TULSA, OK - The U.S. Department of Energy
has added four new projects to its "Technology
Development with Independents Program." The program
reflects the growing importance of small oil producers
in supplying America's demand for oil and aims to help
level the technology "playing field" for these
Today, most of the unrecovered oil in the United
States resides in fields operated by independent
producers. Most of these producers are facing increasing
economic and technical difficulties associated with
harder-to-recover resources. Virtually none have the
financial resources to conduct oil technology research.
Increasingly, as larger oil companies cut back on
research in the United States, smaller producers are
relying on cost-sharing partnerships with the Department
of Energy and its R&D network to develop novel
approaches and improved methods to enhance oil recovery.
The "Technology Development with Independents
Program" provides federal matching grants of up to
$100,000 to small independent companies to test
higher-risk technologies that can lower operating costs
and extend the life of thousands of aging and often
declining U.S. oil fields - fields that, in many cases,
have been left behind by larger oil companies in favor
of more lucrative opportunities overseas.
The Department of Energy's National Petroleum
Technology Office in Tulsa, part of the National Energy
Technology Laboratory, has selected the following
projects to assist independent producers:
- Click on project name
for more details
Vecta Exploration, Inc. (Dallas,
TX) will complete a shear wave seismic study
documenting the imaging quality, costs, and potential
benefits of combining S-wave and P-wave seismic data.
Conventional 3D seismic survey methods today use only
compressional (P) waves, or sound waves traveling in
one direction. P-wave data is sufficient to identify
the shape of a subsurface structure. However,
successful drilling depends not only on the shape of
the structure, but on locating rock fractures,
detecting porosity trends, and locating subtle areas
of trapped oil. Combining S-wave (sound waves
traveling perpendicular to the P-wave) with P-wave
data provides a more complete geologic "picture" of
potential subsurface oil and gas bearing formations.
This new imaging technology is considerably more
expensive than conventional methods, but is expected
to reduce drilling costs, increase oil discovery
rates, and improve the recovery of bypassed oil. Vecta
Exploration, Inc., together with the Exploration
Geophysics Laboratory at the University of Texas at
Austin, will process data from a six square mile
seismic survey, and other industry sources, to
document the differences between conventional and
higher cost seismic methods. Widespread industry
acceptance and application of S-wave imaging
technology could result in the discovery of
significant additional barrels of oil reserves across
the oil-producing regions of the United States.
St. James Oil Corporation (Laguna
Hills, CA) will use a new hydrochloric-phosphonic acid
solution to restore oil production in shut down wells
in the Las Cienegas Field, located two miles from the
downtown Los Angeles Civic Center.
Field wells that have been shut down for more than a
year, and then returned to production, typically
produce at rates 30 to 50 percent less than rates
prior to shut down. This is due to severe calcium
carbonate buildup, called "scale," that forms from
water in a well at the end of production. This scale
plugs up the rock, restricting the flow of oil into
the well when it is started up again.
Hydrochloric acid is known to dissolve scale, and
is used extensively in oil operations throughout the
world. The phosphonic acid reacts with minerals in the
rock to form a temporary protective film, allowing
deeper penetration and more effective reaction from
the hydrochloric acid, inhibiting and reducing the
formation of additional calcium carbonate scale. If
successful, use of the hydrochloric-phosphonic acid
solution could result in restarting hundreds of wells
throughout the area.
Crystal River Oil and Gas L.L.C.
(Encinitas, CA) will test a new polymer gel treatment
process that will restrict water production in oil
wells on the Alameda Field in Kingman County Kansas.
The project will mitigate excess water production
which, when accompanied by low oil production, results
in wells becoming unprofitable to operate and leads to
early well abandonment and unrecoverable oil.
properly applied, polymer gel treatments are effective
for reducing high water production and improving oil
recovery. The gels move into highly permeable,
water-saturated zones and severely reduce permeability
to water so that oil can be produced from tighter
The new polymer gel is comprised of two chemicals:
a powdered polyacrylamide polymer, which is a
strengthening agent, and chromic acetate. Together
they form a high strength thickened gel that will be
pumped under high pressure into the selected wells.
Each well will be left idle for 3-4 days, after which
the wells will be returned to production.
Successful demonstration of the polymer gel
technology can provide a cost-effective solution
applicable to a large number of wells across the
Team Energy L.L.C. (Bridgeport,
IL) will test the feasibility of using specially
designed instrumentation that will control the ability
of oil well pumping equipment to limit the volume of
salt water produced from stripper wells. Limiting salt
water production will reduce operating costs and
mitigate environmental risks associated with handling
and disposal of salt water.
The proposed technology
will monitor the well to pump off only the oil, and
stop the pumps when water is detected in the produced
stream. Two types of instrumentation, a fluid density
meter and an inductive electrical conductivity meter,
will be designed and tested simultaneously. Since the
density and electrical conductivity properties differ
between oil and water, the instrumentation should be
able to detect which fluid is in the produced stream.
This instrumentation is especially important since
an estimated 400,000 stripper wells exist in the
United States. These low volume wells produce a
significant amount of salt water along with the oil.
The relative amount of salt water usually increases
over time as the well is produced and the oil is
depleted, with a well producing as much as 100 barrels
of salt water or more for every one barrel of oil
Once a well is shut down and production stops, oil
and water will continue to flow into the well. Over
time the oil separates out above the water, and can be
pumped from the well upon restart until the oil-water
interface is reached. This cycle is repeated until the
well becomes uneconomical to operate. However, the
cycle is usually determined by trial and error, using
a time clock to turn the pumping equipment on and off.
The success of the proposed instrumentation techniques
will greatly improve well pumping control and reduce
the amount of produced water.
Two active pumping wells, one idle well, and one
flowing well in the Illinois Basin in Posey County
Indiana will be used to confirm the effectiveness of
the two different meters.
Since 1995, the "Technology Development with
Independents Program" has provided small businesses in
19 states, each with less than 50 employees, the
financial backing to test new techniques that might
otherwise have remained untried.
The program is one of several initiatives in the
Energy Department's fossil energy program that is
working to slow or halt the decline in U.S. oil
production. Companies that achieve success in the
program convey the techniques to other small producers
facing similar difficulties.