ESA & China team up for crude oil test in space

ESA & China team up for crude oil test in space
The European Space Agency (ESA) is cooperating with China to send small containers of crude oil into space, to gain a better understanding of how deep underground oil reservoirs operate. The data will aid future oil exploration.

The experiment is known as the 'Soret Coefficient in Crude Oil,' and includes six cylinders containing one millimeter of crude oil pressurized to 400 times our normal atmospheric level – among the highest ever sent to space – according to an ESA press release.

The experimental flight is designed to increase our understanding of oil reserves 7-8 km underground.

“The combination of the crushing pressure and temperature gradient as you go further down is thought to create a ‘diffusion effect’: petroleum compounds move based on temperature, defying gravity. Over geological timescales, heavier deposits end up rising, while lighter ones sink,” said Antonio Verga, who is overseeing the project.

The aim is to quantify this effect in weightlessness, helping to guide future decisions on oil exploration.

The containers have already gone through testing at the ESA’s center in the Netherlands to examine temperature shifts in orbital flight and the vibration and shocks of launch and reentry. The cylinders have been tested at a proof pressure 2.5 times their operating level.

The package is to be launched on China's SJ-10 Shi Jian spacecraft from the Gobi desert and will spend two weeks in orbit before descending upon Si Chuan province.

The mission has been a long time in the making.