Route of advanced material to unlock new energy resources
Materials Science and Nanotechnology
With scarce of easy-to-reach traditional oil resources, oil and gas industry has to continuously make technology and operational innovation to unlock the so called "unconventional" reservoirs, including shale oil and gas, heavy oil, flammable ice, etc., to satisfy steadily increasing energy-demands from global economic growth which renewable or "clean" energy can hardly play significant role in near future. Among these unconventional resources which were used be regarded as infeasible to
... economically or technically, heavy oil is one of the most promising options and has already been broadly developed in countries like Canada, Kuwait, Venezuela, US, China, etc., because its global abundance (i.e., reports shows that current reserve of heavy oil is three times the total amount of conventional oil and gas combined). Unlike traditional oil, heavy oil is extremely viscous and cannot flow easily. In order to extract them from underground, large amount of hot steam is injected into heavy oil reservoirs (namely steam injection), heating the heavy oil up to reduce its viscosity. In this operation, downhole temperature can easily reach 600°F+, at which current downhole rubber seals fail due to material thermal decomposition. This poses great challenge to operational and high mechanical strength of metal material. This novel seal material exhibits excellent thermal/ chemical stability, high mechanical strength and reasonable elasticity, thus fills the seal material gap where rubber does not have enough temperature rating and metal lacks enough elasticity to work reliably. Seal produced made from ECC successfully addressed HTHP seal challenges in heavy oil recovery and geothermal well development. For broader acceptance in other industrial sectors, mechanical properties of this material still needs to be improved to overcome its current disadvantages including anisotropic physical property, low tensile strain, and limited elasticity. Development of this novel composite material not only help oil and gas industry to unlock new energy resource to satisfy steadily increasing global energy-demands, but also provide new insight to advanced material community in how to align academic research with industrial applications.