Reservoir engineering involves more than applied reservoir mechanics. The objective of engineering is optimization. To obtain optimum profit from a field the engineer or the engineering team must identify and define all individual reservoirs and their physical properties, deduce each reservoir's performance, prevent drilling of unnecessary wells, initiate operating controls at the proper time, and consider all important economic factors, including income taxes. Early and accurate identification and definition of the reservoir system is essential to effective engineering. Conventional geologic techniques seldom provide sufficient data to identify and define each individual reservoir; the engineer must supplement the geologic study with engineering data and tests to provide the necessary information. Reservoir engineering is difficult. The most successful practitioner is usually the engineer who, through extensive efforts to understand the reservoir, manages to acquire a few more facts and thus needs fewer assumptions.
Reservoir engineering has advanced rapidly during the last decade. The industry is drilling wells on wider spacing, unitizing earlier, and recovering a greater percentage of the oil in place. Techniques are better, tools are better, and background knowledge of reservoir conditions has been greatly improved. In spite of these general advances, many reservoirs are being developed in an inefficient manner, vital engineering considerations often are neglected or ignored, and individual engineering efforts often are inferior to those of a decade ago. Reservoir engineers often disagree in their interpretation of a reservoir's performance. It is not uncommon for two engineers to take exactly opposite positions before a state commission. Such disagreements understandably confuse and bewilder management, lawyers, state commission members and laymen. Can they be blamed if they question the technical competence of a professional group whose members cannot agree among themselves?There is considerable difference between the reservoir engineering practiced by different companies. The differences between good engineering and ineffective engineering generally involve only minor variations in fundamental knowledge but involve major differences in emphasis of what is important. Some companies or groups emphasize calculation procedures and reservoir mechanics, but pay little attention to reservoir geology. Others emphasize geology and make extensive efforts to identify individual reservoirs and deduce their performance during the development period or during the early operating period. They use reservoir engineering equations and calculation procedures primarily as tools to provide additional insight of a reservoir's performance. Those utilizing the latter approach generally are the most successful. The differences in practice observed indicate that many individuals, including managers, field personnel, educators, scientists and reservoir engineers do not understand the full scope of reservoir engineering or bow the reservoir engineer can be used most effectively. A better understanding of the basic purpose of reservoir engineering and how it can be utilized most effectively should result in improved engineering.
The Purpose of EngineeringThe goal of engineering is optimization. The purpose of reservoir engineering is to provide the facts, information and knowledge necessary to control operations to obtain the maximum possible recovery from a reservoir at the least possible cost. Since a maximum recovery generally is not obtained by a minimum expenditure, the engineer must seek some optimum combination of recovery, cost, and other pertinent factors. How one defines "optimum" will depend upon the policies of the various operators and is immaterial to the views presented in this paper. From an operator's point of view any procedure or course of action that results in an optimum profit to the company is effective engineering, and any that doesn't is not. There are two reasons why a company may not receive effective engineering. Its engineers may be poorly trained and fail to perform property. However, a company can employ competent engineers and receive good engineering work from them, but as a company, still do an ineffective job of engineering. For instance, an engineer might do an excellent job of water flooding a reservoir. However, if even greater profit could have been received by water flooding five years earlier, then obviously the reservoir was not effectively engineered by the operator.