“NanoProbes” for Oil Reservoir Sensing and Intervention

M.E. Poitzsch
Aramco Research Center,
United States

Keywords: sensor, nanoprobe, oil


The oil industry faces a “measurements gap” between the high-resolution, near-wellbore logging measurements used for reserves estimation and the coarse-resolution but deeply-penetrating seismic images used as an exploration tool. Within this gap of hundreds of meters depth and a few meters spatial resolution occur most reservoir production problems and interventions. Could nanotechnology help to image in this measurements gap? The basic properties of the reservoir rock and fluids, and their interactions (such as wettability) are the high-priority targets. In particular, heterogeneities of the reservoir, boundaries of compartments, natural fractures, and faults are all crucial to detect and quantify. The flow paths of reservoir fluids must be understood. A typical problem is early breakthrough of injected water used to sweep oil production toward producer wells. Nanoparticles could enhance the contrast of mobile reservoir fluids with respect to their far-field imaging by acoustic or electromagnetic means. Artificial hydraulic fractures could also be an important target for enhanced-contrast imaging, particularly if this imaging could be achieved in real time during the stimulation process and could delineate the placement of the proppant particles. Retrieving “tracer” NanoProbes that have traversed interesting volumes of the reservoir and recorded significant information may be the most powerful imaging modality. Complex molecular structures could be a way to realize NanoProbe functionality at the tiniest sizes. Chemical or physical modification of these molecules along their route through the reservoir could offer insights as to the environments they had encountered. In the years ahead, innovative schemes based on deeply-penetrating nanoparticles will illuminate significant features of reservoirs under production and enhanced-recovery intervention, yielding information of unprecedented accuracy and resolution and in time to improve oil recovery!