Using new technology
Getting into tight spots
Is the world running out of oil and gas? Not immediately. By most estimates, today’s known reserves would last for at least another 40 years at current usage levels. In other words, these estimates don’t take new discoveries into account. Meanwhile, new technologies are helping us tap large amounts of oil and gas that were once considered unreachable.
Our Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska is a good example. It has been in operation for over 30 years. Originally we expected to extract just 40% of the oil there. But with the help of new technologies we’ve raised that estimate to 60%.
Our technology experts and research partners are constantly experimenting with new techniques, including new twists on tried and tested techniques.
We develop and use new technologies to recover oil and gas from hard-to-reach corners of our reservoirs
Reaching out for more oil and gas
Not long ago drilling only went in one direction. Down. Now we can drill at any angle, including straight out horizontal.
At our Wytch Farm oil field in the UK we used this technique to reach out more than 10 kilometres from the surface drilling site. And at our Wamsutter gas field in Wyoming, USA, horizontal drilling has helped us reach large amounts of natural gas that were previously trapped within rock formations too tight to let the gas flow naturally.
Here are a few other recent and developing innovations that may help us get more oil and gas from known reservoirs:
Fracturing the rocks
By exerting the right level and type of pressure into rocks with tight pores, we can cause fine cracks that stimulate a freer flow of natural gas deposits that would previously have remained trapped there.
Our LoSal process
Injecting water into a reservoir to flush out some of the remaining oil trapped in rock pores is a long-established technique. Using water with a lower salt content, a process BP developed and owns, appears to boost oil recovery by as much as 40%.
Injecting CO2 into wells
Injecting natural gas is one way of flushing more oil out of a well. Tests have shown that carbon dioxide, which can be separated from oil and other hydrocarbons during hydrogen power production, may be an effective substitute. Putting this CO2 back into the reservoir means it won’t be released into the atmosphere, where it would add to the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming.
Sending in micro-organisms
Using micro-organisms may sound like science fiction, but with DuPont and the Energy Biosciences Institute we are studying whether microbes could help stuck oil to flow. Feeding certain micro-organisms in reservoirs might help lubricate rock surfaces, while others may simply munch on the oil until it breaks down, becoming runnier.