The Green River, Utah holds the world's greatest oil shale resources. However, the hydrocarbon, which is namely kerogen, extraction from shales is limited due to environmental and technical challenges. In this study, we investigated the effectiveness of the combustion process for shale oil extraction. Samples collected from the Green River formation were first characterized by X-ray Diffraction (XRD) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). Then, series of dry combustion tests were conducted at different heating rates and wet combustion tests by water addition. The combustion efficiency was enhanced by mixing oil shale samples with an iron based catalyst. The effectiveness of dry, wet, and catalyst added combustion processes was examined by the thermal decomposition temperature of kerogen. Because the conventional oil shale extraction methods are pyrolysis (retorting) and steaming, the same experiments were conducted also under nitrogen injection to mimic retorting. It has been observed that the combustion process is a more efficient method for the extraction of kerogen from oil shale than the conventional techniques. The addition of water and catalyst to combustion has been found to lower the required temperature for kerogen decomposition for lower heating rate. This study provides insight for the optimization of the thermal methods for the kerogen extraction.
Enhanced-oil-recovery techniques by gas injection in shale reservoirs have been introduced and investigated. Laboratory and simulation works have shown good results for enhanced shale oil recovery, but one problem with gas injection is asphaltene precipitation and deposition. Damage due to asphaltene precipitation and deposition in conventional reservoirs has been reported in the literature. In shale reservoirs, pore and throat sizes are much smaller than in conventional reservoirs. Thus, large asphaltene aggregates may cause more serious problems in shale reservoirs.
This experimental study used a nanofiltration technique to investigate the size of asphaltene aggregates precipitated during CO2 and CH4 injection in a shale oil sample. Nano membranes of 200nm, 100nm and 30nm were used to filtrate oil samples injected with different mole fractions of CO2 and CH4 gas. The distribution of asphaltene aggregates’ size at different injected CO2 and CH4 concentrations were obtained and compared with the pore size distribution data of shale cores measured by mercury intrusion porosimeters. Results showed that a higher injected CO2 and CH4 concentration caused more asphaltene precipitation and growth in asphaltene aggregates’ size. The precipitated asphaltene particle size was large enough to cause a pore-blocking problem in tested shale cores.
Post-fracturing production data analysis indicates stimulation of some west Texas wells with surfactant additives did not enhance production as high as expected. Analysis of flowback and produced water for surfactant residues revealed 99% of surfactant was retained inside wells (
Literature precedent exists that polyelectrolyte (PET)-based SAs could significantly reduce surfactant adsorption not only onto a variety of outcrop minerals (Carlpool dolomite, calcite, kaolinite, Berea sandstone, Indiana limestone, etc.) and metal oxide nanoparticles, but also unconventional shale formulations in which surface area can be up to 700 m2/g. In this study, the adsorptions of surfactant and SA to proppants were first examined. Results indicate no adsorption was observed to proppant for both surfactants and PET-based SAs. SAs (0.5 to 1 gal/1,000 gal (gpt)) were then injected with surfactant (1 to 3 gpt) at an appropriate ratio into column-packed shale formulations (primarily composed of calcite, dolomite, quartz, illite, pyrite, and plagioclase feldspar) to investigate its effectiveness in controlling surfactant retention caused by adsorption. Laboratory testing revealed injection of 3 gpt mixture of surfactant and SA has a similar adsorption profile (surface tension as a function of time) as 3 gpt surfactant alone based on the dynamic surface tension measurement. Notably, the addition of SAs resulted in lower surface tension and enhanced hydrocarbon solubility; and thus, an improved oil recovery by surfactant was achieved as evidenced by the oil recovery tests. Additionally, 68% friction reduction of the fracturing fluid with surfactant and SA was sufficient for the field operation compared to the guar-based fluid used in the hydraulic fracturing applications.
As a result of the laboratory findings, field trials were executed on a three well pad in the Permian basin (PB). For the first 30 days oil and gas production appeared to be significantly higher than the average production from offset wells in the same area that were previously fractured with the same surfactant.