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R&D Grand Challenges - This is the last in a series of articles on the great challenges facing the oil and gas industry as outlined by the SPE R&D Committee. The R&D Grand Challenges Series, comprising articles published in JPT during 2011 and 2012. The R&D Grand Challenges Series, comprising articles published in JPT during 2011 and 2012, is available as a collection on OnePetro (SPE-163061-MS).
In May 2011, the SPE R&D Committee kicked off a series of guest articles in JPT to highlight the oil and gas industry’s major research and development (R&D) challenges. Defining these challenges is important because the committee’s primary goal is to encourage R&D and promote dialog between industry and research groups with the aim of matching industry needs with R&D activities.
The R&D challenges comprise five broad upstream business needs plus the environment:
Why Have Grand Challenges?
Exploiting hydrocarbons from the deep reaches of Earth has been no easy task. The scale of innovation required rivals those in any other high technology industry. As an industry, we have done well in finding and producing sufficient hydrocarbons to satisfy the world’s energy needs to date; however, the task becomes harder in the future as the resource base becomes more difficult to extract and our desire to minimize environmental impact strengthens.
Increasing Recovery Factors
Gary A. Pope, Texaco Centennial Chair in Petroleum Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, kicked off the series of “R&D Grand Challenges” articles with his view on recent developments and remaining challenges of enhanced oil recovery.
He wrote, “There has been a renaissance in chemical EOR during the past few years because of major advances in the technology and high oil prices. Thermal and miscible gas methods are much more mature with the exception of processes such as coinjection of gases and surfactants for mobility control. The synergy between the EOR processes and improved reservoir characterization and formation evaluation, reservoir modeling and simulation, reservoir management, well technology, production methods, and facilities is significant and not as widely recognized as it should be.
“So what are the most significant constraints on any kind of EOR? My guess is the following in order of importance: a shortage of experienced engineers and geoscientists with a fundamental understanding of EOR, uncertainty in oil prices, and risk aversion due in part to out-of-date knowledge and in part to the complexity of EOR compared with more conventional oil recovery. There are also environmental concerns that must be addressed for each process and location. For these and other reasons, it may take many years to ramp up EOR production to millions of barrels per day.
Judzis, Arnis (Schlumberger) | Felder, Richard (consultant) | Curry, David (Baker Hughes) | Seiller, Bernard (Total) | Pope, Gary A. (University of Texas at Austin) | Burnett, David (Texas A&M University) | Torp, Tore A. (Statoil) | Neal, Jack (ExxonMobil Upstream Research) | Krohn, Chris (ExxonMobil Upstream Research) | Karanikas, John M. (Royal Dutch Shell) | Arscott, R. Lyn (Investor Environmental Health Network) | Fairhurst, Charles (Energy Ventures) | Lake, Larry | Liroff, Richard A. | Poddar, Anoop
The R&D Grand Challenges series was published in the Journal of Petroleum Technology beginning in May, 2011. The SPE R&D Committee shared the results of a committee effort to identify the oil and gas industry’s major R&D challenges. The R&D challenges comprise five broad upstream business needs:
• Increasing recovery factors
• In-situ molecular manipulation
• Carbon capture and sequestration
• Produced water management
• Higher resolution subsurface imaging of hydrocarbons.
The Five R&D Grand Challenges Plus One
Arnis Judzis, SPE, Schlumberger; Richard Felder, SPE, consultant; David Curry, SPE, Baker Hughes; and Bernard Seiller, SPE, Total
Recent Developments and Remaining Challenges of Enhanced Oil Recovery
Gary A. Pope, University of Texas at Austin
Brine Management: Produced Water and Frac Flowback Brine
David Burnett, Texas A&M University
Can Geoscientists Resolve the CCS Paradox?
Tore A. Torp, Statoil
Higher Resolution Subsurface Imaging
Jack Neal and Chris Krohn, ExxonMobil Upstream Research
Unconventional Resources: Cracking the Hydrocarbon Molecules In Situ
John M. Karanikas, Royal Dutch Shell
Grand Challenges for Earth Resources Engineering
R. Lyn Arscott, Charles Fairhurst, and Larry Lake
A Roadmap for Addressing Environmental and Social Issues Associated With Horizontal Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing
Richard A. Liroff, Executive Director, Investor Environmental Health Network
Reviewing the Five R&D Grand Challenges Plus One
Arnis Judzis, SPE, Schlumberger, and Anoop Poddar, SPE, Energy Ventures
R&D Grand Challenges - This is the sixth in a series of articles on the great challenges facing the oil and gas industry as outlined by the SPE Research and Development (R&D) Committee.The R&D challenges comprise broad upstream business needs: increasing recovery factors, in-situ molecular manipulation, carbon capture and sequestration, produced water management, higher resolution subsurface imaging of hydrocarbons, and the environment. The articles in this series examine each of these challenges in depth. The R&D Grand Challenges Series, comprising articles published in JPT during 2011 and 2012, is available as a collection on OnePetro (SPE-163061-MS).
