Improved Hydrocarbon Recovery in the United Kingdom Continental Shelf: Past, Present and Future
- A.J. Jayasekera (United Kingdom Department of Trade and Industry) | S.G. Goodyear (AEA Technology plc)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- SPE/DOE Improved Oil Recovery Symposium, 13-17 April, Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Publication Date
- Document Type
- Conference Paper
- 2002. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 2.2.2 Perforating, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 5.4.1 Waterflooding, 5.1.5 Geologic Modeling, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 2.3 Completion Monitoring Systems/Intelligent Wells, 7.5.5 Communities of Practice, 5.4.7 Chemical Flooding Methods (e.g., Polymer, Solvent, Nitrogen, Immiscible CO2, Surfactant, Vapex), 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 5.4.2 Gas Injection Methods, 5.5.3 Scaling Methods, 4.5 Offshore Facilities and Subsea Systems, 5.1.7 Seismic Processing and Interpretation, 1.6.9 Coring, Fishing, 5.2 Reservoir Fluid Dynamics, 5.4.3 Gas Cycling, 5.4.10 Microbial Methods, 1.6.8 Through Tubing Rotary Drilling, 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 5.3.4 Reduction of Residual Oil Saturation, 4.3.1 Hydrates, 4.5.3 Floating Production Systems, 1.10.1 Drill string components and drilling tools (tubulars, jars, subs, stabilisers, reamers, etc), 5.4 Enhanced Recovery, 5.1.8 Seismic Modelling, 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow, 5.10.1 CO2 Capture and Sequestration, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 5.1 Reservoir Characterisation, 5.1.1 Exploration, Development, Structural Geology, 5.5 Reservoir Simulation, 1.6.7 Geosteering / Reservoir Navigation, 4.3.4 Scale, 5.5.8 History Matching, 5.7.2 Recovery Factors, 3 Production and Well Operations, 6.5.3 Waste Management, 1.14 Casing and Cementing, 5.7.6 Reserves Classification, 2 Well Completion, 3.1.6 Gas Lift, 1.7 Pressure Management, 6.5.2 Water use, produced water discharge and disposal, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 4.6 Natural Gas, 4.1.9 Heavy Oil Upgrading, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 5.8.7 Carbonate Reservoir, 5.1.9 Four-Dimensional and Four-Component Seismic
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Gas production from the UKCS commenced in 1967 and oil production in 1975. The North Sea area is now very much a mature province with the large fields in the Southern, Central and Northern North Sea producing at significantly below their early plateau production rates. Here the drive is to maximise the overall economic hydrocarbon recovery from the province, by making the best use of the infrastructure that has been built up to bring in new discoveries and improve recovery from the mature fields. New areas (deeper, harsher climate) are being opened up for exploration on the Atlantic Margin.
This paper reviews the evolution of the mature areas of the UKCS, with case studies to illustrate the technical challenges that have been overcome. Over the years government and industry have expended considerable resources in developing innovative techniques for improved hydrocarbon recovery. These range from developments in the application of EOR processes to advances in drilling and reservoir management technology, including novel seismic techniques to identify new or bypassed oil. Technological advances have also unlocked reserves in heavy oils and in high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) condensate fields, which were left undeveloped until the 1990s.
Finally the potential for further exploitation and life extension of the UKCS as a significant hydrocarbon province will be reviewed. This will cover perceived technology gaps in opening up the new areas in deeper water, opportunities for redeveloping mature fields using new technology, combining IOR with carbon dioxide sequestration, and the need to drive down costs to be competitive in the international arena, while honouring environmental commitments.
Oil exploration and production in the UK began onshore in the early part of the 20th century in the East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and East Midlands areas. Later the interest extended to include the Dorset basin in the south of England. These were typically mechanical pump assisted fields producing a few 100 bbls/day/well. The first offshore gas field, West Sole in the Southern North Sea (SNS), was discovered in 1965 and brought onstream in 1967. Oil was first discovered in the Central North Sea (CNS) in 1969 and the first oilfield to come onstream was Argyll in 1975, followed soon after by the Forties field. The UK became self-sufficient in oil around 1980.
Oil production on the UKCS has followed a typical exploitation path for a hydrocarbon producing area with large conventional fields being developed first and thereafter smaller fields utilising the infrastructure. It has now entered a third phase with the development of technically more difficult fields such as heavy oil fields and High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT) fields. A recent paper1 reviewed the UKCS heavy oil fields, so the primary focus of this paper is light oil fields.
In the early days the industry used the term Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) to describe the deliberate injection of an alternative fluid to displace further oil from reservoir rock, over and above the standard pressure maintenance strategy (waterflooding for most UKCS oil fields). In the 1990s the industry began to use the term Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) to cover any operation (including the EOR techniques) that increased oil recovery above the figure that had been initially accepted as economically and technically exploitable. ‘Improved Hydrocarbon Recovery' is a more general term that will cover all hydrocarbon types, including gas, but it is not commonly used as an acronym.
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