Research Partnership for a Secure Energy America (RPSEA)

 RPSEA is a multi-purpose entity established by the Energy Policy act of 2005, Title IX, Subtitle J, Section 999 to facilitate a cooperative effort to identify and develop new methods and integrated systems for exploring, producing, and transporting-to-market energy or other derivative products from ultra-deepwater and unconventional natural gas and other petroleum resources, and to ensure that small producers continue to have access to the technical and knowledge resources necessary to continue their important contribution to energy production in the U.S. Projects were funded in these categories in 2007 and 2008.  The selection process for 2009 is underway.

 Ultra-Deep Water

The majority of funded projects in this category dealt with the construction, drilling and completion of ultra-deep wells.  The ultra-deep reservoirs are relatively new and will not have enhanced recovery techniques for some time to come.

 Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources

The projects in this category are narrowly focused on technologies applied to Shale Gas, Tight Gas and Coalbed Methane, but not on unconventional oil

 Small Producer

These projects are funded to help the small producer produce more and cheaper oil and gas from mature fields.  Several funded projects deal with improved oil recovery:

08123-02 Field Demonstration of Alkaline Surfactant Polymer Floods in Mature Oil Reservoirs Brookshire Dome, Texas - Layline Petroleum 1, LLC.
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Additional Project Participants: TIORCO, LLC and The University of Texas at Austin

The largest onshore oil reserves in the US are the discovered mature oilfields that have been produced by primary and secondary recovery but still contain over 65% of the original oil in place. This represents 377 billion barrels of oil that is not recoverable by traditional methods. This proposal aims to demonstrate through a field pilot implementation that the use of alkaline surfactant polymer (ASP) flooding in appropriately selected reservoirs can result in an incremental oil production of 10 to 20% of the original oil [15 to 30% of the remaining oil].

Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods have been tested in the laboratory and in the field for over 50 years. Recent advances in alkali/ surfactant / polymer chemistry and our understanding of their application in oil reservoirs have made it possible to apply these methods at a cost far below originally possible. It is now estimated that ASP flooding is a commercially viable technology at oil prices in the range of $30-$50 per barrel. The incremental cost of chemicals is estimated to be in the range of $10-$15 per barrel of incremental oil recovered.

The Brookshire Dome field is located 20 miles west of Houston off I-10. It represents a typical candidate reservoir for ASP flooding. Laboratory phase behavior and core flood tests conducted with field crude oil suggests that the acidic nature of the oil combined with the low salinity and modest temperatures allow us to use moderate concentrations of alkali, surfactant and polymer so that the overall cost of chemicals can be kept at about $10 per incremental barrel of oil. In addition, the well spacing in the field varies from two to five acres allowing a field demonstration pilot to be conducted in a relatively short period of time.

It is proposed here that a field demonstration pilot be conducted in a portion of the Brookshire Dome field to prove or disprove the applicability of ASP flooding in shallow mature oilfields in the US. Should this field demonstration be successful it is anticipated that similar technologies and methodologies could be applied to a large number of mature oilfields that are temporarily abandoned in the US. Assuming that oil prices remain above $40 per barrel, it is anticipated that the findings from this field demonstration pilot would allow operators across the US to test and select candidate reservoirs for ASP flooding and apply this technology to increase recovery factors in candidate reservoirs by up to 50%.

The proposal is a joint effort that includes several key industrial participants:

*       Layline Petroleum 1, LLC is a small operator producing less than 1000 BOPD primarily in Texas and Louisiana. Layline is the operator for the Brookshire Dome field.

*       TIORCO LLC is a small service company that specializes in the field implementation of EOR projects.

*       The University of Texas has been involved with providing technical expertise, laboratory testing, numerical simulation and field supervision of EOR projects all over the world.


