Nanoparticle Engineering for Subsurface Processes

Hugh Daigle (daigle@austin.utexas.edu) is the Program Manager of the Nanoparticle Engineering for Subsurface Processes research program.

Nanotechnology continues to develop rapidly, driven by several different industries. The main objectives of this program are (i) to introduce recent and emerging developments into the oil industry; (ii) to identify applications that could bring significant benefits to the upstream oil operations and oil recovery; and (iii) to carry out research that would enable the practical implementation of these technologies within the oil industry. Our current focus is on the use of various nano-scale materials ("nanoparticles") for certain processes that increase oil recovery and for more accurate determination of changes in fluid saturations and reservoir properties during oil and gas production.

Research Projects

Quoc P. Nguyen, Larry W. Lake, and Caetano R. Miranda (Kyoto University)

Funding source: Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC)

Funding amount: $592,000 for the period of March 2009 - Sept. 2012

Nanoparticles offer a way of controlling oil recovery processes that is unmatched by any current or previous technology. They also offer a means of interrogating small-scale physics that is also unparalleled by prior work.

Steven L. Bryant, Keith P. Johnston (ChE)

Funding source: Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC)

Funding amount: $175K per year

This project seeks to establish the characteristics of nanoparticles that allow them to be transported arbitrarily far into a sedimentary rock containing two (or more) immiscible fluids. The goal is to support a primary objective of the AEC, namely, to develop sensors to illuminate hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Chun Huh, Steven L. Bryant, Keith P. Johnston (ChE), Thomas E. Milner (BME)

Funding source: Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC)

Funding amount: $200k per year

Accurate, non-invasive determination of oil saturation distribution in laboratory cores, near-wellbore zones, and deep in the reservoir, will greatly improve understanding of oil displacement mechanisms for various EOR processes, and also help identify the location of bypassed oils so that they can be subsequently recovered.

Steven L. Bryant

Funding source: Amercian Chemical Society/Petroleum Research Fund (ACS/PRF)

Funding amount: $100K

Kishore Mohanty

Funding source: Department of Energy (NETL)

Funding amount: $100K

PI: Steven L. Bryant; Co-PIs: Chun Huh and Keith P. Johnston (ChE)

Funding source: US Department of Energy (DOE)

Funding amount: $1.2M over a 3-year period

Although enhanced oil recovery (EOR) with CO2 is practiced domestically on large scale, the potential for advancement is enormous. The single greatest obstacle to fully realizing that potential is the inherently poor volumetric sweep efficiency of the process.

Howard Schmidt (Rice), Andrew Barron (Rice), Chun Huh, Steven L. Bryant

Funding source: Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC)

Funding amount: $30K

Rod Ewing (U. Michigan), Chun Huh

Funding source: Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC)

Funding amount: $60K

The objective of this small project is to carry out a literature survey on nanotechnology to identify potential applications that will benefit upstream oil operations and oil recovery. Published papers and patents on nanotechnology areas such as nano-composites, nano-fluids, nanoparticle-stabilized emulsions/foams, smart coatings, nano-filtration, nano-sensors, and nano-catalysts are being reviewed.

Related Publications

The following is a list of recent UT publications on nanotechnology applications to subsurface engineering.