Tracking Changes in Oil Exploration and Development Technology and Their Economic Implications
- W.C.J. van Rensburg (U. of Texas) | Krishan A. Malik (U. of Texas)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 1988
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 71 - 74
- 1988. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.2.4 Risers, 5.1.5 Geologic Modeling, 5.4.9 Miscible Methods, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.1.4 Gas Processing, 4.3.4 Scale, 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 5.4.7 Chemical Flooding Methods (e.g., Polymer, Solvent, Nitrogen, Immiscible CO2, Surfactant, Vapex), 5.4 Enhanced Recovery, 5.6.1 Open hole/cased hole log analysis, 5.8.6 Naturally Fractured Reservoir, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 1.11 Drilling Fluids and Materials, 2.5.2 Fracturing Materials (Fluids, Proppant), 5.4.6 Thermal Methods, 2.1.7 Deepwater Completions Design, 2 Well Completion, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.5.10 Remotely Operated Vehicles, 4.5 Offshore Facilities and Subsea Systems
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Summary. The objectives of this paper are to identify improvements made during the past 15 years in the technology and methods used for the exploration, development, and production of oil reserves in the U.S. Wherever possible. observations have been made with respect to the effect of these improvements on the exploitation of these reserves. Areas of research that will be of interest in the future have also been referenced. In this regard, it may be recognized that after an era in which it was important to find oil at any price to ensure supplies. the petroleum industry is now entering a period of systematic research to reduce costs in response to the new market conditions.
The new technological breakthroughs of the 1970's and 1980's are changing the methods of exploring, developing, and producing petroleum resources. The petroleum industry had traditionally been faced with difficult technological and economic problems that it has managed to solve through innovative and entrepreneurial abilities. To find and develop the petroleum reserves during the next decade will require moving into frontier areas characterized by hostile environments of the Arctic and drilling in increasingly deeper water depths.
Various factors add to the complexities of determining the economic implications of technological advancements. A detailed investigation is necessary to determine the economic advantages, if any, arising from the application of a particular technology. Many variables would tend to impact such an analysis, causing it to be highly complex.
To track changes in oil exploration and development technology and the economic implications of these changes. it is considered appropriate to discuss each aspect individually.
Efforts have been made within the exploration world to bring about better scientific research and development through the joint efforts of academia and private enterprise. The new technological break-throughs of the 1970's and 1980's are changing the methods of exploring for petroleum resources. Many of these changes are a result of computer technology.
Geophysics. Future geophysical exploration appears to be headed toward the heavy use of computers. The new technologies being used today in exploration geophysics require computer applications for surveying, new data-collection methods, processing developments, and interactive interpretation techniques. Rapid developments in the electronics and communications industries have been mirrored by developments in geophysical recording equipment. The new electronic measuring devices are providing significantly more accurate land-surveying records. One of the most critical problems in marine seismic data collection is accurate spatial location. There have been advances in this area in the last few years; e.g.. satellite. location is becoming more common.
Seismic reflection studies are undertaken for the purpose of solving geologic problems that are invariably three-dimensional (3D). Three-dimensional imagery techniques include collecting seismic traces over an area, processing these traces, and interpreting the subsurface geology from these data. These techniques are rapidly becoming more acceptable as geophysical exploration tools and 3D seismology have been established during the past decade as viable exploration methods. For example. 3D seismic technology was used in a geologically complex area of the Overthrust Belt to identify drilling sites.
Use of remote sensing has increased as exploration geologists have learned how to use sophisticated imagery. Progress in this field was the product of advancing satellite technology. Three-dimensional technology can save exploration geologists considerable money by preventing the drilling of misplaced holes. But it is expensive in itself, so a key need for the future is to cut the cost of new techniques.
Seismic stratigraphy has been growing rapidly. and the quality of seismic data has been adequate to interpret reservoir conditions and depositional facies with some accuracy. Better knowledge of petrophysics and continued experimentation with processing techniques will sustain the development of seismic stratigraphy. Advances in data-acquisition technology. principally improved recovery of high-frequency signals. and in recording of shear-wave reflections will provide accurate stratigraphic interpretations.
Improving methods of manipulating and viewing the large volumes of data available to today's exploration geologists is vital. Therefore, one of the major technologies requiring emphasis in the 1980's is database management that includes improvements in datahandling techniques and interactive interpretation.
Geology. The past 15 years have produced an accelerated advance in the earth sciences, largely as a result of the adaptation of the computer. and innovative interpretation from its use by geologists to their problems. A great deal of geologic information can be processed by the computer. and computer processing is a powerful tool. Most computer techniques in applied geology include the construction of maps. One of the most important functions of computer mapping is properly locating a well or sample location on maps. Furthermore, computers allow a large variety of parameters to be mapped and presented to the geologist for interpretation. The computer can give an unbiased estimate of which procedure relates to the presence of oil and gas. provided there have been discoveries in the area. However, prospects require a great deal of interpretation and information by the exploration geologists. This cannot be supplied by the computer. although it can determine the range in which the geologist can operate and also produce estimates of the economic feasibility of prospects.
Most new well logs are now being recorded in digital form. Digital logs have been used for reservoir analysis and detailed analysis of individual wells for more than 15 years. Digital log analysis is expected to become one of the main computer applications in geology. Research may determine an automatic technique for horizon correlation in logs. Such a method will eliminate the personal bias and error in manual correlations.
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