A paper by the Petroleum Reservoir Group (PRG) in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Science outlining how to improve the efficiency of oil recovery and reduce emissions in the oil sands has been awarded the 2012 Medal of Merit by the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG).
The paper describes how geochemical and geological data can be combined to assess whether shales will act as barriers to steam and oil flow during steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD)—information that helps producers decide where to place wells in the oil sands to maximize production and minimize emissions.
“Shales in oil sands reservoirs and other barriers to steam and oil flow are a major cause of the marked difference between the expected performance of many SAGD wells and the often poorer actual performance,” says Steve Larter, one of the authors of the PRG paper, Canada Research Chair in Petroleum Geology at the University of Calgary and Scientific Director at Carbon Management Canada.
A collaborative effort
The paper was a result of collaboration in the field between PRG researchers, Nexen and Gushor—a heavy oil technology development company that was formed to take research developed at the university into the market.
“PRG has, for many years, been doing basic research studying biological activity in the Earth’s subsurface, work that describes the basic microbial and geochemical processes active in heavy oilfields,” says Larter.
“The group’s work has also had many applications to solving practical problems related to improving recovery from heavy oil fields and oil sands reservoirs, reducing CO2 emissions during that process.”
Every year, the CSPG awards a medal to each of the authors of the best paper published during the previous year on a subject related to the petroleum geology of Canada. “The CSPG award recognises both academic and collaborative success and also crucially, practical technological solutions deployed in the field in industry,” says Larter.
He says universities have to go beyond providing basic research and training to the scientists and engineers that work in the resource industry.
“Given the immense energy and environmental challenges we face today, we have to provide actual solutions to practical problems as well.”
Read the paper: “Bitumen and heavy oil geochemistry: a tool for distinguishing barriers from baffles in oil sands reservoirs,” by Milovan Fustic, Barry Bennett, Jennifer Adams, Haiping Huang, Bill MacFarlane, Dale Leckie and Steve Larter was published in the Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology.