Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi Grad Student Wins First Place in SPE Student Paper Contest

Next stop for Mork Family Department Ph.D. candidate: an international conference in Florence, Italy

June 15, 2010 —

When the winners were announced at a recent Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) meeting in Anaheim, a young researcher at the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science pulled out her cell phone to share big news.

Marjan Jamshidi: More methane, less environmental damage:
Earlier, Ph.D. candidate Marjan Jamshidi had presented her findings on a way to get more methane gas out of coalbeds with less environmental damage. This research, she learned, had just won first place in the student paper category.

“I was extremely happy," said Jamshidi, "and first thing I did was to call my family and share my happiness.” She also emailed friends.

This September, Jamshidi will go on to Florence, Italy for the SPE’s annual worldwide meeting. There, her paper will be presented in the SPE’s international category.

The paper, co-authored by MFD Assistant Professor Kristian Jessen,  explains how conventional practices call for pumping water or injecting gas into the coalbed formation. This often results in a flow of water to the surface that needs further treatment to reduce harmful impurities and reduce environmental harm.

Jamshidi and Jessen argue in their paper that injected carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas into the formation will reduce the water handling issue “substantially.”

“It will reduce the environmental harm significantly, because the water produced from deep formations is contaminated with chlorides and nitrites and it has high level of total dissolved solids,” Jamshidi explains.

The procedure will also substantially save considerable operational costs to companies.

“The goal of this project was to minimize the water production and maximize the methane production by gas injection,” she added. “With this approach, the water production can be reduced to a great extent and the methane recovery can be increased significantly, therefore, it will greatly reduce the operational cost.”

Jamshidi, who has two masters degrees from USC -- in Chemical Engineering and in Petroleum Engineering -- said she picked the topic because she was looking for a new area to research.

“I was looking for a subject to exploit my knowledge in both areas and continue learning new subjects without limiting myself to what I have done before. I became interested in coalbed methane operations after a seminar I attended at USC.”

“Coalbeds are extremely attractive prospects for their ability to retain large amount of methane and it has a lot of research potential on the matter of gas injection and water production.”