08123-19 Commercial Exploitation and the Origin of Residual Oil Zones: Developing a Case History in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and West Texas - The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
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Additional Project Participants: Chevron Corporation, Yates Petroleum, and Legado Resources

The Permian Basin (PB) region of the U.S. has been noted as having very thick intervals of residual oil zones (~200-300 feet thick) beneath the oil/water contacts. Some of these ROZ zones in the largest of the San Andres Formation fields have been found to contain over a billion barrels of oil in place but at an average oil saturation of 20-40%. The intervals are proving to be extremely large targets for commercial CO2 flooding and also have potential as large CO2 storage reservoirs.

ROZ work to date has concentrated on demonstrations of commercialization for CO2 EOR at isolated fields. Very little work has been done in an attempt to describe their origins and distribution. The starting point for this effort by the University of Texas of the PB and its research team will be development of several working hypotheses to describe both the evidence of their presence and the origins of their development. A modeling effort will be undertaken in an attempt to demonstrate the validity of the postulates to observed subsurface conditions. Enhancement for the capacity to exploit potential ROZs nationwide is the strategic goal of this effort.

At this submittal stage, the leading candidate for their origin has to do with 1) early geological entrapments that were subsequently flushed by later (Laramide and mid-Tertiary) uplift causing hydrologic changes and lateral reservoir flushing. Other candidates include the long held belief that ROZs are actually just transition zones formed primarily by capillary forces within the pore system and basin-wide tilt. Geographically speaking, plans call for starting a study of the north and east side of the Delaware Basin and west side of the Central Basin Platform. It is here that evidence of ROZs concentrate in several stratigraphic horizons. The San Andres, Grayburg, Glorieta and Clearfork intervals are proliferate with sample shows but actual established oil producing fields are rare. The effort will first gather the data in the region with a goal of focusing on one particular horizon. Well logs, groundwater samples and any core data that can be found will be gathered in an attempt to reconstruct what we might suspect would be the flow path that flushed the oil from the geological entrapment. The evidence to be gathered will include any that suggests entry and exit paths for and evidence of the flushing.

The zonal properties will be established, the flow channels approximated, and input and exit conditions bounded. With this flow path hypothesis developed, a regional hydrological model will be constructed. The model will examine charge and discharge points in an attempt to develop a consistency with the observed data points of sulfur deposits, water salinity observations, and tilted oil/water contacts in reservoirs within the flow path. Team member ARCADIS will provide the ground water expertise and model work.

The final report will be the first attempt to document the spectrum of data suggesting origins and distribution of the residual oil zones in the PB. Methodology for determining the presence and distribution of ROZs in other flow channels or “fairways” within the PB area and other regions of the country will be outlined. Parametric sensitivities of ROZ will be examined using the developed geohydrologic model. Methodology developed could be extended to other regions of the U.S. to assist with predicting occurrence and distribution of residual oil zones.

The data acquired and model developed will provide features of the ROZs that can be tested with new wells and cores. The results of this study could be extended to a demonstration project wherein the developed understanding can be tested through new wells and/or pilot flooding. The cost and data sharing industry partners are the likely hosts, Legado Resources (LR) and/or Chevron.

Most of the mature oilfields in the U.S. are now controlled by small producers. The impact for small producers should be to add dramatic increases in targets for enhanced recovery from mature oil and gas fields as well as reduced environmental impact and development costs.

Principal Investigator: Dr. R. C.Trentham
Co-Principal Investigator: Mr. L. S. Melzer

Other investigators include Mr. Phil Eager, Consultant, Midland, Texas, Mr. Jim Hawkins, Dallas, Texas; Mr. Hoxie Smith, Director of the Petroleum Professional Development Center, Midland (Texas) College; and Mr. Steven P. Tischer and Mr. David Vance, ARCADIS, Midland, Texas. Industry Partners include Chevron Corporation and Legado Resources.

The team is especially well qualified to transfer the knowledge gained since they are organizers in the Annual CO2 Flood Conference, the Applied Petroleum Technology Academy’s CO2 schools, and sequestration related events around the country.

