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More oil waiting to be discovered
Expressing surprise that T&T had not taken advantage of the latest oil production technology despite the crisis in oil production, Canadian reservoir engineer Eric Delamaide is recommending that polymer flooding and foam flooding be used in Trinidad to extract oil.
This comes at a time when oil production has dropped from 230,000 barrels of oil in the late 1970’s to 60,000 barrels of oil in 2016.
Delamaide, who has conducted numerous studies in North and Latin America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia, was speaking at a symposium hosted by the University of T&T in Point Lisas, titled “Enhancing Oil and Gas Production,” on Thursday.
Saying there was lots of oil still left in the ground, Delamaide said polymer flooding - an enhanced oil recovery technique using water viscosified with soluble polymers—has not really been tested in Trinidad although it has worked well in Suriname, Canada and China.
As a principal reservoir engineer of the Enhanced Oil Recovery Alliance (EOR), a global entity, Delamaide said T&T had a bright future in enhanced oil production.
“We need to find an economic and efficient way of taking the oil out of the ground and putting it in the tank on the surface. Lots of things have been done in the past and I think we can continue that and try new technologies and new ways of doing things that would increase production, recovery and the revenue for the people of T&T,” Delamaide said.
Asked whether polymer and foam flooding would impact negatively on the environment, Delamaide said no.
“Polymer is a product you use to purify water so I wouldn’t go and eat polymer, but it is not a toxic product and it is used commonly in the industry for water purification and water treatment. Foam is a soap, a disinfectant which you can use to wash your hair. It is not going to destroy the environment,” Delamaide said.
Even though polymer flooding was experimented on it was never continued, Delamaide said, adding that he did not know why.
“It’s difficult to say why it was not continued. I think people don’t want to change. They are accustomed to doing it one way and if they are not aware of what is going on outside, they don’t try new techniques.
“Steam has worked well and you continue using co2, but you can improve on that by using foam and polymer flooding,” Delamaide added.
Although admitting that Trinidad’s geological structure is complex, Delamaide said this did not mean that the newest technologies cannot work.
“Polymer flooding worked better in horizontal wells. Our geological structure is very complex and it’s a challenge, but geologies in Peru, Thailand are also very fractured and it’s not a problem. It is a challenge and we can overcome it,” Delamaide added.
Petrotrin chairman Professor Andrew Jupiter meanwhile said he was excited about the new prospects for oil recovery in Trinidad.
Saying Petrotrin had 29 expressions of interest for improved oil recovery, Jupiter said, “We will not limit this to steam, carbon dioxide, water flooding or gas injections. Polymer was tried many years ago but it was not continued. The technology done 15 to 20 years ago has improved and the effects of that can also ensure that we can extract more oil from our reservoirs,” he said.
He added that the environmental impact of these extractions will continue to be carefully monitored.
“In every secondary recovery that we perform, whether steam, co2, polymer, we will look at the environmental impact. Our process is we go to the Environmental Management Authority and indicate the process we use, the effect it will have on reservoir and on our environment. We will use stringent rules that will apply to those countries that will also be applied to T&T,” Jupiter added. Despite Trinidad’s faulted rock formations, Jupiter said he was optimistic that new technology could be utilised effectively.