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Technology – Nano; Impact – Mega! Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. leading the way.

Dr. Arundhathi Racha, Dr. Bharat L Newalkar and Sanjay Bhargava

Today, global warming has become an unavoidable reality. Pollution of air, water, soil and excess emission of carbon dioxide is caused due to industry emissions, motor vehicle exhaust, oil spills, unorganized solid and liquid waste disposal and rapid industrialization. In view of these current environmental challenges, the oil industry is on the lookout for advanced technology that can help them implement environment friendly strategies for their processes. One such technology that has managed to make a mark in the oil and gas sector is nanotechnology. Before understanding its role in the oil industry, it is essential to be aware of what this technology actually is.

Nanotechnology Shaping the Future Of The Oil Industry

Nanotechnology is understanding matter at the atomic and molecular level, i.e. nanoparticles (particles in the range of 1-100 nanometre (nm), where 1nm = 10-9). This field of science is boosting as nanoparticles have proved to be a better and economical replacement to the bulky particles. For example, silver nanoparticles display excellent anti-bacterial properties, carbon nanotubes have superior strength than steel and so on. It has already found its application in medicine, electronics, environment enhancement, consumer products and sporting goods. With an aim to implement cost-effective and simple oil exploration processes, nanomaterials have also been adopted by the oil industry.

The oil and gas industry is divided into three areas: Upstream (exploration of oil), midstream (transportation of oil) and downstream (refining of oil). Nanoparticles have managed to be a part of almost all these aspects like exploration, drilling, reservoir characterization, cementing, production and simulation, enhanced oil recovery (EOR), refining and processing. Here’s how nanotechnology has proved to be a boon for the different processes that are a part of this industry.


Leveraging Nanotechnology at BPCL

Realizing the scope of nanotechnology in a technology intensive industry like ours, we at Bharat Petroleum are looking into Lead, Collaborate, and Adopt (LCA) approach to capitalize on advances being made in nanotechnology. Accordingly, we have collaborated with premier research institute (Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore) to develop nanomaterials-based Adsorbed Natural Gas (ANG) technology and photovoltaic cells with improved efficiency for solar power generation. It is worthwhile to note that it has been aimed to develop ANG technology using petcoke as raw material to develop nanomaterial (activated carbon) which can store natural gas at low pressure (~35-60 bar) equivalent to that of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) which is stored at 200 bar. The efforts are being continued and successful development of such material will offer competitive edge to Bharat Petroleum in terms of energy savings and expanding gas business.


Way forward:

We are targeting to develop and adopt new technologies through LCA approach to foster speedy deployment of clean energy in the country.

In this context, we are actively looking into following areas:

  • Low pressure hydrogen storage and its distribution to support implementation of ultimate clean fuel i.e. hydrogen
  • Energy efficient cheaper photovoltaics cells and their deployment
  • Promotion of electric vehicles by offering production of one of the key components used in making of Lithium ion batteries under “Make in India” initiative of Govt. of India.

Today, nanotechnology is becoming a part of our day to day life. It has also offered many essential applications in many different aspects of oil and gas operations and broad application prospects in oilfield chemistries. With the emergence of clean fuels and alternate energy in the form of batteries and hydrogen, nanotechnology is expected to offer platform to develop eco-friendly and energy efficient processes. In case of clean fuels, especially carbon neutral fuels, nanotechnology could become a game changer in development of novel catalysts for conversion of biomass to bio-chemicals/fuels. With emergence of natural gas-based economy in most part of the world, nanotechnology will play critical role for efficient and safe energy storage. In view of this, nanotechnology is envisaged to offer path breaking solutions to meet clean planet objective in coming years.