Alkaline surfactant polymer flooding shown to improve recovery in very mature oilfield by more than 300%
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the use of an alkaline surfactant polymer (ASP) flooding technique has successfully improved oil recovery at a 106-year old Illinois field by more than 300%. This method of extraction could help pull as many as 130 million additional barrels of oil from the depleted field, which is past peak production using traditional drilling.
In a report on Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) production research published in 2000, the DOE described ASP:
The alkaline-surfactant-polymer (ASP) process evolved from the early studies on micellarpolymer flooding. This process is based upon the generation of surfactants that occurs when certain crude oils that contain organic acids react with alkaline solutions. Such surfactants, when enhanced by additional surfactants, have the capability of mobilizing additional oil. Polymer is added to protect the chemical slug from early dissipation by the driving water phase. The principal advantage of this process is its low cost. However, the process is adversely affected by contact with water or rock that contains high salinity and hardness. The process has been successfully used in recent years in the Minnelusa reservoirs of Wyoming, the Sho-Vel-Tum Field in Oklahoma, and the Daqing and Karamay Fields in China.
...Alkaline surfactant polymer (ASP) technology not only increases oil production but also reduces water production. ASP floods are also attractive in that the chemicals used are non-toxic which reduces disposal liability.
That report also noted that DOE had funded around $177,000,000 in EOR research programs through the year 2000, including major contributions to the development of the ASP process.
Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) primarily uses steam, chemical or carbon dioxide injection to increase production of additional, hard-to-recover barrels of oil that remain in older fields following conventional production operations. Due in part to innovations pioneered by the DOE Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the United States is a world leader in EOR recovery, which accounts for about 13% of total US annual oil production.
The project supported by DOE, and operated by Rex Energy Corp., at the Lawrence oil field in Lawrence County, Illinois, has been able to increase production from 16 barrels to 65 – 75 barrels of oil per day using an innovative alkaline surfactant polymer (ASP) flooding technique.
ASP flooding increased the overall oil cut in the 15-acre project area from 1% to 12%. Based on this potential, Rex Energy is expanding testing to a 58 acre portion of the field. In 2013, Rex Energy will continue the project, investing in ASP flooding technology at a 351-acre parcel immediately south of the current operations. Continued success and private investment in these ASP pilots may renew the life of the entire Lawrence field.
Rex Energy is conducting its ASP field-testing as part of a larger project underway at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) supported by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and the Prairie Research Institute located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The ISGS is characterizing its state’s Pennsylvanian-age Bridgeport sandstone and Mississippian-age Cypress sandstone reservoirs, which underlie the Lawrence field, to define remaining oil reserves and project how additional oil could be recovered from them economically.
The formations are two of Illinois’ most prolific, but they are also structurally complex. The ISGS hopes that ASP flooding proves successful in realizing the additional 130 million barrels of oil it has estimated to be technically recoverable from Lawrence. If successful in the Lawrence field, the technology could be used in similar fields throughout the United States, increasing domestic oil production and realizing the associated benefits of job creation and expanded economic activity.
Oil production began at the Lawrence field in 1906, with various operators recovering more than 410 million barrels since that time through primary and secondary recovery techniques. However, like other mature fields in the United States, Lawrence is approaching its limit of economically recoverable crude despite the fact that a significant amount of oil remains in its formations.