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Nov. 16, 2005
Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934.

KU engineering professor wins grant for oil reservoir research

LAWRENCE -- A University of Kansas engineering professor has been awarded a portion of a Department of Energy grant that will evaluate how to control wax deposition during oil production, which can impair the ability of the well to deliver oil to the surface and interrupt production or lead to early abandonment of otherwise producing wells.

Jenn-Tai Liang, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, will have access to $300,000 of a $1.25 million grant. The three-year study will identify methods to avoid interruption of oil production and premature abandonment of oil and gas wells due to wax deposition in Alaska North Slope crude oil. The model and expertise developed in this study can easily be applied to oil reservoirs in Kansas.

The award is administered through the Arctic Energy Technology Development Laboratory of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Liang will involve researchers at KU's Tertiary Oil Recover Project. ConocoPhillips is the industry partner.

Wax is a solid deposit of long chain paraffinic components originally dissolved in crude oils at reservoir temperatures. During production, wax deposition occurs if the temperature of the crude oil drops below a threshold temperature before reaching the surface. Such deposits can impair the ability of the well to deliver oil to the surface and interrupt production or lead to early abandonment of otherwise producing wells.

In addition to evaluating current methods to control wax deposition, the study will examine the environment and mechanisms that lead to the situation. In particular, the impacts of arctic climates and the existence of the permafrost in the Alaska North Slope area on down-hole temperature profiles will be evaluated. Researchers will develop computer models that predict wax deposition and quantify its effect on oil and gas production.

The Tertiary Oil Recovery Project, sponsored by the state of Kansas and based at 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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