Oil is the bedrock on which modern society is built. The primary question remains: How can we continue to produce oil while minimizing its climate-harming byproducts? Thanks to the ingenuity of industry professionals around the world, new technologies are emerging that allow us to achieve this goal.
We often see and, in some very unfortunate cases, experience ravaging wildfires, colossal floods, and scorching droughts. These “once-in-a-lifetime” climate events have become increasingly commonplace. The World Health Organization has referred to climate change as “the biggest health threat facing humanity.” The finger is often pointed at the oil and gas industry as the source of these tragic events. Indeed, according to the International Energy Agency, oil companies emit more than 5,000 million tons of CO2 every year. Even so, seeing organizations pitted against the industry and our livelihoods can be disheartening, especially because we know the other half of the story that is overlooked but cannot be understated. Oil is the bedrock on which modern society is built. The primary question remains: How can we continue to produce oil while minimizing its climate‑harming byproducts?
Thanks to the ingenuity of industry professionals around the world, new technologies are emerging that allow us to achieve this goal. Using these technologies, we can simultaneously maximize CO2 sequestration and oil recovery. By using surfactant-alternating-gas or surfactant/CO2 coinjection processes, oil production and CO2 storage can be tailored to the needs of a specific reservoir, as discussed in paper SPE 212969. The same industry that produces the building blocks for life-saving medical prosthetics can now also recycle the plastic pollutants accumulating in our landfills and oceans. Using a combination of pyrolysis, chemical functionalization, and pulverization, Janus carbon nanofluids can be mass-produced from waste plastics. Under simulated laboratory conditions, in even ultralow concentrations (0.01 wt% in brine), they can alter wettability and reduce oil/brine interfacial tension, as described in paper SPE 214799. And, while government regulations seek to limit new exploration and drilling, we now have better reservoir-management strategies and tools to continue to produce essential energy from reservoirs that are approaching their centenary. Data from the La-Sa‑Xing Field in the Daqing Reservoir complex in China documents reservoir management over more than 50 years, including the maturation of polymer floods from the first small-scale pilots in 1972 to fieldwide application, which continues to the present. A review of the field in paper SPE 215058 provides insightful guidance on well spacing, slug size, polymer chemistry, and profile modifications, among other aspects.
These developments and more position the oil and gas industry as an essential player in the energy transition.
This Month’s Technical Papers
Recommended Additional Reading
SPE 212949 Kuparuk Field Reservoir Management After 40 Years by Trond B. Jensen, ConocoPhillips, et al.
SPE 212958 Accurate Horizontal Well Placement in Waterflooded Field’s Drilling Project: A Case Study From Central Sumatra Basin, Indonesiaby Dwiki Fimadoni, Halliburton, et al.
URTeC 3870505 Design of Chemical EOR in Unconventional Reservoirs by Johannes O. Alvarez, Chevron, et al.
Elizabeth Barsotti, SPE, is a career development fellow in the Neurobiology Division at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology; a visiting scientist in the Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge; and an affiliated postdoc at Clare Hall College at the University of Cambridge. She holds a PhD degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Wyoming, where she investigated fluid phase behavior and interfacial phenomena in ultratight reservoirs. Barsotti’s expertise includes unconventionals, enhanced oil recovery, and carbon capture and storage. She serves as an associate editor for SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering.