NM Tech professor garners DOE research grant, Nov. 21, 2005

by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., Nov. 21, 2005 – New Mexico Tech mechanical engineering professor Sayavur Bakhtiyarov is the latest researcher at the state-supported research university to be awarded a major U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) research grant.

The federal funding, which exceeds $700,000, will be used to explore new technologies for recovering residual oil in played-out reservoirs. The first phase of Bakhtiyarov’s interdisciplinary research project, titled “Technology of in-situ Gas Generation to Recover Residual Oil Reserves,” is expected to be completed in two years.

“We will be evaluating a promising technology that involves in situ generation of carbon dioxide to recover trapped residual oil from reservoirs,” Bakhtiyarov says.

“This new technology has at least two unique features that set it apart from existing carbon dioxide injection methods,” Bakhtiyarov explains. “First, CO-2 is injected as part of a dense liquid phase, not simply as compressed gas, as is now commonly done. The second unique feature of this new technology is that a proprietary surfactant composition generates foam that drives trapped oil out as the CO-2 is being generated.”

Also, since the fluid being injected into oil reservoirs is a dense liquid at ambient conditions, the high costs typically associated with compressing carbon dioxide through conventional methods are greatly reduced.

“It is the injected fluids themselves that usually ‘sweep’ the residual oil from reservoirs, and the addition of carbon dioxide actually increases the sweeping efficiency significantly,” Bakhtiyarov says. “It then becomes a ‘double sweep,’ since the CO2 gas first sweeps the reservoir and is then followed by the liquids behind it.”

While this proprietary technology promises to more efficiently sweep out residual oils left in older oil fields, it can also be used to increase the efficiency of extracting oil from newer fields as well.

“We are hoping to continue to develop and improve this new process through lab studies being done here at New Mexico Tech,” says Bakhtiyarov. “Once we’re through with this first phase of the study, we’ll then move on to testing this technology out in the oil fields.”

The New Mexico Tech research project has already generated marked interest from several major and independent oil companies that have inquired about the possibility of testing the new technology on some of their older oil reservoirs.