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The microfluidic chip approach to measuring CO2 behavior in reservoirs could revolutionize down-hole testing and analysis. Current technology used to measure transport rates in fluids and porous media could be replaced with these very small, cheap, fast, reliable chip systems. The chips could be used to test CO2 behavior in fluids and pores in SAGD reservoirs, EOR projects and CCS projects.
Dr. David Sinton’s team is developing small scale testing systems for measuring CO2 behavior in reservoirs. This technology could drastically reduce the cost and time required for analyzing bitumen-gas interactions in heavy oil and bitumen reservoirs, and assesses the efficacy of CO2 sequestration at the pore-scale. Microfluidic chips, commonly used in medical diagnostics, are being adapted to the classical Pressure-Volume-Temperature cell. This adaptation offers improved control, range, accuracy, and capacity for pore scale study of porous media. The chips will show how highly pressurized CO2 behaves when injected into bitumen- and brine-filled porous media. This original research could rapidly streamline the process that fossil energy companies use to measure transport and reactivity parameters. These chips are cheap, simple, rapid and more reliable than available technology.
Currently, it is difficult to extract bitumen and heavy oil from reservoirs. One method of interest is using CO2-rich injections to help liquify the bitumen for easier extraction. This method can supplement steam-injection technology, and also allows for carbon sequestration. However, before using this technology, it is important to understand how CO2 and oil behave under different pressures and rock formations. Dr. Sinton’s research, therefore, is directly relevant to both (1) enhanced oil recovery (EOR) with and without steam injection and simultaneous CO2 storage, and (2) carbon sequestration in brine-saturated carbonate aquifers.
$1.05 million/3 years, Awarded 2010
The microfluidic approach could revolutionize down-hole testing and analysis. Extraction of oil, via EOR, could be made easier, cheaper, and be considered more secure. Current technology used to measure transport rates in fluids and porous media could be replaced with these very small, cheap, fast, reliable chip systems. In the future, companies could test CO2 behavior in fluids and pores in SAGD reservoirs, EOR projects and CCS projects.
There has been active contact, interest, discussion and feedback from representatives from several oil and gas companies.
To develop a small scale testing systems and apply them to a specific set of measurements. These measurements include: (i) the solubility and diffusivity of CO2 in heavy oil, bitumen and brine under various temperatures and pressures, and (ii) the characteristics of injected CO2 in brine-saturated carbonates.
The microfluidic device could quickly and effectively examine the behavior of CO2 in heavy oil and brine. The resulting data was consistent with existing large-scale devices. Workable methods have been developed and data is in line with other measurements. The most exciting aspect is that the team can use almost zero sample during a run, and receive data 100 times faster than existing methods, as detailed in a recent publication.
On the brine side, the team has studied how water evaporates out of the brine phase during injection of dry CO2. This results in the formation of salts which blocks the pores, and this is a big problem for industry. The team can visualize the salt formation process, discern the different types of salts, and measure the percent of pores being blocked. A publication is in preparation for these findings.