According to researchers from the University of Wyoming, nanotechnology could revolutionize the natural gas industry. They say that nanotechnology 'could help us extract more fuel and feedstock hydrocarbons from dwindling resources.' However, they recognize that the oil and gas exploration and production industry is not very innovative. If the sector doesn't accept the idea that nanotechnologies can help them to face their increasing technical challenges, this could represent a missed opportunity to improve the industry, both for exploration and production.
So what would be the benefits of using nanotechnologies during the exploration process? "Mokhatab and Towler point out that nanomaterials, such as nanotubes or engineered porous minerals, might be used in gas fields or other sources to improve the efficiency of extraction of a wide variety of hydrocarbon fuel compounds and chemical feedstocks."
And what about production of natural gas? "Similarly, related nanomaterials might be used to improve purification and storage of hydrocarbons, while yet other nanomaterials might be used in environmental remediation, allowing contaminated sites to be cleaned up of harmful pollutants. Nanomaterials might even be developed as corrosion inhibitors for equipment and at the same time, more sophisticated nanotechnology could be developed as solid-state gas sensors for air pollution monitoring."
The researchers are quite enthusiastic about the future use of nanotechnology by the natural gas industry. "'The past decade has seen explosive growth worldwide in the synthesis and study of a wide range of nanostructured materials, the building blocks of nanotechnology,' the researchers explain. 'Investigations of mechanical, chemical, electrical, magnetic, and optical behavior of nanostructured materials have demonstrated the possibilities to engineer the properties of these new materials for a wide range of applications.'"
For more information, this research work has been published in Inderscience's International Journal of Nanotechnology uner the name "Nanomaterials hold promise in natural gas industry" (Volume 4, Issue 6, Pages 680-690, 2007).
Here is the abstract. "The gas industry represents a major prospect for substantial, near-term adoption of nanoscale technologies with sustained benefits. Importantly, the gas industry employs materials and processes particularly suited to improvement through application of nanoscale technologies. Designing and creating materials at the nanoscale often leads to products that achieve exceptional performance – possibly enabling more efficient and less expensive manufacturing processes. The commercialisation of new nanomaterials promises to have a profound effect on multiple industries in the coming decades. Depending on the application, nanomaterials are incorporated into a wide variety of hydrocarbon extraction, gas separations, solid-state gas sensors for air pollution monitoring, nanoadsorbent materials for environmental separations, and corrosion inhibitors that are used in a broad range of gas industry markets. In this paper, recent advances in nanomaterial-derived technologies are presented as examples of how nanomaterials might be used to create new developments in the natural gas industry."
Sources: University of Wyoming news release, October 30, 2007; and various websites
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