Advanced Fluid Tracers to Evaluate Rock Formations

Physical Sciences : Petroleum

Available for licensing


  • Carlos Torres-Verdin , Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
  • Erich Schneider , University of Texas at Austin

Background/unmet need

Tracer technology has been widely used by hydrocarbon-producing, aquifer-management, and soil-remediation companies. It provides a relatively quick, highly accurate method to evaluate dynamic petrophysical properties of rock formations using existing borehole nuclear logging tools. The proliferation of tracer technology has created a need to improve the ability to do in-situ assessment of petrophysical properties of rocks. Knowledge of these properties is necessary for the detection and assessment of water- and hydrocarbon-bearing rock formations.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have proposed a novel method for the assessment of properties of porous and permeable rocks, including hydraulic connectivity and dispersivity. The proposed technology involves a new type of tracer with substantial precision which can be used with existing borehole measurement techniques. The use of nanoparticles as fluid tracers enhances specific contrast properties, thereby significantly improving the detection of flow properties in fluid conduits as well as in porous media.


  • Significant enhancement in contrast properties
  • Enhanced direct and remote detection of flow properties
  • Minimal to no fixed costs
  • Less expensive to operate than other proposals for employing tracers in underground strata
  • Improved reliability and efficiency in hydrocarbon exploration and discovery operations


  • Novel nanoparticle fluid tracer technology
  • Nanoparticles are soluble in water, organic, and non-organic fluids
  • Precisely detects flow properties in-situ in fluid conduits and porous media
  • Assesses hydraulic connectivity and dispersivity

Market potential/applications

Large markets for tracer technologies exist within hydrocarbon-producing, aquifer-management, and soil-remediation companies, including service companies which closely work with them. For example, tracer technologies such as those developed by Tracerco have helped oil and gas companies save at least 20% in reservoir stimulation costs and improved yield by 45%. Tracer technologies also have applications in biomedical and nuclear detection studies.

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status