University of Texas at Austin

Advanced Energy Consortium Hosts All Projects Review

December 8, 2017
Scott W. Tinker

Bureau director Scott W. Tinker

“What if we could throw ‘smart dust’ down a borehole that would tell us what subsurface formations really look like?” 

That was the big question posed by Bureau director Scott W. Tinker 10 years ago that launched the Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC), a complex merger of nanotechnology and oil and gas exploration that has produced some fascinating research. The AEC held its annual All Projects Review in mid-November, bringing together scientists, graduate students, postdocs, and industry and agency representatives from around the world to share and discuss progress made in the preceding 12 months toward answering Tinker’s “big question.”

Fourteen universities and other research institutions shared results generated from 20 funded projects over the last year, and specific projects were showcased on posters hosted by multidisciplinary research teams. Two days of presentations highlighted significant research progress toward developing practical applications to address four use cases—real-world problems that supporting consortium partners believe nanotechnology will address soon.  

AEC poster showcase

Project research results were showcased on posters hosted by multidisciplinary research teams

Three of the use cases involve using nanoparticles to map fracture systems, track waterflood enhanced-oil-recovery operations, or address problems with waterflood effectiveness. The AEC has developed time-released nanoscale payload-delivery particles to transport important cargo to specific parts of the subsurface reservoir. The fourth use case has scientists moving even closer to developing a tiny nanosensor that can report downhole conditions such as temperature and pressure. At the review, researchers also shared data from field tests of these nanotechnologies, conducted recently in places such as the Bureau’s Devine Test Site [link] to better simulate the harsh and complex conditions encountered in the subsurface.

Sponsoring partners of the AEC have invested over $50 million in these productive research efforts over the years. Current sponsors include ExxonMobil (which hosted this year’s All Projects Review), Shell, Total, Repsol, BHP Billiton and the U.S. Department of Energy through Sandia National Laboratories. The Bureau of Economic Geology, which continues to serve as the coordinating institution for the AEC, is very grateful for the support of its vital sponsors. For more information about how you, your company, or your institution can become involved in this cutting-edge research, please contact Jay Kipper.