BP have created a way to squeeze even more oil out of an existing oilfield – saving both them and us money. Basically they have found a way to divert high-pressure water underground so that it only flushes out the oil rich seams rather than just flooding out through ‘empty’ cracks, routes, gaps or as they are known in the trade ‘thief zones’.
Many area of oil can be extracted from the ground by forcing it out with water. High pressure water is forced into one end of the oil seam and it pushes along the rock strata and out into a collecting area.
Normally the ratio of oil to water coming out is heavily in favour of water at the other end as once the water has flushed out some of the less dense areas, most of the water flows through these rather than forcing out the heavier oil-filled areas. Once the percentage of water gets to high, the land is abandoned.
Recently, BP in Alaska have been working on a new polymer that can actually help block off the entrance to these ‘thief zones’ making sure that the water flushes out the oil instead. This polymer expands when heated and causes a diversion – helping to retrieve more oil from the seams.
So far they have extracted half a million barrels more than existing techniques! As a result of these amazing achievements, they have started using this technique in other areas including Prudhoe Bay and Milne Point, as well as other across the globe.
In addition, you can actually change the temperature needed to create the polymer to swell allowing for all sorts of other factors to be taken in to consideration at every oil seam. These enhanced oil recovery techniques will be of great use in making better use of existing locations, saving extraction companies a fortune (and making them richer of course).
However, the opposite could happen. It could mean that smaller oilfields that were not viable for mining before by the large companies may now be plundered with this enhance technique. This could end up affecting many more regions, and possibly smaller locations much closer to towns and villages.
On a happy note:
There could be another benefit to this underground technique – BP are working on ideas to add more carbon dioxide to the water they use to flush the oils seams. Now this would mean that they would be depositing waste products underground so reducing the amount that is released into the atmosphere.
Yes, it would help to reduce their own carbon footprint, but they are not alone. The idea seems to be common knowledge and many companies and governments are hoping to pump waste gases into previously emptied oil or gas fields under the oceans. Sounds great short term but isn’t that like burying a body in your back yard and hoping that the next owners don’t try to build a pool.