Techniques for observing concrete as it sets could facilitate the development of new cements | 3/5/2013 | Staff
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A key part of drilling and tapping new oil wells is the use of specialized cements to line the borehole and prevent collapse and leakage of the hole. To keep these cements from hardening too quickly before they penetrate to the deepest levels of the well, they are mixed with chemicals called retarders that slow down the setting process.

It's been hard to study the way these retarders work, however, because the process happens at extreme pressures and temperatures that are hard to reproduce at the surface.

Researchers - MIT - Techniques - Process - Microscopic

Now, researchers at MIT and elsewhere have developed new techniques for observing the setting process in microscopic detail, an advance that they say could lead to the development of new formulations specifically designed for the conditions of a given well location. This could go a long way toward addressing the problems of methane leakage and well collapse that can occur with today's formulations.

Their findings appear in the journal Cement and Concrete Research, in a paper by MIT Professor Oral Buyukozturk, MIT research scientist Kunal Kupwade-Patil, and eight others at the Aramco Research Center in Texas and at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.

Hundreds - Mixtures - Cement - Use - Buyukozturk

"There are hundreds of different mixtures" of cement currently in use, says Buyukozturk, who is the George Macomber Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. The new methods developed by this team for observing how these different formulations behave during the setting process "open a new environment for research and innovation" in developing these specialized cements, he says.

The cement used to seal the lining of oil wells often has to set hundreds or even thousands of meters below the surface, under extreme conditions and in the presence of various corrosive chemicals. Studies of retarders have typically been done by removing samples of the cured cement from a well for testing in...
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