Technology: Environmental and safety considerations

The environmental analysis of the binary mixture needs to be addressed from two angles: a) treatment application and b) post treatment impact.

Treatment application

The chemicals used during the treatment include materials that are both acid and explosive in nature. It is hence crucial that the application is executed by trained personnel and that treatment manuals are strictly followed. Failure to do so can create harm to the environment and the well.

Post treatment impact

The chemical reactions and the reactions of the chemicals with the oil create liquid and gas byproducts. Decomposition runs in several directions, while the particular temperature of decomposition and ratio of components strongly depends on the presence of admixtures. The main products of decomposition are Na2O, NO, NO2, and N2.

The latter three are gaseous at standard conditions (for example NO2 is a brown gas). If heavy metal ions are present, the temperature of decomposition is significantly lowered. For example, calcium nitrite decomposes at 220°C (428°F); iron nitrite decomposes at 160°C (320°F) and there can be iron or calcium ions present in any formation. Of course, many other metals are present as well, bound in oxides or salts.

Nitrogen oxides are very strong oxidizers. Both oxidize crude oil at increased temperatures, similar to what would happen if we used nitric acid. The final product of oxidizing crude oil is CO2, H2O and N2. The same gases appear during the decomposition of ammonium nitrate (and its reaction with crude oil).

NO and NO2 are radicals (i.e. highly reactive particles with one or more free non-paired electrons). This means that they easily enter into any chemical reaction:

  • They easily react with any organic materials at high temperature. In our case in particular, they react with crude oil and support cracking. Such a reaction starts by nitration, nitrosating and diazotization all jumbled together. During this reaction, new substances are created from separate molecules of crude oil. The substances contain nitrogen (and oxygen). Those reactions basically start the cracking of crude oil, because any of the above-mentioned newly-created substances containing nitrogen are thermally non-stable. Nitration of saturated hydrocarbons was one of the first radical reactions ever researched by scientists.
  • They easily speed-up decomposition of any nitrates, working as radical catalysts. In our case, they speed up and regulate decomposition of our main saltpeter (either organic or inorganic).

Concerning ecology, if we reach sufficiently high temperatures in the bore hole and in the formation around it, then all reactions of sodium nitrite with crude oil will lead to the creation of H2O, CO2 and N2 only. Our standard working temperature is around 330°C.

It should be noted that when any water solutions of our materials fall (in certain limited amount) onto the soil, they are nitrogenous fertilizers. It should also be noted that sodium nitrite (NaNO2) is widely used in the food industry.

In case where the oil has high sulfur levels, it is possible to that SO2 and H2S result from the treatment. The amount of these is unpredictable, as it is dependent on the degree of reactions of the oxidizers with the sulfur that is dissolved in the oil. The amount of sulfur varies greatly among different fields. H2S could be re-injected into the field and SO2 be neutralized by a water solution of sodium hydroxide on the surface. In low sulfur fields, no special post-treatment is however required.

Water usage

Compared to other technologies only limited amount of water is required. Typically around 30-50 metric tons of water per treatment. This should have a low impact on the environment and make the technology feasible to apply in areas of water shortage as well.