Reviving Abandoned Reservoirs with High-Pressure Air Injection: Application in a Fractured and Karsted Dolomite Reservoir

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Despite declining production rates, existing reservoirs in the United States contain vast volumes of remaining oil that is not being effectively recovered. This oil resource constitutes a huge target for the development and application of modern, cost-effective technologies for producing oil. Chief among the barriers to the recovery of this oil are the high costs of designing and implementing conventional advanced recovery technologies in these mature, in many cases pressure-depleted, reservoirs. An additional, increasingly significant barrier is the lack of vital technical expertise necessary for the application of these technologies. This lack of expertise is especially notable among the small ... continued below

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Loucks, Robert; Ruppel, Stephen C.; Dhiraj, Dembla; Gale, Julia; Holder, Jon; Kane, Jeff et al. September 30, 2006.

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Despite declining production rates, existing reservoirs in the United States contain vast volumes of remaining oil that is not being effectively recovered. This oil resource constitutes a huge target for the development and application of modern, cost-effective technologies for producing oil. Chief among the barriers to the recovery of this oil are the high costs of designing and implementing conventional advanced recovery technologies in these mature, in many cases pressure-depleted, reservoirs. An additional, increasingly significant barrier is the lack of vital technical expertise necessary for the application of these technologies. This lack of expertise is especially notable among the small operators and independents that operate many of these mature, yet oil-rich, reservoirs. We addressed these barriers to more effective oil recovery by developing, testing, applying, and documenting an innovative technology that can be used by even the smallest operator to significantly increase the flow of oil from mature U.S. reservoirs. The Bureau of Economic Geology and Goldrus Producing Company assembled a multidisciplinary team of geoscientists and engineers to evaluate the applicability of high-pressure air injection (HPAI) in revitalizing a nearly abandoned carbonate reservoir in the Permian Basin of West Texas. The Permian Basin, the largest oil-bearing basin in North America, contains more than 70 billion barrels of remaining oil in place and is an ideal venue to validate this technology. We have demonstrated the potential of HPAI for oil-recovery improvement in preliminary laboratory tests and a reservoir pilot project. To more completely test the technology, this project emphasized detailed characterization of reservoir properties, which were integrated to access the effectiveness and economics of HPAI. The characterization phase of the project utilized geoscientists and petroleum engineers from the Bureau of Economic Geology and the Department of Petroleum Engineering (both at The University of Texas at Austin) to define the controls on fluid flow in the reservoir as a basis for developing a reservoir model. The successful development of HPAI technology has tremendous potential for increasing the flow of oil from deep carbonate reservoirs in the Permian Basin, a target resource that can be conservatively estimated at more than 1.5 billion barrels. Successful implementation in the field chosen for demonstration, for example, could result in the recovery of more than 34 million barrels of oil that will not otherwise be produced. Geological and petrophysical analysis of available data at Barnhart field reveals the following important observations: (1) the Barnhart Ellenburger reservoir is similar to most other Ellenburger reservoirs in terms of depositional facies, diagenesis, and petrophysical attributes; (2) the reservoir is characterized by low to moderate matrix porosity much like most other Ellenburger reservoirs in the Permian Basin; (3) karst processes (cave formation, infill, and collapse) have substantially altered stratigraphic architecture and reservoir properties; (4) porosity and permeability increase with depth and may be associated with the degree of karst-related diagenesis; (5) tectonic fractures overprint the reservoir, improving overall connectivity; (6) oil-saturation profiles show that the oil-water contact (OWC) is as much as 125 ft lower than previous estimations; (7) production history and trends suggest that this reservoir is very similar to other solution-gas-drive reservoirs in the Permian Basin; and (8) reservoir simulation study showed that the Barnhart reservoir is a good candidate for HPAI and that application of horizontal-well technology can improve ultimate resource recovery from the reservoir.

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  • Report No.: None
  • Grant Number: FC26-02NT15442
  • DOI: 10.2172/924714 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 924714
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc899714

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  • September 30, 2006

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • March 15, 2018, 4:55 p.m.

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Loucks, Robert; Ruppel, Stephen C.; Dhiraj, Dembla; Gale, Julia; Holder, Jon; Kane, Jeff et al. Reviving Abandoned Reservoirs with High-Pressure Air Injection: Application in a Fractured and Karsted Dolomite Reservoir, report, September 30, 2006; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc899714/: accessed September 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.