Nanotechnology has enormous potential in the oil industry, with numerous applications currently under investigation.  These include, for example, improvements in material design for enhanced resistance to corrosion or erosion, improved and enhanced oil recovery, improved understanding of reservoirs through use of nanosensors, nanocoatings that prevent the adherence of deposits, and use of nanotechnology in drilling and completion fluids along with production chemicals.

The key word with regard to nanotechnology applications in the oil industry is “potential.” Realizing that potential is another matter. A survey of SPE papers published in 2013 describing nanotechnology applications that have been implemented in the field showed only two. There are, of course, numerous explanations for the apparent lack of papers describing field experiences, with the most obvious being that we are in an early-phase technology development and it will take time for new products to emerge in the marketplace. Our industry can be cautious when it comes to new technology, and this resistance to change could be another factor here.

A further influence is the potentially unknown consequences of introducing nano-technology into the environment. For example, much research is focused on the environmental effect of releasing nanoparticles and the potential health risk through inhalation along with the potentially damaging consequences of these particles entering the food chain. It will take time to work through these issues before nanotechnology can be described as mainstream.

Where does the future lie for nanotechnology in the oil industry? It is too early to say, with too many unanswered questions remaining. Nevertheless, given the effect that nanotechnology has had in other disciplines (for example, medicine), it would be surprising if nanotechnology had little effect on the oil industry.

The papers selected this year include two examples presenting field implementation of nanotechnology. Let’s hope that, in the future, many more papers of this type will appear in the SPE literature.

This Month's Technical Papers

Application of a Nanofluid for Asphaltene Inhibition in Colombia

Nanotechnology Applications for Challenges in Egypt

High-Performance Water-Based Drilling Fluids Offshore Cameroon

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 157031 OMC 2013-105 Nanotechnology Applications in Drilling Fluids by Katherine Price Hoelscher, M-I Swaco, et al.

SPE 164461 Illuminating the Reservoir: Magnetic Nanomappers by Abdullah A. Al-Shehri, Saudi Aramco, et al.

SPE 166140 Crosswell Magnetic Sensing of Superparamagnetic Nanoparticles for Subsurface Applications by Amir Reza Rahmani, The University of Texas at Austin, et al.

Niall Fleming, SPE, is the leading adviser for well productivity and stimulation with Statoil in Bergen, Norway. He has previously worked as a production geologist, chemist, and engineer. Fleming’s main interest is within the area of formation damage from drilling and completion fluids and from wells in production. In particular, he has recognized the potential for several different nanotechnology applications. Fleming holds a PhD degree in geology from Imperial College London. He has authored several SPE papers, is an associate editor for SPE Production & Operations, serves on the JPT Editorial Committee, and has been a member of the organizing committees for several SPE conferences and workshops.


Niall Fleming, SPE, Leading Adviser for Well Productivity and Stimulation, Statoil

01 February 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 2



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