70% from peak production in just 1 year (Fig. A). The oil-wet nature of the rock keeps the hydrocarbon trapped in the pores and is one of the major reasons for this lower recovery.

Fig. A shows the typical oil production decline in the Permian Basin shale region.

Change Wettability to Water-Wet 

Performing a near-fracture treatment using our surfactant formulation can change the wettability of the formation to a favorable water-wet condition, which can mobilize the trapped oil efficiently. This will also cause surfactant imbibition into the matrix resulting in improved oil recovery.

Fig. B shows potential enhancement in oil production using 
Pilot® IOR surfactant treatment in a typical declining shale reservoir.


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Pilot®  IOR Surfactant 
Product Line

Pilot's IOR Surfactant product line offers synergistic surfactant blends for Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) applications in shales and carbonates. These field-ready, robust surfactant blends can alter the wettability of oil-wet tight formations to strongly water-wet and increase the oil production. 

Want to Learn More? 

Download Data SheetsRequest a Sample

Download the 
Oil & Gas Brochure

Download the 
Oil & Gas Brochure

Pilot uses innovative processes to manufacture the highest quality performance chemical solutions to help our customers grow profitably. With a firm commitment to continuously adapting to the dynamic needs 
of the marketplace, we’re ready for the future and can support your company’s long-term success.

 As your preferred solutions provider, we have:     
- 7 patents in Oil & Gas Applications, with an additional 9 pending 
- Flexible in-house formulated delivery method for a wide range of FR options     
- A variety of surfactant chemistries for reservoir specific solutions 
- Surfactant manufacturing capabilities for market’s unmet needs

Our customers benefit from our new state-of-the-art innovation center, an expansion of the Pilot Polymer Technologies laboratory facility. We have six additional manufacturing facilities, including two located in Texas- in New Waverly and Houston.

Why Pilot

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