Although famous for its abundant oil fields, generations of production in the Middle East is putting sharper focus on ultimate recovery from these fields.
The issue is particularly pressing for Oman. Output in the country’s maturing oil fields peaked in the 1990s and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the national oil company, spearheaded the implementation of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques with its first trials in the late 1980s.
For Oman, EOR remains a major strategic option in its challenge to increase recovery and to meet long-term production requirements. Substantial efforts have been directed at investigating cost-effective ways in which production levels from existing fields can both be sustained and increased.
Oman’s first EOR program was completed in 1989 and led to progress in experience gained and reduction in technical and cost uncertainties. Oman has seen considerable investment in a range of EOR technologies to produce heavy oil, and a host of other countries in the Middle East and India have been encouraged by Oman’s success. Between 2001 and 2007, Oman’s oil production fell by 27%, but by 2009, due mostly to EOR projects, oil production had increased by 17%.
In a region where national oil companies essentially control all the hydrocarbon resources, Oman’s partnership between national and international oil companies stands out, also because it has been an important driving force behind the country’s EOR rollout. The growth in use of EOR techniques has increased the cost of Oman’s oil production but also has boosted output by 180,000 BOPD to 200,000 BOPD. Total Oman production is 940,000 BOPD. “In comparison with primary oil extraction, which sometimes costs only USD 4-5 per barrel, EOR techniques come at an expense of USD 10-12 per barrel,” said Salim bin Nasser Al-Aufi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Oil and Gas in Oman.
The EOR techniques that Oman has used include chemical EOR as well as thermal and miscible gas injection. The choice of EOR technology is based on the reservoir depth and oil viscosity.
PDO, which produces more than 80% of Oman’s oil production, commissioned its first EOR project in 2004, and expects that EOR will contribute to 25% of total liquids production by 2020. “We have had to move into a significant program of EOR technologies. We are the only company in the world that has thermal, miscible, and polymer chemical-injection recovery mechanisms within the same concession, all of which are in full-scale implementation,” said Raoul Restucci, managing director of PDO.