Department of Energy Providing $3 Million for Oil Recovery Project led by TU Professor

Friday, October 29, 1999

An oil-recovery project in Lincoln County led by a University of Tulsa petroleum engineering professor is among 10 projects named for funding Oct. 5 by U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

Richardson said the projects “can open the door nationwide to as much as 150 million barrels of crude oil that are at risk of being left in the ground.”

The Department of Energy will contribute $3 million for the TU project and $9.4 million will come from Tulsa’s Marjo oil company.

Mohan Kelkar, TU professor of petroleum engineering and project leader, says production of wells in the Hunton reservoir in the West Carney Field of Lincoln County indicates highly unusual behavior. Instead of decreasing, the oil cut -- the ratio of oil to water -- increases over time. “The goal is to understand the reservoir behavior so that it can be exploited optimally.”

Kelkar, working also with the University of Houston and Tulsa geologists James R. Derby and F. Joe Podpechan, will employ core and well log analysis to determine reservoir rock variation and compartmentalization in the field.

To understand the unusual behavior, Kelkar said the researchers will investigate the primary production mechanism. The feasibility of gas injection will be assessed as a secondary recovery method. Modern geological and statistical methods and other sophisticated technologies will be used to determine the variability of reservoir strata, fluid flow characteristics, and the influence of fractures.

“For a small company like us, it would be difficult to develop technology to optimize production from the Carney Field,” said Marjo engineer Brian Keefer. “We believe that funding from DOE is a win-win situation for all of us. We can collaborate with world class universities and develop technology that can benefit the state of Oklahoma.”

The research team will also address the problem of controlling water production. Water brought to the surface must be disposed of, a costly process involving storage, separation, reinjection, and risk of contamination. New, compact versions of water separation equipment may provide significant cost reductions and reduced environmental risk.

If the project proves successful, another 30,000 acres of Hunton formation in the Carney Field area can be exploited in a similar manner, says Kelkar. Some 2.7 million acres of Hunton formation remains largely unexplored. A new method of exploitation of the formation would provide a significant boost to the oil industry in Oklahoma.

TU’s project represents the largest total cost of any of the 10 winning projects, which were selected from among 27 proposals. DOE plans to provide $23 million to the projects.