The petroleum industry, as it exists today, is one of the most highly developed technological enterprises. Its importance to our country and the world and the scale of its operations are immense. Yet, because the services and materials which it provides are so much a part of everyone's everyday life, they are taken for granted and their significance is scarcely appreciated.
Because petroleum plays such a vital role in our nation's wellbeing one might expect that the public would be well-informed about those elements of the industry which make it work and keep it strong. This is not the case; and we are learning, ruefully, that the very people the industry serves fail to see those needs which must be met if it is to continue to meet the demand for goods and services which the public takes for granted it will.
There is a strong parallel between this situation and one which appears to exist within the industry itself. We are so dependent upon quantitative knowledge in operating our business that such knowledge is taken for granted, and it is assumed that it will be available as needed. Thus, in failing to keep in mind those elements which make our technological achievements possible, we stand in great danger of not seeing the research which must yet be pursued if the industry is continuing technological needs are to be supplied.
It is my pleasure to have the opportunity today to review API research on hydrocarbon properties as it relates to production and to indicate where and how it has been of value. To do this, I plan to relate it to some extent to fluid flow research. In this way I can most readily show the important role it has played in providing the technology required to profitably increase petroleum recovery.
Let us start our examination in 1927, the year APII research was initiated. What was the state of the art of production technology at that time? First of all it was, indeed, an art. Although the oil industry was 68 years old in 1927, surprisingly little was known about the actual mechanism of production or about the quantities of oil which existed underground. It was well-known, of course, that some wells came in as huge gushers, whereas others reluctantly yielded only fractions of a barrel per day--even under strong pumping. It had been noted that some fields produced beautiful, clear, light-colored, high-gravity crudes, but others produced the blackest and gummiest of bitumens. It was well-known, too, that some wells would find nothing but gas, that there was a wide range in the amount of gas found associated with oil and, for that matter, the amount of water co-produced.
Experience was beginning to show that there might be a relationship between the properties of produced oil and gas and the amount of oil which could profitably be recovered. Also, some information accidentally gained or resulting from crude field experiments suggested that gas and water could be re-injected to increase recovery.