Project full title:
Mineral scale formation: from the nanometre to field scale
To investigate the effect of inorganic and organic inhibitors on mineral growth
Carbonate/sulphate/oxalate/silica, scale inhibitors, nucleation and growth kinetics / mechanisms, oil and gas, geothermal and food industry applications, monitoring systems, nanometre to field scale processes.
Scale formation is a common phenomenon in many industrial processes where water or other fluids pass through heating, cooling or transport systems (i.e., wells, heat exchanges, tanks and delivery lines, etc.). In these settings, precipitation of scale minerals in pipes, on equipment or as fracture filling has a detrimental effect on process efficiency, cost and lifetime. Scale formation is encountered in many industries, such as paper making, chemical manufacturing, cement operations, food processing, medical instruments as well as nonrenewable, i.e. oil and gas, and renewable, i.e. geothermal, energy production. Scale inhibition and removal are costly. For example, it can cost up to €2.5 M to clean an oil well that has become blocked with scale. Although it is a costly and time consuming problem, the reactions that lead to mineral scale formation and the methods that could decrease or prevent scale formation are poorly quantified.
Our aim was to collect fundamental knowledge about the processes of mineral scale formation and data for predicting the rates of mineral scale formation with specific focus on industrial scaling. Using nanotechniques, e.g. scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy), in situ solution based experiments and molecular modelling, we investigate reactions at the molecular level that can lead to the understanding of nucleation processes and growth of carbonates such as calcite, sulfates such as barite, oxalates and silicates in the presence and absence of various inhibitors. We use X-ray nanotomography and FIB-SEM to study mineral growth in bulk, in porous media and under hydrodynamic flow conditions. Ultimately, our goal is for these studies to result in the development of a robust predictive model that is directly transferable to industrial mineral scale related applications.