Posting in Energy
While Washington debates importing Canadian oil sands, there's billions of barrels waiting to be reclaimed underfoot in the U.S. Start-ups including WaveFront Technology are devising new ways to access it.
The question of whether to pipe crude from Canadian oil sands has Washington embroiled in political acrimony and may be clouding the story that there is already a stockpile of domestic oil resources waiting to be reclaimed from domestic wells.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that there may be up to 430 billion barrels of oil that is technically recoverable in the United States, providing an alternative to mining oil sands, which climate scientists warn could have devastating environmental consequences.
The KeyStone XL pipeline would take years to match that volume, transporting up to 900,000 barrels per day. Oil recovery may appear to be a more acceptable alternative, but stranded oil is considered stranded for a reason: it isn't readily accessible and reclaiming it involves deploying advanced technologies.
Oil companies seek to minimize untapped oil in their fields, and commonly extract it by pumping water or carbon dioxide into subsurface petroleum reservoirs. Some start-ups are expanding those options.
Canada's Wavefront Technology Solutions has devised a solution to extract stranded oil from petroleum reservoirs using technology that is analogously to what happens when a kink is released from a garden hose. Its specialized PowerWave equipment oscillates water flow on and off, building up energy that will force more water to come into contact with oil.
"Oil recovery is a contact sport," said WaveFront President CEO Brett Davidson. Each surge of water and energy places more oil in contact with water when it may have otherwise remained inaccessible.
Wavefront's scientists observed that oil fields produced better following an earthquake, and the company spent over a decade applying earthquake mechanics to the oil and gas industry. The resulting down hole tools are portable enough to be shipped to any well site from offshore oilrigs to very isolated terrain.
U.S. recovery rates are currently averaging around 40 percent, and WaveFront suggests it can increase ultimate recovery by 10 percent on average, and up to 20 percent in best-case scenarios, Davidson explained.
Even a 5 percent improvement in global overall oil recovery could mean an extra 3-5 billion barrels of oil is recovered from a field, Davidson said. Wavefront cannot disclose how much oil customers are recovering at any particular location, but its clients include Chevron, Energen, Petroleum Development Oman, Pluspetrol, and Talisman.
There's also a halo effect on surrounding production wells. Wells producing in the vicinity of a flooding project have experienced increased recovery of between 250-55 percent, Davidson said. He added that there are roughly 200,000 wells that are already used to inject water and CO2 in North American, and another 100,000 globally.
With worldwide oil consumption rising, every oil company wants to maximize reserves, he added. "Commercialization is in its global infancy."
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Mar 7, 2012
Before Venezuela or some other oil nation decides to grab this technology and exploit us with it, we as a nation should secure it for our oil fields. Why should we continually be held hostage by foreign nations over our energy needs. Definitely 60 Minutes should do a segment on this technology. Maybe CNN will scoop them first? More attenton needed to this and other safe oil technologies.
The simple fact is that we are in need of cheap, accessible oil. This technology gives us the oil without exploration, fracturing,injecting steam, injecting chemicals and without spending excessive energy to get the oil out of the ground(oilsands) We need oil now and this technology gives it to us! 60 minutes should dedicate an episode to this amazing technology. PS I understand that it can be used to safely clean up contaminants from under oil refineries and gas stations ...pretty amazing. Comments?
The way I understand the cost of production is that the more work and effort need to extract oil the less likely that that effort will be made until the price of oil reaches the point that the effort will make a profit. If it takes $10 of effort to extract a barrel of oil in a new and huge oil well then the oil will be extracted until the cost exceeds the expected profit, when the price of oil goes up then it become profitable to spend double or triple the effort to extract oil. The water pulsing sounds like a good technique until it reaches the point where the amount of oil dwindles. All this is showing that the era of cheap oil is over. The price of oil will increase in stages until the cost of oil exceeds the ability to pay for it.
Why would working to recover the "trapped" 430 billion barrels of oil be any less of a threat to the climate than the oil trapped in the oil sands?
I'm sure Wavefront will license the technology to all comers. There's no reason for them to restrict it to just one country. And this technology is of no use if you don't have oil wells. We have a lot of old wells and oil fields, China has relatively little.
You are quite right, the era of cheap oil is over. But even today deep sea oil (among the most expensive to extract) costs about $80 per barrel to produce. With oil selling at around $105 per barrel and gasoline around $3.75 retail, there's still plenty of room for increased costs and still make a profit. This new injection method works with current injection technology. By definition, if these wells are pumping today with current technology, they're making a profit. I don't know how much extra this new injection technique adds to the cost, but it doesn't look that expensive. My guess is that it still can be done for less than $105 per barrel, meaning you could have a stable gas price of around $3.75. I don't like it (it's certainly not "cheap"), but I can live with it if it is stable.
It's about Energy Returned on Energy Invested. It order to extract the bitumen in the oil sands they have to heat it up, usually with natural gas and keep it heated until it gets to a refinery. So the net energy you get from oil sands is much lower than regular oil fields probably even using these enhanced extraction techniques. The EROEI on tar sands appears to be around 5. In conventional oil fields it's usually more like 50 or above.
critics say it is the most harmful for climate change. http://dirtyoilsands.org/
...that the technologies required to extract the "trapped" oil here aren't going to be much better? The articles aren't particularly clear on what will ultimately be required. What I find amusing in this whole "oil sands" debate is that while it's opponents mainly wave the "climate change" flag, they mostly ignore an indisputable environmental impact; it's basically strip mining. 20 years ago, that would have been enough.
Retrieving oil from the oil sands is not strip mining. Nearly all the new production facilities use sub surface technology. Plus huge reclamation projects are underway reforesting the old mining areas.
If a tar sand field (if that's a term) is on privately owned land & mining doesn't harm a watershed, is there a public interest in preventing the owner from using their land in the most profitable way? There's certainly people who would argue that's an uncompensated taking of property rights. For that matter, even if does harm a watershed, there's lobbyists to buy off regulators & legislators. But like global warming, that's a separate issue.
Check out the video at http://vimeo.com/37979622 . This technology is an improvement over standard injection techniques using water or liquid CO2. It's not fracing as it is done in shale. It's for depleted fields which were once easy to pump. Because the flow rate underground rapidly diminishes (i.e., less oil flows to the well head underground to be pumped above), at some point the well's output becomes too small to use (most oil wells in the US pump around 10 barrels a day, some less than one because our fields are so depleted). As a result, many old oil fields have more oil left behind than was pumped up. Standard injection was designed to force more oil underground to flow to the the well heads where it could be pumped out. But Wavefront discovered the existing techniques for pressuring the oil underground to the well heads were extremely inefficient. They simply found a better way to send pressure waves through the oil and push the oil in the direction they wanted. It takes very little extra equipment and no new exotic fluids.