QinetiQ Space develops oil experiment for Space Agency


East Flanders’ aerospace research and development firm has developed an experiment, currently in orbit, that will shed light on gravity’s role in separating fluids

Oil and water

QinetiQ Space, from Kruibeke in East Flanders, has developed the Soret Coefficients in Crude Oil (SCCO) experiment for the European Space Agency. SCCO will examine the “Soret effect” in space, a phenomenon that causes mixed fluids to separate again under the influence of temperature.

The experiment was launched in space on Wednesday on board the Chinese SJ-10 Shi Jian satellite. It will orbit Earth for two weeks on board the satellite to examine the properties of oil in a microgravity environment. The data should give scientists a better view on the way oil behaves in reservoirs and could increase the speed with which oil is pumped from deposits deep beneath the Earth’s surface.

QinetiQ’s experiment can be compared to a glass filled with water and oil. On Earth, the oil will float on top of the water because of the influence of gravity. The experiment will remove gravity from the equation so that the effect of temperature can be efficiently analysed.

Photo courtesy QinetiQ Space