Finding Alternatives to PFAS with Microfluidics

Image of Leigh Nelson
Leigh Nelson

Discussion of chemical use in the oil and gas industry is nothing new. But these days, justifying their application is becoming harder and harder to do. Recent studies have shown that even chemicals proven to be toxic are still in use today, despite bans in many parts of the world.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals known for their ability to help with oil extraction. Consisting of more than 5,000 chemicals with similar properties, PFAS can also have the unfortunate habit of leeching into groundwater and other possible side effects for the environment. They’re also known as ‘forever chemicals’, meaning they won’t degrade naturally over time.

It’s not just oil and gas that see the use of PFAS in their operations, which means that there is opportunity for leadership amongst those willing to adapt. Innovative research from Interface Fluidics can help mitigate environmental damage through increasing the efficiency of chemical use.

The oil and gas industry has placed more focus on improving its environmental performance at the same time extreme weather events caused by climate change are becoming more noticeable – and there are stakeholders and investors at every level who are pushing for corporate environmental promises to be kept while meeting the world's consistent demand for energy.

Traditionally PFAS have been used because they work well, but that doesn’t negate the problems associated with them. Unfortunately, finding the best performing products and chemistry combinations is generally expensive and hard to do.

Interface provides a low cost, fast turnaround method for quickly screening and selecting products that perform just as well as those that need replacing in the industry. Our proprietary technology has been able to help clients all over the world optimize the chemistries used in their wells, not just to minimize waste, but also to increase output and lower costs.

Stuart Kinnear, CEO of Interface Fluidics says, “We were founded with the mission to not only provide better data for oil and gas, but also to help find a way to make the industry cleaner and more efficient. We’re here to give our clients the information they need to make decisions that help both the environment and their bottom line.”

Here are a few ways Interface’s microfluidic technology can help reduce the reliance on PFAS and other chemicals.

Flowback and Fracturing Fluid Optimization

Interface’s nanotechnology platform helps operators realize additional recovery by optimizing fluid performance. The platform identifies top fluid additives, quantifying their relative performance and compatibility with other fluids, for increased confidence in completions decisions.

Interface's physical reservoir analogs are used in place of core on the platform. These analogs are representative of the reservoir’s geology and saturated with each well’s oil and water. Our fabrication process enables a wide range of geometries and pore networks to be replicated with precision to sub-50 nm pore size. To capture the surface properties of the reservoir material, system wettability is modified in 10° contact angle increments to achieve oil-wet, mixed-wet, and water-wet systems.

In addition to representative porous media, all testing is run at reservoir temperature, pressure, and fluid flow rates. The platform’s measurements are precise due to the high level of system control, a well-documented advantage of nanofluidic systems.

Interface has been able to create a testing methodology that could qualify new chemicals in a highly saline environment, at reservoir temperature. In addition, our screening options allow operators to make informed decisions about chemicals and concentrations.

Regain Conductivity

Selecting a suitable fracturing fluid system is critical to a treatment’s success and plays an essential role in reducing formation damage. Interface’s Regain Conductivity screening optimizes friction reducer performance by quantifying FR damage and evaluating fluid compatibility to minimize operational cost and risk. The result is eight times faster and 50% less expensive, with more repeatable data to mitigate reservoir damage caused by friction reducer in fracking operations.

Interface’s uses an analogue with a permeability fixed at 1 Darcy in its work. This highly repeatable proppant pack alternative enables differentiation between chemistries that were not capable of being resolved in traditional systems, due to low repeatability, high permeability, and fluid by-passing effects. Identical porous media enables repeatable results, faster than conventional proppant pack testing.

Chemical EOR Optimization

During the waterflooding process, large areas of the reservoir can be left unswept due to unfavorable mobility ratio and early water breakthrough. After waterflooding, chemical EOR is a proven method to increase oil recovery, and evaluating chemical performance is crucial for selecting the correct formulation and concentration for each well. Chemical performance varies depending on oil properties, salinity, temperature, wettability, original oil in place, and pore geometries. Informed chemical selection and optimization mitigates well damage risk and achieves higher production.

Interface’s Chemical EOR Optimization uses reservoir analogues designed and fabricated to be representative of each reservoir’s unique properties including pore geometries, permeability, and porosity. Interface’s methodology replicates your reservoir attributes, your reservoir fluids and your EOR procedures and approach.


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