EOR: Old Challenge, Fresh Eyes
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IndraStra Global

EOR: Old Challenge, Fresh Eyes

By Abd Malik Jaffar
Regional Director PETRONAS Subsidiaries Middle East, PETRONAS

EOR: Old Challenge, Fresh Eyes

A quandary lingers in Middle Eastern oil companies’ boardrooms. Extracting black gold is becoming more challenging yet energy demand, populations and political momentum for low-carbon policies are all rising. How to master this tightrope to ensure energy security? Take enhanced oil recovery (EOR) up a notch. 

For nearly a century, EOR technologies have been interwoven into upstream operators’ strategies. Thermal recovery, solar-powered, steam injection, miscible gas injection, chemical recovery, and Carbon Dioxide (Co2) injection are all today on the ‘menu’ of popular options.

But as the pressure points collide, EOR must enter a new chapter of growth and innovation. Transparency Market Research expects the valuation of the global EOR market to soar from $38.1 billion in 2012 to $516.7 billion by 2023. PETRONAS alone has identified more than 1 billion barrels of oil from 14 fields for EOR projects and spearheaded TAPIS, the first large-scale EOR project in Southeast Asia.

TAPIS Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR)

EOR is also integral to the Middle East keeping a firm grip on its crown as the epicenter of the world’s oil market. It is no longer considered an optional aid but an essential tool that marries ambitious production forecasts with barrels above the ground. The handling of the region’s fields – some of the world’s most mature and challenging – must evolve for BP Outlook’s forecast to ring true. The energy major expects the Middle East to be the largest oil producer by 2040, accounting for over 34% of global liquids production. Maintaining a sharp competitive edge is especially paramount as international competition mounts, notably from the US’ shale revolution.

EOR takes place after primary and secondary oil recoveries. Oil extracted via primary recovery accounts for 5% to 15% of the total reservoir while secondary recovery can extract about 20% to 35% of the total oil present in the reservoir, according to Future Market Insights. But installing EOR technology means another 25%-35% of the oil can be extracted. Consider that each percentage point can translate into millions of US dollars on the trading floor; EOR technologies literally pay their way. 

A handful of innovative EOR projects that support the green obligations of the Paris Agreement offer a template for the growing market. EOR 2.0 is gaining traction. One such project is Miraah – meaning ‘mirror’ in Arabic. A groundbreaking collaboration between state-owned Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and GlassPoint to create one of the world’s largest solar plants. The generation of 1,021 MW of peak thermal energy will mean 6,000 tons of steam a day is directed towards EOR efforts at the sultanate’s Amal field. This is not the height of Oman’s ambitions; PDO aims for 25% of its oil production to be supported by EOR by 2025. 

In the UAE, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) started the world’s first commercial steel carbon capture utilization and storage project in 2016. The captured CO2 is injected into Abu Dhabi’s maturing oil fields for EOR. And the company announced plans in January to expand its carbon capture program to cater to a six-fold increase in the use of CO2 in maturing oilfields over the next decade, further supporting EOR. ADNOC also aligned with the Centre of Integrated Petroleum Research (CIPR) in Bergen University, Norway, last October, to conduct applied research into EOR techniques that could extend the life of ADNOC’s oil reservoirs. The agreement marks another stepping stone in the company’s EOR journey since 1996, with the aim of recovering up to 70% of the oil.

Between 10 -15% of ADNOC’s oil is currently recovered with EOR technologies, primarily via miscible gas injection.

Oman and Abu Dhabi’s journey illustrate the increasingly dynamic tone of the Middle East’s EOR market. But there is a catch; great effort precedes great reward. Up to a decade can pass between laboratory tests and on-site application of new methods; redesigns and pilots especially linger on the calendar. Stakeholders must shorten this timeline – EOR technologies only prove their worth when utilized on-site – to gain a first-mover advantage, especially in the largely unexplored field of lower-carbon technologies.  

Pooling expertise and funds can hasten progress. Gulf states’ cooperation on developing bespoke regional EOR solutions is a good starting point, according to 95% of respondents to a GIQ Industry Survey last October. A united voice could lower some of the hurdles: concerns over data confidentiality and intellectual property and differing crude and reservoir qualities, for example. Identifying solutions would also give a stamp of credibility to many Gulf countries’ goal to transform into knowledge-based economies, as per their National Visions. The economic and diplomatic value of being able to ‘export’ expertise to help others manage the nuances of their fields will only become more valuable as energy demand climbs to meet the 27% rise in the global population to 9.7 billion by 2050. 

Staying atop the tightrope requires a holistic approach; EOR is not a silver bullet. But it does play a leading role in ticking the economic and environmental checklist of sustainable oil production. The degree of commitment to the EOR market today will determine who plays and secures a leading role in the 2020s and who remains unseen in the wings.

About the Author:

Abd Malik Jaffar, Regional Director PETRONAS Subsidiaries Middle East, PETRONAS

Cite this Article:

Jaffar, A.M., "EOR: Old Challenge, Fresh Eyes", IndraStra Global Vol. 04, Issue No: 09 (2018), 0049 | https://www.indrastra.com/2018/09/EOR-Old-Challenge-Fresh-Eyes-004-09-2018-0049.html | ISSN 2381-3652

Jaffar, A.M., "EOR: Old Challenge, Fresh Eyes", IndraStra Global Vol. 04, Issue No: 09 (2018), 0049 | https://www.indrastra.com/2018/09/EOR-Old-Challenge-Fresh-Eyes-004-09-2018-0049.html | ISSN 2381-3652

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this insight piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the IndraStra Global.