Doubling of oil recovery efficiency seen possible

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Nov. 2 -- A doubling of oil recovery efficiency worldwide is possible through effective use of technology and wise management, according to former head of reservoir management at Saudi Aramco.

Global cumulative production is 1 trillion bbl from a conventional resource of 7-8 trillion bbl, noted Nansen Saleri, president and chief executive officer of Quantum Reservoir Impact. With unconventional hydrocarbons, the total resource is 14-17 trillion bbl.

"We have a lot more trillions to go," Nansen told the RMI Oilfield Breakfast Forum in Houston Nov. 1

Saleri used experience with Saudi Arabia's Ghawar oil field, the world's largest, to show how technology improves reservoir performance.

In the field's southern area, called Haradh, Aramco raised production in three increments starting in 1996. The first step involved vertical wells; the second, starting in 2003, involved horizontal wells; and the third, starting in 2006 involved maximum reservoir contact wells, smart, completions, and instrumentation.

The advance of technology, Saleri said, yielded a five-fold increase in added production between the first and third increments.

In addition, real-time pressure monitoring helped Aramco keep several wells from prematurely watering out. Haradh production is 900,000 b/d.

Worldwide, Saleri said, recovery efficiency is 30-35% but could be 60-75%.

"That's where the challenges lie," he said.

Saleri questioned the oil industry assumption that production from oil fields inevitably rises to a peak then declines irreversibly.

"There's no reason we can't extend the period of robustness for a long time," he said.

He stressed the importance of understanding reservoir fundamentals, verifying that understanding, and having the capacity to implement an optimum program.

He said international and national oil companies, especially the former, are "more short-sighted vis-a-vis the reservoir."

In other presentations at the forum:

-- G. Allen Brooks, managing director of the energy investment banker Parks Paton Hoepfl & Brown, cited global warming and peaking oil production as two new variables that oil industry planners should consider in their forecasts.

-- Tim Probert, senior vice-president of drilling and evaluation for Halliburton, presented a list of top technology challenges: reduced uncertainty in smaller, more complex hydrocarbon accumulations; well placement, drainage, and control to improve recovery factors; making unconventional resources conventional; reliable access to deeply buried reservoirs; and competitive efficiency models.

-- David Holt, executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, a group formed last year to encourage development of all US energy sources, said, "The general tenor in Washington is not friendly" to the oil and gas industry and called for "a renewed emphasis on a balanced, inclusive energy policy."

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