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KFU scientists are working on highly-efficient underground catalysts

The new catalysts can work under low temperatures and pressures and also in the absence of air

As we told you before, the project of young researchers from Alexander Butlerov Institute of Chemistry Ilnaz Rakipov and Artyom Petrov won a prize at the contest of academic research works among students and postgraduates of Russia’s petroleum universities, conducted by “Tatneft”. The contest aims to support the most significant projects in 2 vast directions – oil production and oil refining. Ilnaz Rakipov and Artyom Petrov participated in the section “Oil extraction”. Their project “Thermocatalytic retorting of heavy crude oil in the reservoir” received the 2nd prize. As it turns out, the place is not that important – absolutely all prizewinners can count themselves winners for they managed to capture the attention of major industrial companies.

Our project is rather fundamental in its nature – we study how the catalysts’ structure affects the changes in oil’s physicochemical features. However, the results of our findings can be applied in underground oil refining. That’s why we appreciate ‘Tatneft”’s interest in our studies, they saw huge possibilities for oil recovery enhancement in reservoirs with challenged reserves. For us it’s a priceless experience of working with such companies. Because right after the results of the contest had been announced, a mentor from the company was assigned to us – we will continue the work together. And that is a brand new level. I hope they’ll help us to conduct further experiments directly in the oil field – that was our initial goal when we applied for the competition”, – said Ilnaz Rakipov, one of the project’s authors and Alexander Butlerov Institute of Chemistry postgraduate.

According to Ilnaz, their work is in its own way unique and interesting. The young researchers are solving the problem of using the catalysts directly in the well, i.e. in unusual conditions. The fact is that to activate the catalysts during oil refining, as a rule, high temperature is required (no less than 400°C). This condition is practically impossible underground. However, the scientists of research laboratory “Rheologic and thermal research” managed to find a way to increase the efficiency of the catalysts in these conditions.

Ilnaz Rakipov shared the secret with us: “When loading the catalysts into the well there is a problem of their early activation, so there’s a chance they won’t get to the reservoir. That’s why we want to use precursors based on iron, for example, iron carbonyl. It will allow us to get the catalysts directly to the point of activation – when the temperature rises up to 150°C carbonyl will decay and we’ll get the catalyst we need – iron oxide”.

It should be mentioned that the project is part of SAU “EcoOil – Global energy and resources for the materials of the future” lead by KFU vice-rector for scientific activities Danis Nurgaliev. Apart from research laboratory “Rheologic and thermal research”, other departments were involved in the studies – Alexander Butlerov Institute of Chemistry’s Department of Physical Chemistry and Institute of Geology and Petroleum Technologies. The head of SAU “EcoOil” Danis Nurgaliev talked about the efficiency of the group’s work at a past board meeting of OAO “Tatneftekhiminvest-holding” where the President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov was present. During the meeting D. Nurgaliev announced that the main aim of the SAU is the search of new technologies of recovering unconventional hydrocarbons. And certain improvements in that area are linked to the works of research laboratory “Rheologic and thermal research”.

Another supervisor of the project, 5 course student of Alexander Butlerov Institute of Chemistry Artyom Petrov told us: “Our task is to increase the recovery of super-viscous oils and native bitumen. For that it is essential to decrease viscosity of such hydrocarbons. Our catalysts managed to increase the content of paraffin and to decrease the resin content, without changing the concentration of asphaltene . As a result, we decreased the oil velocity down to 40%”.

Ilnaz and Artyom also are working on synthesis of brand new organic-based nanoscale catalysts. They will allow to effectively refine heavy crude oil directly in the well minimizing environmental risks due to conservation of harmful components underground. It will also increase the oil production.