Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at a scale between 1 and 100 nanometres (nm) in size. A nanometre (nm) is one-billionth (10−9) of a meter, a benzene molecule for example is about a nanometre wide, pores in oil-bearing rock are just a few hundred nanometres in diameter. What is important here is that, as particles get smaller and smaller and their properties change, their relative surface area increases and quantum effects can change or enhance reactivity, strength and electrical behaviour.

Global energy demand is projected to rise as high as almost 60% over the next 30 years. It is challenging trend that may be met only by revolutionary breakthroughs in energy science and technology. Innovative collaborative efforts between the E & P sector and the Nanotechnology industry could hold the key to moving beyond the current alternatives for energy supply by introducing technologies that are more efficient and environmentally sound. Nanotechnology is characterized by collaboration among diverse disciplines such as chemical engineering, materials science, applied physics, bio-chemistry, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering, making it inherently innovative. Nanoscientists engineer at the scale of atoms and molecules.

While application of nanotechnology has significantly contributed and advanced across a variety of industries, such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, biomedical, aerospace and photography. There special attributes are already being used in a number of ways, such as in semiconductors, scratch-free paint, wrinkle and stain-resistant fabrics, sunscreen lotions, skis, photographic paper and application of embedding silver nanocrystals in bandages, to kill bacteria and prevent infections. Of course, nanotechnology has existed in nature since the dawn of life, with enzymes to catalyze the synthesis of huge molecules, DNA for information storage, and molecular motors powered by adenosine triphosphate. But the oil and gas industry has yet to fully investigate its potential. Nanotechnology offers tremendous potential to modernize infrastructure, increase net recovery from new and existing reservoirs, extend the area of applications to deep waters, and find solutions for producing unconventional hydrocarbons. Such a technology may be the cornerstone of any future energy technology that offers hope of extending the lifeline of our current energy resources by providing innovative solutions. Nanotechnology enables the introduction of better and cleverer materials that will improve structural performance, prolong material life spans and drive costs down. The behaviour of materials at the Nanoscale is often very different from when they are in a larger form. Nanomaterials can be stronger, lighter, more easily recyclable, and are often able to conduct heat or electricity in a different way. They can even change colour. Nanotechnology offers tremendous potential to modernize infrastructure, increase net recovery from new and existing reservoirs, and extend the area of applications to deep waters.

Nanotechnology offers both upstream and downstream solutions. At the most fundamental level, nanotechnology can provide the oil and gas industry with a better understanding of rock/fluid interactions and their effects on multiphase flow. Understanding such processes can lead to improved downhole separation. Tailored surfactants can provide added control and help recover more oil. Improved monitoring and illumination of reservoirs from high-precision nanosensors will greatly enhance production capability while minimizing downtime.

The oil and gas industry relies on the strength and stability of its materials. The extreme precision of nanoscale manipulation offers geoscientists and engineers not only miniaturized devices to work with, but also radically improved novel materials. Nanomaterials can be made as light and elastic as silk but as strong as steel. There are numerous robust and temperature/pressure resistant nanotechnology applications already deployed or being developed for automotive, aerospace and military use which can offer a wide range of similar benefits for the petrol industry.

So the nanotechnologist is concerned with building new structures and substances by manipulating molecules and atoms. Technically, nanotechnology is the art and science of building materials that act at the nanometer scale. It builds at the ultimate level of finesse, one atom at a time, and it does it with molecular perfection. In a general sense, nanotechnology is the ability to create and manipulate matter at the molecular level that makes it possible to create materials with improved (or, more accurately, altered) properties, such as being both lightweight and having ultrahigh strength, and greater capabilities such as in electrical and heat conductivity. Another research approach is known as top-down nanofabrication, which involves working with bulk materials and reducing them to nanometer size. This is most common in currently used technology development schemes.