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UW Faculty Members Lead Research on Phase Behavior of Fluids Confined in Nanoporous Media

September 18, 2020
man using lab equipment
Morteza Dejam, a UW assistant professor of petroleum engineering, works in his lab. Dejam and Hertanto Adidharma, a UW professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, are UW lead authors of a paper, titled “Binary fluid mixtures confined in nanoporous media: Experimental evidence of no phase coexistence,” that was published online Sept. 12 in Chemical Engineering Journal. (Huan Yang Photo)

Two University of Wyoming researchers are leading a team that is studying phase behavior of nanoconfined pure fluids and fluid mixtures that are crucial for recovery mechanisms in ultratight shale oil reservoirs, where nanopores represent a majority of the total pores.

“For the first time, it has been experimentally proven that binary fluid mixtures confined in nanoporous media, at a specified bulk composition, behave similarly to nanoconfined pure fluids, but not to their bulk mixture counterparts,” says Hertanto Adidharma, a UW professor of chemical and petroleum engineering. “Therefore, there is no phase envelope for confined fluid mixtures in nanopores.”

“Since accurate experimental data on phase transition of nanoconfined fluid mixtures at specified bulk compositions became available and easy to obtain using the approach presented in this research, theoretical works can now be performed, validated and compared consistently,” adds Morteza Dejam, a UW assistant professor of petroleum engineering.

The new study, titled “Binary fluid mixtures confined in nanoporous media: Experimental evidence of no phase coexistence,” was published online Sept. 12 in Chemical Engineering Journal, an international journal that publishes original fundamental research, interpretative reviews and discussion of new developments in chemical engineering. Papers published by this journal represent significant advances and new developments in the area of chemical reaction engineering, environmental chemical engineering, and materials synthesis and processing.

Adidharma and Dejam were UW lead authors of the paper. Xingdong Qiu, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at UW majoring in petroleum engineering, and Sugata Tan, senior scientist with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., also significantly contributed to the paper.

The phase behavior of fluid mixtures confined in nanopores is considerably less understood than that of confined pure fluids, according to the paper. Most extensive studies in the past few decades have focused on confined pure fluids.

In a matter closely related to their research, Adidharma and Dejam filed a U.S. patent, titled “Methods and systems for isochoric measurements using differential scanning calorimetry,” which addresses the fundamentals behind the experimental study on the phase behavior of fluids confined in bulk and nanopores.

This research is taking place in Adidharma’s laboratory, where the group is using a micro-Differential Scanning Calorimetry (micro-DSC), and in Dejam’s laboratory, where the group is using the established High Pressure/High Temperature Differential Scanning Calorimetry (HPHT DSC). The instrument can measure samples of gases, liquids and solids in a wider range of operating conditions than other existing instruments. As a result, this works well for many applications such as catalysis, carbon dioxide sequestration, drug delivery, enhanced coalbed methane recovery, pollution control and separation, as well as hydrocarbon production from shale and other tight formations. Both micro-DSC and HPHT DSC can operate under either vacuum, atmospheric or pressurized conditions.

“The outcomes of research using the HPHT DSC can significantly impact decision-making with regard to the development strategies and production forecasts for ultratight shale reservoirs,” Dejam says.

The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The establishment of the HPHT DSC was financially supported by UW’s Office of Research and Economic Development, Setaram Inc. and a designated special gift from Richard and Marilyn Lynch.

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