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Tulsa researchers receive $1.9M award

Published: Monday, October 14, 2019

Dr. Pankaj Sarin, left, Dr. Rami Younis and Dr. Raman Singh in a lab in the Helmerich Research Center at OSU-Tulsa.


A team of three Tulsa-based researchers have been awarded a three year, $1.9 million contract to develop environmentally sustainable processes for recovering oil and natural gas from unconventional shale resources. $1.5 million of the funding will come from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Dr. Raman Singh, associate dean for engineering at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and director of the school's Helmerich Research Center, and Dr. Pankaj Sarin, associate professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, both from OSU-Tulsa, and Dr. Rami Younis, associate professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Tulsa, have combined their areas of expertise to increase the efficiency of the hydraulic fracturing process used in the extraction of oil and gas from shale resources.

Hydraulic fracturing uses significant amounts of injected water to drive cracks through impermeable rock. While such cracks are highly conducive to fluid flow, their volume is limited relative to the vast size of the subsurface formation. Moreover, creating larger cracks requires proportionally more water. These are key challenges ahead of energy production sector that seeks to boost its efficiency and reduce its exposure to environmental and geo-hazard risks. Our project is laying the foundations for the use of low-energy and targeted seismic waves to create cracks over large volumes without the use of water. As a complement to hydraulic fracturing, the technology could significantly reduce water usage and subsequent disposal while simultaneously improving production efficiency and rate.

Interdisciplinary expertise

Each of the three team member each brings a particular expertise pertinent to the project. Sarin’s background in materials engineering allows him to evaluate the porosity and permeability measurements to determine whether the proposed increase in fracturing efficiency actually leads to increased permeability. As a petroleum engineer, Younis will be in charge of the mathematical models that will help determine the optimum amount of fracturing to yield the highest return of product from the shale resources. Singh serves as the project lead and will handle the dynamic failure experimentation part of the project, as well. As the team produces models and gains predictive measurements, Singh will develop experiments that will validate those predictions.

The project is part of a concerted effort by OSU-Tulsa to focus on solving problems that are economically relevant to Oklahoma and the region. “Our big dream is to explore what we can do to be recognized as the experts [in the oil and gas industry],” Singh said.

This award has Singh, who also serves as professor and head of the OSU School of Materials Science and Engineering and professor in the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, excited about what it means for the college moving forward. “The DOE contract is a big step in the right direction,” he said. “Whenever you get something like this funded, it reinforces to your peers that we do have the intellectual capital necessary to do work like this, thus attracting more collaborations.”

Watch: Dr. Raman Singh describes his research


Dr. Raman Singh, Dr. Rami Younis and Dr. Pankaj Sarin conduct researchto develop an environmentally sustainable process for recovering oil and natural gasfrom unconventional shale resources in a lab at the Helmerich Research Center at OSU-Tulsa.

Media Contact: Aaron Campbell | 918-594-8046 |