Carnegie Mellon University
September 20, 2013

Burant, Lowry, and Karamalidis Present at Goldschmidt Conference in Florence

Burant, Lowry, and Karamalidis Present at Goldschmidt Conference in Florence
In late August, CEE PhD candidate Aniela Burant traveled to Florence, Italy to present a research paper at the 2013 Goldschmidt Conference, an annual gathering of researchers working in geochemistry. The paper, Setschenow Constants for Prediction of Salting-Out of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Brines, was written by Burant and her advisors, CEE Professor Greg Lowry and Assistant Research Professor Thanasis Karamalidis, both of whom presented at the conference and chaired sessions. Lowry convened a session on environmental application of engineered nanomaterials, and Karamalidis a session on water-rock-petroleum interactions.

In the paper, Burant presented her initial findings on the solubility of organic compounds found in depleted oil reservoirs. These reservoirs are the preferred target for enhanced oil recovery and eventually carbon storage, and Burant is interested in using organic compounds in the reservoirs as naturally occurring tracers that could alert engineers to leaking carbon dioxide. 

“We need a good understanding of these organic compounds’ solubility in water and especially in brine, because the water in these reservoirs can have up to ten times the concentration of salt seen in sea water,” she explained. “As salt is added to the water, organic compounds usually become less soluble, and that decrease is modeled by an equation called the Setschenow equation. We’re testing to see whether that model is still valid in high concentrations of salt.” 

The team is currently completing its testing of two compounds—naphthalene and thiophene—and plans to conduct additional experiments to confirm that the Setschenow equation indeed applies in highly saline environments. Their ongoing experiments are currently held at the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory and are being a joint project between CEE, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. If their results are validated, scientists will be able to reliably model the organic compounds in question using existing Setschenow constants. This could have implications for enhanced oil recovery, carbon storage, and other industries that involve produced waters with high salt concentrations.

In addition to presenting, Burant attended sessions on oil and gas and met fellow researchers from around the world who are studying the geochemistry of carbon capture and storage. She also took some time to enjoy her surroundings. “I felt lucky to be able to go to Florence,” said Burant, whose trip was made possible by the Jared & Maureen Cohon Graduate Fellowship. “I was a ten-minute walk from the Duomo and a twenty-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio, so I was able to walk around quite a bit and see the sights.”