Technology will play important role in tapping crude sources

09 March 2010 20:15  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Searching for new oil frontiers is important for meeting the world’s growing energy needs, but the technology to recover that crude could prove just as important, industry executives said on Tuesday.

“You always underestimate [technology],” Andy Inglis, BP’s head of exploration and production said at CERA Week in Houston, sponsored by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

Typically, oil fields will yield only about 30% of reserves, Inglis said.

“Huge amounts of oil remain underground,” he explained. 

And it is technology that will increase output. A 5% improvement in oil recovery rates globally would translate into 170m bbl of additional oil, Inglis said. 

Crude oil is the raw material in refined petroleum products and petrochemical production. 

As new oil discoveries spring up around the world in deeper water - such as BP’s Tiber field find in the US Gulf of Mexico - and tighter rock formations, technology will determine the viability of the projects. 

Technological enhancements in oil recovery would also enhance the productivity of mature fields that are on the tail end of their lifespans, according to Kjell Pedersen, CEO of the Norwegian state-run energy company Petoro. 

“If we could get a few more percentage points,” Pedersen said about the recovery rate in the company’s mature fields that have been drilled for decades, “it would be a tremendous value for us”. 

Inglis highlighted the rapid ascension of natural gas output derived from tight rock shale formations in the continental US as an example of how quickly new technology can transform an industry. 

“That’s come about in a very short period of time,” he said. 

Cesar Palagi, asset manager with Brazilian oil major Petrobras, told a session at CERA Week that drilling processes in the US Gulf that were inconceivable five years ago are currently employed in deep water finds such as Tiber.

Technological advancements are also essential in extracting the heavy crude in the massive oil sands of Canada’s Alberta province, Inglis said. 

The potential of the oil sands has been slowed by the complicated means that it takes to bring the crude to market. 

“The impact of technology on Canadian oil sands is in its infancy,” he said.    

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By: Ryan Hickman
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