Technology Q&A

nanoActiv®     |     Enhancing Hydrocarbon Recovery

Drilling Deeper into the Science

Q: What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology refers mainly to engineered particles that range from 1–100 nanometers in size. A nanometer (nm) is one-billionth of a meter, equivalent to one-millionth of a millimeter, and one-thousandth of a micron. For comparison, a piece of copy paper is 100 microns thick—in nanometers this is 100,000nm thick. A human hair is about 75 microns in diameter or 75,000nm. Also, a red blood cell is 5 microns wide, this is 5,000nm.

Nano Scale Comparison

Q: What is Femto scale?

A Femtometer is one-millionth of a nanometer. When used appropriately, this size scale is used to describe subatomic particles. For example, a proton is about 1 femtometer in size and an electron is about 0.15 femtometers in size. Subatomic particles don’t typically exist outside of atoms in nature. It is not appropriate to use femtometers to describe normal inorganic or organic molecules—these are typically angstroms, nanometers, or micrometers in size.

Q: What is Sodium Metasilicate?

Sodium metasilicate is Na₂SiO₃, a form of waterglass. The molecules of this chemical are of the normal angstrom or nanometer scale. Also known in the dissolved form as waterglass— it is a reactive chemical used for sealing pores and causing colloidal particles to sediment out of solution. The most common use in oilfield chemistry is in drilling fluids as a borehole stabilizer—where the pore sealing properties are useful. When exposed to variable pH, dissolved alkali earth metals (like calcium or dissolved salts of calcium) or dissolved organic materials, Na₂SiO₃ is prone to polymerization. This is the main reason it is used as a borehole stabilizer and even as a zone sealant/water shutoff agent.

Q: What types of chemistries are safe to use downhole?

Materials that are not prone to polymerization are safe to use downhole. Sodium silicates are reactive and prone to polymerization—this is exactly what makes them useful in many other commercial applications. This tendency makes them dangerous to use downhole. These materials are an excellent choice for plugging and sealing pores in shale, sandstone, and carbonate lithologies—not for removing more oil and gas from your well. Some major oilfield companies have patented the use of sodium silicate/waterglass type chemistry for stopping fluid flow.

Q: How do surfactants work and why is nanotechnology better?

Surfactants are nanometer and angstrom scale organic molecules that have a water-loving side and an oil-loving side of the molecule. This dual property is what makes them good at making oily type molecules more soluble in water. The oil-loving side of a surfactant molecule can associate with an oily molecule (crude oil) and the water-loving side of the surfactant molecule makes the whole thing dissolve in water better.

This dual property also allows surfactants to alter wettability of certain rock formations. The water loving side of a surfactant molecule can associate with a rock surface, which causes the oil-loving side of the molecule to attach to the rock surface also—altering the wettability of that rock surface (making it more oil-loving). Surfactants are good for solubilizing small amounts of oil and altering the wettability of certain rock formations. The effect is temporary and requires a great deal of expensive surfactant to work.

Nanotechnology consistently outperforms traditional surfactant technology because of the physical effect it applies. Nanoparticles are naturally attracted to the oil-water interface due to a reduction in surface tension energy. nanoActiv® takes advantage of this tendency and employs diffusion-driven Brownian motion to wedge hydrocarbons from rock surfaces. Surfactants simply attempt to coax hydrocarbons out using a chemical effect. nanoActiv® reaches deep and uses a brute-force physical effect to drive oil from the formation.

Q: Why Nissan Chemical?

Nissan Chemical has been perfecting nanoparticles since 1951, making it one of the first companies in the world to produce highly surface-modified particles for industrial applications. Our years of experience, proprietary materials, and patented technologies have helped us become a worldwide leading provider of refined nanoparticle solutions.