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University of Twente Teams with BP on Nanofluidics for Oil Extraction

by Editor1 last modified October 19, 2009 - 18:39

The University of Twente's Physics of Complex Fluids group will contribute work in nanofluidics to BP's Enhanced Oil Recovery Exploratory Research Program, which aims to examine novel methods to increase oilfield production by 10 percent. 'Efficient oil extraction from the earth means effectively using water to force oil from microscopic rock pores," said Prof. Frieder Mugele, head of PCF.

University of Twente Teams with BP on Nanofluidics for Oil Extraction

"This is micro- and nanofluidics... applied on an extremely large scale. Our expertise in these areas, supported by two research institutes with excellent facilities, MESA+ and IMPACT, ensured that the UT was chosen by BP," Mugela added. 

During 5 years, BP will sponsor research at PCF with a total amount of funding of € 4.25 million. The goal of the research is to improve the fundamental understanding of the physical processes controlling the release of oil from the pores in the rock where it is trapped under ground.

Current technology, in which water is pumped into the rock to promote recovery, leaves on average around 60% of the oil behind in the reservoir. By modifying the composition to the water (e.g. additives, salt concentration) that modify the interaction between oil, water, and rock, BP wants to make this process more efficient.  BP is seeking innovative technologies by working intensively with three world-class research groups. These were deliberately sought outside the oil industry to facilitate innovation. Alongside the UT, the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen (Germany) and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) are also participating.

The PCF group has an extensive experience in analyzing the physical underlying mechanisms such as the “two-phase flow” behavior of oil and water in the micropores of the rock and the physico-chemical wetting properties of the system. Throughout the project, PCF will make use of micro- and nanofluidics to analyze the oil recovery process on the level of individual pores and to test new strategies for improving recovery. Several PhD students and Postdocs will be hired to carry out the research.