Emerging Oil Technologies | VideoJennifer Joas | 10/29/2012
So now the goal is to become more efficient and test new technologies that would allow the other 92 percent of the oil in the Bakken to be used.
This energy industry animation illustrates what happens 10,000 feet below the surface. That`s where oil companies use water, sand and chemicals to crack rock and make a pathway for the oil to flow out. Newer recovery methods are moving past hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to other technologies that would provide even greater efficiency.
"As we continue with our technology and we get better and better at what we`re doing on all three fronts, the geology, the horizontal drilling and the fracking technology, and then bring in that secondary and tertiary recovery, the future is just tremendous for North Dakota," said Kathleen Neset with Neset Consulting Service.
Walking rigs have become a part of that new technology. They are best used on Eco-pads which have several well bores at one location, so they can moved in a matter of hours from one well head to the next, instead of days. But this technology is just the beginning of what`s to come in the Bakken.
The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center is testing the use of carbon dioxide to enhance oil recovery. It`s a process that`s been used for 40 years in other oil plays, but the EERC is now trying to understand how CO2 will interact with Bakken oil.
"If we can maintain a relatively small footprint and in essence not have to drill a bunch of new wells and utilize carbon dioxide in existing bore holes and increase our recovery percentages, I think this a great thing," said John Harju with EERC.
Two field tests were conducted in Mountrail County and in Montana, but both were unsuccessful. So the EERC plans to continue lab and field testing, and hopes to have it working in two years. If successful, this could extend the life of Bakken wells by an additional 20 to 30 years.
"The potential might be to double our current recovery. Again that`s really potential. That being said maybe it`s even more. We just don`t know today. Again we`re very encouraged with our early laboratory data and we can mobilize a lot of oil in the lab," Harju said.
The Bakken is providing rich resources for the state of North Dakota, and the entire country. And experts say it`s something that will continue to evolve in the future.
"We continue to improve on the methods to recover this oil. We`re good now, but we`re going to be better," Neset said.
Another untapped resource in North Dakota is the Tyler formation in the southwestern part of the state. Some are calling it the "Baby Bakken," because it`s smaller, but is similar in composition.
Neset says the Tyler could also be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.