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Design of a New HT Emulsifier for Invert Emulsion Fluids: Borrowing from Adaptation of Extromophile Archaea Cell Membrane to Heat Stress

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000246022D
Publication Date: 2016-Apr-26

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The IP.com Prior Art Database

Abstract

Inverse emulsion (IE) drilling fluids rely upon the addition of special amphiphilic surfactant molecules to surround and stabilize the water (brine) phase in the base oil continuous phase. Such surfactant molecule are synthetized to show a basic structure of two acyl, hydrophobic, straight chain groups, typically fatty acids from C12 to C24, condensed to a polar group (referred to polar head in the conformation of the molecule). The conformation of the bi-acyl or hydrophobic (oil-loving) groups to the hydrophilic (water-loving) polar head is such that the geometry of the molecule resembles an invert cone, whereby the hydrophilic polar group (vertex) points to the water in the micelle whereas the acyl chain (tail) are in contact with the oil continuous phase. This relationship between the amphiphilic surfactant and the water and oil phases ensures the minimum energy state and provides stability to the system. The system of emulsion forming and stabilization in inverse emulsion fluids draws parallel with nature: lipidic cell membrane shares some of the feature of the micelles in inverse emulsion. For instance, cell membranes are constituted mainly by lipid bi-layer whereby two chains of fatty acyl are bound to either a glycerol or another alcohol. That is the case for organism of the domain eucarya and also for bacteria of the domain eubacteria. Although the organization and orientation of the lipid molecule in cell membrane is just the opposite of inverse emulsion fluids: the polar head in cell membranes lipids are facing the external water surrounding environment and the hydrophobic tails are forced to be embedded in the interior of the cell membrane. Likewise cell membranes in eubacteria, the micelle thus formed by the amphiphilic surfactant in IE fluid are not designed for high temperature environment. At high temperature conventional emulsifiers used in IE fluids tend to degrade quickly requiring further addition of an excess of emulsifiers to maintain micelle integrity and fluids properties associated with the micelle. In contrast, a group of microorganism (Archaea) adapted to live in extreme temperature environment (extremophiles) have adopted a series of chemical changes to the lipidic molecules in their cell membranes that allows living in extreme ambient conditions. This paper describe the adoption of some of the key mechanism of heat adaptation in cell membrane of extremophile archaea to the design of a novel emulsifier for IE fluid for high temperature drilling conditions.

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Design of a New HT Emulsifier for Invert Emulsion Fluids: Borrowing from Adaptation of Extromophile Archaea Cell Membrane to Heat Stress

Abstract

Inverse emulsion (IE) drilling fluids rely upon the addition of special amphiphilic surfactant molecules to surround and stabilize the water (brine) phase in the base oil continuous phase. Such surfactant molecule are synthetized to show a basic structure of two acyl, hydrophobic, straight chain groups, typically fatty acids from C12 to C24, condensed to a polar group (referred to polar head in the conformation of the molecule). The conformation of the bi-acyl or hydrophobic (oil-loving) groups to the hydrophilic (water-loving) polar head is such that the geometry of the molecule resembles an invert cone, whereby the hydrophilic polar group (vertex) points to the water in the micelle whereas the acyl chain (tail) are in contact with the oil continuous phase. This relationship between the amphiphilic surfactant and the water and oil phases ensures the minimum energy state and provides stability to the system. The system of emulsion forming and stabilization in inverse emulsion fluids draws parallel with nature: lipidic cell membrane shares some of the feature of the micelles in inverse emulsion. For instance, cell membranes are constituted mainly by lipid bi-layer whereby two chains of fatty acyl are bound to either a glycerol or another alcohol. That is the case for organism of the domain eucarya and also for bacteria of the domain eubacteria. Although the organization and orientation of the lipid molecule in cell membrane is just the opposite of inverse emulsion fluids: the polar head in cell membranes lipids are facing the external water surrounding environment and the hydrophobic tails are forced to be embedded in the interior of the cell membrane. Likewise cell membranes in eubacteria, the micelle thus formed by the amphiphilic surfactant in IE fluid are not designed for high temperature environment. At high temperature conventional emulsifiers used in IE fluids tend to degrade quickly requiring further addition of an excess of emulsifiers to maintain micelle integrity and fluids properties associated with the micelle. In contrast, a group of microorganism (Archaea) adapted to live in extreme temperature environment (extremophiles) have adopted a series of chemical changes to the lipidic molecules in their cell membranes that allows living in extreme ambient conditions. This paper describe the adoption of some of the key mechanism of heat adaptation in cell membrane of extremophile archaea to the design of a novel emulsifier for IE fluid for high temperature drilling conditions.

Emulsions: By definition emulsions are a dispersion of two immiscible fluids, like oil and water. The minor component of the two fluids is by definition the dispersed or discontinuous phase whereas the major component is the continuous phase. However, the Bancroft rules is applied to distinguish the continuous from dispe...