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Enhanced Oil Recovery

New oil extraction technology

could yield gigantic profits

It takes a good deal of technological innovation to get access to more oil from the calcareous Danish subsurface. Associate Professor Mogens Hinge is working on promising new nanotechnology that could prove to be the first chapter of a new fuel adventure.

The Danish subsurface consists of limestone, which makes it particularly difficult to extract oil. However, researchers are spearheading the development of a potentially game-changing technology.

Billions in profits could be the result if the new – as yet unnamed – enhanced oil recovery (EOR) project succeeds at Aarhus University.  The project deals with extracting more oil from limestone oil fields.

Today we only benefit from a small percentage of the oil as it is difficult to extract it in limestone using current technologies. However, things might look very different in the future because research at Aarhus University has already showed promising laboratory results which could have a significant impact on Denmark’s oil recovery.

New oil adventure in the North Sea?
The research group behind the EOR project makes no secret of the fact that the North Sea subsurface is enormously complex with porous calcareous layers, which means that a good deal of technological innovation is required to increase the level of extraction.
On the other hand, not much more oil is needed to make the project a success.

“Even if we only increase recovery by
1 percent, this alone will cover about ten whole years of spending in Denmark, which is worth about DKK 50 billion. So just imagine a success rate of 10 percent or – for that matter – 60 percent. It would be huge,” says Associate Professor Hinge.

Nanomaterials to change the water flow
Danish oil is currently extracted by pumping water into the oil field and thereby pushing out the oil. However, quite a lot of oil remains in the Danish subsurface because the water makes channels in the limestone and bypasses the oil. The new technology currently being developed by engineering specialists in analytical chemistry and geology is intended to change the channels with nanomaterials so that the water is forced to take another route through the limestone – the oily route – thus pushing out more oil.

“Our idea is to make nanomaterials that can change the permeability of the calcareous layers, and thereby make it more difficult for the water to pass the empty channels. This will force it to push the oil up,” says Mogens Hinge.

The researchers are planning to develop their own nanomaterial for the purpose.

“Extremely high precision is required when you’re working with the subsurface. We’d like to design nanomaterials that can trickle down and create changes where the water runs in the calcareous layers, which means they need the right properties to be attracted by the limestone at exactly the right strength,” explains Associate Professor Hinge.