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January 27 | The FTP 2014-2020

Hydrocarbon mathematics

"... Get rid of doubts we have deposits” - Vladimir Vysotsky sang about the Tyumen oil in1970s. And today, because of the abundance of minerals some neighbors are ready to compare Russia to a gas station, though, if we look at the figures, the Russian Federation is  not the top "oil" country judging by the gross oil mines capacity volume. But Russia is on the first place for natural gas. It’s an open question if the era of "black gold" and other hydrocarbons goes to its end: the statistics show that the world's proven hydrocarbon reserves at current volumes of production and consumption are enough for all mankind for about 50 years. Therefore, the developed countries are trying to gradually shift to renewable energy, improve the nuclear one and work on creating synthetic minerals.

However, new fields and new ways of production may extend the hydrocarbon era in power technology for an indefinite number of years.

The case is for geological exploration, and the Arctic is under the gun as one of the most neglected and potentially rich in hydrocarbons regions. Therefore, domestic research teams develop and streamline methods for hydrocarbon exploration in severe northern conditions - to mine the inland and the ice shelf. One of these is youth MIPT team led by Professors Alexander Zhdanov and Igor Petrov - has been charged with "development of highly accurate computational methods and complex software and algorithmic engine for search and exploration of minerals by seismic and electromagnetic methods in the shelf zone of the Arctic" starting from September last year under the project supported by the Federal Target Program "Research and development in priority areas of scientific and technological complex of Russia for 2014 - 2020 years."

As you know, a huge part of the Arctic belongs to Russia; there are about a dozen major oil and gas fields today, many of which are of federal significance: in the Barents, Kara, Pechora seas (including acting oil platform "Prirazlomnaja").


"There are eight attractive gas fields in the Arctic shelf of the country now, which were discovered from 1983 to 1992 - in just nine years," - Igor Petrov, head of the MIPT department of computer science and official leader of the project, says. According to him, the gas reserves in the Arctic are so far estimated at about 3 trillion cubic meters: "That's enough for our descendants - if only we have the strength and finances to get them."

However, the Arctic, as the hydrocarbon area, is seriously different from the Volga, the Caspian regions and even from Western Siberia because of its difficult natural conditions. Any work in the Arctic are associated with big problems, but when it comes to offshore production - with ice formation in the first place. Large and small ice floes, icebergs and hummocks are a serious obstacle to the ships, although many seas of the Arctic Ocean are shipping all the year round.

Ice can harm the concrete towers, transportation systems, and even the gas and oil transporting tubes located on the bottom of the northern seas. Most of the Pechora and Kara seas are covered with drifting ice, their speed can reach more than half a meter per second, and much higher during the storm. The situation is easier inlands, but the conditions are also extreme because of the permafrost. Therefore, the objectives of research in the Arctic are inevitably connected with its specificity. And exploration would not be an exception.

"The first challenge is geological exploration: seismic and electrical exploration of hydrocarbons, - Petrov says. - Either one or the other is usually carried out nowadays, but we want to combine them in our project. Also both kinds of intelligence are mostly carried out only by experimental methods today, using seismic and electrical sensors - but without mathematical modeling of acoustic and electromagnetic fields of the Earth's crust, without simulation of what could happen in it due to seismic and electromagnetic effects. The possibility of such experimental studies are very limited, while all modern global companies like Schlumberger, ExxonMobil, BP do exploration and much simulation in parallel."

The project, supported under the Federal Program "Research and Development 2014-2020", the Phystech team (mostly graduate students, young PhD students and more senior students than of the 4th year) creates a mechanical-mathematical model of the environment, which are based on Lagrange and Euler equations of continuum mechanics.

For electromagnetic exploration the team has been developing and adapting models of electromagnetic environments in the Earth's crust on the basis of Maxwell's equations.

"This is a very complex system of differential equations, - Petrov says. - We also solve the 3D problems - spatial tasks that require adequate numerical methods for solving." When all these algorithms and numerical methods are developed, scientists will have to make calculations on supercomputers. Calculations can take many hours or even days - depending on the field. A comparison of seismic and electronic sounding of Earth's crust will allow scientists to get the result faster and make it more accurate.

The staff of MIPT Department of Informatics, which is historically engaged in oil and gas issues, cooperate with geologists, who know well physics and mathematics, and with reputable companies and scientific organizations - Rosneft, Lukoil, the Federal Nuclear Center ... Russian school still remains in the world tops in the field of mechanical and mathematical numerical simulation, the scientist says: "This school was preserved in the perestroika era, apparently because it required only a pen, pencil and computer." Besides Phystech this "school" includes experts of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk State University, Moscow State University, Far Eastern Federal University, in his opinion.


"Sometimes you hear a very amateurish phrases that Russia is a gas station country, - Petrov complains. - It is ignorance: oil and gas industry is an extremely high-tech industry, comparable to the space or aviation industry. Exploration might be the most science-rich component, but the further extraction, production and transportation of minerals are also carried out via solving many scientific problems. A pipeline that should withstand the cracks and bumps, and earthquakes, and terrorist acts  is good example. "

Calculations for the oil and gas complex are considered in oil and gas industry as service, the scientist said. Earlier Western companies were normally charged with the service, but gradually and also in response to the crisis these companies such as for example ExxonMob are leaving the Russian market, and domestic service will come in their place.

The development, which is carried out at the Department of Informatics and Computing at Phystech laboratory of Geophysics will probably be applied in seismic and electrical exploration of oil and gas deposits not only in the Arctic, but also in Eastern and Western Siberia.

"Nine deposits in the Arctics, including "Prirazlomnaya" is a small share while even the available fields should be re-evaluated in terms of capacity, - Petrov said. - There are very complex fields in Western Siberia: for example oil-rich but hard to exploit and explore Bazhenovskaya Formation. We are solving the problems of this field; the young PhDs calculate its structure under my leadership. So this is also a point of high activity. "


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