During my full-time employment at the Aramco Boston Research Center, I lead two projects.
The first project was to develop a novel microfluidic device to pressurize thin rock slices between solid surfaces. The goal was to achieve acid flow through the rock pores while maintaining the ability to visualize the surface of the confined rock. This helps scientists optimize methods of oil drilling for a more sustainable recovery.
Existing core plug (rock) flooding systems are inefficient, expensive, and do not allow for real-time viewing.
Core Plug (Rock)
Requires large rock plugs, not slices
Inefficient use of core plugs (core plugs are expensive)
Existing Core Flooding System
Expensive equipment that requires regular maintenance
Large equipment that takes up valuable lab real estate
Must scan for tomography data after flooding process is complete (no realtime visual)
The objective was to develop a microfluidics device that allows for real time visualization of the changes in carbonate rock pore structure and a more efficient, rapid and informed screening of reservoir chemicals
8x screw holes that line up with layer 2
Centered "window" that allows for stone slices to be visible at all times
Seamlessly fits together with Layer 1, leaving space for rock slices sandwitched between two microscope glass slides
LED node holes used to illuminate rock slice and enhance visibility of forming wormholes
Centered opening for inflow and outflow of acid
Magnetic LED housing for seamless connect / disconnect of lighting and inflow / outflow tubes
The first step in my process is to interview the intended user. In this case, the intended user is the chemical and environmental engineers I was working alongside in the Boston based Aramco laboratory.
Through interviews with the intended team, and our counterparts at the Aramco Houston research center, we found a list of criteria and constraints that needed to be designed around.
Next, the ideation, sketching, and preliminary design phase begins. Here I am able to take into account the findings and insights found in the previous user interviews and apply them to various design iterations.
In the design phase, I consider various materials, forms, and manufacturing methods. Once a few feasible options are found, the fabrication phase begins where the most viable prototypes are made for field tests.
When success is found with a particular prototype, the iteration process continues to find incremental improvements and optimize the successful results. Below is a visual of the change in carbonate rock pore structure, these changes were viewable in real time with our methods and ultimately led to this patent.
The second project I lead at Aramco was an automated method and system for injecting multiple tracer tag fluids into a wellbore (a hole drilled into the ground to access oil, natural gas, or other resources). The tracer tag fluids contain synthesized polymeric nanoparticles that are designed to bind to the walls of the wellbore and undergo a thermal de-polymerization (break down) at a specific temperature, generating a unique mass spectra (a measure of the chemical elements present in a sample). The injection sequence is designed to inject the tracer tag fluids into the wellbore at specific concentrations and in a specific order, with an injection duration determined by the depth interval of the wellbore that is being tagged and an injection pause to prevent mixing of the multiple tracer tag fluids. This technology may be used to track the movement of fluids within the wellbore or to identify the location of fluids within the wellbore.
On the right are the visual depictions of this complex automated system we used in the patent filing. FIG. 1 to the right shows the smaller automated apparatus while FIG. 2 demonstrates it's role and position among the larger drill apparatus. An in-depth outline and description of the system and all of its components at the numbered points in the figures to the right can be found in this patent filing.
To the left is an early sketch of the main logic of this automated system. A general fluid comes from in-jet on the far right. This is then pushed into three pressurized tanks, each containing a different tracer fluid. The tanks are then connected to an automated manifold-valve connected to a control unit used to program the automation logic. The process of taking this apparatus from conception to field use involved designing within significant constraints. Each tracer fluid had to remain at a default state of over 50 PSI to ensure rapid transitions between fluids when one valve closes and the other opens. Meanwhile the automation valves were required to switch between these tags within fractions of a second to avoid cross-contamination of tracer fluid.
Final Apparatus Arrangement
The initial prototype of this apparatus consists of custom fabricated metal valves, automated solenoid valves, and a main control unit used for valve logic.
I designed and fabricated custom metal fittings for each valve to guide tracer fluid in a controlled manner. This involved metal machining and 2D and 3D CAD design.