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August 18th, 2009
Drug-delivery technology devised, refined and patented at KU now is being applied to an entirely new application: pumping untapped oil from known petroleum reserves.
The application of such nanotechnology — tiny particles capable of carrying oil-releasing agents deep into rock formations — is being financed by ConocoPhillips. The energy company intends to pump up to $400,000 a year into the work during each of the next three years.
The goal is to increase oil production, by tapping into previously unreachable depths of oil exploration and extraction.
Energy companies regularly pump water into long-since-tapped reservoirs, to squeeze oil from crevices and pores in rock. But such water-pumping has its limits, leaving plenty of potential energy behind.
That's where KU's nanotechnology — the same kind that can protect cancer-fighting drugs until they reach diseased cells in a body — comes in.
Current technology typically limits protection of oil-recovery agents for only four to six hours, limiting the reach of their usefulness.
The KU technology can contain such agents for up to 60 days, allowing them to be pumped deeper beneath the surface and farther into oil-holding formations of rock.
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