Finding the Last Drop of Oil

E-mail Tom Kevan

Many experts say that the days of fossil fuel are numbered, but a huge infrastructure—some would say our entire economy—has been built around oil. As this precious natural resource becomes harder to find and acquire, new technology must be used to maintain this ill-fated cornerstone of our economy.

The Problem
Even with the development of nuclear and other alternative energy sources, we still rely on oil as our primary energy source. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, oil provides 40% of all energy used today. Roughly 77 million barrels of oil are consumed worldwide each day—nearly 26 billion barrels annually.

The most accessible sources of oil have been located in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and South America, and these resources are being exploited using traditional technology. But to squeeze the last drop of this black gold from the earth, oil companies must turn to new advanced technology.

One Solution
To find new sources of oil, exploration and extraction operations must turn to some of the harshest environments on the planet—deep-sea locations. Increasingly, oil companies are turning to 2D, 3D, and 4D seismic search technology. According to Mike Scott, CEO of Reservoir Exploration Technology (RXT), a marine geophysical company specializing in multicomponent seafloor acquisition, "As the general market demand for ocean bottom seismic continues to increase, we have plans to expand our operations into the Middle East, West Africa, and the Caspian to meet the growing seismic activity in these emerging markets."

To support its growing operations, RXT recently purchased a $29 million VectorSeis Ocean (VSO) system from seismic solutions provider Input/Output Inc. (I/O). The VSO system is a redeployable, ocean bottom cable seismic imaging system equipped with VectorSeis digital, full-wave sensors for multicomponent data acquisition on the seabed.

"As oil and gas companies seek to recover reserves in areas that are harder to access or from reservoirs that are more difficult to image, seabed seismic is emerging as a valuable solution," says Chuck Ledet, vice president of marine imaging systems division at Input/Output Inc.

Making Seismic Permanent
Last month, Weatherford International, one of the largest providers of drilling and production systems, in collaboration with BP Norway, successful deployed a permanent system that provides continuous seismic and pressure/temperature monitoring data and allows for the simultaneous collection of seabed and downhole data. The in-well optical seismic system—which consists of five 3-component optical accelerometer stations and an optical pressure/temperature gauge—was installed in March in BP Norway's G-24 injector well in the Valhall Field.

Tad Bostick, vice president for Weatherford's optical sensing systems, explained that the collection of this type of data represents a significant milestone for the industry.

Holding On
Although seismic technology does not provide a solution to the overall problem of oil dependency, it does show the lengths to which we are willing to go in order to perpetuate the role oil plays in our lives.

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