Rise Early, Work Hard, Strike Oil

Everyone knows  J. Paul Getty's formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil; and pretty much everyone I know in the oil business rises early and works hard, some of them even strike oil. So it's hard to find many oil folk who don't believe in the quote, of course the tricky bit is the last part of the aphorism. Striking oil generally requires a decent dollop of good fortune as well as brilliant geoscience and that elusive material, money; however when we do strike oil these days we generally manage to keep it in the well unlike these pioneers in times past who needed to have a decent turn of speed when they struck oil.

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Who's who in steam

When we have been talking with potential investors and partners about steaming the Pilot oil field, we have often been asked who else steams oilfields? Most people knew about the Canadian oil sands and the steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) schemes which are coming on stream at pace over in Canada. But many fewer were aware of the steam flood projects which have been very successful in California, Venezuela, Indonesia and right here in Europe.

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Deep Steam

I wrote earlier about why 3,000' is the conventional limit for steam floods and this is a follow up note exploring some ways that we could increase that limit. It has some significance. For the UK sector of the North Sea at least, we have estimated that, if you could push the limit down to 4,500', the incremental recovery possible could be more than 2 billion barrels of oil. Almost as much oil as in Johan Sverdrup, if that isn't worth thinking about what is?

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Steam and Solvent – Better Together

Steam injection has a pretty remarkable ability to drive out almost all of the heavy oil from highly permeable reservoirs but it is costly to generate and there is a lot to be gained if you could improve the overall efficiency of the process. The inventor of the SAGD process, Roger Butler, also invented another process which uses solvents instead of steam to mobilise the heavy oil. That process is called VAPEX and involves the injection of a hydrocarbon solvent, such as propane, butane or naphtha

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Why Reservoir Depth Matters for Steam Flooding

When you are checking out the screening criteria for a successful steam flood, the depth limitation might seem a little surprising. You expect to see the oil saturation and reservoir quality limits and intuitively we all know steam flooding is for heavy oils; but why does depth feature and how many reservoirs are shallower than 3,000' anyway? 

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Steam Flooding & Recovery Factors

To petroleum engineers' ears, attuned to the recovery factor that one can expect from a water flood (typically 30% to 40%, and only occasionally over 60%) the recovery factors that steam flooding can deliver, somewhere between 50% and 80%, seem inordinately high. A pinch of salt seems the appropriate accompaniment to the kind of claims that are routinely made for steam flood projects. But Chevron is one of the acknowledged leaders in the application of steam flooding, and their assessment is that a typical steam flood should recover between 50% and 80% of the original oil in place.

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