New mapping technology may pinpoint underground oil reserves more efficiently

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Washington, Jan 31 (ANI): Researchers in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering have developed technology that can generate such a map, which has the potential to pinpoint underground oil reserves in a much more efficient way.

The new technology uses the digital image compression technique of JPEG to create realistic-looking, comprehensive maps of underground oil reservoirs using measurements from scattered oil wells.

These maps would be the first to provide enough detail about an oil reservoir to guide oil recovery in the field in real time.

According to Behnam Jafarpour, an assistant professor in petroleum engineering at Texas A and M University, "Our simulation studies indicate that this innovative approach has the potential to improve current reservoir characterization techniques and to provide better predictions of oil-reservoir production."

"The hope is that better predictions ultimately lead to more efficient operations and increased oil production," he added.

The spatial structure in geologic formations makes it possible to compress rock property maps. But, JPEG compresses the many pixels in a detailed image down to a few essential pieces of information that require only a small amount of storage.

In the oil reservoir characterization application developed by MIT researchers, a similar mechanism is used to provide concise descriptions of reservoir rock properties.

The new technique uses oil flow rates and pressure data from oilfield wells to create a realistic image of the subsurface reservoir.

"In a typical reservoir, millions of pixels are needed to adequately describe the complex subsurface pathways that convey the oil to wells. Unfortunately, the number of seismic and well observations available for estimating these pixel values is typically very limited," said Dennis McLaughlin, the H.M. King Bhumibol Professor of Water Resource Management at MIT, and the lead researcher on the project.

"The methods we've developed extract more information from those limited measurements to provide better descriptions of subsurface pathways and the oil moving through them," he added.

In a 36-month simulated oil-recovery process, McLaughlin and Jarfarpour's estimation approach accurately captured the main features and trends in fluid conductivity of a reservoir formation, demonstrating that the new technique is robust, accurate and efficient.

"Our next step - already in progress - is to test our idea in real oil reservoirs and evaluate its impact on oil recovery under realistic field settings," Jafarpour said. (ANI)

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