IIT Kharagpur researchers develop synthetic molecules for oil extraction


A group of researchers at IIT-Kharagpur has indigenously developed large synthetic molecules that can help in the extraction of oil or gas from underground wells, an official said on Wednesday.

These large synthetic molecules, ‘specialty friction-reducer polymers’, are in high demand globally but unfortunately, India was not a part of the global supply chain for the product, Prof Sandeep D Kulkarni, the lead researcher said.

“Since last decade, the global oil and gas industry has been increasingly relying on newer methods such as fracking for extracting the oil and gas from the underground wells.

“Our team, under a sponsored project, has indigenously developed methods and testing equipment that were applied to develop these tailor-made large synthetic molecules,“ Prof Kulkarni said.

As a result, these products are being manufactured in India for the first time at a cost-effective price for the international oil and gas industry, he said. Fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. The collaborative work at the institute has led to the export of 18 tons of this product, for the first time by an Indian manufacturer, to the global oil and gas industry recently, a spokesperson of IIT-KGP said.

The team led by Prof. Kulkarni comprised Navneeth Kumar Korlepara, a petroleum engineering research scholar, and Prof. Kiran Gore, an assistant professor of the Department of Chemistry.

The automatic flow loop built by the team, for the evaluation and optimisation of the ‘specialty friction-reducer polymers’, is the first of its kind in the country and it was showcased at a National Conference on Upstream Petroleum Engineering 2019 held in IIT Guwahati while several journal publications in this domain are underway, the spokesperson said.

Congratulating the team, IIT Kharagpur director, Prof. Virendra Kumar Tewari said, “Potentially, this Make-in-India exercise based on indigenous innovation is expected to scale up, in the long run. The researchers need to work hard and make it a reality particularly for the MSME sectors to get benefited”. Dr. Deysarkar, the sponsor of this project and eminent IIT Kharagpur alumnus said “R & D efforts at IITs should ensure tangible value addition for society and the country. Such innovations would strengthen Make-in-India and could make India Inc. part of the global supply chain for a range of specialty products.”

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