More efficient method of oil extraction discovered

25 Nov 2010

A team of international scientists has discovered how to treat carbon dioxide (CO2) in such a way that it can be used in efficient and environmentally friendly methods for extracting oil.

The team from the University of Bristol, UK, has devised a soap-like additive for CO2 that transforms it into a viable solvent for commercial scale enhanced oil recovery.

According to the research, the new additive – surfactant TC14 – will increase the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from oil fields.

Oil recovery

Julian Eastoe, professor of chemistry from the University of Bristol, said: “Carbon dioxide is useful in enhanced oil recovery as it is able to flow through the pores in the rock much more easily than water.

“Getting longer life out of existing oil reserves will also give more time for research into replacements into non-carbon energy sources, such as solar or hydrogen.”

The project to explore using high-pressure CO2 to extract residual oil retained in the pores of rock had its research published in the journal Langmuir.

The company and the university have established the Kruss Surface Science Centre in the School of Chemistry, which provides access to state-of-the-art equipment, as well as training and support for its use to university researchers. The equipment was key to finding the right chemicals and conditions.