Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Improving Oil Extraction With New Mapping Technology

Date:
February 4, 2009
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Picture this: an accurate map of a large underground oil reservoir that can guide engineers' efforts to coax the oil from the vast rocky subsurface into wells where it can be pumped out for storage or transport. Researchers have developed technology that can generate such a map, which has the potential to significantly increase the amount of oil extracted from reservoirs.

The top image shows the oil saturation map in a benchmark reservoir model with known properties (referred to as the true model). The bottom image shows a nearly identical reconstruction of that same reservoir map using the McLaughlin/Jafarpour solution approach, which took isolated data from 23 wells and simulated a 36-month recovery effort. Black dots represent the wells, remaining oil is indicated in red, and blue shows the water that remains underground following water pumping.
Credit: Image / Behnam Jafarpour

Picture this: an accurate map of a large underground oil reservoir that can guide engineers' efforts to coax the oil from the vast rocky subsurface into wells where it can be pumped out for storage or transport.

Researchers in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have developed technology that can generate such a map, which has the potential to significantly increase the amount of oil extracted from reservoirs.

The new technology uses the digital image compression technique of JPEG to create realistic-looking, comprehensive maps of underground oil reservoirs using measurements from scattered oil wells. These maps would be the first to provide enough detail about an oil reservoir to guide oil recovery in the field in real time.

"Our simulation studies indicate that this innovative approach has the potential to improve current reservoir characterization techniques and to provide better predictions of oil-reservoir production. The hope is that better predictions ultimately lead to more efficient operations and increased oil production," said Behnam Jafarpour, a recent MIT graduate who is now an assistant professor in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University.

Jafarpour and Dennis McLaughlin, the H.M. King Bhumibol Professor of Water Resource Management at MIT, published a pair of papers describing the technique that will appear in an upcoming issue of the Society of Petroleum Engineering Journal, as well as a third paper that appeared in the June 2008 issue of Computational Geosciences.

The spatial structure in geologic formations makes it possible to compress rock property maps. But JPEG compresses the many pixels in a detailed image down to a few essential pieces of information that require only a small amount of storage. In the oil reservoir characterization application developed by MIT researchers, a similar mechanism is used to provide concise descriptions of reservoir rock properties. The new technique uses oil flow rates and pressure data from oilfield wells to create a realistic image of the subsurface reservoir.

Petroleum extraction is expensive and relatively inefficient -- sometimes as little as one-third of the oil in a reservoir is actually recovered through pumping. So engineers rely on enhanced recovery techniques such as water flooding to mobilize the oil. To guide this work, they make real-time predictions of subsurface variables, including oil saturation and pressure, but they're essentially working blindly. The rock properties needed to make these predictions (for instance fluid conductivity of rock at a particular depth) can't be seen or measured.

Instead, engineers infer geologic properties indirectly from seismic data and measurements taken at scattered wells.

"In a typical reservoir, millions of pixels are needed to adequately describe the complex subsurface pathways that convey the oil to wells. Unfortunately, the number of seismic and well observations available for estimating these pixel values is typically very limited. The methods we've developed extract more information from those limited measurements to provide better descriptions of subsurface pathways and the oil moving through them," said McLaughlin, lead researcher on the project.

In a 36-month simulated oil-recovery process, McLaughlin and Jarfarpour's estimation approach accurately captured the main features and trends in fluid conductivity of a reservoir formation, demonstrating that the new technique is robust, accurate and efficient.

"Our next step -- already in progress -- is to test our idea in real oil reservoirs and evaluate its impact on oil recovery under realistic field settings," Jafarpour said.

This research was funded by the Shell International Petroleum Co.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Improving Oil Extraction With New Mapping Technology." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090128183930.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2009, February 4). Improving Oil Extraction With New Mapping Technology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090128183930.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Improving Oil Extraction With New Mapping Technology." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090128183930.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins