LAWRENCE — A team led by a University of Kansas researcher is a finalist for one of the global energy industry’s most prestigious awards.
Masoud Kalantari, associate professor of chemical & petroleum engineering at KU, is leading the group — which includes UCLA, MicroSilicon Inc. and EOG Resources Inc. — that is developing a system to make hydraulic fracturing more efficient for energy producers.
The project is one of three finalists for the 2022 “Breakthrough Research of the Year” awards at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference (ADIPEC), which is set for next month and sponsored by the Society for Petroleum Engineers.
The recognition is “truly an honor,” Kalantari said.
There were more than 1,000 submissions to the conference’s awards, according to the KU researcher, and just 27 finalists across nine categories.
“This is kind of a significant achievement,” Kalantari said, “just to compete.”
He added that the recognition is also “a great opportunity for the KU as the lead institution for the project.
“It shows we’re promoting multidisciplinary research and that we are at the forefront of developing transformational technology that helps energy producers to maximize the recovery while achieving their net carbon zero goals,” he said.
Well-spacing optimization is one of the key challenges the energy industry is facing.
Developing unconventional resources requires a detailed understanding of the geometry and complexity of the generated hydraulic fractures. Drilling expensive and unnecessary wells not only affects the business significantly but also impacts the environment negatively in terms of footprints, contaminations, and emissions, Kalantari said.
Kalantari’s $3.49 million project funded by the Department of Energy has been underway since 2019. It involves developing and field-testing wireless, battery-less, fine size (as small as 250 micrometers, equal to 100 proppant size) smart microchip sensors coupled with a physics-informed, AI-based, iGeo-sensing platform that enables real-time, cost-efficient, continuous, high resolution and “direct” fracture diagnostics.
This transformational research and low-cost technology developments and field testing in partnership with EOG Resources will aid in transitioning technology to commercial deployment, Kalantari said.
“This is what is missing in our industry,” Kalantari said. The new technology will help companies “reduce the number of unnecessary wells or inefficient wells, and it helps the business in terms of return of investment. They maximize the recovery, they minimize the cost of operation, plus they contribute significantly to minimizing the environmental footprints and achieve net carbon-zero goals.”
A trial run of the technology is expected next year in the Permian Basin, which covers much of the southwest United States.
“The beauty of this project is we are partnering with oil and gas operators,” Kalantari said. “So if it goes through the trial process and if it becomes successful, we can move forward quickly with the commercialization phase.”
Kalantari’s project was chosen as a finalist for the Society of Petroleum Engineers ADIPEC award by a jury of experts that includes executives and professionals from major energy companies, academics and members of other energy industry organizations. The awards jury includes the ministers of energy and petroleum from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — as well as the CEOs of several oil companies such as Occidental and Baker Hughes.
That’s a welcome opportunity to put KU’s brand and research before some of the world’s top energy company executives and producers, Kalantari said.
“Now the University of Kansas application is in front of those ministers plus top people of oil and gas companies,” Kalantari said. “Hopefully we get it and we bring the recognition back home.”
The award will be announced at the ADIPEC conference on Oct. 31 in the United Arab Emirates.