Mr. Clair M. Opsal, SPE, Fluor Daniel (NPOSR), Inc.


Testing laboratory developed new tools and techniques in actual field conditions before commercialization has long been a significant problem. Working lab models may fail in the first field applications because of handling, incompatibility with existing equipment, or natural elements such as wind, humidity, or temperature. Further, the risk of damage to the operators wellbore, production, or other operations can be costly and embarrassing. As research dollars are becoming harder to obtain, a neutral, non-competitive, and user friendly test site is needed. This type of facility is being developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Naval Petroleum Reserve No.3 (NPR-3) near Casper, Wyoming, through the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC). This paper describes the variety of facilities available for testing, the types of projects that have been field tested at the site, and the expected benefit these tests can have on industry.


The United States Department of Energy's (DOE) Domestic Natural Gas and Oil Initiative (issued in December 1993) allowed the creation of the Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center (RMOTC). Utilizing available resources at DOE's Naval Petroleum Reserve No.3 (NPR-3), RMOTC entered into agreements with small and large companies to field test new tools and techniques. Agreements defined the risks and the objectives of the tests. The test objectives had to show how the tool or technique could enable the oil and gas industry to increase production, decrease costs, or improve environmental protection and/or remediation. Test projects completed in 1996 are estimated to save the industry over $300 million per year.

History of NPR-3

The NPR-3 was established on April 30, 1915, by President Wilson. The first reported production from the field was in October 1922. Shale well No. 301-2 produced 830 barrels of oil in a two day flow test. The field was leased to Mammoth Oil Company (controlled by H. F. Sinclair) in 1921 "to develop and exploit the oil and gas within NPR-3". The field was shut down in December 1927 as a result of a court ruling on, what was to become, the Teapot Dome Scandal. The field was turned back over to the Navy Department in January 1928. Production resumed in 1976.

Development of NPR-3

The field has been operated for the United States Government since its inception. Well records are uninterrupted by acquisitions or dispositions. Core samples from all productive formations have been collected over the years and are available at the RMOTC Core Storage Facility for analysis and research.

Physical Characteristics

The field encompasses over 9481 acres and over 1300 wells have been drilled.(Figure #1 - Map). Approximately 1200 wellbores are still available for production or testing. Current production is about 1200 BOPD from just under 600 of these wells. The wellbores range in depth from 250' to 6000' with 9 productive reservoirs.(Figure #2 - Geologic Column) The field is an anticlinal structure but is heavily faulted. Cumulative production from the field is over 25 million barrels. The reservoirs are all considered mature in their depletion.

The U.S. Governments 100% ownership of surface and minerals eliminates royalty owner or landowner disputes. A self contained workforce using DOE owned equipment has enabled the field to be operated most efficiently under government regulations. This workforce includes many of the services normally subcontracted, including drilling and workover rigs, vacuum trucks, and other heavy equipment. Two drilling rigs are available for use with either mud or air. Three workover rigs are available and other heavy equipment includes vacuum, chemical, rig-up, and hot-oil trucks; dozer; maintainers; backhoes; tractor; welder; and other roustabout equipment. P. 119^

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