Dec 122010
 
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Greener, Cheaper More Efficient Oil Extraction Made Possible

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. These new CO2 soluble additives can also be used to reduce the environmental damage caused by every day industrial processes such as food processing and the manufacture of electronics. The results of this work are published in the journal Langmuir.

The researchers have developed a soap-like additive for CO2 that turns it into a viable solvent for commercial-scale enhanced oil recovery to increase the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from oil fields.

“Carbon dioxide is useful in enhanced oil recovery as it is able to flow through the pores in the rock much more easily than water,” said Professor Julian Eastoe from the University of Bristol. “The additive, a surfactant, will help thicken the carbon dioxide, which is vital for this process, allowing it to flow through the rock more efficiently. There is also a useful side effect of our ability to use CO2 in this way, as in the future the process will take carbon dioxide generated by industrial activity from the atmosphere and lock it deep underground. Getting longer life out of existing oil reserves will also give more time for research into replacements into non-carbon energy sources such as solar or hydrogen.”

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