Researchers from the University’s Masdar Institute Developed a Novel Quantum Mechanical Simulation Approach to Predict Carbonate Surface Wettability, which Enhances Understanding of Oil Reservoirs in the Region
Abu Dhabi-UAE: 04 November, 2017: A team of researchers from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology have proposed a quantum mechanical simulation technique to predict how liquids move across the surface of solid crystalline structures, which could enhance energy production from the region’s geological petroleum reservoirs. The Masdar Institute is part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology.
“The new technique for accurately predicting the wetting properties of carbonate minerals will play a key role in the reservoir characterization and modeling needed for Abu Dhabi to further advance towards its ambitious enhanced oil recovery targets,” said Dr. Steve Griffiths, Interim Executive Vice President for Research, Khalifa University of Science and Technology.
Dr. TieJun Zhang, faculty of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been leading a wettability research team, which includes postdoctoral researchers Dr. Jin-You Lu and Dr. Aikifa Raza, and PhD students Qiaoyu Ge and Hongxia Li.
A paper written by the research team that describes the novel simulation technique, titled “Direct Prediction of Calcite Surface Wettability with First-Principles Quantum Simulation,” was published in the latest edition of the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, which is a leading international scientific journal published by the esteemed American Chemical Society. The paper is part of an ongoing research project funded by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
The study of how a liquid interacts with and spreads out on the surface of a solid material is known as wettability. Understanding this fundamental phenomenon enables scientists and engineers to evaluate how easily one fluid can spread on or adhere to a solid surface in a certain environment. It has important implications for rock-geofluid interactions in hydrocarbon reservoirs, advanced materials in renewable energy production and water desalination, and many other applications.
With the ability to predict the subsurface wettability and its impact on the region’s carbonate reservoirs, new protocols can be developed to enhance oil recovery efforts and geological carbon sequestration, says Dr. Zhang.
To predict subsurface wettability, the team conducted a series of quantum simulations at the atomic level, which captures interactions between the molecules of a rock’s surface and various fluid molecules, such as water, oil, of gas.
Running the quantum simulation requires an enormous amount of computing power. In addition to the high-performance research computing facility at Masdar Institute, Dr. Zhang leveraged the high-performance cloud computing support from Alibaba Cloud – Middle East and Africa, which is headquartered in Dubai. The team then validated the simulation results through experiments in Masdar Institute’s state-of-the-art materials research labs.
“This work links atomic level physics to geological hydrocarbon reservoirs. To our best knowledge, this is the first reporting of direct wettability prediction from first-principles quantum mechanical simulation. This research helps to advance the UAE’s goal of harvesting more of its natural resources in an energy- and cost-efficient way,” said Dr. Zhang.
This groundbreaking research reflects the Khalifa University of Science and Technology’s commitment to ramping up fundamental local research efforts to support the evolution of key sectors in the UAE.