Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Research could lead to improved oil recovery, better environmental cleanup

August 03, 2012
CORVALLIS, Ore. - Researchers have taken a new look at an old, but seldom-used technique developed by the petroleum industry to recover oil, and learned more about why it works, how it could be improved, and how it might be able to make a comeback not only in oil recovery but also environmental cleanup.

The technology, called "microbial enhanced oil recovery," was first developed decades ago, but oil drillers largely lost interest in it due to its cost, inconsistent results and a poor understanding of what was actually happening underground.

The new findings by engineers at Oregon State University, published in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, could help change that. This may allow the oil industry not only to produce more oil from their existing wells, but also find applications in cleaning up petroleum spills and contaminants.

"This approach of using microbes to increase oil recovery was used somewhat in the 1980s when oil prices were very high, but the field results weren't very consistent and it was expensive," said Dorthe Wildenschild, an associate professor in the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. "It's seldom used now as a result."

Oil drilling has always been difficult - it's not as simple as drilling a hole and watching the petroleum gush out of the ground.

That may happen for a while, but as a secondary step, water is often injected into the well to help flush out more oil. Such production techniques generally recover only one-third to one-half of the oil originally present in a reservoir.

A third approach sometimes used after water injection is to inject microbes into the well and "feed" them with sugars such as molasses to encourage their growth. This can clog some pores and in others has a "surfactant" effect, loosening the oil from the surface it clings to, much as a dishwasher detergent loosens grease from a pan.

"By clogging up some pores and helping oil move more easily through others, these approaches can in theory be used with water flushing to help recover quite a bit more oil," Wildenschild said.

The surfactant can be man-made, or microbes can be used to produce it at a lower cost. However, getting a particular culture of microbes to produce the biosurfactant under harsh field conditions is tricky.

"It's complicated, you have to use just the right microbes, and feed them just the right foods, to accomplish what you want to do," Wildenschild said.

In OSU laboratory experiments, Ryan Armstrong, a recent doctoral graduate at OSU, found that the clogging mechanism is the simplest and most effective approach to use, although combining it with the biosurfactant technology achieved optimal oil recovery.

A better fundamental understanding of this process - along with higher oil prices that better reward efforts to recover more oil - could lead to renewed interest in the technology on a commercial basis, the OSU researchers said, and make oil recovery more productive. As an extra benefit, the concepts might also work well to help remove or clean up underground contaminants, they said.

###

This work was supported by the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society.

Editor's Note: A digital image demonstrating improved oil recovery is available online: http://bit.ly/QfX2VV

Oregon State University


Related Oil Recovery Current Events and Oil Recovery News Articles


Clues to foam formation could help find oil
Blowing bubbles in the backyard is one thing and quite another when searching for oil. That distinction is at the root of new research by Rice University scientists who describe in greater detail than ever precisely how those bubbles form, evolve and act.

Wastewater injection spurred biggest earthquake yet, says study
A new study in the journal Geology is the latest to tie a string of unusual earthquakes, in this case, in central Oklahoma, to the injection of wastewater deep underground.

Pitt Engineers to Design Affordable CO2 Thickener to Augment Oil Extraction
Crude oil extraction could be improved significantly and accessible domestic oil reserves could be expanded with an economical CO2 thickener being developed by University of Pittsburgh engineers, thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Building a full-scale model of a trapped oil reservoir in a laboratory
Getting trapped oil out of porous layers of sandstone and limestone is a tricky and costly operation for energy exploration companies the world over.

Declining energy quality could be root cause of current recession
An overlooked cause of the economic recession in the U.S. is a decade long decline in the quality of the nation's energy supply, often measured as the amount of energy we get out for a given energy input, says energy expert Carey King of The University of Texas at Austin.

Extending the life of oil reserves
A research team led by the University of Bristol has used STFC's ISIS Neutron Source to come up with a new way to treat carbon dioxide (CO2), so that it can be used in efficient and environmentally friendly methods for extracting oil.

Troubled Islands-Hurricanes, Oil Spill & Sea Level Rise
The islands flanking the outlet of the Mississippi River are not only facing losses due to sea level rise and local subsidence, according to one study, but new unknown impacts from oil recovery operations, say researchers working on another project.

Oil boom possible but time is running out
Oil recovery using carbon dioxide could lead to a North Sea oil bonanza worth £150 billion ($ 240 billion) - but only if the current infrastructure is enhanced now, according to a new study published today by a world-leading energy expert.

A better way to pinpoint underground oil reserves
Picture this: an accurate map of a large underground oil reservoir that can guide engineers' efforts to coax the oil from the vast rocky subsurface into wells where it can be pumped out for storage or transport.

MIT researchers explain mystery of gravity fingers
Researchers at MIT recently found an elegant solution to a sticky scientific problem in basic fluid mechanics: why water doesn't soak into soil at an even rate, but instead forms what look like fingers of fluid flowing downward.
More Oil Recovery Current Events and Oil Recovery News Articles

Oil Sands, Heavy Oil & Bitumen: From Recovery to Refinery

Oil Sands, Heavy Oil & Bitumen: From Recovery to Refinery
by Dwijen K Banerjee (Author)


Unlike conventional oil resources, 'unconventional' resources have been known to exist only for the last few decades and are available in limited areas of the world. The most commonly known unconventional oils--oil sands, heavy oil, and bitumen--are found primarily in the western United States, Canada, and Venezuela. Only recently has serious consideration has been given to North American resources for meeting the increasing demands for transportation fuel.

