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August 1st, 2009
New technology aimed at increasing oil production
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.
The clusters, referred to as "nanoreporters" and roughly 30,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, also can tell the temperature, pressure and other factors that can help a company zero in on more oil.
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