EOR Operations

As I write this, I am in Week 4 of working at home because of COVID-19. Like many sectors of the economy, the oil and gas industry is affected by the practical issues raised by social isolation but uniquely so by the dramatic fall in oil price triggered by a reduction in demand and the battle for market share between major producing countries. All this is set against the backdrop of the energy transition and the long-term effect this will bring for our industry’s energy products.

In difficult times, there is naturally a focus on maximizing the operational efficiency of existing assets, including enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) operations and looking for capital-efficient ways to increase the resource base in existing assets.

In the longer term, the outlook for EOR, at first sight, might seem to be particularly challenged in the face of the energy transition. This is because of both the effect of an increased focus on the life cycle—or well-to-wheels—carbon intensity of each barrel produced and the expectation of the existence of stranded, unproducible hydrocarbon resources if we are to stay within a global carbon budget and prevent unmanageable temperature rises.

While some EOR technologies, particularly thermal, have unfavorable ­greenhouse-gas intensity metrics, others create the possibility of lower-­intensity barrels. The increasing success in large-scale polymer flooding shows that EOR methods can recover more oil at reduced carbon intensity—more barrels with reduced water injection and produced-fluid handling. In the right circumstances, CO2 EOR can enable CO2 capture through the additional revenues it produces compared with pure storage or by producing barrels with a significantly lower carbon intensity that may qualify under low-carbon-fuel standards. Gas EOR, where it is managing associated gas to minimize flaring and venting of methane and CO2, also reduces the intensity of conventional waterflood and depletion barrels.

There is an apocryphal curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” Like it or not, we live in interesting times, times of unprecedented change, challenge, and uncertainty; however, times such as these drive creativity. In the energy transition, there is the opportunity to innovate in EOR technology, deployment, and operations to deliver cost-effective and lower-intensity barrels.

This Month's Technical Papers

Integrated Optimization Process Advances Steamflood Performance

Overcoming Challenges in Chemical EOR During Polymer Breakthrough

Four-Injector Polymer Pilot Expands to 80 New Injectors Using Modular Concept

Recommended Additional Reading

SPE 197314 Low-Salinity Waterflooding in Carbonate: Screening, Laboratory Quantification, and Field Implementation by Shehadeh Masalmeh, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, et al.

SPE 198671 Taking a Nap: Passive EOR Implementation for Resilient Management of Cost and Operational Expenditure for a Polymer-Flood Project With Horizontal Wells in South Oman by Ali Al-Jumah, Petroleum Development Oman, et al.

Stephen Goodyear, SPE, is manager, gasflood, in Shell’s Improved Oil Recovery/Enhanced Oil Recovery (IOR/EOR) Centre of Expertise. He has 34 years of experience as a reservoir engineer, principally working in EOR. Before joining Shell in 2002, Goodyear worked for an oil and gas consultancy and, over his career, has performed a wide variety of roles, including in research and field-development planning. He is Shell’s principal technical expert for gas EOR and storage solutions and has a particular interest in next-generation CO2 EOR projects and carbon capture and storage. Goodyear holds MA and MMath degrees from Cambridge University and a PhD degree in physics from the University of Edinburgh. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and can be reached at

EOR Operations

Stephen Goodyear, SPE, Manager, Gasflood, Shell

01 June 2020

Volume: 72 | Issue: 6

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