TULSA — Petroleum engineers from around the world are gathering here this week to share the latest advances in maximizing oil production.
Officials from three companies involved in enhanced oil recovery operations spoke Monday at the opening session of the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ 19th Improved Oil Recovery Symposium at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center. The five-day event, which runs through Wednesday, drew more than 800 professionals from more than two dozen countries.
Event chairman Sada D. Joshi said enhanced recovery methods remain an important part of the oil and natural gas industry, even with domestic production booming.
Joshi, president of Tulsa’s Joshi Technologies International Inc., said such processes can rejuvenate mature oil fields or boost production in newer unconventional plays.
“We have plenty of room to keep going,” he said.
Enhanced oil recovery projects currently account for about 11 percent of domestic production.
Monday’s panelists highlighted the differences between smaller independent operators and major oil producers, as executives from Chaparral Energy Inc., Occidental Petroleum Corp. and ExxonMobil shared insight on their operations.
Chaparral is operating the largest enhanced oil recovery project in Oklahoma with the Burbank Field in Osage County.
The privately held company has invested $325 million in the project, which represents about half of Chaparral’s reserves. It includes a 68-mile pipeline that carries carbon dioxide from a fertilizer plant in Coffeyville, Kan. Scott Wehner, Chaparral’s senior vice president of enhanced oil recovery operations, said the company began injecting CO2 into the ground last summer.
Officials hope production from the field will peak at about 12,000 barrels of oil a day for Chaparral.
Wehner said smaller projects can pay off as well, pointing to a Chaparral venture in the Texas Panhandle. He said the Booker field is composed of high-quality sandstone tucked between layers of shale where traditional drilling methods unearthed only about 12 percent of the 18 million barrels of recoverable oil in place.
Water flooding proved unsuccessful, but Wehner said Chaparral expects to be able to recover nearly a quarter of the field’s oil after starting CO2 injection in 2009.
He said Chaparral recouped its initial $13 million investment in the project after only five years. The company expects to net about $40 million from the Booker project, which also yielded valuable lessons for future endeavors.
Occidental has been working with a variety of enhanced recovery methods for more than 30 years.
“We have everything that you can dream of under the sun operating in California,” said Ed Behm, director of planning and evaluation for Occidental subsidiary Permian Resources.
He said the company has exciting prospects in Texas, South America and the Middle East, but he spotlighted its efforts in California’s Kern First Field.
Behm said drilling began there in 1913, but Occidental has managed to turn that marginal project into an area with 1,100 wells that produce more than 10,000 barrels of oil a day. He said the company built co-generation plants as a cheap source of steam used to heat heavy oil in that field.
Industry giant ExxonMobil evaluates potential projects in stages.
Gary F. Teletzke, team lead for enhanced oil recovery at ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co., said the company screens the economics for each one and identifies possible injectants that could boost production. The most promising processes are tested in Exxon’s lab and in the field to help determine a commercial plan.
Exxon has worked with enhanced oil recovery techniques around the world, starting with gas injection tests in the 1950s. The first commercial operations began in the ’70s and ’80s, mostly involving water and gas injection.
Teletzke said Exxon also has tested many processes for extracting heavy oil in Canada.
The company is actively researching solvent-assisted projects to reduce the viscosity of thick bitumen in that country’s oil sands. Crews have added diluent to steam used to heat the bitumen, while also testing cyclic injection of solvents to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
We have everything that you can dream of under the sun operating in California.”
Director of planning and evaluation for Occidental subsidiary Permian Resources