Fossil Fuels

Multidisciplinary collaboration leads to new solution

Many minds on a problem can often lead to better solutions. A multidisciplinary approach can pay immediate dividends to partnering companies while furthering long-term solutions to scientific challenges. A new partnership between Purdue and Pioneer Oil is a great example of the collaborative work between a university and a company in its own backyard.

Based in Vincennes, Indiana, Pioneer Oil is seeking to enhance oil recovery efforts in the Illinois basin — an area characterized by its relative shallowness and low salinity compared to the basins in Texas and Canada. Purdue assembled a multidisciplinary team from six departments and three colleges, including researchers from engineering, agriculture and science, as part of a $650,000 effort to help shake more oil loose from basin rocks in an environmentally friendly way. In September 2014, the Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Lab was established at the Bindley Bioscience Center through a five-year memorandum of understanding with Pioneer Oil.

Eric Holloway, senior director of industry research, is charged with matching industrial partners with faculty experts in the College of Engineering. Along with Joe Pekny, professor of chemical engineering and the interim director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, Holloway engaged with Pioneer for several months and helped identify the faculty expertise all over campus.

The collaboration is based in Discovery Park, where the recovery lab is located. Pioneer funded six one-year research projects with the goal of enhanced oil recovery efforts. The projects include reservoir characterization of selected hydrocarbon fields in the Illinois basin; evaluation and systemic design of surfactants and polymers; development of methodology for the molecular-level characterization of crude oil, brine and other complex mixtures; evaluation and benchmarking of reservoir modeling along with experimental evaluation of multiphase flow through porous structures; and research into advanced physically associating polymer solutions for enhanced conformance control and flow diversion.

- William Meiners, College of Engineering


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