Guest Editorial: Growth in Unconventional Resources Adds to Technical Literature
- Gary Teletzke (ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 15
- 2018. 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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Unconventional resources require technologies typically not used to produce conventional oil and gas reservoirs. In particular, starting in the late 1990s, the combination of horizontal wells and multistage hydraulic fracturing has been key to rapidly increasing success in exploiting unconventional resources. While the well completions in unconventional resources may be more expensive than those typically applied in conventional reservoirs, the advantage is access to the very large volumes of these resources, which include tight (low-permeability) gas in sandstone or carbonate rock, coalbed methane, and organic-rich source rocks classed as shale gas and tight oil.
The exploitation of shale gas, along with tight gas and coalbed methane, enabled a stunning increase in US natural gas production of approximately 4 Tcf/D from 2005 to 2010. A similar story followed a few years later for US crude oil production. Tight oil production ramped up nearly 5 million B/D over approximately 5 years, starting in 2008, and continues to rise. And it is not just the US that is benefiting—unconventional resource development is now beginning to spread to other countries around the world.
The technologies that accomplished these near miracles were developed, implemented, and continue to be improved largely by SPE members, and this has been reflected in an upsurge in conference presentations and journal publications related to unconventional resources over the past decade. This is illustrated by the chart (Fig. 1), which shows a dramatic increase in the percentage of peer-reviewed papers related to unconventional resources published in SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering (SPEREE) beginning in 2011. Before 2011, there were only a handful of publications related to unconventional resources each year, primarily dealing with coal-bed methane and fundamentals of fluid flow in tight pore systems. Beginning in 2011, publications related to the analysis and prediction of shale gas reservoir production performance showed a sharp increase, followed a few years later by publications related to tight oil reservoir performance analysis and prediction. In addition, enhanced oil recovery from tight oil reservoirs has become an increasing area of focus. This year, over half of the publications in SPEREE will be related to unconventional resources. As further indication of the increasing importance of unconventional resources, in July SPE released Unconventional Gas and Tight Oil Exploitation, the first SPE monograph devoted exclusively to the topic.
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