Thin oil columns overlain by free gas and underlain by water pose difficult problems in well spacing and completion method, production policy, and reserves estimation. Whether an oil column is considered thin depends on costs to drill and produce the accumulation. For example, in the Bream field (Australia Bass Strait, 230 ft water depth), 44 ft was considered thin, whereas in the Troll field (offshore Norway, 980 ft water depth), 79 ft was considered thin. Onshore U.S.A., 20 ft is considered thin. Irrgang takes a pragmatic approach, defining thin oil columns as those that "will cone both water and gas when produced at commercial rates." The overall reserve estimate of oil from such accumulations can be influenced by well spacing and completion method and by gas-cap management policy.
Shale gas is becoming increasingly important globally. The nature of these reservoirs pose special considerations in reserves estimation. What follows was written in 2001 and needs to be updated based on current experience. Nonetheless, some of the considerations mentioned remain appropriate. As reported in mid-2000, natural gas produced from shale in the US has grown to be approximately 1.6% (0.3 Tcf annually) of total gas production.
Discovered resources of heavy and extraheavy crude oil are estimated to be approximately 4,600 billion bbl, two-thirds of which are in Canada and Venezuela. Bitumen and tar sands are excluded from this estimate. Published data on reserves estimates (RE) from this resource by primary drive mechanisms are sparse. Meyer and Mitchell estimated worldwide ultimate recovery from heavy and extraheavy crude oils to be 476 billion bbl, which is 10% of the Briggs et al. estimate of the discovered resource initially in place. Estimated primary reserves estimates (RE) ranges from 8 to 12% oil-in-place (OIP) for the Orinoco area of Venezuela, where stock-tank gravities range from 8 to 13 American Petroleum Institute (API).
Tight gas is the term commonly used to refer to low permeability reservoirs that produce mainly dry natural gas. Many of the low permeability reservoirs that have been developed in the past are sandstone, but significant quantities of gas are also produced from low permeability carbonates, shales, and coal seams. Production of gas from coal seams is covered in a separate chapter in this handbook. In this chapter, production of gas from tight sandstones is the predominant theme. However, much of the same technology applies to tight carbonate and to gas shale reservoirs. Tight gas reservoirs have one thing in common--a vertical well drilled and completed in the tight gas reservoir must be successfully stimulated to produce at commercial gas flow rates and produce commercial gas volumes. Normally, a large hydraulic fracture treatment is required to produce gas economically.
In-situ combustion processes are largely a function of oil composition and rock mineralogy. Laboratory studies, using crude and matrix from a prospective in-situ combustion project, should be performed before designing any field operation. A more recent and more accurate kinetics model has been developed. Only two reactions are used, but in addition, the geometry of the reacting residual fuel in the pore spaces is taken into account, as indicated in Figure 1. LTO can be described as oxygen addition to the crude oil.
As defined by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (U.S. FERC), low-permeability ("tight") gas reservoirs have an average in-situ permeability of 0.1 md or less. Others have placed the upper limit at 1 md. Estimates of ultimate recovery from these resources vary widely and depend chiefly on assumptions of wellhead gas price. Methods for estimating gas reserves in moderate- to high-permeability reservoirs are unreliable in very-low-permeability reservoirs. The unreliability can be attributed to the geologic setting in which these reservoirs occur and the completion methods required to make them commercial.
Heavy oil is defined as liquid petroleum of less than 20 API gravity or more than 200 cp viscosity at reservoir conditions. No explicit differentiation is made between heavy oil and oil sands (tar sands), although the criteria of less than 12 API gravity and greater than 10,000 cp are sometimes used to define oil sands. The oil in oil sands is an immobile fluid under existing reservoir conditions, and heavy oils are somewhat mobile fluids under naturally existing pressure gradients. Unconsolidated sandstones (UCSS) are sandstones (or sands) that possess no true tensile strength arising from grain-to-grain mineral cementation. Many heavy oil reservoirs are located in unconsolidated sandstones.
The identification of a bed's lithology is fundamental to all reservoir characterization because the physical and chemical properties of the rock that holds hydrocarbons and/or water affect the response of every tool used to measure formation properties. Understanding reservoir lithology is the foundation from which all other petrophysical calculations are made. To make accurate petrophysical calculations of porosity, water saturation (Sw), and permeability, the various lithologies of the reservoir interval must be identified and their implications understood. Lithology means "the composition or type of rock such as sandstone or limestone." Lithology focuses on grains, while rock type focuses on pores. The list of rock types contains more than 250 classifications.
However, other technologies can often be employed to investigate properties of the earth that correlate better with the properties of interest. If the images from these technologies can be provided at appropriate resolution, and if the knowledge required for interpretation and wise application of these technologies is available within the industry, they should be used. For example, electrical methods are extremely sensitive to variations in saturation, yet surface-based methods provide very poor resolution. Reservoir compaction can be directly observed from surface deformation, and pore-volume or gas-saturation changes can be detected from changes in the gravitational field. Dramatic examples of surface deformation induced by reservoir compaction have been provided by releveling studies (involving repeated high-accuracy surveying) and satellite-based interferometry.