Nanotechnology promises countless opportunities to oil recovery and reservoir characterization applications. Nanotechnology utilizes nanoscale particles (nanoparticles) that are not only small enough to go through tiny pore throats in the reservoir, but also provide: 1) abundance of surficial sites for functionalization and loading with molecules; 2) superior optical, electrical, chemical, and magnetic properties; and 3) ability to be manipulated and made autonomous via harvesting surrounding conditions and/or applied stimuli. These unique features deem Nanoparticles as great “vehicles” for target-delivery of chemical treatments to where they are needed the most in the reservoir. The extent of nanoparticles’ utilization in reservoir applications is challenged, however, by the high temperature and salinity conditions typical to all major reservoirs. In this talk, some of existing and emerging nanoparticle-based technologies that are practically-feasible for oil recovery and oil reservoir characterization applications are presented, and their current and potential impacts are discussed. These include nano-tracers that traverse the reservoir to shed light on how injectors and producers “communicate”; nano-mappers that map floodwater fronts in-situ; nano-surfactants that stabilize petroleum sulfonate salt surfactants in seawater and deliver them deep in the reservoir; and autonomous nanoparticles that can migrate in the reservoir by harvesting existing or applied chemical gradients. Finally, key challenges facing the full utilization of nanotechnology in reservoir applications, and best ways to overcome them, are outlined. Exploiting the full potential of nanotechnology in these applications could only be realized through continued field studies and deployments.
Amr Abdel-Fattah is Team Leader of the Upstream Nanotechnology Team and the 4IR Advanced Materials Technology Leader in Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC Advanced Research Center. He joined Saudi Aramco in 2012 after 15+ years with Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, as a senior Scientist. Amr holds a PhD and MS in Chemical and Nuclear Engineering and MS and BSc in Civil Engineering. During his 30+ years of R&D, he has led a number of research and technology development and deployment programs utilizing nanotechnology in energy and environmental applications. He has published numerous papers and delivered several Keynote and invited talks, lectures, and graduate level seminars worldwide.