Research Facilities

Established in 1984, the Petroleum Development Laboratory (PDL) is a state of the art research laboratory conducting energy related research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The primary function of PDL is to explore the various aspects of enhanced oil and gas recovery research. In addition to addressing the unique challenges confronting the petroleum industry, it provides excellent laboratories to supplement petroleum engineering courses.

Research Areas

Reservoir characterization, modeling and simulation

Alaska has a wide range of conventional and unconventional energy resources. UAF's petroleum engineering faculty conduct applied and fundamental research aimed at better understanding of the distribution, character and behavior of these reservoirs. Ongoing projects include:

  • frozen reservoirs
  • Modeling fluvial reservoirs of Cook Inlet
  • Reservoir behavior of low temperature geothermal reservoirs
  • CO2 sequestration and EOR

(Contact: Dr. M. Ahmadi)

Rock and Fluid Properties

Understanding the behavior of both the host rock and the reservoir fluid is critical for maximizing the productivity of the reservoir. Research on rock and fluid properties at UAF includes:

  • Relative permeability of frozen reservoirs
  • Solid organic deposition and flow assurance of reservoir fluids
  • PVT/phase behavior and compositional analysis
  • Gas hydrates
  • Viscous and heavy oil

(Contact: Drs. A. Dandekar, M. Ahmadi)

Drilling and Completions

UAF faculty work with the Alaska petroleum industry on drilling techniques used and problems encountered in Alaska's extreme environment. These topics include:

  • optimization of drilling fluids for coiled tube and horizontal drilling
  • development and testing of drag reducing fluids, surfactant and polymeric fluids, slurries and foams
  • Development of effective low and high temperature cements

(Contact: Dr. S. Khataniar)

Enhanced Oil Production methods

Effective secondary and tertiary recovery methods are vital for optimizing recovery from established hydrocarbon reservoirs. UAF faculty are working with Alaskan petroleum industry to develop new techniques to enhance recovery from identified hydrocarbon resources such as heavy and viscous oil and gas hydrates. Research topics include:

  • CO2 miscible and immiscible flooding
  • Low salinity water flooding
  • Heavy and viscous oil recovery methods
  • Gas hydrates
  • Use of nanotechnology to enhance recovery
  • Chemical EOR methods

(Contact: Drs. A. Dandekar, S. Khataniar, M. Ahmadi, S. Patil)

Formation damage evaluation

The corelab formation damage evaluation system is used to determine the effect on the permeability of reservoir rock samples from various drilling and completion fluids at reservoir pressure and temperature.

(Contact: Dr. Yin Zhang)

Coreflooding experimental studies

The Auto Flood Reservoir Conditions Core Flooding System (AFS-300) is used to conduct water flood, water flood susceptibility, chemical and solvent flood, gas flooding, low-salinity water flooding.

(Contact: Dr. Yin Zhang)

Origin of Overpressure and Pore Pressure Prediction

Accurate estimation of pore pressure is essential in almost all aspects of the oil and gas field exploration and development. Differences in pore pressure estimation could lead to drastic changes in reserve evaluation. This can especially occur in under-saturated oil reservoirs with solution gas, where gas bubbles can emerge below a certain pressure. Pore pressure is also a key factor in designing and successfully performance of hydraulic fracturing. Most overpressure determination methods rely on porosity-stress relations, where during an undrained compaction, a rock loses porosity by a rate faster than what is required to expel the pore fluid through surrounding impermeable or low permeability seal. The resultant overpressure inhibits further compaction which creates unusual signature on porosity-stress trends. However, porosity in some cases is not entirely a function of loading, which is therefore a challenge in using conventional methods of pore pressure prediction such as Eaton (1972) and Bowers (1995), even when the origin of overpressure is investigated. The main objective of this research is to undertake a contingency evaluation of the mechanisms capable of generating abnormally high pore pressure (fluid expansion, clay diagenesis, kerogen maturation, pressure transfer, etc.), and then quantify the role of each mechanism. Magnitude of overpressure is another objective of this research which will be aimed by either conducting conventional methods (in clastic rocks), or numerical modelling of the processes that contributed to overpressure generation.

(Contact: Dr. Vahid Atashbari)

Oil Price, Economic Analysis and Sustainability in Oil and Gas Companies

For decades to come, oil and gas seem to be the main energy resources of the developed and developing countries. In fact, environmental, social and economic impacts of activities within the oil and gas industry, especially in the hydrocarbon producing countries have significantly shaped the development framework of governments as well as local communities. Considering sever oil price fluctuations in recent years, successful transition of societies toward a robust future, requires a comprehensive analytical evaluation of sustainable development methodologies and their implications for local communities, governments, and business corporations. Compiling daily oil price for several years, has revealed that nearly half of the quantitative variations of oil and gas price are due to either forecast or psychological factors of the market (the factors that haven’t happened yet and may not happen in the future either). There are several methods for implementation and monitoring of objectives of sustainable development, including those that are already well known and others in testing phase. Given three major components of sustainability as economic, social and ecological, the main focus is on the economic aspects of sustainability. Dynamic and effectively responsive business models based on appropriate evaluation of the cost/benefit analysis is the core part of this research. After obtaining a proper understanding of oil market and price forecasting, sustainable development indicators need to be assessed to design enterprise policy framework. The database of this research includes the business indicators, as well as in-person interviews. Then sustainable development parameters in the target organizations will be modelled and quantitatively analyzed. This analysis reflects the characteristics of existing business models, and can serve as a check on the performance of entities.

(Contact: Dr. Vahid Atashbari)