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Recovering more oil

Testing chemical compositions for injection into oil fields to boost recovery. (photo)

Testing chemical compositions for injection into oil fields to boost recovery.

One way of helping to meet increasing energy demand is to produce more oil from existing fields. On average, only around a third of the oil in a reservoir can be recovered economically. As a field ages, the amount of oil produced declines and it becomes more costly to operate. But advanced technologies that help the oil flow more easily are allowing us to recover more from these fields.

Injecting chemicals, gases or steam to thin the oil or coax it out of a reservoir can raise production levels by 5 to 20%. The International Energy Agency estimates that enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques could unlock 300 billion barrels of oil that are currently left in the ground.

EOR can also help rejuvenate abandoned fields. Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM, Shell interest 50%) stopped operations at the Schoonebeek field in the Netherlands in 1996 and the area was restored to its natural state. After extensive consultations with the local community, we returned to Schoonebeek in early 2011 to restart operations. We are now recovering more oil by injecting steam, using water from a new waste-water treatment plant in the nearby town of Emmen.

Our Smart Fields® technology can increase the amount of oil recovered from a field by 10%, and gas by 5%. Sensors and fibre-optic cables relay real-time information on temperature, pressure and other field conditions, allowing engineers to make adjustments that can maximise production.