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Tech Scientists Take New Technology To Petroleum Showcase

MIDLAND, Texas January 29, 2010 – Four New Mexico Tech scientists will be featured at an oil and gas research showcase in Midland, Texas, on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, or RPSEA, is hosting a daylong Small Producer Program Showcase at the University of Texas-Permian Basin. The event features scientists funded by the program and administrative talks about applying for funding.

Martha Cather is the industrial technology coordinator at the Petroleum Recovery Research Center at Tech and serves as RPSEA’s coordinator of the Small Producer Program. This showcase is the first of its kind, she said.

Cather will give a lunch-hour presentation on how to effectively apply for research funding. Dr. Lianxiong Li and Dr. Robert Balch, both PRRC researchers, and Tech professor Dr. Tom Engler will present updates on their research projects that are funded through the Small Producer Program.

Cather said the Small Producer Program focuses on technological advances that can be implemented by independent operators to improve efficiency and profitability.

“The biggest challenge isn’t finding more oil,” she said. “The challenge is getting more oil out of the ground and cutting costs – anything we can do to help producers improve profit margins.”

Li is designing a low-temperature distillation unit to treat brackish water produced by the petroleum industry. Cather said “produced water” is a bane of the petroleum industry. A typical oil well produces 10 barrels of water for every barrel of oil. Once pumped from the ground, that water either needs to be treated to remove pollutants or re-injected. Dr. Li is among several scientists at New Mexico Tech working on developing new low-cost methods of cleaning produced water.

Balch will discuss changes to management rules regulating pits, closed loop systems, below-grade tanks and sumps for oil and gas operations in New Mexico. Small producers with limited specialized staff and ability to absorb substantial unexpected expenses are most strongly affected.  The PRRC has created The New Mexico Pit Rule Mapping Portal which generates maps of potential site regulatory issues using government recommended data and should reduce time needed for evaluation, form preparation and compliance to the new siting criteria.     

Engler’s research involves new cost-saving methods of water-flooding small oil reservoirs. His methods are designed to extend the productivity of small, mature oil fields.

Other speakers are from Texas A&M, the University of Kansas, Missouri-Rolla and the University of Texas-Permian Basin. Cather said she expects 60 to 70 industry engineers and executives to attend the conference. Cather said she’s asked each speaker to focus on the application of their research and how companies can benefit from scientific findings.

“We are doing scientific research for near-term application,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll save producers some money down the line.”

New Mexico Tech is a founding member of RPSEA, which is a non-profit corporation that aims to maximize domestic hydrocarbon output. The organization aims to promote research, development and deployment of new, safe technology that enhances production.
For more information, directions or to register for the event, visit www.rpsea.org.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech