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Improved reservoir imaging: foresighting report


This foresighting report aimed to define the commercial opportunities that improved reservoir imaging (RI) could access, either through fewer dry holes or by improved assessment and recovery of reserves. It also aimed to provide ITI Energy with the means to assess the attractiveness of RI technology investment, define the opportunities and allow comparison with investment opportunities elsewhere in the energy sector. The study investigates aspects of the RI target area: the potential opportunities that might be accessed; the specific challenges that need to be overcome; and the principal RI technical challenges currently faced.


The methodology consisted of: a framework for the assessment of the potential commercial opportunities, including an estimate of the as yet undiscovered or undeveloped hydrocarbon resource volumes by geographic region and geologic criteria; an estimation of dry-well costs, defined globally and specifically for the North Sea region; direct input from oil industry geophysicists, geologists, exploration managers and related academics on the specific RI technical challenges that are currently being faced primarily in the United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) and elsewhere; and a summary of the main technical challenges facing the industry over the E&P lifecycle and a view of how the industry operating in the UKCS weighs their relative value.


The report finds that the annual spend on geophysical acquisition, processing and interpretation is seven billion dollars, with the bulk of this expenditure on seismic acquisition. However, despite this level of investment and recent advances in seismic technologies, world-wide dry-hole costs are estimated to be a minimum of twenty-six billion dollars a year. Although seismic techniques are being developed to address RI challenges, the report argues that the fundamental science behind seismic will prevent success. If improved imaging could increase the conventional reserves growth and undiscovered hydrocarbon volumes by five per cent, it would amount to around 160 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe). An improved ability to identify the distribution of these hydrocarbons would enable more effective exploitation of the remaining resources worldwide. In order for oil companies to drill and invest, risk must be sufficiently reduced. RI techniques need to improve substantially and the challenge over the next ten years is to economically monitor in real-time, and under all overburden conditions, the distribution of oil and gas, constraining the reservoir geometry at the field scale through at least fifty per cent improvement in current vertical and horizontal resolution.


The report recommends that the limitations of seismic technology should encourage investigation of other technologies, such as Electro-magnetic (EM), gravity and other techniques. The report also suggests that ITI Energy will focus on technologies which can be implemented into current workflows, given the challenge of a conservative industry towards adoption of innovative technologies. The opportunities of alternatives or complements to seismic should be considered in relation to their technological and commercial maturity, cost and technical limitations.

Author ITI Energy
Published Year 2010
Report Type Research
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