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UK, Iran team develops new materials to improve enhanced oil recovery

A new class of materials which are suitable agents for displacing oil in enhanced oil recovery operations has been developed by scientists at Swansea University (UK) and scientists at Islamic Azad University in Iran. The new nanoparticle-surfactant complexes, composed of sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) surfactant and fumed silica nanoparticles (Si-NPs) improve oil recovery to 58% compared to 45% in the presence of the surfactant alone.

The researchers led by Goshtasp Cheraghian and Professor Andrew R. Barron reported their find in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Fabrication and testing of these materials were carried out by Goshtasp Cheraghian (Member of Young Researchers at Azad University) and Sajad Kiani, (a PhD student at the Energy Safety Research Institute at the Swansea University Bay Campus).

There, they used a 5-spot glass micromodel to evaluate the suitable agents for oil displacing in EOR. Such micromodel experiments have been used to investigate the mechanism of the fluid flow on porous mediums via flow visualization, pore space geometry, topology and heterogeneity effects, which are not possible to assess using traditional core-flood experiments.

It is a surprise that the addition of silica nanoparticles, essentially nano-sand, to the surfactant solution leads to such a large flow modification. The changes are due to an alteration of the viscosity as well as effective wettability alteration, which effects the sweeping of the oil towards the recovery point.

—Prof. Barron

The results of this work support an improved insight into the role of NPs and surfactants in enhanced oil recovery and future use in EOR formulations.

Co-authors of the papers are Dr Shirin Alexander a Sêr Cymru Research Fellow at Swansea University and Dr Nashaat Nassar an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Calgary, Canada. Barron is the Charles W. Duncan Jr.–Welch Professor of Chemistry and a professor of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University (Houston USA), and the Sêr Cymru Chair of Low Carbon Energy and Environment at Swansea.

This research was carried out with support from the Robert A. Welch Foundation, the Welsh Government Sêr Cymru II Fellowship Program, and FLEXIS, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government.


  • Goshtasp Cheraghian, Sajad Kiani, Nashaat N. Nassar, Shirin Alexander, and Andrew R. Barron (2017) “Silica Nanoparticle Enhancement in the Efficiency of Surfactant Flooding of Heavy Oil in a Glass Micromodel” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research doi: 10.1021/acs.iecr.7b01675



This is good discovery technologies for more cheaper oil. I said to stop taxing petroleum and give big subsidies to green technology like biofuels and batteries. Let the best tech win in a freer market.

I never saw a market so rigged as the car and energy market. Each and all bad energy is subsidized and all the cheap plentiful stuff is taxed. All the money is going toward rich politicians and scientists and high financial international institutions. The word science is manipulated by many pseudo-scientific incompetant bloggers here that not even know what a spark plug is doing in an ice and after they discuss the power densities of different battery chemistry.


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