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Development of a New Analytical Technology in Support of Oil and Natural Gas Extraction
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The project goal is to develop a powerful suite of new analytical techniques derived from ion beam capabilities. The intention is to contribute to the nation’s oil and gas exploration sector by offering a new and unique analytical toolset. Ion beam analysis will provide enhanced geochemical and mineralogical data sets for extracting oil and natural gas from shale plays. This will include particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE) for element analysis. The presence of mineralogical elements like Si, Ca, U, V, Mo and Th contribute to the brittleness of the shale rock and influence the harvesting process. Elastic recoil detection analysis (ERDA) will be used to determine the amount of hydrogen present, and nuclear reaction analysis (NRA) will be used to determine the amount of carbon.


Amethyst Research, Inc., Ardmore, OK 73401


The production of oil and gas from shale reservoirs has revolutionized the petroleum industry in the United States. The success of the shale plays is due to technological advancements that have resulted from an improved understanding of the complexities of shale and the variables that affect their productivity. Over the past decade, advances in shale characterization and stimulation technology have opened hydrocarbon-bearing shale to exploitation. The incredible success of the gas exploration has increased supply and driven natural gas prices lower, resulting in the push to find the more valuable petroleum liquids. The success of all of the plays depends on the proper characterization of the shale reservoir. To determine if the favorable parameters are present, it is currently necessary to conduct a number of different analyses that are time consuming and expensive.


In this project, analytical methods are being examined that could streamline elemental analysis of shale and provide estimates of mineralogical components that control brittleness, organic matter content, and maturity. This analysis would provide data that would allow more environmentally friendly and economical decisions to be made in extracting oil and natural gas from shale plays.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

Amethyst Research Inc. has begun Phase 2 of the SBIR project. In Phase 1, the project took a powerful suite of analytical techniques derived from ion beam materials analysis typically used for semiconductor studies and applied them to oil and gas bearing shale. They demonstrated that total carbon and hydrogen could be measured directly using NRA and ERDA, potentially providing a more accurate measurement of in-situ carbon than the standard method of pyrolysis. They also demonstrated that trace elements analysis could be easily added to the measurement using PIXE and Rutherford backscattering spectrometry.

Current Status

Ion beam analysis of drill cutting samples has begun. They have also begun analysis of calibration standard samples, which will be used for determining the accuracy and effectiveness of ion beam analysis.

Ion beam analysis of standard samples will be compared with results from industry-standard analytical techniques of core samples.

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DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Anthony Zammerilli ( or 304-285-4641)
Amethyst Research, Inc. – Khalid Hossain (

Additional Information

Ion-Beam Analysis for Non-Destructive Analysis of the Composition and Structure of Shale (Aug 2017)
Presented by Khalid Hossain, Amethyst Research, Inc., 2017 Carbon Storage and Oil and Natural Gas Technologies Review Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA