WASHINGTON, DC - Department of Energy-sponsored technological advances that could help increase U.S. recoverable reserves of oil and natural gas have won awards for engineering innovation and will be recognized at this year's Offshore Technology Conference in Houston on April 30. Both were developed in ventures with industry through the Office of Fossil Energy's Oil and Natural Gas Programs implemented by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL).
One is a new technique in seismic imaging from 3DGeo, a Houston company, that can assist in the more efficient exploration, discovery and development of new, ultra-deep natural gas reservoirs such as those in the U.S. Gulf Coast region that are believed to hold up to 193 trillion feet of hard-to-produce natural gas. The other is an advance in deep cementing from CSI Technologies, also of Houston, that eliminates potential costly problems and delays in bringing deep oil and gas wells into production.
The NETL technologies are two of fifteen new products slated to receive the Hart's E&P Magazine Special Meritorious Awards for Engineering Innovation during the Houston conference, an annual event sponsored by the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Attendance of 60,000 is expected.
E&P awards specifically recognize advances that open new and better avenues to finding and producing hydrocarbons and that address roadblocks to efficient operations. DOE research and development activities are designed to support the independent operators who predominate in exploration and development in the lower 48 states. They drill 90 percent of the wells and produce 82 percent of the natural gas and 68 percent of the oil. Winners were selected by an expert panel of engineers and engineering managers from around the world.
The 3DGeo technology was developed specifically with an eye to the prospects for natural gas discoveries along the U.S. Gulf Coast where, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the undiscovered, recoverable reserves of natural gas may reach 193 trillion cubic feet - slightly more than the present recoverable reserve. It offers more precise images of subsurface reservoirs by delivering improvements in processing data from seismic surveys to detect and map deep prospects.
Seismic surveys entail bouncing acoustic signals off underground features and recording, measuring, and interpreting huge volumes of data from reflected signals. The cumulative data provides a "picture" of the subsurface formations and the potential presence of oil and gas. But computer processing of these enormous sets of data can strain budgets and computing capabilities.
3DGeo's novel, next-generation technology improves the process by the use of wave imaging. It incorporates full three-dimensional wave equations which delivers a more accurate picture and provides greater resolution than standard technology. It promises improved success rates and greater cost effectiveness in new deep-field discoveries which will lead to increased recovery efficiency in existing fields.
The imaging advance has already been used for improved image quality at depths greater than 10,000 feet, or almost two miles. And, in many cases, it will enable mapping down to depths of 30,000 feet, or almost six miles, which has not been possible until now.
While imaging deals with the location of resources, CSI Technologies' deep cementing advance can save time, trouble and money in bringing such resources into production. The CSI award winner is a "supercement" that can be used to effectively seal a well even at the extremely high temperatures encountered in deep wells. Called Ultra-Seal R, the new product exhibits the superior pipe and underground-formation bonding capabilities needed to ensure a tight seal at depths over 15,000 feet, where temperatures can exceed 350 degrees Fahrenheit and pressures can top 15,000 psi. Conventional cements can fail to properly seal under these conditions, leading to costly repair efforts or unsafe conditions. Fixing problems associated with cement failure costs the oil and gas industry about $50 million per year.
Ultra-Seal R is suitable for low temperature applications as well as high, and over 100 jobs have been conducted with this new technology in a variety of situations. It has additional specialty applications such as gas shutoff, repairs, and formation consolidation to prevent sand and other particulates from mixing with hydrocarbon fluids in the wellbore.