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Kazan University Working on Fuels of the Future

KFU’s research of gas hydrates has attracted attention from industry giants.

Gas hydrates have gradually moved into the global spotlight recently. Their estimated reserves range from 200 trillion to a whopping 1 quadrillion cubic meters, according to some opinions.

As it appears, gas hydrates were one of five priorities assigned to SAU EcoOil in 2016. Such a choice was a surprise to many experts – scientists estimate various oil reserves in Russia to be sufficient for another 200 years of steady extraction (including viscous and shale oils). Moreover, KFU had never tackled gas hydrates before that announcement was made.

In less than a year the new research group was able to draw attention from several companies interested in gas hydrates. The technology which was the main attraction is kinetic inhibitors – special chemical compounds which slow down the process of gas hydrate formation. They can help solve many problems in hydrocarbon extraction in the Far North and the Arctic, including difficulties with transportation.

Arkady Zhukov, Senior Research Associate of Rheological and Thermochemical Research Lab, explains, “The formation of gas hydrates is mostly linked to negative processes in offshore oil and gas extraction. That is, for example, decrease or even total stoppage of oil flow in a pipeline because of gas hydrate deposits on inner walls. Hydrates are formed under certain conditions. We study these conditions, pay attention to how gas hydrates appear and dissolve. Here is where kinetic inhibitors come into the picture. They can increase the timeframe of gas hydrate formation, which helps in transportation, and can also decrease temperatures, which helps preserving oils in liquid state in a broader temperature range”.

Kinetic inhibitors are much more effective than currently used thermodynamic inhibitors; that’s why Gazprom and Occidental have already expressed their interest. Negotiations with the former are ongoing.

ENSTA ParisTech is KFU’s major partner in this important endeavor. Professor Didier Dalmazonevisited the University this year to give lectures on gas hydrates.

In his interview to our correspondent he noted, “Gas hydrates are a very promising resource from effectiveness and eco-friendliness standpoints, so it definitely has a future. The issue is that it is a new direction, so it needs huge investment and resources, both financial and human. I have noticed that your University doesn’t have problems with both. I am amazed by your research centers, laboratories, and technical infrastructure. That’s why I am sure that you will succeed in gas hydrates as well”.

Another interesting sphere of inquiry is methane emission by gas hydrates. The research is done within a breakthrough project called “Oil source beds, shales and hydrocarbon reservoirs as underestimated sources of greenhouse methane emission”. We have covered this ongoing work in our news.