American Association of Petroleum Geologists

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Fundamental Controls on Flow in Carbonates

Joint Hedberg Research Conference organized through the AAPG Research Committee
Conference Conveners
Dr. Susan M. Agar
ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company
Prof. Sebastian Geiger
Heriot-Watt University
Dr. Juliette Lamarche
University of Provence

8-13 July, 2012
Saint Cyr-Sur-Mer, Provence, France,
with mid-meeting field trip

View Abstracts

This conference aimed to stimulate new ideas and joint industry-academic ventures that can accelerate research advances related to flow prediction and recovery in carbonate reservoirs. Such advances are likely to be among some of the most significant developments for the oil and gas industry in the next decade. We pursued uplift for both industry and academic participants by increasing awareness of the needs and interests of each party and identifying potential to contribute to emerging concepts and novel technologies. In this way, the conference aimed to generate new research opportunities, to identify paradigm shifts, and to raise awareness of the cross-disciplinary skill sets that are needed to solve problems related to flow prediction in carbonate reservoirs. Participants combined forces to present an exciting vision to the global geoscience and engineering community of next generation research on the theme of "Fundamental Controls on Flow in Carbonates".

Key Components

  • Novel techniques to stimulate innovation and cross-disciplinary, industry-academic dialogues
  • Prioritization of key research questions and hypotheses related to improved hydrocarbon recovery in carbonate reservoirs
  • Opportunities to define ambitious research goals for academic-industry collaboration and strategies to realize the objectives
  • Identification of the critical skills and collaborations to address short- and long-term challenges
  • Identification of new research directions for career development

Background

Carbonate reservoirs contain approximately 50% of the world's hydrocarbon resources but are challenging to produce due, in part, to their lithologic and structural heterogeneity. A small increase (1-2%) in recovery from these reservoirs will make a substantial difference to global hydrocarbon production and could substantially extend the life of mature fields. Improvements in recovery require an in-depth understanding of flow behaviors and processes on various scales, significant advances in geologic and flow simulation methods and geophysical detection and monitoring capabilities. In recent years there have been several specialist conferences that have focused on gathering updates on related themes. This conference, however, focused on the definition of innovative research directions, not only within the oil and gas industry but also between industry and academia.

Participants

The conference gathered experts from multiple disciplines. Participants included academic and industry scientists with technical backgrounds in carbonate reservoir geoscience, flow modeling and reservoir engineering. New and different perspectives were sought from researchers in fields that are not traditionally linked to production from carbonate reservoirs. For this reason, the conveners encouraged applications from researchers in related fields such as hydrogeology, visualization methods, numerical modeling as well as fundamental science. Industry experience was not required. Participants were prepared to share original ideas and to collaborate in teams. The meeting waslimited to 100 participants.

Format

The conference comprised five-days with non-parallel oral and poster presentations. Short (20-30 minute) talks and panel sessions were used to introduce different themes but the conference placed a strong emphasis on group discussions as well as interactions around posters. There were four days of presentations, discussion and breakout sessions and one day in the field.

The conference started with broad thematic sessions to capture thoughts from leading scientists on promising research, to encourage multidisciplinary engagement, and to introduce researchers who are unfamiliar with the challenges of carbonate reservoirs to commonly encountered problems. Participants were then guided through a process to develop teams and to identify and develop a plan for novel and potentially high-impact research related to the overall conference theme. A primary objective was to define promising, new research directions that could generate novel research programs around the globe, stimulating industry-academic collaboration.

Technical Themes

Fundamentals–
The fundamental physics and chemistry that control flow behaviors and recovery in carbonate reservoirs from pore- to field-scale. This theme will cover laboratory measurements and experiments, theoretical and numerical modeling studies and address topics including but not limited to: the evolution and distribution of wettability in carbonates, matrix-fracture interactions, and multiphase flow in rocks with wide variations in porosity and wettability. Presentations will draw out the first-order controls on flow behavior, novel methods to investigate flow on different scales and knowledge gaps.
In-situ Monitoring of Flow –
Novel applications of geophysical methods (including seismic, resistivity, gravity, magnetic and X-ray computer tomography) for real-time monitoring of flow in carbonates as well as subsurface experiments (for example tracers) offers the potential to gain new insights to flow phenomena. This theme will tackle questions concerning the theoretical and practical challenges for geophysical monitoring as well as the value and potential limitations of subsurface flow experiments.
Prediction & Uncertainty –
This theme will address our current knowledge of geologic characteristics of carbonate reservoirs and ways to predict them. A strong emphasis will be placed on the geologic processes controlling the links among sedimentologic, structural and diagenetic features in carbonates and the value of understanding these processes to predict flow paths among them. Novel approaches for characterization and gauging uncertainty such as multipoint statistics, geomechanical modeling, probabilistic methods, Bayesian statistics, and novel seismic techniques will also be included. Discussions will examine prediction at different scales and over different stages of Exploration, Development and Production. Uncertainties surrounding interpretations of dynamic data will also be addressed.
New Geologic and Flow Simulation Techniques –
The meeting will explore novel methods for geologic modeling and flow simulation, placing a strong emphasis on emerging methods that have yet to penetrate the industry arena. Modeling approaches would include efficient methods to develop outcrop analogs, reactive-transport modeling in deformed carbonates, and next generation flow simulation methods. Participants will be encouraged to explore paradigm shifts that can help to streamline data acquisition, modeling and flow predictions.

Case Studies – A selection of industry case studies are solicited to address components within one or more of the technical themes. These will serve to reinforce areas where knowledge is thin or lacking and to build a common platform for discussion among meeting participants with diverse backgrounds. Sharing case studies with academic participants will help them to identify areas in which their research can be relevant while industry participants may benefit from novel academic insights that have not been conditioned by industry experience. The conference will focus mainly on flow behaviors on production timescales.

One-day Field Trip - A one-day field trip explored Cretaceous carbonates in Provence with guidance from Prof. Jean Borgomano and his colleagues, Laboratory for the Geology of Carbonate Reservoirs, University of Provence, Marseilles.

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