Technology Tomorrow: The Next Trillion: Anticipating and Enabling Game-Changing Recoveries
- Nansen G. Saleri (Saudi Aramco)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- April 2006
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 44 - 46
- 2006. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a yearlong series designed to stimulate discussion in research and development. The Technology Tomorrow articles will be published every other month and vary in emphasis, covering topics as broad as R&D industry trends and as focused as improving reservoir recovery factors. This series is one of several actions being taken by the SPE R&D Advisory Committee to encourage R&D development and discussion. The target audience is the entire readership of JPT. We hope to create a forum that sparks discourse and ideas, including ideas that may not be in the current mainstream of thought. Comments on the articles are welcome. Please send any questions, comments, or ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By any measure of efficiency, globally reported expected ultimate recoveries (EURs) have been less than impressive. The often-quoted industry average of 35% recovery (for conventional crude oil) sets a useful benchmark for the future, and raises the question, “Can we double it for the next trillion?” As we look ahead to April 2007, the date of the first SPE R&D Conference, one might ponder several related questions: How high can the industry stretch EURs? What are the major impediments to achieving them? Do R&D programs have a role to play, or does the spontaneous technology boom in the industry coupled with free-market dynamics signal the end of organized R&D?
A quick look at global oil resources, their acknowledged uncertainties notwithstanding, calls for some perspective on this issue (Fig. 1). In 2005, global consumption had depleted only one out of seven barrels of conventional oil initially in place (and a fraction of nonconventional), a point perhaps overlooked by peak-oil advocates (Deffeyes, 2005; Tertzakian, 2006). A 10% incremental recovery translates to about 1.4 trillion bbl of recoverable resources, roughly an additional 50-year supply of global crude consumption at current rates. The gains in gas reserves could be equally rewarding.
The point is not so much to argue for the veracity or the feasibility of these figures. Instead, the intent is to highlight vast possibilities in the context of twin questions: How can R&D shape the energy future, and how should the desired future outlook govern present-day R&D? Intent matters! The industry has no choice but to articulate its own anticipations for the future regarding trillions of barrels of recoverable resources. The recovery standards of the past century certainly cannot be the basis going forward.
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