Recovering heavy oil

A new US Department of Energy funded oil production technology that promises lower costs and increased production is being commercialised by Texas-based Completion Concepts.

A new US Department of Energy funded oil production technology that promises lower costs, reduced environmental and safety risks, and increased production is being commercialised by research partner Completion Concepts, Katy, Texas.

The announcement follows last year’s successful full-scale testing of the new technology, called “Teleperfs.” An upcoming “real-world” test of the unit in an Alaska injection well will be conducted later this year.

Initially developed through a Small Business Innovative Research grant and furthered by an industry consortium, Completion Concepts devised a method for production of heavy oil that eliminates certain expenses and risks and offers a low-cost alternative for inhibiting production of sand in an oil well. The technique could significantly increase production of heavy oil, an enormous resource that constitutes as much as half of the world’s oil-in-place.

Much of America’s heavy oil is produced via a costly steam injection enhanced oil recovery method to produce a crude oil grade that is lower in quality and sells for less.

Because of the expense of production and the lower cost of the product, most US thermal enhanced oil recovery is limited to the giant heavy oilfields of California, where operators enjoy economies of scale. Significant heavy oil resources elsewhere are “stranded” because they cannot be economically produced.

In conventional wells, a perforating gun is lowered to detonate small explosive charges that perforate a well liner or casing and create a pathway for hydrocarbons to flow from the reservoir to the wellbore.

One problem facing oil well operators is the formation of “fines” or sand. When these small bits of crushed rock flow along with the oil to the wellbore, they can damage equipment and create significant environmental clean-up challenges.

Teleperfs uses a prefabricated, hydraulic telescope inserted around the wall of a well liner assembly. Using the pressure from the well boring drill, the Teleperfs are projected into the face of the formation and anchor the well liner in place. It is then cemented which allows entry ports for formation fluids. An organic acid is inserted into the sand surrounding the Teleperfs to dissolve residue around the device, resulting in a continuous fluid producing formation.

Widespread use of the Teleperfs technology may either decrease or totally replace traditional perforating practices in the future. The system may expand the $200 million per year sand control and perforating services market in the US, increasing that market by up to 10 percent.

“Teleperfs” are telescoping devices that are projected into the face of a formation, anchoring a well liner in place and providing entry ports for formation fluids