Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Checking up on crude oil in the ground: Nanoreporters tell 'sour' oil from 'sweet'

Date:
April 22, 2014
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
Scientists have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence and concentration of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they're still in the ground.

Fluorescent nanoreporters created at Rice University can tell oil producers how “sour” a reservoir is based on its hydrogen sulfide content.
Credit: Chih-Chau Hwang/Rice University

Scientists at Rice University have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they're still in the ground.

Related Articles


The nanoreporter is based on nanometer-sized carbon material developed by a consortium of Rice labs led by chemist James Tour and is the subject of a new paper published this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

Limited exposure to hydrogen sulfide causes sore throats, shortness of breath and dizziness, according to the researchers. The human nose quickly becomes desensitized to hydrogen sulfide, leading to an inability to detect higher concentrations. That can be fatal, they said.

On the flip side, hydrogen sulfide is also a biologically important signaling molecule in processes that include pain and inflammation. Tour said chemists have synthesized fluorescent probes to detect it in the body. The Rice team capitalized on that work by using the probes to create downhole detectors for oil fields.

Crude oil and natural gas inherently contain hydrogen sulfide, which gives off a "rotten egg" smell. Even a 1 percent trace of sulfur turns oil into what's known as "sour crude," which is toxic and corrodes pipelines and transportation vessels, Tour said. The extra steps required to turn the sour into "sweet" crude are costly.

"So it's important to know the content of what you're pumping out of the ground, and the earlier the better," Tour said.

Led by Rice professors Tour, Michael Wong and Mason Tomson and researcher Amy Kan, the university has pioneered efforts to gather information from oil fields through the use of nanoreporters. The nanoreporters were designed to detect and report on the presence and amount of oil in a well that might otherwise be hard to assess.

Now the same team, joined by chemist Angel Martí, is employing thermally stable, soluble, highly mobile, carbon black-based nanoreporters modified to look for hydrogen sulfide and report results immediately upon their return to the surface.

When exposed to hydrogen sulfide, the nanoparticles' fluorescent properties immediately change. When pumped out of a production well, the particles can be analyzed with a spectrometer to determine the level of contamination.

"This paper is a big step because we're making our nanoreporters detect something that's not oil," Wong said, suggesting the possibility that nanoparticles may someday be able to capture sulfur compounds before they can be pumped to the surface. "Even if that's not cost-effective, just having information about the sulfur content may be enough to tell a company, 'Let's cap this well and move on to a cleaner site.'"

Modifying the particles with common polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) was the key to making the nanoreporters stable in temperatures as high as 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). Testing in beds of sandstone or with actual Kuwaiti dolomite, to mimic oilfield environments, helped the team perfect the size and formula for nanoreporters that are most likely to survive a trip through the depths and return with data.

"We found the longer the PVA polymer chains, the more stable the nanoparticles were in the high temperatures they're subjected to," said Rice graduate student Chih-Chau Hwang, co-lead author of the paper with fellow graduate student Gedeng Ruan.

"The method of detection is so sensitive that large amounts of nanoreporters need not be pumped downhole," Tour said. "This is enormously important for workers in the field to know for aspects of safety, lifetime of equipment and value of the afforded oil."

Authors include graduate students Lu Wang, Errol Samuel, Changsheng Xiang, Zhiwei Peng and Kewei Huang; undergraduate student William Kasper; alumni Wei Lu and Zachary Schaefer; postdoctoral associate Haiyan Zheng; Kan, co-director of the Rice-based Brine Chemistry Consortium; Martí, an assistant professor of chemistry and bioengineering; Wong, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry; and Tomson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science.

The Advanced Energy Consortium supported the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rice University. The original article was written by Mike Williams. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Chih-Chau Hwang, Gedeng Ruan, Lu Wang, Haiyan Zheng, Errol L. G. Samuel, Changsheng Xiang, Wei Lu, William Kasper, Kewei Huang, Zhiwei Peng, Zachary Schaefer, Amy T. Kan, Angel A. Martí, Michael S. Wong, Mason B. Tomson, James M. Tour. Carbon-Based Nanoreporters Designed for Subsurface Hydrogen Sulfide Detection. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2014; 140415161020006 DOI: 10.1021/am5009584

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Checking up on crude oil in the ground: Nanoreporters tell 'sour' oil from 'sweet'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140422134636.htm>.
Rice University. (2014, April 22). Checking up on crude oil in the ground: Nanoreporters tell 'sour' oil from 'sweet'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140422134636.htm
Rice University. "Checking up on crude oil in the ground: Nanoreporters tell 'sour' oil from 'sweet'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140422134636.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins