Understanding physics could lead to big gains in shale oil recovery

IMAGE: Penn StateMichael Cronin, graduate student in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering; Russell Johns, George E. Trimble Chair in Earth and Mineral Sciences and professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering; and Hamid Emami-Meybodi, assistant professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering, recently published results of their Enhanced Oil Recovery JIP in the Society of Petroleum Engineers Journal. Oil companies are missing out on vast sums of recoverable oil in unconventional reservoirs, according to the study. The researchers propose that companies are applying tried-and-true transport mechanisms for conventional oil extraction but are hitting recovery stumbling blocks because they are not accounting for the difference in physics found at unconventional reservoirs. The Enhanced Oil Recovery Joint Industry Project in the EMS Energy Institute funded this research.    

 IMAGE: Penn State

Chris Marone, professor of geosciencesMarone awarded Louis Nèel Medal by European Geosciences Union

Chris Marone, professor of geosciences, was selected to receive the European Geosciences Union’s 2019 Louis Néel Medal. The medal is awarded to individuals in recognition of outstanding achievements in rock magnetism, rock physics, and geomaterials. Marone was selected for his “seminal contributions to the understanding of fault mechanics and earthquake generating processes and for innovation in experimental techniques and apparatus development.” He was also recognized for his role in relating laboratory research to earthquake seismology and in integrating fault mechanics into earthquake physics as a whole.



Research predicts size, magnitude, timing of lab earthquakes

IMAGE: Penn StateChris Marone, professor of geosciences, along with a team of researchers from Penn State and Los Alamos National Laboratory, was able to predict the magnitude, time, and duration of earthquakes in a laboratory setting. This research improves our understanding of earthquakes and could eventually lead to prediction measures in real-life scenarios. The results were published in a recent issue of Nature Geosciences. The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation supported this research.

IMAGE: Penn State

IMAGE: Patricia CraigResearcher to study Earth's subsurface stress during oil and gas production

Amin Mehrabian, assistant professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering, was recently awarded a $110,000 grant from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund to study subsurface stress in hydrocarbon reservoirs. This fundamental research could potentially help better plan wells, drill less-costly wells, produce more efficiently from wells, and maintain overall well integrity during the production life of the wells.

IMAGE: Patricia Craig

Sloan Foundation grant looks at energy market structure for wind integration

IMAGE: NASAChiara Lo Prete, assistant professor of energy economics, was awarded a $250,000 grant for early career researchers from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to examine the effectiveness of energy market structures in aggregating private information on wind production forecasts to better coordinate commitment and production decisions in electric systems. Uday V. Shanbhag, the Gary and Sheila Bello Chair and professor of industrial engineering, and Anthony Kwasnica, professor of risk management, are also working on the project.




NSF grant aims to enhance resilience of U.S. electricity grids

Chiara Lo Prete, assistant professor of energy economics, was awarded a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study economic mechanisms for grid resilience against extreme events and natural gas disruptions. The three-year award is part of NSF's Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes program, which supports integrated research by interdisciplinary teams of engineers and social scientists to enhance resilience of critical infrastructures. As the U.S. share of electricity generated from natural gas continues to increase, power systems and gas networks are becoming increasingly intertwined. This research will quantify the need for resilience in an electrical system that heavily relies on natural gas as fuel and examine the economic mechanisms needed to incentivize efficient resilience investments.

Penn State chosen by Department of Energy to help modernize the power grid

IMAGE: © ISTOCK IMAGES / METAMORWORKSChiara Lo Prete, assistant professor of energy economics; Uday V. Shanbhag, the Gary and Sheila Bello Chair and professor of industrial engineering; and Mort Webster, professor of energy and mineral engineering, were one of only ten university teams chosen for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Grid Optimization Competition. Announced by the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, the competition challenges researchers from universities and national laboratories to solve the fundamental issues facing the electricity infrastructure, while addressing the concerns that widespread renewable energy sources will introduce in the future. The team also includes Hosam Fathy, the Bryant Early Career Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Nilanjan Ray Chaudhuri, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science; and Minghui Zhu, assistant professor of electrical engineering.


Seventieth Anniversary Celebration at Dalian University of Technology
Seventieth Anniversary Celebration at Dalian University of Technology

EMS Energy Institute director honored with distinguished alumni award

Chunshan Song, Distinguished Professor of Fuel Science in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering and director of the EMS Energy Institute, was awarded the Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award in the category of alumni achievement on June 16, 2019 at the Seventieth Anniversary Celebration at Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China. Song was one of ten recipients, honored for his research achievements in energy, fuels, catalysis, and carbon dioxide.

Energy and mineral engineering researchers receive best paper award from SPE

By Ashley Nottingham

Hamid Emami-Meybodi and Michael Cronin were awarded the 2019 Cedric K. Ferguson Medal, and Russell Johns was awarded the 2019 Cedric K. Ferguson Certificate from the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) for the best paper published in 2018 in a SPE journal. They were presented with the international awards at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition held Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Calgary, Canada.

The SPE Cedric K. Ferguson Medal honors professional achievement in petroleum engineering. Medals are awarded for the best paper to authors younger than 36 years old and certificates are awarded to co-authors older than 36.

Cronin, a graduate student in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering (EME), Emami-Meybodi, assistant professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering, and Russell Johns, professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering, were selected for their paper titled Diffusion-Dominate Proxy Model for Solvent Injection in Ultratight Oil Reservoirs.

IMAGE: Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)

IMAGE: Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)

“Our work examines the transport of condensed fluids in shales from a new perspective, one that does not rely on conventional advective frameworks but rather on diffusion,” said Emami-Meybodi. “This is important because our approach honors the true physics, with diffusion coefficients that are self-consistent and naturally entrain the influencing variables like pressure, temperature and concentration. This award represents a much welcome validation of our work and emboldens us to continue our efforts.”

Cronin joined the EME department as a doctoral student in fall 2016 and hopes this research will inform reservoir decisions.

“I hope that our research guides reservoir development decisions and provides a stepping-stone towards future research. I am thrilled beyond measure and humbled to have been recognized for this award,” said Cronin.

According to the researchers, including the physics of diffusion improved recovery efficiency.

“Oil and gas shale reservoirs are very important to the welfare of the United States,” said Johns. “Diffusion likely explains why injection of a solvent, such as carbon dioxide, could increase recoveries significantly from the very low recoveries currently observed in oil shale reservoirs—around 5% of oil in place. Through a better understanding of physics, we may be able to improve the recovery efficiency for each well, reducing environmental impact. It’s really good to have this research be recognized.”

About the co-authors

Cronin earned a master’s degree in geological sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and dual bachelor’s degrees in petroleum and natural gas engineering and geosciences with honors from Penn State. Before starting his doctoral degree, Cronin worked as a geologist/reservoir modeler in Anadarko’s reservoir technology group. He is the current deputy managing editor of The Way Ahead, an SPE publication for young professionals.

Emami-Meybodi joined EME in 2015 following ten years in academia at the University of Calgary, Canada, and the Petroleum University of Technology, Iran. His research has been centered on the study of fluid flow and transport phenomena in porous media, spanning both applied and fundamental aspects. Emami-Meybodi has authored and co-authored more than 30 technical publications. He is the current faculty adviser for the SPE Student Chapter at Penn State. He is also the recipient of 2018 SPE Regional Reservoir Description and Dynamics Award.  

Johns is a former recipient of the Cedric K. Ferguson medal in 1994. He is also a recipient of 2016 Reservoir Description and Dynamics Award from SPE International. Johns is the current George E. Trimble Chair in Energy and Mineral Sciences and the Energi Simulation Chair in Fluid Behavior and Rock Interactions. He is also the director of the Enhanced Oil Recovery Join Industry Project (EOR-JIP).

Coda waves reveal carbon dioxide storage plume

Tieyuan Zhu, professor of geophysics, and Chris Marone, professor of geosciences, as well as researchers from Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, are using previously ignored seismic waves to pinpoint and track carbon dioxide gas clouds in an effort to better keep track of the plume when pumping it into the ground to remove it from the atmosphere. The DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory supported this work.

Coda waves vs P waves for post- and pre-CO2 injection
Coda waves vs P waves for post- and pre-CO2 injection