Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Nanotechnology to Revolutionise Oil Recovery

From The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), comes a discovery in nanotechnology that could help greatly increase the amount of oil recovered from each well.

With oil companies forced to leave behind as much as two barrels for every barrel of oil they produce, this revolutionary technology could help reduce the cost of supplying petrol to the market.

Known as Pepfactants®, the peptide technology can control the emulsions and foams used in a wide range of industry processes and could impact a range of products from petroleum to specialty chemicals and therapeutic drugs.

Developed by Professor Anton Middelberg and Dr Annette Dexter, details of the technology were published recently in the prestigious Nature Materials journal.

According to Professor Middelberg, Pepfactants® is a disruptive technology with the potential to be used in ways we cannot yet foresee.

“Emulsions, or mixtures of two immiscible liquids like oil and water, are found just about everywhere from mayonnaise to moisturising cream to products for delivering chemotherapy drugs,” said Professor Middelberg.

“Our process enables the reversible and controllable making and breaking of an emulsion or foam, in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. For example, Pepfactants® allows for the very quick separation of oil and water as well as the reversible reformation of the emulsion.

“An obvious application of the technology is in oil production where water is used to force oil to the surface of the well. Pepfactants® would allow the easy separation of the oil/water emulsion on the surface. Also, it would change the viscosity of the oil to increase the amount of oil extracted from each underground oil reserve.”

Pepfactants® also recently won an Emerging Technology Awards at TechConnect Summit 2006 Conference in Boston and is the subject of wide industry interest.

With radical new methods for oil exploration AND recovery, the total reserves will continue to go up at least for the near future. Peak oil is not happening. What is happening is the emergence of twin giants--China and India--triggering the ancient laws of supply and demand. That is not peak oil. That is basic economics. With renewable oil substitutes gaining in production every year, the transition from petroleum to renewables will be far smoother than the doomseekers in politics and the media would have liked.

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