With controversy surrounding advance recovery methods like fracking, a team from the University of Oklahoma Institute for Applied Surfactant Research – Jeff Harwell, Ben Shiau and Bruce Roberts – has formulated an environmentally sound compound that increases oil flow in previously pumped reservoirs.
By using a surfactant that decreases the surface tension, oil is released from the rock so it can move with the injected water and be pushed to the production wells safely.
Secondary recovery methods, such as water flooding and hydraulic fracturing, are used to recover oil left behind by previously pumped reservoirs. The methods drive trapped oil toward the drill hole, but when the injected water reaches the production wells, most of the oil remains trapped in the rock, much like a sponge traps water.
“Our surfactants replace the crude oil within the rock with harmless compounds like brine that maintain the integrity of the rock formation,” Harwell said. “The ingredients we use are in things that people use every day to bathe, brush their teeth and wash their car. The chemicals we inject are not near the threat or hazard level of the compounds in the oil we are removing from the reservoir.”
The OU teams’ surfactant increases flooding efficiency even at concentrated levels of salinity. The OU team is the only group in the United States that focuses its work at such high salt levels.
“Most research focuses on salinity around a 3 to 5 percent threshold,” Harwell said. “We recently successfully formulated a surfactant system for up to 26 percent salinity.”
The OU research currently is focused on oil in Oklahoma’s Pennsylvanian aged sands that span much of the state and typically contain high concentrations of salt, ranging from 15 to 25 percent.
“That means there is a huge area with a tremendous amount of oil trapped in these formations,” Harwell said. “The Oklahoma Geological Survey estimates there were 84 billion barrels of original oil in these reservoirs and we have only extracted about 15 billion.”
The research team has successfully tested its surfactant formulations in several single-well operations and is now moving to small, multiple-well testing. If successful, the surfactant would enable small oil producers to recover more oil efficiently and cost effectively, while leaving the formations environmentally sound.
Karen Kelly | Newswise
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering