What would Daniel Yergin say about Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery?
Monday, September 3, 2012
Daniel Yergin, a well known and recognized expert in the oil industry often states that most of the problems involved in producing more oil today are “above ground and not below ground”. To a great extent he is right, but I am sure that he would also agree that there is a lot of oil trapped in global oil fields and today’s oil recovery technology has not been successful in recovering a significant portion of remaining original-oil-in-place. A significant percentage (an average of 65%) of discovered oil resources remain trapped and cannot be recovered using conventional methods and processes - until now.
A new revolutionary, proven, and proprietary Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR) technology developed by Titan Oil Recovery called the Titan Process® has proven after more than five years of working with multiple customers on their oil fields that it can recover a significant percentage (perhaps up to another 10%) of the unrecovered and trapped oil. This new oil is additional conventional oil production that the world badly needs. The Titan Process achieves this new production at a very attractive cost--under $10 per incremental barrel of oil. Based on estimates by the US Department of Energy referencing US oil fields and extrapolating to the worldwide oil industry, approximately 20,000 of the 70,000 existing global oil fields currently operating may be suitable for this type of recovery process. It might be appropriate to call this newly recovered oil, “newconventional oil”. Coupled with unconventional oil, the two forms of new production may have a significant impact on both US and global oil production.
In the US, nearly 20% of daily crude oil production comes from wells producing less than ten barrels of oil per day—nearly a million barrels of oil per day. While certainly applicable to many levels of production both onshore and offshore, MEOR is literally a “natural” for such marginal production and the impact can be quick, economical and potentially the only game in town for much of this production. Even the most bullish oil prognosticators would certainly be likely to agree that this is a target worthy of significant efforts by the industry.
Cost per incremental barrel of production will be the driver in all forms of tertiary oil recovery processes. At this moment, Titan’s MEOR process stands as one of the most cost effective means of producing incremental oil and requires little or no capital expenditure to implement.
Figure 1: Tertiary recovery processes will be driven by the incremental cost per barrel.
What the Titan Process has accomplished over the past five years
Titan’s performance or “report card” over the five-year period between 2007 and 2012 to date has been impressive.
- Number of user oil companies - 10
- Number of fields treated – 25
- Number of treatments – 206
- Estimated number of treatments in 2012 – most likely range is 75-100
- Average increase in oil production for results to 12/31/11 – 102%
- Average ROI – >300%
- Average cost per incremental barrel of oil recovered - $6 to $10
- Average time to fully test a new oil field before treatment – 150 days
- Number of SPE Papers co-authored with customers - 4
- Average cost to test and screen an oil field for suitability- $5,000
- Average cost per well treatment (done three times per year) - $33,000
- Applied to both on-shore and off-shore oil fields
- Number of oil fields currently being tested in Titan’s lab – 31
- Number of new oil companies in preliminary steps of testing – 13
There is much debate today on the subject of global supply and demand forconventional crude oil. Many believe that peak global oil production where supply can no longer meet demand will occur within the next few years. Others argue that there are still ample reserves of conventional oil to meet foreseeable needs. Recent studies indicate that Peak Oil under the definition of conventional oil has already happened. Others believe that the new category of “unconventional” oil produced from unconventionalsources (like tar sands, oil shale, and others) will provide the world with all of the oil it needs easily through the 21st Century and beyond.
Hopefully, this will prove to be accurate. All camps agree, however, that affordability (i.e., cost per incremental barrel of oil produced) is essential for the long-term viability of oil energy, both conventional and unconventional, to meet world demand. Few new giant oil fields have been discovered since the early 1970s and most existing oil fields are currently experiencing significant annual production declines. Since oil energy is finite it is only a matter of time before the world runs out of oil.
Clearly, there is a critical need for new technology to achieve increased oil recovery at an affordable cost. Although “unconventional” oil offers great promise, it is still in its early stages of development and implementation and there are some challenging issues that must be resolved to allow these new technologies to become universally accepted and prove their long-term economic viability. A few of those issues are: 1) affordability (cost per barrel of oil recovered), 2) energy returned on energy invested (EROEI), 3) various environmental issues, and 4) life expectancy of the unconventional oil fields (how long will the fields be able to produce the recoverable oil). Certainly these issues present quite a long list of challenges. A fair statement today would be that unconventional oil looks very promising, but it will take time to work out the unknowns and confirm its viability. Affordable oil certainly may be one of the world’s major challenges of the current century.
Titan’s new breakthrough technology uses resident microbes that reside in many global oil reservoirs to release trapped oil. Where better to find more oil than where oil has already been produced? By successfully releasing the oil that is trapped in the pore space of the oil field reservoir formations, the opportunity is too great to overlook. TheTitan Process has been successfully applied and commercially demonstrated on bothonshore and offshore oil fields on three continents with many successful and on-going commercial field projects (10 oil companies at this writing) in California and Canada over the past five years.
Many forms of MEOR have been researched, developed, discussed, and field-tested over the past sixty years with very little commercial success. Until just recently, all MEOR technologies, as a category have been dismissed by many oil people as “snake oil” or“old technology that doesn’t work”. However, in practice the benefits of the Titan Process, have proven to be sound, affordable, repeatable, demonstrated, and available today by providing a new revolutionary technology twist that is fast emerging for increasing oil recovery in existing oil fields at the lowest cost in the industry today – less than $10 per incremental barrel of oil. The Titan Process is a new tertiary recovery process, but the intention is for this oil recovery process to become part of the normal course of events in oil recovery—primary, secondary (waterflood) and MEOR. Titan anticipates the use of the Titan Process earlier and earlier in the waterflood process where the benefit can be the greatest—not just in the late life of a field. The shift in thinking is just beginning.
Today, laboratory and customer field analysis indicates Titan’s MEOR technology can provide up to 10% additional oil recovery from the original-oil-in-place. If applied globally, this could result in many billions of additional barrels of oil. The Titan Process also can be used in conjunction with other secondary or tertiary recovery methods to further enhance those processes when conditions allow with no problems or harm to the oil field.
Contribution by Paul Davis
This article is for information and discussion purposes only and does not form a recommendation
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