In Shakespeare’s tragedy of Hamlet, the sycophantic Osric, who witnessed Hamlet’s “very palpable hit” during a fencing duel, forces Claudius to adopt another strategy to achieve his goal, Hamlet’s murder. I see this analogy playing out more and more frequently among the International oil companies (IOCs) and National oil companies (NOCs) reservoir management teams. Not that they are trying to “kill” each other! Only their goal is not some nefarious deed, but exploitation of nature’s black gold snaking its way through the heterogeneous reservoir rocks. To attain that “very palpable hit” as the upstream geoscientists formulate several strategies to provide a more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally safer production of the oil reserves, is perhaps to identify the ideal surface location for an infill well, to hit the lagged oil deposits.
Essentially oil production is a two-headed beast, albeit with different personalities:
- One constantly talks about the reservoir characteristics, those unique rock properties, flow regimes, and even artificial structures including wells and wellbores.
- The other is surface gathering, GOSPs (Gas and Oil Separation Plants) and storage facilities.
I recently finished an incredibly brilliant read entitled Twilight in the Desert by Matthew E. Simmons, a prudent and technically acute appreciation of exploration and production of oil and gas. One of the major themes dwells on those hidden or lagged accumulations of hydrocarbons in the four major and very mature oil fields in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and how ARAMCO intends to exploit the next 5%+ percent or more of these reservoirs that have been producing at unsustainable rates since the 1930’s.
The Saudi Arabian geoscientists have to resort to new methodologies, according to Simmons, in order to make that “palpable hit,” and thus ensure sustained production in excess of ten million barrels of oil per diem. I e-mailed the author to applaud his unnerving acumen in explicating the inherent issues of mature oil fields. As an ex-geophysicist and one who spent two-thirds of his career on the Saudi Arabian Peninsula, I can appreciate his insightful claims about sustained oil production rates in Saudi Arabia.
Can geoscientists improve oil recovery factors? Can they implement a SAS Analytics Framework to aid in the discovery of more oil in extant reservoirs? These are obviously rhetorical questions.
I have discussed at length with several oil and gas customers the power of SAS statistical analysis and data management workflows to enable the exploitation of those remaining and valuable reservoir assets. I also spoke with Kevin Parker, a senior editor for the E&P magazine, and he wrote a revealing and topical piece that underlines the gravitas of the current trend towards soft computing techniques to address reservoir characterization projects. An excerpt:
The impact of analytics already clearly is seen today in the process, petroleum refining, and manufacturing industries. But analytics also are increasingly being applied to what still remains very much an art — improving production, recovery, and efficiency in upstream oil and gas operations.
Data integration, risk assessment and quantification of uncertainty are certainly key issues in hydrocarbon exploration and development. Deterministic model building and interpretation are increasingly being supplemented by stochastic and soft computing methodologies such as neural networks, fuzzy logic and evolutionary computing. And I feel SAS can penetrate these once secluded areas of expertise by providing value to enable oil companies to make that “palpable hit” in their reservoirs.