Scale formation is a common and costly phenomenon in many industrial processes that deal with water or other fluid handling 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 of processing technologies.
Scale formation is encountered in a large number of industries including paper-making, chemical manufacturing, cement operations, food processing, as well as non-renewable, (i.e., oil and gas) and renewable (i.e., geothermal) energy production and medical instruments. For example, it can cost up to €2.5M to repair a mineralized oil well. However, the reactions that lead to mineral scale formation and the methods that could reduce or prevent scale formation are poorly quantified. This is because industry does not have access to advanced techniques available at universities to investigate such processes, and because of poor communication and little direct interaction between scientists studying mineral formation reactions and engineers who need practical solutions to this costly problem.
MINSC hopes to remedy this problem by via parallel and complementary efforts at three spatial and also temporal levels: the molecular, the macroscopic and the field level. To achieve this we will train 11 ESRs and 2 ERs via specific research project that will focus on the nucleation and growth of carbonates, barite, oxalates and silicates in the presence and absence of various inhibitors.
Initially the focus will be on studies in the pure systems to derive insights into the nucleation and growth of scale mineral phases in the absence of inhibitors. Following this we will quantify the role and effect of the various inhibitors during nucleation and crystal growth in solution and on surfaces and to compare and contrast the main parameters controlling reactions in the pure (i.e., no-inhibitor) vs. the inhibitor system at the molecular level.
This will be done via ESR and ER projects using in situ solution-based experiments, molecular modelling as well as surface growth processes. Simultaneously, projects at the macroscopic level will focus on growth in bulk, in porous media and under hydrodynamic flow conditions. These combined data sets will be included, tested and implemented in complex geochemical/hydrodynamic models to evaluate the predictive capabilities of our findings. Finally, projects at the field level will focus on implementing laboratory findings in real world systems. Ultimately, we aim to develop a robust predictive model directly transferable to industrial mineral scale related applications.
For more information about the ESRs and ERs working on this project, please click here.