Nanotechnology Q&A

Enhancing Hydrocarbon Recovery

Drilling Deeper into the Science

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

What is Femto scale? Isn't smaller better?

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.

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.

“Femtotechnology”, for now, has no practical application and is considered hypothetical by futuristic scientists and engineers.

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.

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 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, reducing, or modifying pathways for fluid flow.

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.

Nanotechnology consistently outperforms traditional surfactant technology because of the physical/mechanical mechanisms involved. Nanoparticles are often also naturally attracted to the oil-water interface. 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.

Do nanoActiv® particles come back with the oil?

Due to the way they are designed (hydrophilic), nanoActiv® particles might show up in the produced water, but not in the oil. The quantities likely to return are very small, based on field data. As such, there is no impact on oil specifications or on refineries.

Can we tell how far nanoActiv® particles will travel — can we trace them?

Due to their size (too small), it is very challenging to trace nanoActiv® particles. Some research is underway to try to discover where the particles go.

Are there any HSE issues related to handling nanoActiv® HRT?

No. Normal PPE is enough. The particles are simply silicon dioxide with a patent-pending special surface coating (to make them withstand the harsh environment inside a well).

What is the quantity of nanoActiv® material required? Will the technology work on heavy oil/bitumen?

Each application needs to be designed specifically for the reservoir/fluids and various other parameters of a particular well. Different types require different volumes and concentrations of nanoActiv®. After providing the data required from the operator, NCA will advise on do-ability and viability for the suggested application, from both technical and economic aspects.

Can nanoActiv® be useful without frac’ing?

Yes. Frac’ing is only one application out of many, but is where the positive impact of using nanoActiv® has been demonstrated in hundreds of wells. nanoActiv® can be used in already frac’ed wells, depleted wells, and in many other cases.

Can nanoActiv® be used with acid?

Acid can impact the particles’ coating. Hence, it has to be spent before nanoActiv® is pumped. We generally pump water spacers before and after pumping nanoActiv® to make sure nanoActiv® does not come in contact with acid.

Will nanoActiv® work with gas?

We have seen many instances with increased oil and gas production. Intuitively, this would also make sense, as lighter density fluids should be easier to recover. We have recently pumped in gas-only wells and are waiting for more data.

Can nanoActiv® HRT withstand high temperatures?

There are two versions of nanoActiv® HRT. The higher temperature version can withstand up to 180° C (350° F).

Can nanoActiv® withstand high salinity?

  • Up to 100k mg/l: there is no issue at all.
  • Between 100k and 200k mg/l: can work but needs lab testing to confirm specific cases.
  • Above 200k mg/l: not likely to work, will still run compatibility testing to confirm.

What is an ideal scenario for an optimal result from using nanoActiv®?

Naturally fractured reservoir, oil-wet, tight, and low permeability along with fractures away from aquifers are the ideal scenarios. In all cases, candidate wells will be discussed and screened with involvement of both parties (operator and technology provider).

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.

nanoActiv® is made in the USA · Patent Pending