New pump technology helping make oil and gas industry more efficient

December 11, 2002
| By: Aubrey Bloom

COLLEGE STATION - Research being done in Texas A&M University's petroleum engineering department is offering alternatives to the world's oil and gas industry as it struggles to implement the Kyoto agreement and reduce the release of greenhouse gases. Typically, oil deposits are found associated with natural gas. To produce the oil, companies have to also handle the natural gas. In many areas of the world - but not the United States, the natural gas is burned off or simply released into the air. The Kyoto agreement would ban this practice. "Regulations are changing in response to the Kyoto agreement, and even countries that have not signed the agreement are trying to implement its recommendations," said Dr. Stuart Scott, associate professor of petroleum engineering. "Practices such as flaring and venting of natural gas are starting to disappear." Scott is working on ways to reduce emissions by moving the oil and natural gas mixture - or multiphase flow - from the well through pipelines to facilities where they can be separated, refined and metered. Separating the oil and gas at an off-site facility instead of at the well is cheaper, more environmentally friendly and allows companies to drill for oil in areas lacking easy access, such as the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico, he said. Multiphase pumps provide the boost needed to send the oil and gas down the pipeline to waiting processing facilities - all without the need for storage tanks. These facilities may be miles away from the well. The pumps are expected to play a key role in subsea/deepwater development by increasing the amount of oil harvested. "These pumps allow you to get the same sort of recoveries as onshore and still push the fluids 10 to 20 miles down the pipeline," Scott said. In the past five years, more and more oil companies have installed multiphase pumps. Texas A&M is unique in that it is the only university in the nation to have two of the popular twin-screw multiphase pumps to use for research and for teaching students. These pumps were donated by Bornemann Pumps, Inc. and the Flowserve Corp. ABB has donated a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) that will be used to power and control all the multiphase pumps at Texas A&M's Riverside Test Facility. "We've been building this facility as industry has moved out of the large-scale research and testing areas," Scott said. This equipment and the experience it provides to students are especially beneficial, he said. Students have the opportunity to do projects using the same equipment used across the oil and gas industry. "Our students are doing more realistic experiments, and their results are more meaningful to industry," he said. "A lot of undergraduates are getting to work as roustabouts on this facility, so they're learning what it takes to put a whole project together." 12/11/02 NR 1119

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