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17 december 2018

Closed Industrial Partnership Programme


Number i16.
Title Innovative physics for oil and gas (iPOG)
Executive organisational unit BUW
Programme management Prof.dr. M.L. van Hecke 
Duration 2008-2017
Cost estimate M€ 4.5
Partner(s) Shell 

The general aim of this Industrial Partnership Programme (IPP) is to promote innovative basic research with potential relevance for the exploration and production of oil and gas reservoirs. The programme will have two open rounds. The research theme of the first round is 'Novel physical techniques to probe structure and transport in granular or heterogeneous media' and has a budget of M€ 2.0. The research theme of the second round is 'Novel physics for sensing modifying and manipulation of oil-gas reservoirs; a deep dive into the nano domain'. The budget for the second round, is ca. M€ 2.5.

Background, relevance and implementation
he detection and recovery of fossil-fuel reserves is complicated by the fact that the repertoire of methods to probe such reserves is limited. Direct drilling experiments are expensive and necessa­rily provide 'local' information. Imaging experiments provide information that is, at best, indirect. These problems are compounded by the fact that, as fossil fuel reserves diminish, exploration increasingly focuses on fields that are difficult to access. This makes it even harder to arrive at reliable assessments of the recoverable reserves. Straightforward optimization of existing explo­ration methods is yielding diminishing returns. For this reason, it becomes very interesting to look at original, even speculative, physical concepts that might be used to probe subterranean fossil fuel reserves. In addition, there is a great need to use novel computational techniques to arrive at opti­mal predictions concerning the recoverability of reserves, based on imaging probe data that are necessarily incomplete.

Moreover, recovery of hydrocarbons from the reservoir formation is far from optimal, with an estimated 40-60% of hydrocarbons being left behind in the porous and fractured network of a reservoir. As oil and gas field production matures over time, the recovery factor decreases even further and the production of unwanted saline formation water increases. So-called enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques have been developed and have been partly success­fully applied to certain fields over the last decades to increase the production by a few percentages. However, these methods remain inefficient and expensive. Billions of barrels of unproduced hydrocarbons remain residually trapped in the pore space of the reservoirs.

To address these issues, Shell and FOM have initiated a joint Industrial Partnership Programme (IPP) to facilitate the exchange between academia and industry of relevant new ideas and to initiate pilot research programmes that aim to explore novel, physics-based methods to probe complex media , to develop novel new chemo-physical concepts and materials to extract residually trapped hydrocarbon and to develop novel modeling techniques to analyze the resulting data.

The scientific programme of the first round of this IPP will bring together projects that:

(i)   Probe fundamental aspects of acoustic waves in granular or heterogeneous media, in parti­cular in the strongly scattering and nonlinear regime or where the waves couple to electro-kinetic transport.
(ii)  Develop effective theory and model systems to capture these aspects of seismic waves. 
Shell has a leading position in the use of seismic techniques for oil and gas recovery, but the present day techniques may no longer be sufficient to uncover and assess the reserves in the class of fields that presently are being targeted for production.

The scientific programme of the second round will bring together projects that:
(i)   Develop novel nanophysical approaches for sensing, modifying and manipulation of (transport in) oil-gas reservoirs.
(ii)  Develop effective theory and model systems to capture these aspects of the flow and activity of (nano)particles.
Truly innovative approaches, in which fundamental physics can play a key role, form the basis of iPOG. It should be stressed that since an important goal of this IPP is to extend the range of methods available, exploratory research is encouraged, and the programme is organized 'bottom-up', i.e. with an open call for proposals.

The final evaluation of every round will be based on a self-evaluation report initiated by the programme leader at the end of that round.

Please find a research highlight that was achieved in 2013 within this FOM programme here.