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Periodic Report Summary 1 - FRACCINGFUNDAMENTALS (Fundamental Studies to Enable the Environmentally Conscious Application of Hydraulic Fracturing in Shale Formations)

The Career Integration Grant ‘Fraccing Fundamentals’ focuses on understanding the fundamental physical mechanisms that occur during the production of natural gas and oil from shale formations, sometimes making use of the technique known as ‘hydraulic fracturing’. Many are the unknowns in the process, including the role of salts and surfactants in the process, the description of fluid transport in complex porous networks, the behaviour of systems containing water and hydrocarbons in narrow pores.
The project seeks to address these unknowns by building on prior knowledge Prof. Striolo accumulated in the USA and to transfer his body of work to the European reality.
The scientific goal of the Career Integration Grant ‘Fraccing Fundamentals’ was to employ computational studies to shed light on some of the unknowns that still prevent a consistent, economical and environmentally conscious development of shale gas from formations around the world. The proposed research seeks to establish new connections to enhance the impact of the fundamental studies, via new industrial collaborations.

Summary of Scientific Advancements Accomplished
Financial support from the Career Integration Grant has been instrumental for achieving the following scientific advancements, summarized here:
• In a review article, published in the prestigious journal ‘Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Enginering’, Prof. Striolo, with co-Authors Prof. Michaelides and Dr. Joly, reviewed recent simulation and experimental studies conducted to investigate the water-graphene interfaces. The focus was on the possible development of these studies for developing devices that could be used for making progress in the water-energy nexus, one of the current challenges our society faces. The reference to this article is: A. Striolo, A. Michaelides, L. Joly, The Carbon-Water Interface: Modeling Challenges and Opportunities for the Water-Energy Nexus, Annual Rev. Chem. Biomol. Eng. 7 (2016) 533
• In another review, Prof. Striolo reviewed recent studies focused on better understanding the behavior of fluids at contact with minerals, or confined within narrow pores. The emphasis was on the possible relevance of these studies in applications within the energy sector, including the sustainable deployment of shale gas. The reference is: A. Striolo, Interfacial Water Studies and their Relevance for the Energy Sector, Molecular Physics 114 (2016) 2615-2626
• In one article published in the prestigious journal ‘ACS Nano’, Prof. Striolo and his coworkers presented recent simulation results obtained for explaining the solubility and transport of methane within water, when water is confined within narrow slit-shaped pores of width 1 nm. This manuscript was the culmination of a number of articles, all co-authored by Dr Anh Phan, and was the result of a new collaboration with Prof. Dzubiella, from the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. In this body of work the team led by Prof. Striolo discovered that methane can be ~1 order of magnitude more soluble in water when water is confined in narrow pores than when water is in its bulk liquid phase. They also showed that the transport of the guest methane is connected with the complex network of hydrogen bonds established by the confined water molecules. The collaboration with Prof. Dzubiella was instrumental for demonstrating that it is possible to use a meso-scale model to describe methane transport. The manuscript discusses how these insights can be useful for developing systems for natural gas sweetening, and also for better understand how to sustainably develop shale gas. The reference for this article is: A. Phan, D.R. Cole, R.G. Weiss, J. Dzubiella, A. Striolo, Confined Water Determines Transport Properties of Guest Molecules in Narrow Pores, ACS Nano 10 (2016) 7646-7656.
• In a series of articles, Prof. Striolo, his former student Dr. Thu Le and his long-time collaborator Prof. David Cole of the Ohio State University demonstrated that when CO2 adsorbs in narrow pores carved out of silica, it preferentially adsorbs near the surface –OH groups, and it can function as a molecular lubricant to promote the dislocation of confined hydrocarbons. The most direct application of these studies is enhanced oil recovery, important for the European economy, and also the possible use of CO2 to enhance gas production from shale formations. The first of these articles is: T. Le, A. Striolo, D.R. Cole, CO2-C4H10 Mixtures Simulated in Silica Slit Pores: Relation between Structure and Dynamics, J. Phys. Chem. C 119 (2015) 15274-15284.
• In an article published in the ‘AICHE Journal’ Prof. Striolo and his former student, Dr. Tuan Ho, showed that when a significant amount of water is confined within pores that resemble clay minerals, it can prevent the transport of natural gas via the formation of ‘bridges’. This observation could explain why the production of natural gas from shale formations strongly depends on the fluids used to stimulate the formation via the widely known and sometimes controversial process of hydraulic fracturing. This article can be found at: T.A. Ho, A. Striolo, Water and Methane in Shale Rocks: Flow Pattern Effects on Fluid Transport and Pore Structure, AIChE J. 61 (2015) 2993-2999.

Success of Professional Re-Integration and Long-Term Career Perspectives
The re-integration of Prof. Striolo within the European academic sector has been widely successful, as can be measured by post-graduate students mentored and graduated, independence within his institution, long-term position secured, administrative assignments within the organization, additional grants obtained, scientific publications, collaborations established, and on a wide number of outreach and enabling activities spear-headed by Prof. Striolo. Details follow:

Size and Composition of Research Group Established and Led by the Fellow. Since he joined University College London in 2013, Prof. Striolo has graduated 4 Ph.D. students. One, Dr. Tuan Ho, graduated in 2015, has joined Sandia National Laboratory in the USA and has been awarded the ‘Best Ph.D. Thesis’ prize by Springer. Dr. Anh Phan (female), who graduated in April 2016, was instrumental for establishing a new post-graduate masters program at University College London (Global Management of Natural Resources), and is now seeking an academic position in Viet Nam. Dr. Manaswee Suttiping and Dr. Thu Le graduated in the last 2-3 months and are seeking academic positions in their home countries. Several post-graduate master-level students were trained within the group, on average 2 per year.

Level of Independence at the Host. Prof. Striolo has established a complete independence in his research efforts. He is now Professor of Molecular Thermodynamics within the Chemical Engineering Department at University College London. He cherished the collaboration possibilities enabled by being part of a large, successful, and prestigious institution, by being integrated in a network of scientists, both academic and industrial, that operate within the greater London area, and the numerous collaboration opportunities offered by the European Union. As an example, Prof. Striolo has been the leader of a multi-national effort, culminated with the submission of a Marie Curie Innovative Training Network, INTERTECH, in 2017.

Additional Grants Obtained and Any New Collaboration Established. The Career Integration Grant has been instrumental for Prof. Striolo to successfully compete for several grants since he joined University College London. In particular, Prof. Striolo became the coordinator of the H2020 project ShaleXenvironmenT, supported by the 3M EUR grant number 640979 (2015-2018: http://shalexenvironment.org). This consortium is directly related to the research supported by the Career Integration Grant.

Expected Final Results
The Career Integration Grant has been instrumental for establishing the Horizon 2020 consortium ShaleXenvironmenT (http://shalexenvironment.org), which leverages the Career Integration Grant and provides synergistic scientific activities, in collaboration with several partners throughout Europe. The results achieved so far are exquisitely fundamental, but the connections established, in particular those with industry and various governmental agencies, will allow these results to have strong impact on the society at large. The goal is to reduce the environmental impact of shale gas production, which will be achieved by optimizing the processes implemented, reducing the use of fresh water, minimizing emissions to the environment, reducing the energy consumed to produce natural gas, and identifying methods to simultaneously store CO2 while producing natural gas.

Contact

Giles MACHELL, (European Contracts Manager)
Tel.: +44 20 3108 9375
Fax: +44 20 7813 2849
E-mail

Subjects

Life Sciences
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