Could nanotechnology help squeeze more oil and gas out of the ground? That’s the hope of a consortium of energy companies that is putting millions of dollars into the development of new micro- and nanosensor technologies.
The seven companies that make up the Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC), which includes Halliburton Energy Services, BP America, and ConocoPhilips, will put up $21 million in total to fund the research. The aim is to develop subsurface sensors that can be used to improve both the discovery and the recovery of hydrocarbons.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Wade Adams, director of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University, in Houston, a technical partner to the consortium. “It’s the first time the energy companies have got together to fund this kind of research, so it really is a big deal,” he says.
Currently, even with the most advanced recovery techniques, only about 40 percent of the oil and gas in reservoirs can be recovered. The hope is that by injecting novel sensors into these reservoirs, it will be possible to more accurately map them in 3-D, increase the amount of fuel extracted, and minimize the environmental impact.