07123-03 Near Miscible CO2 Application to Improve Oil Recovery for Small Producers - University of Kansas

Additional Participant
Carmen Schmitt, Inc.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) injection for enhanced oil recovery is a proven technology. It is also considered as one of the most promising methods for carbon sequestration in geologic formations. CO2 injections are normally operated at a pressure above the minimum miscibility pressure (MMP), which is determined by crude oil composition and reservoir conditions. However, many reservoirs in the United States and around the world are at shallow depths or geologic conditions exist such that they operate at pressures below the MMP. The goal of this project is to demonstrate near miscible CO2 application can substantially increase oil productions with CO2 injection at pressures below MMP. The application of CO2 injection at near miscible conditions may lead to development of CO2 projects for small producers in reservoirs where the MMP is not attainable at current operating reservoir pressures.

When CO2 injection operates at a pressure below the MMP, displacement efficiency decreases as a result of the loss of miscibility. Near miscible displacement generally refers to the process occurring at displacement pressures below the MMP, but the actual pressure range has never been clearly defined. At displacement pressures near miscible, significant oil recovery has been observed in slim-tube experiments and to a lesser extent in core tests. This better recovery has been attributed to possible improvement of the mobility ratio in the displacement and an extraction process, both of which are closely related to operating pressure. To increase the resource base for CO2 flooding and substantially increase the production from reservoirs operated by small producers, it is proposed to investigate the feasibility of applying CO2 displacement at near miscible pressures by conducting appropriate experimental work and reservoir simulation.

The proposed project will include both experimental and computational studies. In the experimental study, proposed work will 1) systematically characterize the near miscible condition and study recovery of waterflood residual oil using CO2 displacement at near miscible pressures, and 2) identify key parameters in phase behavior and flow tests for simulation modeling. In the computational study, the proposed work will 1) develop a representative model to simulate near miscible displacement physics and 2) assess the potential of recovery processes at near miscible pressures.

This project is a joint effort by the Tertiary Oil Recovery Project (TORP) at the University of Kansas and Carmen Schmitt, Inc. (Kansas independent producer). The successful completion of this feasibility study will lead to future field demonstration pilots in producing areas operated by our project partner in the Arbuckle formation. The potential benefits will be significant with an increase in the resource base for CO2 flooding and an expanded opportunity for small producers to apply CO2 flooding.


07123-06 Seismic Stimulation to Enhance Oil Recovery - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
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Additional Participants
U.S. Oil & Gas Corporation, Berkeley GeoImaging Resources

The proposed research aims to develop a technology that can substantially increase, in an environmentally sound manner, commercial productions and ultimate recovery of oil and gas. Recent developments suggest that anomalously strong waves can exist within fluid in fractures (fracture Stoneley waves), which can be used as a new tool for underground reservoir mapping and fracture imaging, and potentially, also for fluid mobilization and enhanced hydrocarbon recovery. Development of this new effective technology based on the fracture Stoneley waves requires laboratory study, numerical modeling, and field scale experiments to ensure that (1) the physics of fracture Stoneley waves is well understood and (2) technical problems for developing practical methodology for oil and gas stimulation are addressed.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will lead the proposed research project entitled “Fracture Detection and Characterization within Oil and Gas Reservoirs Using Fracture Stoneley Waves.” The proposed research project will verify the existence and examine the properties of fracture Stoneley waves within real fractures at seismic to near-seismic frequency ranges. Fluid mobilization caused by these waves within a fracture will also be examined. Concurrently, the laboratory results will be simulated using numerical models. Finally, the obtained results will be verified using specially designed field experiments. The potential impact of the technology developed in this project will be an economical, more accurate detection and imaging of fractures within a reservoir, which can lead to an improved exploration and production of oil and gas. It is expected that this technology is environmentally safe (unlike conventional formation treatment via chemicals and acids) and also reduces the amount of fluids commonly injected into under-performing reservoirs to improve production.