Even though thermal oil recovery methods already contribute about 80% of oil production from all known EOR methods, oil production by thermal recovery 1s expected to continue to increase for at least 10 years and to provide the highest contribution to all recovery of all other EOR methods for at least 20 years into the future. Under a somewhat more optimistic scenario, oil production from thermal recovery would grow for about 20 years and would continue to produce more oil than any other EOR method for more than 30 years into the future.

Thermal oil recovery potential in terms of production rates and ultimate recovery for various technical and economic scenarios are presented in graphical form for the next 30 years.


The subject study an Enhanced Oil Recovery was prepared by the National Petroleum Council (NPC), in response to a request by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. NPC is a board of industry leaders established solely for the purpose of advising, informing and making recommendations to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy on any matter relating to the petroleum industry.

Eighty-six persons from thirty-four companies and several Department of Energy representatives worked over a period of seventeen months to develop a document which provides an in-depth study of the EOR potential for the next 30 years under various technical and economic scenarios. To accomplish this task, the Coordinating Subcommittee established four task forces which specialized in Chemical, Miscible and Thermal recovery processes, as well as in Costs and Economics of EOR. Each of these subjects are treated separately and additional important information is attached in appendices to the final report. The appendices also cover environmental considerations, research progress and future research needs for each technology.


This study began with the development and verification of a representative data base of reservoirs in the United States. Then, screening criteria were defined in order to determine which reservoirs might be amenable for each process. Then, specially developed simplified predictive models were used to predict performance and calculate economics. Incidentally, these predtct1ve models are now being documented and will soon be available to the public. Reservoirs were then assigned to that process which was economic and recovered the most oil. Results were combined by calendar year into projections of rate and ultimate recovery for the various technology cases, prices and rates of return. Finally, results were analyzed, reviewed, and, where necessary, re-determined.

Developing the data base proved to be a formidable task. Data from several sources, including that from the Department of Energy were subjected to rigorous industry review and enhancement. This resulted in a data base of over 2500 reservoirs containing 355 billion barrels of oil originally in place. This represents over 70% of the discovered oil in the United States.

It has been discovered that, by eliminating reservoirs containing less than 50 million barrels of oil originally in place, as many as 65% of the reservoirs to be studied could be eliminated.

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