Nano Technology in Oil Industry

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 3 October 2016

Nano Technology in Oil Industry


Nanotech applications & Nanoparticles have been successfully used in drilling mud for the Last 40-50 years. Recently the other disciplines of the oil industry, such as exploration, primary and assisted production, monitoring, refining and distribution, are approaching nanotechnologies due to its immense Potential for Confronting challenges, performance improvement & cost. Especially in ultra-deep water and artic environments, Severe reservoir conditions (high-temperature and high-pressure formations), nonconventional resources of energy,Heavy oils, tight gas, tar sandsreservoirs)

Present nanotech applications in oil industry:

Most of the major oil and service companies, such as BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Total and Schlumberger.done research in exploiting nanotechnologies to improve oil and gas production. Developing subsurface micro- and nanosensors that could be injected in oil and gas wellbores & identification of nanotech potentialities applied to EOR issues. Recent published results speak about Single-Walled-Carbon-Nano Tube (SWNT) / Silica nanohybrids, active at the fluid interface, if delivered at the O/W interface, would react and modify the oil properties to increase oil mobilization, hence oil recovery. Researchers ars analysing the potential benefits derived by the application of nanomaterials, nanofluids and nanomembranes in oil industry. Sensors: Nanomaterials are unparallelled tools for the development of sensors and imaging-contrast agents due to the significant alterations in their optical, magnetic and electrical properties, along with their ability to form (electrically and/or geometrically) percolated structures at low volume fractions. Such nanomaterials, when combined with smart fluids, can be used as extremely sensitive down hole sensors for temperature, pressure and stress even under extreme conditions.

The ultimate evolution of instruments for oil prospects is perceived to be nanorobots, which should really provide an effective mapping of the reservoir. Nanorobots still remain a dream,shared by the medical and oil sectors. But advances in nanosensors miniaturization are becoming a reality. Coatings: A corrosion-resistant material solution represented by nanometric thin films and composites with nanostructured fillers are in the advanced stage. corrosion-resistant materials are the “just ready to happen ” nanotechnology-based applications,due to its relatively low risk, high effectiveness and low complexity. Nanocoated, wear-resistant probes, made of tungsten carbide or boron nitride, enhance the life span and efficiency of the drilling systems. The same applies to the nano-layered corrosion inhibitors in pipes or tanks, which creates a permanent molecular coating on the surface of metals, eliminating corrosion. Nanofluids and nanomaterials for drilling and completion: Nanotechnology has opened the development of smart fluids” for drilling, production and stimulation applications.

Nanofluids and nano-based additives exhibit major advancement by enhanced drilling by adding benefits like wettability alteration, improved drag reduction and sand consolidation. A specialized petroleum laboratory has developed an advanced fluid mixed with nanosized particles and superfine powder that significantly improves the drilling speed and can eliminate formation damage in near wellbore zone. With the synthesis of a new breed of elastomeric composites filled with carbon nanotubes or other strongly anisotropic nano-objects, a stronger, tougher and more rugged drilling tools and apparatus will be manufactured in future. These tools will ensure a significant weight reduction and facilitate self-sensing elements to be interrogated for the real-time monitoring of the most critical parts.

Another important technique in the development of super-hard materials is the use of nanostructured dispersed-hardened materials .First generation of nanotech applications for improving hydraulic fracturing are represented by BakerHughes’s nanostructured metal composites, combined by magnesium, aluminium and other alloys, which offer both strength at lower weight and the ability to “dissolve” away under certain conditions. Another example is the proppant produced by Oxane Materials, constituted by nano-structured ceramic material which is as strong as but lighter as ceramic proppant. A possible solution for mitigating fines, by nanocrystals for treating hydraulic fracture proppant packs to fix formation fines.

Nanotechnology application for reservoir monitoring & for enhanced oil recovery Nanomembranes: A new generation of lightweight and strong nanomembranes is being developed and employed, Which will remarkably enhance the exploitation of tight gas by providing efficient methods for removing impurities, separating gas streams and enabling GTL production. Nanoporous and nanoparticulate materials are also quite encouraging to manage the Health, Safety, Environmental, risks arise due to presence of CO2 and H2S in hydrocarbon mixtures.

