New Research Chair Established at the University of Texas at Austin

A new five year, US$1.35 million funding package from CMG Reservoir Simulation Foundation (Foundation CMG) will establish an Industrial Research Chair in Reservoir Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin (UT).

The new Foundation CMG funding support through a Chair in Reservoir Engineering to be held by Dr. Quoc P. Nguyen, will support Dr. Nguyen’s team of research associates and students in undertaking leading edge research in innovative hydrocarbon recovery processes in fractured, tight, and unconventional petroleum reservoirs.

Proposed Strategic Research Areas

Chemical Recovery Processes

Alkali-Surfactant-Polymer (ASP) or Surfactant-Polymer (SP) flooding are attractive chemical enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods. While extensive experimental studies of these processes have been well documented, mechanistic process modeling remains challenging due to the complexity of interactions of chemical components that govern chemical reactions, emulsification, phase partitioning and transfer , and flow behaviors. The current empirical modeling of these processes could be improved based on fluid mechanics, colloid and interface sciences, and thermodynamics. The first appropriate step towards a fully mechanistic modeling approach is to evaluate the adequacy of the current empirical models for bulk (e.g. phase viscosity and density) and interfacial properties (e.g. interface tension and wetability) based on the existing large body of experimental database most of which has been developed at UT. The dynamics of these properties strongly affect petrophysical properties such as capillary pressure and phase relative permeability that need to be properly modeled and used to evaluate the behavior of the chemical recovery processes on a field scale.

Phase trapping including trapping of foam and emulsions are of great importance in modelling chemical EOR processes. UT proposes starting with a pore level model of the phase trapping to serve as the basis for a continuum model suitable for reservoir simulation.

Gas Recovery Processes and Disposal: CO2, Flue Gas and Nitrogen 

Recent innovations in foam design have made foam the most promising mobility control method for gas flooding. CO2 foam is weaker than N2 foam regardless of rock types. UT proposes using solvation theory and dynamic IFT to model the effect of gas properties on foam. They have recently developed and tested new and better surfactants that are soluble in supercritical CO2 and make excellent foams for multi-contact miscible floods. Several field pilots are planned based on our promising laboratory results. The effect of CO2 soluble surfactants on asphaltene stability has also been experimentally and theoretically investigated. UT proposes development, validation and implementation of a new unified foam model for diffrent fluid mobility control concepts in CMG’s GEM simulator.

Carbonate Reservoirs  

The complexity of carbonate reservoirs is mainly associated with natural fractures and geochemistry. In EOR processes, chemical and phase exchanges between fractures and matrix are not well understood. Empirical transfer functions that are commonly expressed in form of capillary pressure are very limited in describing kinetics of mass transfer across fracture surfaces. The charactersitic of dispersed flow such as foamed and emulsified flows in fractures differs from that in porous media. A large body of theoretical development on bulk dispersion generation in narrow slits with rough surfaces can be adopted to model dispersed flow behaviors in fractures. UT proposes the development and validation of a significantly different dispersion model for flow in fractures associated with mass trasnfer between fractures and matrix based in part on this theoretical knowledge.

Improved Thermal Recovery Process: Heavy Viscous Oils, Bitumen   

Steam flooding, SAGD, and cyclic steam stimulation have been employed worldwide as successful thermal methods for viscous oil recovery. However, the subsurface geology may limit the performance of steam injection technologies. Reservoir permeability should be sufficiently high to allow the steam front to advance through the reservoir. High steam mobility in heterogeneous viscous oil formations with borehole complexities significantly reduces steam utilization and energy efficiency, and increases CO2 emission induced environmental impact. A major fraction of viscous oil formations are relatively shallow. The ensuing low pressure in such formation limits the use of high temperature steam, reducing oil production rate. New ways to extract viscous oil are needed.

UT proposes novel approaches to reduce both cost and environmental impact would be to synergistically mildly heat the oil and displace it with alkaline-surfactant -polymer (ASP), alkaline-surfactant-gas/vapor (ASG or ASV)  chemical solutions. The performance of either polymer or dispersed gas/vapor could be optimized with respect to the oil temperature that is controlled by the level of heating. UT proposes a parallel program of experiments and modelling to evaluate the feasibility of these novel EOR techniques. CMG/STARS could be used for large-scale simulation and complex well configurations provided essential features are available in it and verified with laboratory data and/or UTCHEM as needed. The improvement of oil displacement with in-situ upgrading, foamy oil, and novel nanoparticle induced mobility control techniques will also be our areas of interest.

University of Texas, Cockrell School of Engineering 

The Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin is a top ranked epicenter of engineering education, and knowledge creation and distribution. Comprised of renowned educators, researchers and thought leaders, the Cockrell School addresses the grand challenges of the world, drives economic progress and improves quality of life. With nine internationally recognized undergraduate programs and nine acclaimed graduate degree programs, the Cockrell School propels research and innovation, develops transformative technologies and cultivates solutions to advance society.

The Cockrell School of Engineering’s mission is to educate leaders of the future in technology, industry, business and other professions, who will thrive in a globally competitive environment. Research is central to achieving the Cockrell School of Engineering’s vision to become a global center for technology innovation, engineering education, and entrepreneurship.  The Cockrell School of Engineering aspires to be a top global leader in innovative engineering education while engaging in research that addresses global challenges of the 21st century, drives economic progress and improves quality of life.

Foundation CMG

Founded in 1978, Foundation CMG (original name Computer Modelling Group) was founded at the University of Calgary, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department. CMG Reservoir Simulation Foundation (Foundation CMG) promotes and financially supports research & development and students through research grants at universities. This is in regards to the technology of fluid flow and biochemical reactions in porous media, particularly oil & gas reservoirs.  Foundation CMG has a rich history of over 30 years working in 25 countries around the world.

Dr. Quoc P. Nguyen

Dr. Quoc Nguyen joined the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin in 2005 as Assistant Professor at the Department of Petroleum & Geosystems Engineering. He holds a BSc in Chemical Engineering, MBA in industrial management, MSc in Environmental Sciences, and PhD in Petroleum Engineering. Dr. Nguyen’s recent research has focused on Colloid and Interface Science and the engineering of complex fluids, such as foam, nanoparticle dispersion, emulsion, surfactant and polymeric solutions. His research program with elements of modeling and experimentation has been aimed at understanding subsurface transport phenomena (including dynamics of colloids and complex fluids in porous media, reactive flow, and heat transfer), and developing optimum control methods for subsurface processes. His research has applications in enhanced oil recovery (EOR), conformance control technology, hydrocarbon production stimulation, in-situ thermal and chemical conversion of tar sand and oil shale, and nanoparticle EOR and nano-sensing. In previous research in the downstream petroleum industry, he led several projects on oil refining (distillation and extraction) and petrochemical (cracking and reforming) processes. In the environmental area, Nguyen was involved in numerous industrial research projects on hazardous waste treatment and the development of clean production technologies.

His current funded research projects are in the following areas

  • Chemical and gas flooding for EOR
  • Conformance control with complex fluids
  • Production stimulation of unconventional resources
  • Thermal and chemical conversion of tar sand and oil shale
  • Functionalized nanoparticles for subsurface applications

For further information please contact:

Duke Anderson


CMG Reservoir Simulation Foundation

Suite 700, One Executive Place

1816 Crowchild Trail NW

Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2M 3Y7

Ph. (403) 450-8399

Dr. Quoc P. Nguyen

The University of Texas at Austin

Dept of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering

1 University Station

Texas, USA, 78732

Ph. (512)471-1204