The Search for Rock Testing Tools That Are Better Than a Drill Bit

Courtesy of Weatherford Laboratories.
Kultaransingh (Bobby) Hooghan prepares a rock sample for imaging using a scanning electron microscope at Weatherford Laboratories.

Whiting Petroleum has made an extraordinary commitment to rock testing. In its office tower in downtown Denver, its digital rock imaging laboratory analyzes about 6,000 ft of core samples each year, examining details down to pores only a few nanometers across.

When evaluating new plays, or considering alternative plans for its proven fields, the independent oil company uses a battery of imaging devices. The common question faced is: “Is it going to work?” said Lyn Canter, a senior geoscience adviser who manages the laboratory at Whiting.

She has been asked the same question by other companies considering whether there is a return for investing in in-house rock imaging. Her answer is: “We think it gives us a competitive edge” by providing timely answers to questions raised by complex tight oil formations, many in the Niobrara and the Bakken, that cannot be answered using routine core testing methods.

One example of its value was that Whiting decided not to go forward with a costly proposed field development project after rock tests indicated it was not permeable enough to support profitable production, Canter said. While she said the equipment has paid for itself at Whiting, it represents an unusual level of support, which would be difficult for others to replicate.

Service companies see growing interest in digital rock testing, but few companies regularly use digital imaging as a reservoir analysis tool, and only a couple of majors in the United States have their own in-house equipment, Canter said.

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The Search for Rock Testing Tools That Are Better Than a Drill Bit

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

01 August 2014

Volume: 66 | Issue: 8