Discoveries of accumulations of light crude oil are dwindling, and known resources are increasingly concentrated in areas that are predominantly accessible by state-owned or state-affiliated energy companies. As a result, the quality of (conventional) crude oil—particularly oil sourced from non-OPEC reservoirs—has been declining. The trend is bound to accelerate as unconventional hydrocarbons such as bitumen are brought into production to satisfy the world’s energy demand, which is expected to increase by slightly less than 50% in the next 20 years.
Because the recovery and surface processing of these heavier molecules is more difficult, it is appropriate to ask whether a portion of the surface processing can be performed downhole (in situ). In fact, in the case of deeper-lying oil shale, it is the only realistic recovery option. There are three approaches by which in-situ manipulation of molecules can be accomplished: biological, chemical, and thermal. Although this article focuses on the thermal route, it should be noted that hybrid recovery methods may be more effective in satisfying the requirement to maximize economic value while minimizing water consumption, emissions, and land usage.
The oil sands of Alberta, Canada, and the oil shale deposits in Colorado contain volumes of hydrocarbons that are at least comparable to the conventional oil resources in the Middle East (Fig. 1). Extraction by open pit mining is the dominant recovery method for commercial exploitation of the oil sands and is the only commercially practiced recovery method for oil shale. However, 70% to 80% of the oil sands in Alberta are deposited at intervals that are too deep (deeper than 60 m) to mine economically, and the same holds true for the richest and thickest sections of oil shale (deeper than 1,000 ft). Ever-increasing concerns about the environmental impact of mining (soil removal, tailings ponds, etc.) provide additional incentives toward the use of in-situ recovery methods.
Koperna, George J. (Advanced Resources International) | Gupta, Neeraj (Battelle Institute) | Godec, Michael (Advanced Resources International) | Tucker, Owain (Shell) | Riestenberg, David (Advanced Resources International) | Cumming, Lydia (Battelle)
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is designed to reduce atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The CCS process captures carbon dioxide (CO2) generated at large-scale industrial sources (power plants, refineries, gasification facilities, etc.) and transports it to an injection site to be permanently stored in the subsurface. With extensive research linking GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to observed changes in global temperature patterns, CCS technology could play an important role in policy efforts to limit the global average temperature rise.
Even with the wealth of experience already in place within the oil and gas industry, the obstacles to advancing CCS to the forefront of GHG mitigation technologies remain significant. Large-scale CO2 injection projects remain primarily in the realm of commercial CO2-EOR (enhanced oil recovery) projects. The key challenges to enabling CCS include cost-effective capture and transport of industrial CO2, clear access to pore space for CO2 storage in geologic formations, proven methodologies for demonstrating storage integrity, and dissemination of best practices. SPE members can play a significant role in addressing these challenges.
Cost-Effective Capture of Power Sector and Industrial CO2
A major technical challenge facing capture at electric generating facilities is that the CO2 concentration in large-volume flue streams is quite low. Current removal technologies include techniques that apply amines, chilled ammonia, membranes, and ionic liquids to strip the CO2 from the flue stream. However, these technologies were developed to handle smaller-scale operations and higher-CO2-purity streams. When applied to large electric generating plants, process efficiency is reduced, and the energy penalty associated with the capture process drives up costs, increasing the levelized cost of electricity by 50% or more, depending on local factors. Also, to accommodate the substantial volumes of the CO2 and flue gas at full-scale industrial sources, the removal technologies require significant scale up and footprint for deployment.
While early movers are developing large-scale capture demonstrations such as SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Project, Southern Company’s Kemper Energy Facility (Fig. 1), and NRG’s Petro Nova Facility, we are still very early on the “learning curve.” Support for more development of next-generation capture technologies and large demonstrations is required to push us down the cost curve. This involves reducing the cost of materials and construction, parasitic costs related to energy for operations, compression, and operation and maintenance costs.
The first brief flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 did not immediately make the Wright brothers famous; however, within 5 years, enthusiasm for the new technology began to spread around the world. Louis Blériot won a prize for flying over the English Channel in a heavier-than-air craft in 1909, and Charles Lindbergh won the USD 25,000 Orteig prize for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris in 1927. Multiple teams competed and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing the prize. The concept of an inducement prize (as opposed to a recognition prize such as Nobel Prizes) is well established for the solution of a problem that is important to society. The British, Spanish, and Dutch governments all offered monetary prizes as early as 1567 for breakthroughs in determining the longitude of a ship at sea.