IOR and geosciences

April 2, 2018
Industry has expanded the definition of improved oil recovery (IOR) and advanced its application to economically produce more of the world's oil that already has been discovered.

Industry has expanded the definition of improved oil recovery (IOR) and advanced its application to economically produce more of the world's oil that already has been discovered.

The Midcontinent Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers has hosted a biennial IOR conference in Tulsa since 1978. E. Lance Cole, general chairman of the SPE IOR 2018 Conference, hopes to emphasize geosciences during the conference set for Apr. 14-18.

In the spirit of cooperation across disciplines, this year's agenda includes for the first time a short course on development geology.

"IOR without due respect for the geosciences can handicap any project," Cole told OGJ. He also advocates that operators "look at IOR projects across the world to glean what applies" to their own particular projects.

Cole is intersociety collaboration manager at the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. He leads SEG's efforts to collaborate with other professional societies to organize major technical conferences and workshops. He works with geoscientists worldwide.

"Geoscience is part of everything…geoscientists themselves are getting more sophisticated in how they describe a reservoir and forecast how it will perform," Cole said. "In IOR, as well as all areas of oil and gas, incremental improvements come when people work hard and make step advances."

Before joining SEG, Cole was president of Petroleum Technology Solutions Inc., which provided engineering consulting for the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council.

"I facilitated brainstorming between very small independent producers and leading researchers in US National Laboratories," Cole said. "As producers described their problems, researchers could readily see where their research-which often was not directly related to oil and gas-could with minor adaptation provide disruptive solutions."

Disruptive technology

This year's conference theme is "Acceptance, Perseverance, and Disruption Enhance Future IOR."

Cole said acceptance "means coming to terms with a realistic future oil-price scenario." He said operators of both deepwater and unconventional plays have learned they must earn profits in current economic circumstances rather than waiting for higher crude prices.

Industry leaders need perseverance to achieve incremental advances in IOR techniques.

Cole considers disruption a positive force, noting the offshore industry has developed many deepwater successes through a series of disruptive technological advancements.

He also believes disruption has redefined "the playing field" for IOR and enhanced oil recovery. "Looking at unconventional resources, the combo of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing could be considered the disruptive technology."


Development geology is key to managing IOR projects, said organizers who decided to include such a course. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists developed the course.

Terngu Utim will teach the course on Apr. 14, providing information about reservoir characterization, reservoir behavior, and reservoir connectivity analysis. He plans to discuss how to design wells to fulfill their designated roles in IOR projects.

Utim is managing consultant at XPSG LLC, a geoscience and field development consulting company based in Houston.

Formerly with Nexen and Shell, he has participated in IOR projects involving carbonates (Permian basin) and siliciclastic formations (Gulf of Mexico and West Africa deepwater as well as US and West Africa onshore).