Yet that is only half of Alvarado’s attempt to shake up the paradigm. The other half relies on when that chemical concoction is injected in the reservoir. Instead of waiting to inject the chemical until later in the field’s operating life, as is often the case now, the chemical should be injected at the beginning, he said.
Shale gas offers a template for improving shale oil production, Alvarado said. Gas production is relatively simple compared to oil production, but often times the reservoir are similar, mean similar production methods can be used in both.
“We learned to do the extended horizontal wells from shale gas. We just borrowed that technology to do shale oil,” Alvarado said. “The massive number of fracking stages in shale gas, we just transferred that to shale oil.”
Using shale gas production as a model can help focus oil research and keep research costs down. In the 1980s, many laboratory experiments tried in the field failed. That was costly, Alvarado said. Using methods used in shale gas production increases the likelihood shale oil research will be successful.
And that increases the chances that more oil and gas will come out of the ground.
“There are two ways in industry to bring more resources to the surface,” Alvarado said. “You discover new ones, or you access the known ones. This makes more of the known ones.”