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In-situ Upgrading of Oil Using Naturally Occurring Clay Minerals and Hydrotalcites

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database and may not be available.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr J Wood
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Upstream recovery and upgrading could potentially make use of naturally occurring minerals in the rock or clay deposits around oil wells to effect in-situ upgrading of the oil before it comes out of the well. Hydrotalcite is a layered double hydroxide of general formula Mg6Al2CO3(OH)16·4(H2O). The properties of natural hydrotalcites found in clays can be replicated and augmented in synthetic hydrotalcites, which have brucite-like octahedral layers with positive charge, which is balanced by an equal charge from interlayer anions. Various inorganic (e.g. Ni, Cu, Co, Fe) and organic anions may be intercalated in the structure to enhance their behaviour as catalysts and adsorbents. This project proposes to use an in-situ combustion technique, Toe-to-Heel Air Injection (THAI) and its catalytic add on (CAPRI) for upstream recovery and upgrading of heavy oil and bitumen. These technologies will be applied and adapted to reduce the environmental impact otherwise associated with mining and steam injection techniques. However the catalyst lifetime can be limited by coking and deactivation, therefore innovative solutions that can be applied in the well are sought. It is proposed to synthesise hydrotalcites with tailored properties as upstream oil upgrading catalysts, used as model analogues of naturally occurring clays found in geological formations. Metals such as Ni and Co will be introduced in order to improve the abilities of the catalysts in hydroconversion and cracking reactions, which will be performed in-situ in the well. Specific aims are to:

- Study upstream recovery/upgrading to produce oil with increased API gravity and lower viscosity.
- Reduce the need for additional surface upgrading at the refinery.
- Synthesise hydrotalcites with different compositions and anions (Ni, Co) by co-precipitation and calcination methods, as effective in-situ upgrading catalysts.
- Study catalytic upgrading using a rig developed to simulate upstream conditions.- Study catalyst deactivation and optimise process conditions to extend catalyst lifetime.

The research will deliver catalysts with enhanced ability to upgrade heavy oil and tap into oil reservoirs around the world in sub-surface recovery processes. The use of in-situ techniques of oil recovery in combination with more effective catalysts can be used to reduce the amount of energy required to recover each barrel of oil. The student will participate in a comprehensive training programme and will be comfortable working at the interface between Geoscience and Engineering. 1. http://www.mindat.org/min-1987.html

For details of the funding available and advice on making your application, please contact:
[email protected]

Funding Notes

Funding is available from NERC. Full funding of stipend and fees is only available to UK citizens or those who have been resident in the UK for a period of 3 years or more. Citizens of the European Union may be eligible for a fees only award.

Non-UK Students: If you have the correct qualifications and access to your own funding, either from your home country or your own finances, your application to work on this project will be considered.

You can search for sources of funding at: www.birmingham.ac.uk/pgfunding


A. Shah, R. Fishwick, J. Wood, G. Leeke, S. Rigby and M. Greaves, 2010, A review of novel techniques for heavy oil and bitumen extraction and upgrading. Energy Environ. Sci. 3, 700 – 714.

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering?
Chemical Engineering

FTE Category A staff submitted: 32.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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