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UPI Science News: Math model to aid natural gas production

U.S. engineers say they have developed a mathematical model that could help energy companies produce natural gas more efficiently.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are collaborating with Shell Oil Co. experts to apply their math model to a natural gas production system in Malaysia.

MIT Professor Paul Barton notes natural gas companies would like to operate their production networks more efficiently and flexibly. But he says the only way for a company to optimize such a system is to formulate it as a mathematical problem and solve it.

“If there were just one or two decisions to make, an engineer could do it,” he said. “But when you’ve got 20 valves to set and 50 different constraints to satisfy, it’s impossible for a person to see. Computer procedures can take all of that into account.”

Barton and chemical engineering graduate student Ajay Selot developed a mathematical model to guide operators’ decisions one to three months in advance. While other models have focused on optimizing individual subsystems, the new MIT model encompasses the whole system.

The research is supported by Shell International Exploration and Production through MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

11/21/2006 12:42:06 PM EST

Copyright © 2006 United Press International

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