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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)

Efforts continued for μ-probe scanning using particle-induced, X-ray detector for quantitative analyses of elemental distribution within geological features in ion-milled, polished samples. Additional quantitative analysis will be done using Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy and nuclear reaction analysis.

  • Microstructural imaging analysis is also planned to further demonstrate the advantages of helium ion microscopy, which require minimal sample preparation.
  • Micro-beam focusing and diagnosis will continue.
Current Status

Amethyst is working closely with ALS Oil and Gas, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation representative, and recently with Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) to introduce ion beam analysis (IBA) of shale. New samples have been acquired from Anadarko/ALS team and more are promised from BEG. These will be used to demonstrate the added value of IBA to existing shale characterization. 

In addition, a Phase-I SBIR proposal entitle "Natural Gas-Water Mixture as an Alternate Fracturing Fluid to Enhance Oil and Gas Recovery from Unconventional Reservoirs" has been submitted to US DOE introducing an additional Amethyst toolset to enhance oil and gas exploration.

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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