ISS experiments improve our knowledge of oil reservoirs buried kilometres underground

More accurate numerical modelling of oil fields far underground provides for greater efficiency in oil exploration strategies, and reducing industrial costs and any potential environmental impacts by decreasing the number of exploratory wells. Improving these models requires accurate thermo-physical data such as thermo-diffusion coefficients, which are impossible to measure on Earth owing to the convection induced by gravity. ESA is enabling significant research in this process using the ISS and different orbital capsules and testing different mixtures in weightlessness to determine such thermo-diffusion data. This has covered a mixture of different binary, ternary and more complex hydrocarbon samples, representative of oil field samples. The latest set of these experiments on the Chinese SJ-10 orbital capsule in 2016 was undertaken with active participation of the French TOTAL and Chinese Petrochina oil companies. This determined for instance accurate data for a four component hydrocarbon mixture at pressures 400 times normal atmospheric pressure at sea level. Gathering such unique data, under such testing experiment conditions, is very positive not only for the influence this has on the accuracy of associated numerical models but also for the continuance of such experiments in this area in the future, addressing in particular samples containing CO2 in relation to carbon dioxide sequestration issues.

Oil & Gas
Improving Efficiency in Oil Exploration through Numerical Modelling
Jennifer Ngo-Anh