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Updates and insights from our current CSR members


Member’s Corner

Welcome to the Member’s Corner. Here you can find updates and insights from our current CSR members.

Interested in the Chemical Sciences Roundtable? Watch the video below featuring our Co-Chair, Jennifer Sinclair Curtis. What is CSR and how can you get involved? What work has CSR done and what do we have planned for the future? Find out!

Jennifer Sinclair Curtis, Co-Chair
University of California, Davis

Michael J. Fuller
Completions Fluid and Stimulation Advisor
Chevron Energy Technology Company

Chemistry in Upstream Oil and Gas: A World of Possibilities

In 2004, I finished my graduate degree at Northwestern University and entered a career in an unknown technical realm: the world of oil and gas development.  Where many peers went onto successful careers in academia or chemical manufacturing, the upstream oil and gas segment presented an alternative career path with opportunities to solve chemical challenges around the world.

Common upstream tasks within oil and gas development include drilling, completion, and cementing of a well, as well as stimulation of the hydrocarbon productivity (such as hydraulic fracturing).  And while career paths in oil and gas development are historically associated with petroleum engineering programs, the upstream oil and gas industry employs technical experts across dozens of technical fields.  Chemistry is one subject matter expertise critical to the development of hydrocarbon resources.

Many scientists enter careers in upstream research and development expecting a simple laboratory environment to develop and qualify new chemical products and fluids.  But many are surprised to find that in their first 10 years, they may also be expected to:

  • Develop additional skills in geology, biomacromolecules, metallurgy, and environmental sciences
  • Travel to dozens of countries worldwide to teach about and consult on various technical topics
  • Solve chemical challenges across six continents at well sites ranging from deserts to offshore platforms
  • Volunteer in the local community with hundreds of peers, on projects ranging from supporting local STEM programs (such as volunteering at the local Science and Engineering Fair) to working at the local Children’s Hospital

There is a literal world of opportunity for scientists and engineers to share their expertise in the upstream oil and gas sector.  “Never a dull moment” doesn’t begin to describe the experience…

Dr. David F. Meyers
Vice President, Product Development and Technical Support
Specialty Construction Chemicals
GCP Applied Technologies, Inc.

People are often surprised to learn that my research work, now and for much of the last 30 years, is focused on cement and concrete.  Seemingly, everything should be known by now about such a common material, in use in its current form for well over a century.

It turns out that that the chemistry and engineering of portland cement is quite complex, and there are still important technical problems to solve and opportunities for improved performance.

Approximately 4.3 billion tons of cement are produced in the world each year, mainly for use as the primary binder in 7.5 billion m3 of concrete, that the world requires annually for the construction of buildings, dams, roads, and bridges.  The cement hydration reactions, which cause concrete to be transformed from a liquid slurry to a solid mass with high compressive strength, are perhaps the most widely practiced chemical reactions used industrially in the world.  And there have been major technical advances over the last 25 years.  New catalysts for cement hydration chemistry have been discovered that provide up to 20% more strength compared to the same cement without these catalysts.  A new generation of water-soluble polymer dispersants has been developed to reduce the amount of water required to make concrete flowable, greatly reducing the porosity and increasing the durability of concrete.  To compensate for concrete’s brittleness, Polymer fibers have been engineered to replace steel used in concrete, reducing the problem of steel corrosion due to the use of deicing salts on roads or exposure to marine environments.

Despite this good progress, there is still much that can be done to make concrete more durable, less prone to cracking, and more attractive.  Recent work aims to reduce the CO2 footprint of concrete (cement production accounts for about 5% of global CO2 emissions) and to deploy sensors, wireless communications, and databases to improve delivered concrete quality.  Since concrete is unlikely to be displaced as the primary construction material used globally, these opportunities for improved performance and lower environmental impact will continue to make R&D on cement and concrete an important area of focus for years to come.



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- Read our last Workshop Report:

Chemistry and Engineering of Shale Gas