Reservoir Efficiency Processes – the D.O.E. approach

Published November 5th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

For every barrel of crude oil produced in the United States, two barrels are left in the ground.  


Average oil recovery from U.S. reservoirs is only about 32 percent. Although it is physically impossible to recover all of the oil that is discovered, the potential for improvement with the use of technology is very large indeed. 


Today, the United States is considered a mature oil and gas province. Production of easily-accessible oil peaked in 1970 and has declined since then. Advanced technologies, often based on sophisticated computer modeling, hold great promise for additional oil and gas production from the Nation's remaining hydrocarbon resources. 


Using tomorrow's advanced technologies, our Nation will be able to slow down, even stabilize, the currently declining oil production rate and increase the gas production rate.  


More importantly, it is imperative that we reduce the rate at which domestic oil and gas fields are being abandoned. Once shut-in or abandoned, oil and gas reservoirs cannot be economically restored to the production status due to the high costs associated with developing the field. 


The U.S. Department of Energy, in partnership with the oil and gas industry, academia, and the National Laboratories, supports basic and applied research of physical and chemical processes that govern fluid flow in porous media.  


This combination of the best public and private research capabilities has already produced remarkable results. 


The Reservoir Efficiency Processes Program addresses all aspects of upstream petroleum research, but focuses on improved, less expensive, and less risky oil recovery technologies. These technologies are known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR) processes. 


In general, EOR technologies fall into one of the following four categories: thermal, gas-miscible and -immiscible, chemical, and microbial. New or improved technologies often combine elements from more than one category. 


Methods of the future include unconventional approaches, such as field-wide development of strategically-placed horizontal wells, gravity drainage enhancement, microbial EOR, and radio frequency heating. 


The United States leads the world in EOR technology. Already, 12 percent of U.S. oil production is from EOR applications, and that fraction is growing steadily. The world's EOR production is about three percent and also growing. 


The Need for Research In Reservoir Efficiency Processes: 

Changes in technology, competition, resource base, and politics have transformed the petroleum industry. Some of the most significant changes include: 

· The decline of U.S. oil production and reserves since 1970, with decreased hope for the reversal of this trend.  

· Increase of oil and gas well abandonments, due to insufficient productivity and low oil prices. Once abandoned, redevelopment cannot be justified and future access to reservoirs is foreclosed, even with improved technologies.  

· Concern for improving the environment has led to new regulations imposed on industry by State and Federal agencies, which add costs to operations. This particularly affects the independent producers operating marginal wells. Increasing cost of complying with regulations is often the reason for many companies to move overseas.  

· Downsizing in the petroleum industry and reduction of basic and applied research. Independents, in particular, drill 85 percent of all U.S. wells, produce 66 percent of natural gas and 40 percent of crude oil, but do not conduct their own research.  

· As a consequence, more than 15,000 to 22,000 marginal oil and gas wells are abandoned every year, and about 220,000 wells are idled (not producing).  


Use of advanced technology enables reduced production costs during times of depressed prices. Advanced technology can uniquely access the already discovered but unrecovered resource; on average, two-thirds of the discovered resource is currently unrecoverable. 

Source: United States Department of Energy 


© 2000 Mena Report (

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