Nanotechnology in the Oil Industry

As with everything else, nanotechnology has found a very vital place in the oil industry. Be it special types of coating to protect against everything from corrosion to odors or heavy-duty filtration systems to provide more bang for your buck (quite literally), the oil industry is vastly assisted with the aid of nanotechnology. This article will attempt to provide a better understanding of both the oil industry in general and how nanotechnology will benefit it. Hopefully by reading this article, you will be able to grasp the importance of nanotechnology, both in the oil industry and in general application. Let us begin.

The idea of nanocoatings isn’t really that hard to figure out once you read its name, but here’s a more in-depth description: Nanocoatings are nanosized particles comprised of some sort of mineral or chemical that’s usually painted onto a surface, generally being an appliance of some sort, to aid the device in a wide assortment of functions. The following is a list of several types of nanocoatings and what those coatings can do to make a device or object stronger or more dependable.

Anti-corrosion Coatings
Anti-corrosion coatings are nanocoatings that allow an object, generally being iron or steel in nature, to resist corrosion from air or even water. By applying anti-corrosion nanocoatings to a object, you not only make it stronger but increase that object’s expected lifespan greatly. Anti-corrosion nanocoatings help the oil industry because the giant drills, wells, and processing factories are often based deep in ocean waters and even in the thrashful environment of strong river currents. Because of this, the metals that make up the equipment in the oil industry often become corroded quickly and the machinery begins to break down. After awhile, the machinery must be replaced altogether, which can get veeeery expensive. Thanks to anti-corrosion nanocoatings, however, leaders in the oil industry no longer have to worry about replacing corroded machinery which leads to better profits.

Lubricant Coatings
Lubricant nanocoatings are also very benefitial to oil industry as a whole due to the fact that, even though the machines can be prevented from corroding, the metal parts are constantly moving and these large, heavy pieces often slide against each other, which can not only create that dreadful nails-on-a-chalkboard sound but also damage the machinery. The lubrication provided by lubricant nanocoatings is far stronger than any WD-40 can provide and keeps the machinery at top-notch performance for as long as needed.

Thermal Coatings
Thermal nanocoatings provide the machinery of the oil industry with the protection it needs from geothermal conditions that could literally melt the metal of the drills and other equipment that is necessary to the extraction of oil from the Earth. Often times, these machines have to work for long periods of time far below the Earth’s surface in order to get to the oil. Because of this, thermal nanocoatings help aid the equipment with the defenses required to withstand both the heat and pressures found at those levels.

Anti-fouling Coatings
Whenever you have something made of metal underwater, whether it is a machine, ship, facility, or whatever, bacteria and plants often cling onto the metal and over a long period of time, these bacteria and plants accumulate in large numbers and can impair the performance of that machinery (for example, ships with a large accumulation of bacteria and plants on its hull can increase the fuel requirements of the vessel). Anti-fouling nanocoatings provide the metal with a protection against these things and help the oil industry tremendously due to the fact that oil wells almost always venture underwater to extract the oil.

Nanotechnology-Based Filtration
Whenever you are wanting to extract a specific material from the Earth, you almost always have to deal with unwanted materials that are swarming around the material that you want. This is no different in the oil industry. Often times when oil companies extract oil from the ground or underwater, they must deal with gases, metals, water, and many other types of invasive substances that are sitting in the oil. Because of this, the oil industry has had to come up with a variety of methods to clean out all of the excess materials that they don’t want in order to get pure oil. One of these methods is nanotechnology. The following is a short list of the types of nanotechnology-based filtration systems that have become part of the oil industry.

Gas Separations
One of the problems with extracting oil from deep beneath the Earth is that in the same areas that the oil accumulates, so do other gases that we may or may not want, but gases that we definitely do not want mixed in with the oil. Because of this, nanotechnology applications have been devised to separate these gases from the oil on a molecular level so that there are no leftovers even on such a small level. This is highly important because even extremely small materials that get mixed in with the oil can ruin the entire barrel and cause devastating effects if that contaminated oil were ever used.

Heavy Metal Separation
Another big problem with extracting oil from the beneath the Earth is that there are heavy, liquid metals, such as iron, that are floating around in the same area as the oil and can often contaminate the entire mixture. That’s why scientists have devised methods to use nanotechnology to separate these metals from the oil at a molecular level. This is a very good thing because you definitely don’t want to be pumping liquid oil into the gas tank of your car or rubbing some other heavy metal into your skin, such as can be found in the use of petroleum jelly.

Oil-water Separation
The last example on this list, but by no means the least, is the separation of water from the oil – or to be more exact, oil from water. Water, while not exactly a contaminant, can dilute the oil and make it less potent which then requires more oil to be refined to make the same amounts. Before nanotechnology, there were several ways to dry the oil from water but those methods didn’t fully separate the oil-water mixture on a molecular level. You must understand that water is often used to push oil out of wells and, therefore, often mixes with the oil. Thanks to nanotechnology, however, we can now separate the oil and water which decreases the amount that must be processed. This simple method is a leading contributor to lower gas prices.

I really do hope that this article has benefited you in some way or the other and that you are now able to understand in full just what nanotechnology is capable of and how it helps shape the future of the oil industry. The best way to look at learning about this, or anything, for that matter, is to visualize a future conversation in which you will be expected to present the information. If you were to happen to be asked if you knew anything about the oil industry then hopefully you are now able to fully address the question asked and present your findings in an intellectual fashion.