Nanotechnology application for reservoir monitoring The petroleum sector and the medical visualize the dream of a nanosensor able to provide in-situ information about the systems under analysis. The most complicated and Complex challenge faced by oil industry is that it requires strong technical improvements in injected nano sensors into the reservoir, to face placement and recovery, protection in harsh environments , 3-D location, sensors powering and data storage & retrieving. For example, the quantity of oil present in a reservoir could be assessed based on the amount of material lost or retained during the travel time, or the extreme conditions (temperature, pressure, salinity gradient) at which the nanoparticles were exposed and for how long, could be determined. The idea can be to pump nano-sensors in the reservoir periodically so as to regularly monitor changes in the well/field conditions.In turn, this could result in enhanced production efficiency.

Several possible applications and exploitation schemes are currently under study with nano-devices injected into a reservoir. A novel paramagnetic nanoparticles into proppant structures together with these smart proppant could help in mapping the fracture efficiency using detectable contrast agents. Further nanoparticles could preferably segregate into different fluid portions, hence providing enhanced characterization of the reservoir and, fianlly , improved oil recovery,due to their miniscule dimensions, increased surface area and high mobility. Nanotechnology application for enhanced oil recovery: The greatest challenge at present is the possibility of increasing the efficiency of hydrocarbon production, both by improving the current EOR methodologies and by developing alternative technologies.

The current researches indicate the new generation nano-agents should modify the properties of the injected fluid, in terms of viscosity, density, thermal conductivity and specific heat and modify the fluid-rock interaction properties, .The use of two different types of polysilicon nanoparticles (one nanometer-scale) in oil fields improves wettability, to enhance water injection and improve oil recovery. The application of paramagnetic nanoparticles for EOR , possess a unique combination of fluidity and capability to interact with a magnetic field. The addition of a surfactant would greatly reduce the interfacial tension in waterwet reservoirs due to the presence of a dipole moment.The reservoir fluid molecules align, thus reducing the resistance to flow. ConocoPhillips, aims at creating a new class of polymer-type nanoparticles that can be incorporated with EOR injection fluids to improve hydrocarbon recovery by penetrating small pore throats without being trapped and hence the amount of expensive injection can be decreased.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks investigated The possibility of improving gas injection for the Alaska North Slope heavy oil recovery. Metal nanoparticles. reduce the viscosity of the heavy oil. Using super critical CO2 and Viscosity ReducingInjectant (VRI) saturated by nanoparticles, exploit the thermal properties of nanoparticles for improved heat transfer to heavy oil; explore the effects of Poly Di Methyl Siloxane and metal nanoparticles on density and viscosity for reducing mobility and viscous fingering Phenomena . When dealing with extremely low permeability reservoirs, conventional approaches to water flooding cannot provide recovery factors greater than 0.2. This is mainly due to capillary forces which are very strong in narrow pore channels. With low-permeability reservoir rocks, the level of purity and filtration of injected water is one of the most important issues for a significant oil recovery.

With rocks characterized by a permeability of 0.1 μm2 the recovery factor deviates from an average of 0.4 by less than 10% if particulates in injected water are smaller than 200 nm. Nevertheless, with a rock permeability of 0.05 μm2 the recovery factor is dramatically approaching zero with the same particle ssize. A traditional water flooding technique is obviously unproductive in this latter case, unless water is filtered and purified of particulates down to at least 100 nm. Innovative water nano-filters are to be specially designed both to ensure uniform pore throats and the ability to recovery tens of billions of tons of oil. Some feel that oil is essentially a nanoliquid, with asphaltenes being the dominant part, flowing in a micro and often nanoscopic environment (i.e., the porous media).

According to that,it seems justifiable to consider most of the oil and gas production technologies, reservoir treatments and stimulation as nanotechnologies. Under this point of view, current petroleum science is relying on the study and control of physical chemical phenomena occurring at the nanometer scale and the ability to correctly model the reservoir flow plays an important role. However, a suitable tool to reliably describe coupled phenomena is still missing. The present approach being discussed is, for creating nanorobots to monitor individual pores and channels and hydrocarbon flow, exchange information and identify zones which intensify the extraction or the injection of water.


Nanotechnology Application to the oil industry has an immense potential & benefits. Some applications are already available,while others could come from Complementing the solutions developed for the biomedical, automotive, aerospace, chemical and, textile Industries. Well drilling, fracturing and cementing as well as new generation membranes for gas separation already rely on nanotech solutions. At present efforts are being made to design nano-sensors for reservoir characterization and monitoring and to produce nano-fluids for improving EOR processes. Promising results have been obtained from laboratory experiment, but field tests are still in progress..The future of nanotechnology applications is remarkable.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 3 October 2016

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