Nanotechnology in oil exploration

Research investigates use of nanoparticles for advanced oil recovery.

Brazil is a pioneering country in the exploration of oil in deep waters and a great quantity of this fossil fuel is stored in the porous space of carbonate rocks, especially in the pre-salt layer. These rocks are very heterogeneous and have complex pore systems, bringing great challenges to the extraction of oil and gas.
After drilling an oil or gas reservoir, the natural pressure inside it causes the contents to flow naturally to the surface where the fluid is collected and directed to a tanker. However, a few years after the opening of the well, the amount of oil extracted daily tends to decrease due to the drop in internal well pressure.

One of the ways to continue the exploration is by the injecting water or gas into the well, which helps in the transport of fluids and increases oil production, allowing it to be explored for several years. A more efficient way is, however, through the injection of surfactants, which facilitate the remobilization of oil, even in regions where water and gas have no further effect.
Recently, Tannaz Pak and collaborators from Brazil and the United Kingdom investigated [1] the use of nanoparticles to improve the advanced recovery of oil in carbonate rocks. By means of time-resolved X-ray microtomography, the research showed for the first time how oil droplets, retained in the pores of carbonate rocks, change shape when interacting with silica nanoparticles suspended in water, making it again available for extraction.

>Read more on the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory website

Image Credit: Geraldo Falcão / Banco de Imagens Petrobras

Researchers Develop a Way to Better Predict Corrosion from Crude Oil

Using X-ray techniques, scientists are developing an analysis tool to predict how sulfur compounds in a batch of crude oil might corrode equipment.

… an important safety issue for the oil industry.

The results of these ongoing experiments at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will improve industry guidelines. The goal is to characterize the types of sulfur that are most critical to identify in the oil, in order to better anticipate the potential for corrosion rates.

A team of researchers from Chevron and the University of Saskatchewan are performing a series of studies at SSRL to closely examine forms of sulfur in crude oil.