Adam Reid shared his project with his peers on LAUNCH Day, which took place on March 6, 2020. Adam, a member of ESTAAR, conducted research in an LSU lab. He designed and built a device that could identify fluids by measuring their electrical capacitance, and he hoped the device might make work in the oil and gas industry safer and help to keep the environment clean. Adam’s research responds directly to a need we have right here in our home state.
Living in Louisiana most of my life, I can’t help but have noticed some of the things that make this state so special. Everyone knows about how good our music is. Our food speaks for itself, too. Some people come here to enjoy the Cajun culture they can’t get elsewhere. Some come for the ultra-intense sporting events. Some just want to relax, enjoy, and explore the bayous. There are not many other places that have this in common with us. But Louisiana is unique for more than just being a cool place to live. Our economy is one of the most important in the nation and the world outside, and we have none other than crude oil to thank.
As is, there is a widespread motivation to improve the crude oil extraction process. Most of that motivation comes from the daily desires of ordinary people and consumers. It’s impossible to understate the near impossibility of living a life that isn’t impacted by crude oil in some way. Most people are aware of crude oil’s implication on transportation. Our daily commute, our grocery runs, our delivery services, etc., are all contingent on crude oil in some way or another. And so is the road surface. And tires. Electronics. Detergents. Food preservatives. Polyester clothing. Cosmetic products. Toothpaste. Shoes. And plastics, to name a few. Keep a list of all the normal things we do and use each day, and it’s easy to see just how much crude oil impacts our lives.
We have to get crude oil from the ground somewhere. But at what cost? As is, the way that we get most of it is simple enough. We dig deep holes where we think the oil is, wait for something to force itself to the top, and verify whether or not it’s a useful site. Workers can stand by and monitor what is being extracted as it comes out.
Here’s the problem: the mixture that comes from the ground usually isn’t a pure sample of crude oil, and the process of it coming out of the ground isn’t a gentle one. The mixture that arises is usually a mixture of things including water and other gases. However, there is little way for workers to know exactly what is in the mixture coming up from deep below the ground until it reaches the surface. If the mixture ends up containing too much water or, worse, too much gas, potentially disastrous consequences await. In many cases, the risks of working in an oil field are great. Any accident, though small initially, can escalate into something that is detrimental to our environment and is deadly for the people involved. No matter how we choose to get our energy and produce our goods, finding a way to preserve our own lives and the world that we live in needs to take priority.
And so, my research was born. I set out to demonstrate a way that crude oil extraction could be made to be safer for workers, to pose less of an environmental threat, and to explore ideas related to science and engineering that might inspire others to think and to cherish the amazing opportunities in the world around. Although the results of my research were mixed at best, I still managed to make a cheap, simple, and reproducible device, which was a proof of concept that can be used in future research.
Adam is a current senior. He is the Honor Council President, a National Merit Finalist, and is a member of the National Honor Society. He is a long-time member of the select Wind Ensemble group and is the current Treasurer of the Mu Alpha Theta club. When he is not inundated with school, he enjoys biking, inline skating, and catching up with friends.