09/07/2009 - 00:00

Curtin research offers oil savings

09/07/2009 - 00:00

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RESEARCH undertaken at Curtin University has opened the door to potentially massive cost savings for oil and gas explorers around the globe.

Curtin research offers oil savings

RESEARCH undertaken at Curtin University has opened the door to potentially massive cost savings for oil and gas explorers around the globe.

The research, by French PhD student Luc Fusetti, co-funded by the French Institute of Petroleum (IFP), has resulted in a model for predicting the extent and characteristics of oil and gas reservoirs that will allow better targeting for follow-up drilling.

Better targeting can dramatically reduce the cost of drilling by reducing the number of wells required to prove up new oil and gas discoveries, especially offshore where so-called 'wildcat' wells typically cost tens of millions of dollars to complete.

The subsequent savings in time and money will also enable companies to undertake more exploration at reduced risk.

Dr Fusetti's method, which has so far been tested successfully in a small pilot program, essentially involves analysing the carbon isotopic composition of the methane created from heating trimethylbenzene (TMB), which commonly occurs in oil and gas.

This information can then be used to predict the specific origin of the discovered hydrocarbons.

"Oil companies are very interested in possessing a tool that will allow them to quantify the different sources of natural gas," Dr Fusetti said.

"I believe that this will be very important, since the answer would tremendously influence further exploration prospects in the same sedimentary basin."

Identifying the specific origin of the hydrocarbon content enables the explorer to more easily predict and quantify the likely extent and nature of a newly discovered reservoir.

This data also assists in determining the optimum locations for follow-up drilling needed to confirm reserves, significantly reducing the risk of costly dry wells, or dusters.

Historically, only one in 10 offshore wildcat wells is successful, making offshore exploration an extremely costly proposition.

This is especially so as explorers are forced to focus on 'frontier' deepwater provinces where the discovery potential is greater but the risks and costs of exploration are exponentially higher.

Dr Fusetti said the ultimate aim was to further refine the model so that it could be applied to the entire spectrum of oil and gas sources.

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