Spectrum: Moving Toward 70% Recovery Factor: Multiple Disciplines, Different Methods, One Goal
- Ganesh Thakur (2012 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- June 2012
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 15
- 2012. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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During my 38 years in the industry, I have been dedicated to reservoir and well productivity improvement, particularly focused on enhanced oil recovery (EOR). As many of you know, I have talked about our industry’s need to increase recovery during my many section and conference presentations and have written numerous papers on the topic. I feel that productivity improvement is both one of the industry’s biggest challenges and one of its most promising opportunities, and it is a constantly moving target. The world’s desire for energy will continue to grow. By 2030, our global challenge will be to meet a projected 40% increase in energy demand and to do so in a way that protects the environment.
The often-quoted industry average of 35% recovery efficiency for conventional crude oil raises the question: Can we double it to produce several trillion barrels more? The many technology breakthroughs and thousands of incremental advances in exploration and production since the beginning of oil production have increased oil recovery levels in many shallow heavy oil reservoirs from less than 10% to in excess of 70% by steam injection.
We can add 600 to 900 billion bbl of recoverable oil with only a 10% incremental recovery of oil from the remaining conventional resource base by improved recovery through improved oil recovery (IOR) and EOR technologies. Although by no means an easy task, if we can raise total recovery to 70%, we can add a few trillion bbl of recoverable oil. The future will be even brighter if we can use IOR and EOR in exploiting unconventional resources, with the potential to defer the impact of “peak oil” far off into the future. Enormous progress is already taking place through the integration of unconventional resource exploitation with horizontal drilling and multistage fracturing. As a result, US oil production is on the rise for the first time in many decades, primarily due to liquids from unconventional reservoirs.
Now, I know what many of you are going to say: “A 70% recovery efficiency cannot be achieved.” I believe it can be. Such efficiency gains are happening today. Many operators are improving recovery efficiencies by being innovative and infusing more technology and know-how, increasing capital, and working with regulators. It is not unreasonable to imagine that implementing advanced IOR and EOR technologies can create another step change for this game-changing resource. When we start thinking of the integration of unconventional resources with the potential of IOR and EOR, the possibilities are mind boggling.
The challenge we must face is how to accelerate innovation and the development of essential technology. Commercializing technology in the oil and gas market is costly and time intensive, with an average of about 16 years from concept to widespread commercial adoption. The key is more collaboration in R&D and sharing innovations among industry, governments, and academic institutions, as well as with scientists outside the E&P industry. We must continue to expand our capabilities through innovation as our industry has relentlessly done in the past.
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