Physical sciences, Earth sciences

Increasing oil recovery

European engineers have developed a self-regulating reversible inflow control device (ICD) to maximise oil production and shut off unwanted water and gas from production wells.

The EU-funded REVIVAL project is focusing on maximising the recovery of oil from wells and prolonging their productive life. This is important for the oil industry as well as reflecting EU policies to secure Europe's energy supply with regard to oil. Currently, only 32 % of available oil is extracted from oil fields, while a 5 % increase in recovery would equal all the oil expected from future exploration activities.

Low recovery rates are due to the breakthrough of gas or water into the well. To counter this problem, industry is developing ICDs and autonomous ICDs (AICDs) that choke oil production when water or gas incursion occurs. However, these do not completely halt their intrusion.

Project partners are using fluid dynamics to develop the prototype for an Autonomous Inflow Control Valve (AICV), which can overcome the weaknesses associated with conventional ICDs and AICDs. Tests on the AICV, which is simple in concept, show it will increase recovery and does not choke initial oil production. In addition it can completely stop water and gas, while being autonomous, reversible, reliable and cost effective.

Major technical challenges include the development of an innovative laminar flow element, filters and seals. These components must be capable of operating under higher temperature and pressure in the harsh environment within the wells.

Researchers must therefore gain an understanding of the complex interaction between environmental and chemical conditions present in wells and their effect on component materials. These materials comprise ceramics, metals and polymers. REVIVAL will also develop new computational models for simulating well conditions, valve lifetime and reservoir recovery.

The known market potential for the AICV being developed by REVIVAL is EUR 224 million within 5 years of the project's completion. A secondary market exists in the form of environmental protection from oil spillage.

REVIVAL will therefore benefit the oil industry, help conserve resources and protect European fuel security. It will also give a boost to high-tech small and medium-sized enterprises and the economy of national governments and the EU as a whole.

last modification: 2015-07-22 10:47:20

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