Dr. Banerjee discusses the importance of these unconventional oils and provides an introduction for those beginning their journey in the still unexplored unconventional hydrocarbon resources of the world.

This new book is an important educational tool for anyone in the petroleum industry--whether upstream , downstream, or...

An Enhanced Oil and Gas Recovery in Shale Formations: Enhanced recovery in shale formations

An Enhanced Oil and Gas Recovery in Shale Formations: Enhanced recovery in shale formations
by Perapon Fakcharoenphol (Author)


This research focuses on: (1) explaining the observed increase in well flow rate resulting from long shut-in periods in some production wells, and (2) investigating whether water-flooding can improve hydrocarbon recovery in the greater Bakken formations. Relevant is-sues include pore size and distribution, pore architecture, hydrocarbon composition, salinity, wettability, capillarity, osmotic pressure, and geomechanical alterations of pore connectivity because of waterflooding. Waterflooding may induce an increase in the shear stress followed by rock failure because of an increase in pore pressure and a decrease in temperature. Two numerical models were developed to: (1) investigate the effect of gravity, capillarity and osmoticity on phase re-distribution during well shut-in and...

Enhanced Oil Recovery

Enhanced Oil Recovery
by Larry W. Lake (Author)




Modern Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery: Theory and Practice

Modern Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery: Theory and Practice
by James Sheng (Author)


Crude oil development and production in U.S. oil reservoirs can include up to three distinct phases: primary, secondary, and tertiary (or enhanced) recovery. During primary recovery, the natural pressure of the reservoir or gravity drive oil into the wellbore, combined with artificial lift techniques (such as pumps) which bring the oil to the surface. But only about 10 percent of a reservoir's original oil in place is typically produced during primary recovery. Secondary recovery techniques to the field's productive life generally by injecting water or gas to displace oil and drive it to a production wellbore, resulting in the recovery of 20 to 40 percent of the original oil in place.

In the past two decades, major oil companies and research organizations have conducted extensive...

Enhanced Oil Recovery Field Case Studies

Enhanced Oil Recovery Field Case Studies
by James Sheng (Editor)


Enhanced Oil Recovery Field Case Studies bridges the gap between theory and practice in a range of real-world EOR settings. Areas covered include steam and polymer flooding, use of foam, in situ combustion, microorganisms, "smart water"-based EOR in carbonates and sandstones, and many more. Oil industry professionals know that the key to a successful enhanced oil recovery project lies in anticipating the differences between plans and the realities found in the field. This book aids that effort, providing valuable case studies from more than 250 EOR pilot and field applications in a variety of oil fields. The case studies cover practical problems, underlying theoretical and modeling methods, operational parameters, solutions and sensitivity studies, and performance optimization strategies,...

Enhanced Oil Recovery: Field Planning and Development Strategies

Enhanced Oil Recovery: Field Planning and Development Strategies
by Vladimir Alvarado (Author), Eduardo Manrique (Author)


Enhanced-Oil Recovery (EOR) evaluations focused on asset acquisition or rejuvenation involve a combination of complex decisions, using different data sources. EOR projects have been traditionally associated with high CAPEX and OPEX, as well as high financial risk, which tend to limit the number of EOR projects launched. In this book, the authors propose workflows for EOR evaluations that account for different volumes and quality of information. This flexible workflow has been successfully applied to oil property evaluations and EOR feasibility studies in many oil reservoirs. The methodology associated with the workflow relies on traditional (look-up tables, XY correlations, etc.) and more advanced (data mining for analog reservoir search and geology indicators) screening methods,...

Enhanced Oil Recovery

Enhanced Oil Recovery
by Marcel Latil (Author)




Enhanced Recovery Methods for Heavy Oil and Tar Sands

Enhanced Recovery Methods for Heavy Oil and Tar Sands
by James G. Speight (Author)


Recent oil price fluctuations continue to stress the need for more efficient recovery of heavy oil and tar sand bitumen resources. With conventional production steadily declining, advances in enhanced recovery will be required so that oil production can be extended and reservoirs last longer. A practical guide on heavy-oil related recovery methods is essential for all involved in heavy oil production. To feed this demand, James Speight, a well-respected scientist and author, provides a must-read for all scientists, engineers and technologists that are involved in production enhancement. In Enhanced Recovery Methods for Heavy Oil and Tar Sands, Speight provides the current methods of recovery for heavy oil and tar sand bitumen technology, broken down by thermal and non-thermal methods. An...

Oil

Oil
by Gavin Bridge (Author), Philippe Le Billon (Author)


Oil pulses through our daily lives. It is the plastic we touch, the food we eat, and the way we move. Oil politics in the twentieth century was about the management of abundance, state power and market growth. The legacy of this age of plenty includes declining conventional oil reserves, volatile prices, climate change, and enduring poverty in many oil rich countries. The oil sector is now in need of reform. Yet no one seems at the helm, leaving a vital source of energy at the whim of dictators, speculators and corporate operators, and our societies locked into unsustainable growth models.In this in-depth primer to the world's wealthiest industry, authors Gavin Bridge and Philippe Le Billon take a fresh look at the contemporary geopolitics of oil. Going beyond simple assertions of peak...

Celebrate Recovery Journal

Celebrate Recovery Journal
by Zondervan (Author)


Specifically tied to the eight recovery principles of the Celebrate Recovery program, the Celebrate Recovery Journal is specially designed to help you go through the recovery process step-by-step. Includes tips on how to benefit from journaling, Scriptures pulled from the Celebrate Recovery program, and a 90-day review.

© 2014 BrightSurf.com