Research

A 21st Century Approach to Energy Research:  Flow Engineering

We are committed to becoming a globally recognized academic research and education organization in upstream petroleum engineering. To that end, we will produce unprecedented scientific knowledge of fluid flow in complex geologic formations, while also educating future science and industry leaders.

Context

Access to energy is fundamental to the world’s societies. Improving quality of life requires the reliable supply and wise use of energy. Hydrocarbons will remain the main global source of energy for decades to come; however, new scientific understanding and disruptive engineering solutions are required for more effective reservoir access and increased recovery, with reduced environmental impacts. Safe geologic storage of hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide is also an enormous challenge, one that must be met with novel science and engineering.

Over the distances of hundreds of meters to several kilometers, subsurface fluids move along preferential flow paths, or “geo-plumbing.” These flow paths are in turn fed with fluids slowly flowing out of the multiscale (microns to meters in size) regions of lower permeability rock.  Fractures, joints and faults can short-circuit fluid flow across scales from microns to kilometers, throwing a monkey wrench into all existing flow theories and numerical models.  As reservoir energy and easily accessible rock regions are depleted, only weakly-connected, low-permeability and heterogeneous rock remains.  This is the main challenge of the oil & gas industry in the 21st century.

Goals

Continuing hydrocarbon production at high rates requires fundamental and applied research that addresses flow—the flow of liquids, gases and dissolved chemical compounds through multiscale, fractured reservoirs with mixed rock wettability.  The subtleties of such flow can only be captured by experiment and theories that illuminate the coupled thermo-, hydro-, chemo-, and mechanical (THCM) effects in fluid flow and fluid/rock interactions.  Given this context, ANPERC’s raison d’etre—flow—translates into a unique multidisciplinary, collaborative learning and research effort, enabled by the unique set of research skills and infrastructure of KAUST.

Research Themes