Society of Petroleum Engineers 6200 North Central Expressway Dallas, Texas 75206


American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc.


Recent studies have shown that the potential reserves and rate contributions potential reserves and rate contributions from tertiary oil vary over a wide range. The contribution may be very substantial or quite insignificant. One major variable is oil price. The way in which oil price is applied, i.e., oil price policy, is also very important. If we are to recover significant volumes of tertiary oil in a continued oil-price-controlled environment, the incremental barrels of tertiary oil will require a price or price policy equivalent to at least free market price. Timing is critical because many of the major tertiary prospects are approaching their economic limit.


Within the last few years, there has been a considerable amount of discussion concerning the increasing inability of the United States to supply its own energy fuels. A recent study by a task force for the National Petroleum Council included a projection according to which the producing rate projection according to which the producing rate of crude oil from known U. S. reservoirs would drop from the current rate of less than eight million barrels per day to less than three million barrels per day within the next ten years. This is shown in Figure 1. This rate represents the total crude oil production from primary, secondary and existing tertiary projects from all known U. S. reservoirs, excluding the North Slope, and excluding future revisions, extensions, and discoveries.

To arrest and possibly reverse this decline in domestic crude oil production will require a combination of programs, such as accelerated leasing, exploration, and development of offshore areas and frontier areas such as Alaska, as well as aggressive implementation of tertiary recovery to recover more of the oil we have already found.

The object of this paper is to examine the stakes and constraints to faster implementation of tertiary programs. Particular emphasis is given to the effect of domestic oil price policy, as set out in current FEA regulations.


Conventional primary and secondary recovery processes still leave approximately two thirds of the oil that is found in the ground.

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