Physics Department Colloquium - “How a Physicist Can Add Value in Oil and Gas Production”

Monday, April 23, 2018
4:00 pm


Floor/Room #: 

“How a Physicist Can Add Value in Oil and Gas Production”

 by Martin E. Poitzsch, Team Leader, Reservoir Engineering Technology

Aramco Services Company


This talk will show some specific examples of innovative and fit-for-purpose physics applied to solve real-world oil and gas exploration and production problems, focusing on reserves estimation, drilling, and production optimization. 


The oil and gas industry is one of the largest and most geographically and organizationally diverse areas of business activity on earth; and as a “mature industry,” it is also characterized by a bewildering mix of technologies dating from the 19th century to the 21st. Oil well construction represents one of the largest volume markets for steel tubulars, Portland cement, and high-quality sand.  On the other hand, 3D seismic data processing, shaped-charge perforating, and nuclear well logging have consistently driven forward the state of the art in their respective areas of applied science, as much as or more so than defense or other industries.  Moreover, a surprising number of physicists have made their careers in the oil industry.  To be successful at introducing new technology requires understanding which problems most need to be solved.  The most exotic or improbable technologies can take off in this industry if they honestly offer the best solution to a real problem that is costing millions of dollars in risk or inefficiency.  On the other hand, any cheaper or simpler solution that performs as well would prevail, no matter how inelegant!


Significantly, the oil industry still faces a “measurements gap” between the high-resolution, near-wellbore logging measurements used for reserves estimation and the coarse-resolution but deeply-penetrating seismic images used as an exploration tool. Within this gap of hundreds of meters depth and a few meters spatial resolution occur most reservoir production problems and interventions. Could nanotechnology help to image in this measurements gap more or less as it has transformed some procedures in modern medicine?


The basic properties of the reservoir rock and fluids, and their interactions (such as wettability) are the high-priority targets. In particular, heterogeneities of the reservoir, boundaries of compartments, natural fractures, and faults are all crucial to detect and quantify. The flow paths of reservoir fluids must be understood. A typical problem is early breakthrough of injected water used to sweep oil production toward producer wells. And the ability to target delivery of surfactants or chemicals would dramatically change the economics.


In the years ahead, innovative schemes based on deeply-penetrating nanomaterials should illuminate significant features of reservoirs and enhanced-recovery interventions, yielding information of unprecedented accuracy and resolution and in time to improve oil recovery significantly!


Refreshments will be served in Olin Hall 118 at 3:30 P.M.