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Petroleum Research Center (PERC) at the University of Utah

The mission of PERC is to conduct research on efficient and sustainable subsurface energy production processes, on addressing challenges related to transporting complex fluids, and on developing effective processing strategies for constituting advanced fuels.

PERC is embedded in the Institute for Clean and Secure Energy (www.icse.utah.edu) and has projects and close associations with Energy and Geoscience Institute (www.egi.utah.edu) at the University of Utah.

Supplying energy to a growing global population without compromising the environment irreversibly is the greatest challenge of this generation. Fossil fuels and conventional crude oil and gas resources contribute a significant portion of the world?s energy needs. While it is important to ensure efficient production and utilization of these high-quality resources, it is also necessary to vigorously explore the possibilities of using vast unconventional petroleum reserves. In this context, research on fluids production from shales and other tight formations and oil sands will become increasingly important. It is also becoming clear that we are living in a carbon-constrained world. We will be able to use our vast knowledge and experience in subsurface reactive transport to help find ways of storing large quantities of carbon dioxide safely in underground formations as we transition to efficient and sustainable energy production and usage. Our work in the areas of Flow Assurance is motivated by the fact that better understanding of the chemistry (and properties) of fluids (oils) leads to improved property predictions, which in turn helps us produce, transport and use these fluids more effectively. Our emphasis has been on thermodynamics of wax and asphaltene precipitation, and the resultant rheology and pipeline flow. The chemical characterization and property prediction have applicability in recovery and processing of oil sands and oil shale. Efficiency can also be realized by managing oil and gas reservoirs. Fractures and faults are critical in determining the performance of reservoirs. We have developed new reservoir simulators capable of handling fractures and faults explicitly as alternatives to traditional dual porosity, dual permeability models. These are modular, parallel simulators equipped with modern linear and nonlinear solvers. Fractures ? hydraulic and natural are critical in establishing the production potential of tight gas and shale reservoirs. Our project portfolio includes several projects on gas and fluids (gas, oil and condensates) production from ultra-low permeability resources. Modeling micro and macro fractures is important in understanding in-situ production of oil from oil shale, which typically has low inherent permeability. Reactive multiphase transport is important in CO2 sequestration applications, and in the understanding and management of geothermal reservoirs. Integrity of CO2 sequestration depends on sealing capacity of faults, among other things. All of the above components, particularly, the high-performance computing reservoir models will benefit from the use of better mathematical tools. Our vision is to continue working on the fundamental aspects and on the interconnected program components as shown.

PERC Research Structure Diagram