Since mankind has a tight grip on fossil fuels, we need to look at ever more complex and clever ways of improving our efficiency of extracting and using these particular forms of energy.
Enhanced oil recovery or EOR is the technique of increasing the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from an oil field. There are many techniques that can be employed to increase the amount of oil that can be extracted, all with varying degrees of success, the one thing they all have in common is the high cost of implementation. Using EOR can increase the amount of oil extracted from a reservoir from anything between 30-60 per cent or more.
Gas Injection, plasma pulse, miscible solvents and polymer flooding are all methods employed by oil companies to increase the amount of oil they can extract from a field, all have both benefits and side effects to consider and as you can imagine research continues in these and other areas as success can mean billions in revenues for the oil giants.
One of the problems with medium to long term reservoirs that have been good petroleum producers is that the water used to flush out the oil becomes less effective until the injected water is wasted as it only wets the same water saturated areas as before, rather than coursing through new areas still containing valuable oil.
A new project has just launched to try and solve this particular problem in oil extraction by closing off those already flushed areas with a solution of nanoparticles and polymers. When the mix arrives in the area target zone it will initiate a reaction forming a gel which closes of the area to the water. Time to the target zone can be weeks or months so scientists have an interesting problem to inhibit gel formation for this long in such varying conditions
The project team see great potential if they are successful.