Eni is developing technologies to maximize the production and reserves of mineral deposits.
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Eni sets its sights on maximising reservoirs' productivity by using systems that increase the effectiveness of energy recovery.
Oil reserves are calculated on the basis of three factors: the quantity of new hydrocarbons discovered; how much has been produced; and our ability to increase the recovery rate from reservoirs. The recovery rate is the percentage of hydrocarbons that can be brought to the surface and processed – with economic technologies – relative to the total volume of hydrocarbons in the pores of the reservoir rock thousands of metres deep. Technology has a key role in our ability to consistently extract hydrocarbons from below ground. Recovery rates are still relatively low – on average 35 per cent – but as a result of technological developments have greatly increased compared to an average of 20 per cent in the 1980s. Eni has a strategic objective to maximise the recovery rate of oil fields towards technical limits now estimated at 60-70 per cent for oil and over 80 per cent for gas by meeting a number of technological challenges.
A high-resolution map of the field
Continuous data acquisition from the drilling tools, rock and fluid samples taken from the reservoir and the permanent sensors installed in production wells help provide a more precise map of the fluids as they move in time and space. Eni is focused on the use of new technologies, such as fibre optic cables, high-resolution and 4D seismic monitoring, and temperature, acoustic and electromagnetic sensors that increasingly provide a continuous stream of data to be analysed in real-time to optimise production parameters and give a greater understanding of the reservoir.
Supercomputers and fluid-rock models with billions of elements
Investments in the development of mineral deposits, often involving billions of euros, are based on a series of seemingly simple questions. How many wells need to be drilled, where and how, and how much will each well produce? The answers to these questions are far from simple – and forecasting accuracy is crucial to ensuring project stability. This is also why Eni uses and develops technologies based on supercomputers and highly-complex models. These models simulate the movement of hydrocarbons in the rock pores and likely production from wells, thanks to millions of elements called cells.
Producing more from every well
If production from first wells can be increased it will mean drilling fewer wells to develop each oil field – with obvious economic benefits and a lower environmental impact. To do this, Eni designs, implements and completes production wells using the latest technology, which makes it possible to achieve the objectives from the reservoir from fewer points on the surface. This extends the productive life by reducing the natural flow of water associated with hydrocarbons, optimising the area of contact between the well and the field, and preventing the production of sand that often leads to the premature interruption of production or the need for unforeseen well maintenance.
EOR: increasing recovery with cutting-edge technology
Techniques for enhanced oil recovery (EOR or tertiary recovery) go beyond the first two stages of recovery on which the industry has been based to date:
in the first stage it is the natural pressure of the reservoir that allows hydrocarbons to be produced through surface wells
in the second stage of development, re-injection is used to compensate the natural loss of pressure of the deposit, which helps to give the wells a longer life.
EOR, on the other hand, studies and develops technologies that allow interaction between both the reservoir and injected fluids – in other words, separating the hydrocarbons from the rock, increasing the amount that is technically recoverable. The technologies developed range from alternating the injection of water and gas (WAG) to the use of low salinity water (low salinity EOR). Studies are also ongoing into the use of intelligent nanoparticles or nano-emulsions to further improve recovery and, for very viscous oils, the use of heat through steam injection in order to stimulate the flow. Eni is running various pilot research projects and applications and is creating field-scale industrial applications for mature fields in North Africa using WAG and low salinity EOR methodologies.