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Alchemy Sciences Donates $2.5 Million to Support UW Enhanced Oil Recovery Research

April 4, 2017
Mohammad Piri in an enhanced oil recovery lab at UW.
An international leader, Mohammad Piri is the director of the Center of Innovation for Flow Through Porous Media.

The University of Wyoming announced April 4 that $2.5 million in funding from Alchemy Sciences Inc. will support research on enhanced oil recovery and production.

“Alchemy Sciences is delighted to embark on a long-term partnership with this elite energy research university to engineer game-changing advances in the recovery of unconventional and conventional hydrocarbon resources,” says Jacob Thomas, CEO of Alchemy Sciences Inc.

“Through Alchemy and with the University of Wyoming, Melior is looking forward to rapidly delivering novel solutions that will have a substantial impact on the oil and gas industry,” says Mark Land, founder and CEO of Melior Innovations, which created Alchemy Sciences Inc.

“Today’s gift from Alchemy Sciences is a shot in the arm for advanced research at the University of Wyoming,” says Gov. Matt Mead. “The College of Engineering and School of Energy Resources at UW are hubs for innovations and for research not being done anywhere else. I thank Alchemy Sciences for its generous support of the important work taking place at our university.”

The funding supports the work of the School of Energy Resources Center of Innovation for Flow in Porous Media, as well as a chair in the UW Department of Petroleum Engineering. This support will leverage additional funding from the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the state of Wyoming.

About 50-70 percent of the original oil remains stranded in the world’s aging fields and, therefore, research in the Center of Innovation for Flow in Porous Media provides a better understanding of characteristics of oil reservoirs and how to effectively enhance recovery using innovative recovery processes and technologies. This work has resulted in significant collaborations with private industry.

The result will be increased oil recovery and increased revenue for all stakeholders, including industry, federal and state government, and UW.

“Alchemy Sciences’s gift is a great example of how public-private partnerships serve the state and move research forward,” UW President Laurie Nichols says. “It helps UW -- and Wyoming -- prepare for the future by supporting engineering and oil and gas research. We have Alchemy Sciences to thank for this excellent opportunity.”

“The relationship between UW and Alchemy Sciences Inc. is critical to our goal of continuing to be a pre-eminent research institution, particularly in areas of importance to Wyoming,” says Michael Pishko, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “Addressing complex questions for the energy industries, including improving oil and gas recovery, remains one of the most significant areas of focus at UW. This funding will ensure we are leaders in energy technology innovation for years to come.”

An international leader, Mohammad Piri is the director of the Center of Innovation for Flow in Porous Media. He is the Wyoming Excellence Chair in Petroleum Engineering and an associate professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering. Piri earned his Ph.D. in petroleum engineering at England’s Imperial College London and pursued postdoctoral studies at Princeton University.

Research in this center is geared toward developing a significantly better understanding of multiscale physics of flow and transport in man-made and naturally occurring porous media. This center has developed a vibrant research program to fill the knowledge gaps in the current state-of-the-art experimentation and modeling of multiphase displacement mechanisms in mixed-wet porous systems.

This research has application in key technologies for energy and the environment. Piri and his research group strive to bridge the gap between fundamentals and applications in porous media flow systems consistent with fundamental scientific needs of the industry. Some of the specific research topics include enhanced hydrocarbon recovery from unconventional and conventional reservoirs, two- and three-phase relative permeabilities (measurement and prediction), wettability in porous media, pore-scale modeling of multiphase displacement processes, and CO2 sequestration and leakage.

Because multiphase and multicomponent flow and transport are still poorly understood, effective and safe strategies for hydrocarbon extraction from tight formations are limited. The results of the center's fundamental research, in the form of published experimental data and predictive modeling software, provide key insight into energy problems significant to the state of Wyoming, the nation and the world.

Current research is already being used by other research centers at UW and will be subject to broader field-scale testing and potential regulatory adoption.

This contribution is directly connected to the university’s Tier-1 Engineering Initiative. The goals of the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative are to elevate UW’s College of Engineering and Applied Science to national prominence in undergraduate and graduate education and in select areas of research, and to significantly enhance economic development in Wyoming.

The Tier-1 Engineering Initiative was prompted by the work of the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering, and STEM Integration Task Force. Gov. Mead created the task force in 2012 to address the Legislature’s charge “to lead the university toward a Tier-1 academic and research institution in areas of excellence appropriate for Wyoming.”

Alchemy Sciences Inc., a Melior company established in 2016, is focused on materially impacting unconventional and conventional asset economics by dramatically increasing recovery factors. Melior Innovations Inc. creates transformative solutions in established markets with expeditious paths to commercialization.

The press conference took place in Cheyenne in the Kendrick Gallery. Speakers included Mead, Nichols and Thomas. Also present at the event were Land; Alchemy Sciences board members Tim Probert and Tim Moeller; and Piri.

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