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Graphene helps boost oil recovery

Current methods to improve oil recovery involve the use of chemicals and these carry risks as well as being unpopular with the local population. To overcome this researchers have been exploring a nontechnology-based solution involving graphene. Graphene is a carbon based material that is incredibly strong, tough, like, transparent and a good conductor of electricity.

The nanotech device is based on graphene-based Janus amphiphilic nanosheets. The particles are called “Janus” based on the two-faced Roman god of legend, and this naming relates to their physical properties. The particles have at least two physical properties. This means different chemical reactions can occur with the same particle.

The low concentration and the high efficiency of the nanofluid improve efficiency. Further advantages of the new method are that it avoids the use of chemicals and it runs at a comparatively low cost. The method is also better for the environment.

In trials, the new method promises a15 percent tertiary oil recovery, which helps with the amount of ‘lost’ oil. By ‘tertiary recovery’ this refers to the third round of extracting oil. This follows the use of gas or water injection. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates as much as 75 percent of recoverable reserves may be remain following an oil extraction process.

In statement, the research team outline: “Our results provide a novel nanofluid flooding method for tertiary oil recovery that is comparable to the sophisticated chemical methods.”

The further add: “We anticipate that this work will bring simple nanofluid flooding at low concentration to the stage of oilfield practice, which could result in oil being recovered in a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner.”

To add to this, enthusiastic Twitter user fotondoc (@fotondoc) tweeted: “Oil & Gas Trader. We are witnessing an energy revolution!”, on hearing the news. Positive responses on social media also came from Graphene-Info (@grapheneinfo) and 2D Graphene Research (@2DResearch).

The research has been undertaken at the University of Houston, with the research team led by Dr. Zhifeng Ren. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper is titled “Nanofluid of graphene-based amphiphilic Janus nanosheets for tertiary or enhanced oil recovery: High performance at low concentration.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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