V8 - GEN - Lead Story

Efficiently Explorig New Fossil Fuel Sources

MTS Application Engineer Greg Pence discusses advanced technology for characterizing materials encountered while exploring new venues for oil and natural gas production.

Q: How is the fossil fuels industry changing?

Pence: As we all know, the world is seeing an ever-broadening gap between supply and demand for oil and natural gas. Meeting global energy demand has become the single-most pressing geopolitical issue of the day, with significant resources being dedicated toward resolving it.

This reality is pressuring energy conglomerates to seek new means of production, many of which involve pursuing fossil fuels from places that have been largely avoided to date, due to the difficulty of extracting them from these locations.

For example, the tar sands areas of Canada and Venezuela are rich in crude oil, but both require new ways for production in the unstable shale and sand substrates present in the ground. Little precedent exists on what is required physically of the equipment used for production in this manner.

Q: How does this situation impact universities and contract test labs?

Pence: Due to the growing volume of exploration initiatives, oil and natural gas companies are increasingly contracting out a portion of the R&D involved with exploring new means for efficiently extracting harder-to-reach resources.

This means that test labs and universities with the proper capabilities, especially the capacity to accurately characterize brittle materials, will be in an ideal position to take on some high-visibility and lucrative new work.

Q: What technology, if any, exists to support these new exploration demands?

Pence: Triaxial cell testing technology, available as an accessory option for the MTS Model 816 Multi-Purpose Concrete and Rock Test System, offers the ideal means of accurately profiling all types of materials that may be encountered during this type exploration and production.

Q: Why are triaxial cells so ideal for this purpose?

Pence: They’re designed for conducting laboratory tests that accurately simulate the in-situ conditions encountered in most geomechanical applications. Such applications involve high confining pressures, temperature extremes, and high-pressure pore fluids, along with various specimen stress states.

Equipped with this technology, energy companies — and the universities and test labs that support them — will get an accurate profile of a vast variety of rocks, sands, materials and substrates. This will shed insight on what types of structures, drill bits, and other physical equipment will be required to produce oil and natural gas from these alternate sources.

These organizations will arrive at new extraction methods faster, with less time-consuming equipment refinements prompted by product malfunctions in the field. They’ll know exactly how the equipment they design will perform before production begins, allowing them to extract hard-to-reach resources more efficiently and effectively.


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