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Smart systems to help Repsol improve efficiency for extraction of crude oil


IK4-IKERLAN has collaborated with Repsol on a platform that simulates the conditions of the oilfield and helps to determine the most appropriate techniques for extracting the oil

  • This development will allow the company to increase its efficiency for the extraction of crude oil

IK4-IKERLAN has collaborated with Repsol on the development of a smart system that will allow Repsol to increase its efficiency for the extraction of crude oil, which will provide significant economic rewards. It is a simulation platform that is capable of reproducing the conditions of the subsoil where the oil is trapped. It allows for observation of the behaviour of this fluid under different circumstances in order to determine the most appropriate techniques for extraction in each case.

Currently, in order to carry out similar tests, fragments of rock directly extracted during the perforation of the oil well are used. However, these stone samples are expensive, their transport is delicate and in some countries their use is prohibited. Also, the tests on real rocks do not allow observation of the movement of the different fluids inside.

Making use of their electronic, sensor and micro-fluid skills, IK4-IKERLAN has developed an innovative simulation platform based on a transparent chip that accurately reproduces the microscopic channels through which the crude oil circulates within the rock. It also offers the possibility of handling parameters such as temperature or pressure, in order to create an environment that can be compared to the true environment.

The device enables observation of the movement of the fluid and is also connected to a measurement equipment that offers useful data in order to understand the physical-chemical phenomena that explain the behaviour of the oil in the rock. The developed platform will serve to undertake direct observations, to establish which techniques are the most appropriate in each case, to practice new extraction techniques and, above all, to refine the mathematical simulation models used by Repsol.

"A unique technological development"

"This is a very important technological development; there are some mathematical models that aim to determine the behaviour of crude oil and water simultaneously at pore level, but it is difficult to tell how reliable these physical models are. This equipment allows us to reproduce and view what is happening inside the rock in a controlled manner", explains Ángel Rivero of Repsol.

This simulation platform is already in operation in the company's facilities. Although core flooding tests are routinely carried out on small samples of real rock, with this equipment the company avails of a tool that, for the first time, enables direct observation of the oil behaviour in the different extraction processes, with the optimisation possibilities that this implies.

"Thanks to our knowledge of smart systems, micro-fluids and embedded electronics, at IK4-IKERLAN we are playing our part in leveraging the competitiveness of a company such as Repsol, which is a reference on a global scale", states Fernando Martínez, manager of the Microsystems area in the technological centre.

Smart systems

The smart systems are devices that incorporate sensor, action and control features in order to describe and analyse a situation and make decisions based on the available data. IK4-IKERLAN avails of significant experience in the development of this type of devices for sectors such as energy, transportation, industrial equipment assets, healthcare and food sectors.

In fact, the centre participates in two European projects called Gateone and Smarter-SL, which are currently developing innovative products to promote the competitiveness of companies through the implementation of products with innovative capacities.

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