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July 29th, 2009
Imagine having a nice ripe orange, ready for squeezing, but being able to get out only a small amount of juice. There's got to be more, you just can't get at it.
That's the frustration of the global oil business.
The industry is spending billions on technology to increase the amount of oil it can extract from the ground. Oil companies typically recover only about one in three barrels of oil from their fields, but they can't afford to leave so much crude untapped at a time when it's difficult to access new reserves. Recovering more oil has enormous implications, not only for the companies' balance sheets but also for the world's diminishing supply.
One of the latest attempts to learn where the oil is hiding would involve injecting hundreds of millions of tiny carbon clusters deep into natural underground reservoirs, where changes to their chemical makeup would signal whether they've come across oil, water or other substances.
Nanotechnology is a promising but untested tool for discovering oil, said Albert Yost, a manager at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, W.Va., who is familiar with the work at Rice.
The Associated Press
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