Hydrocarbon recovery

Chevron Corporation and Los Alamos National Laboratory have announced the creation of a joint research project to improve the recovery of hydrocarbons trapped in oil shales and slow-flowing oil formations.

The goal of the Chevron-Los Alamos collaboration is to develop an environmentally responsible and commercially viable process to recover crude oil and natural gas from western US oil shales. The joint research and development effort will focus on oil shale formations in the PiceanceBasin in Colorado. The work will include reservoir simulation and modelling, as well as experimental validation of new recovery techniques, including a form of in- situ (in-ground) processing that has the potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Chevron has applied to participate in the Bureau of Land Management’s research, development and demonstration leasing program in the PiceanceBasin. Chevron plans to use the 160-acre lease to evaluate the technologies developed through its alliance with Los Alamos, subject both to approval from the bureau and the success of the research program.

Oil shales are sedimentary rocks containing a high proportion of organic matter called kerogen that can be converted into crude oil or natural gas. The US Geological Survey estimates the United States holds two trillion barrels of oil shale resources, with about 1.5 trillion barrels of those resources located in the western United States, primarily in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

The research project will be conducted under the Strategic Alliance for Energy Solutions launched by Los Alamos and Chevron in 2004. The alliance supports Los Alamos in its mission, on behalf of the US Department of Energy, to advance the national, economic and energy security of the United States through scientific and technological innovation. It also supports Chevron’s strategy to develop innovative research and educational partnerships within the energy industry.

‘Energy security is one of the greatest challenges facing the nation, and developing new sources of energy, including hydrocarbons, is of paramount importance,’ said Terry Wallace Jr, principal associate director for science, technology and engineering at Los Alamos. ‘The Chevron-Los Alamos alliance links important efforts in energy security with Chevron’s research to develop technologies that can brighten our energy future.’

For Chevron, the collaboration with Los Alamos strategically supports the company’s goal to develop promising energy technologies that will deliver additional energy supplies. ‘Today’s “unconventional” energy sources, such as oil shales and other tight formations, will become part of the core energy supplies in the future, and our alliance can play a significant role in unlocking the potential of these resources,’ said Donald Paul, chief technology officer, Chevron Corporation.

‘The alliance with Los Alamos has already led to several breakthroughs in oil and gas technology, including the reduction of ultrahigh casing pressures in deepwater wells and improved well performance,’ said Mark Puckett, president, Chevron Energy Technology Company. ‘Oil shale resources offer exciting potential but present significant technological and economic challenges that will be addressed by our alliance. We expect our collaboration with Los Alamos will lead to further advances that will enhance our ability to recover oil reserves in the US.’

The research and development work by the alliance will be performed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as well as at Chevron’s technology centre in Houston. Over the past two years, Chevron and Los Alamos have cooperated on a variety of projects and breakthrough technologies, including radio frequency telemetry, advanced sensor technology for the collection and transmission of oil well data, and the mitigation of deepwater ultrahigh casing pressures.