Reservoir simulation

Reservoir Simulation: "Optimization Under Uncertainty"

Nearly a decade after an SPE meeting in Bruges set industry-inspiring benchmarks for reservoir modeling, the time has come to overcome a new set of challenges.

This figure is from paper SPE 182638, “Numerical Modeling of Unstable Waterfloods and Tertiary Polymer Floods for Highly Viscous Oils.”

Benchmark cases are a good thing. They provide a systematic means to compare processes, technologies, and performance that benefits companies, industry, and research organizations. One notable benchmark was deliberated at a 2008 SPE Applied Technology Workshop in the picturesque Belgium town of Bruges.

This particular challenge involved history matching followed by forecast optimization. The goal was to maximize a 20-year net present value (NPV). The results were published as SPE-119094‑PA in 2010. The Bruges study has since become the basis of numerous articles and simulation-based studies and continues to be influential to this day.

Now, almost 10 years later, a new benchmark challenge has been set: Olympus. This has different, but no less challenging, objectives, and the goal is, once again, to maximize a 20-year NPV subject to some stated constraints.

Olympus has been set by Integrated System Approaches for Petroleum Production 2 (ISAPP-2), a research partnership between Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), who originated the original Bruges challenge, along with Eni, Statoil, and Petrobras as industrial partners.

For this, we owe a debt of thanks. Issues identified in the original Bruges exercise have been addressed, and a more streamlined benchmarking procedure has been defined. The ambition is no less broad and can be concisely stated as “field-development optimization under uncertainty.”

While Olympus has no history-matching component (which formed part of the Bruges challenge), we are now faced with geological uncertainties related to faulting, fault throws, barriers, and channeling. The ensemble of 50 Olympus reservoir models provides such geological uncertainties that we must face when dealing with real field-­development planning studies.

The participant must decide how many producers and injectors to drill and where to drill them, along with their operational management during a 20-year production forecast. All this, of course, is addressed in the presence of geological uncertainty.

One can imagine the results will vary considerably in formulation, ambition, and approach. I hope that this will not be considered a winner-take-all competition because that goes against the spirit of such a benchmark. The reward will ultimately turn out to be increased insight and appreciation of new approaches and techniques that will be shared throughout the industry.

So, I humbly request that you consider participating in this challenge. Clear and concise online material is available from the ISAPP-2 website, which also instructs you on how to download model files.

The gauntlet has been thrown down, and I know that we, as an industry, have the wherewithal to pick it up.

This Month's Reservoir Simulation Technical Papers

Numerical Modeling of Unstable Waterfloods and Tertiary Polymer Floods for Viscous Oils

Method Addresses Difficulty of Modeling Heterogeneous Carbonate Bimodal Rocks

Transient Coupled Wellbore/Reservoir Model Using a Dynamic IPR Function

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 182637 Probabilistic Uncertainty Quantification of a Complex Field Using Advanced Proxy-Based Methods and GPU-Based Reservoir Simulation by N. Goodwin, Essence Products and Services, et al.

SPE 181686 Effects of Confined Space on Production From Tight Reservoirs by Brian C. Stimpson, Texas A&M University, et al.

SPE 182636 Dynamic Mesh Adaptivity for Immiscible Viscous Fingering by A. Adam, Imperial College London, et al.

SPE 182718 A Massively Parallel Semicoarsening Multigrid Linear Solver on Multicore and Multi-GPU Architectures by A.M. Manea, Stanford University, et al.

IPTC 18955 Building More-Realistic 3D Facies-Indicator Models by Thomas Le Blévec, Imperial College, et al.

William Bailey, SPE, is a principal at Schlumberger-Doll Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His primary technical interests lie in reservoir engineering, multiphase flow in conduits, and optimization of expensive functions. Bailey has contributed to 56 articles (27 of which are peer reviewed) and holds 10 patents. He holds MEng and PhD degrees in petroleum engineering and an MBA degree. Bailey has held various positions in SPE, including as technical reviewer for various SPE journals and as a member of the Reservoir Description and Dynamics Committee, and is the chair of the SPE Books Development Committee. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and can be reached at