Dec. 13, 2004

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Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934.

KU professor wins $1 million U.S. Department of Energy research grant

LAWRENCE -- The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $1 million, three-year research project to Jenn-Tai Liang, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Kansas.

The successful completion of Liang’s project will not only increase domestic oil production by enabling recovery of previously stranded oil, but it also will benefit the environment by promoting the beneficial reuse of agriculture process waste products.

Liang’s project will evaluate the use of low-cost biosurfactants produced from high-starch agriculture process waste to improve oil recovery in carbonate reservoirs, such as those found in central and western Kansas. Specifically, Liang will examine the ability of biosurfactants to accelerate the speed with which water can displace petroleum from carbonate rock during waterflooding, a common means of extending the life of an oil reservoir.

The biosurfactants are created when bioorganisms are injected into high-starch agricultural waste products -- in this case waste from a potato processing plant. Such high-starch waste could also come from corn or rice processing plants, Liang said.

The research will be a joint effort between the Tertiary Oil Recovery Project at KU and the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

The Tertiary Oil Recovery Project, sponsored by the State of Kansas and based in the KU School of Engineering, is charged with researching and developing processes specific to Kansas reservoirs that will enhance oil recovery and extend the life of oil fields while also transferring successful technology to the state's oil producers. KU offers the only petroleum engineering degree program in the state.

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