On January 5th, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its Annual Energy Outlook for 2017. The Administration’s key findings include:
Energy production ranges from nearly flat in the Low Oil and Gas Resource and Technology case, to nearly 50% growth over 2016-40 in the High Resource and Technology Case. Unlike energy consumption, which varies less across AEO cases, projections of energy production vary widely. Production growth is dependent on technology, resource, and market conditions. Total energy production increases by more than 20% in the Reference case, from 2016 through 2040, led by increases in crude oil and natural gas production.
In the release, the administrative spokesperson revealed that the report’s projections show how advances in technology are “driving oil and natural gas production, renewables penetration, and demand-side efficiencies and reshaping the energy future.”
Advances in technology are key in conventional and unconventional oil and gas exploration and production. Portable XRF solutions are making a critical difference in oil and gas exploration by providing fast, reliable data through easy-to-use handheld and bench top platforms. Users can infer mineralogical properties favorable to oil and gas production from data collected in real-time. XRF instruments are valuable for upstream oil and gas exploration and production, offering rapid, on-site chemical analysis of rocks, cuttings, and cores that can be used for identifying formations and determining the mineral composition of the rock.
As we discussed in a previous article about unconventional oil, hydrocarbon exploration is one of the most active sectors of the geological sciences. Petroleum geologists searching for oil and natural gas face a difficult task; oil and gas deposits are difficult to find, and drilling in the wrong spot wastes valuable time and resources. Furthermore, conventional oil production has peaked, while the demand for liquid fuels only increases. A strategy to combat the oil supply and demand problem is to seek out new, unconventional sources of oil.
The EIA defines unconventional oil and natural gas production as:
An umbrella term for oil and natural gas that is produced by means that do not meet the criteria for conventional production. See Conventional oil and natural gas production. Note: What has qualified as “unconventional” at any particular time is a complex interactive function of resource characteristics, the available exploration and production technologies, the current economic environment, and the scale, frequency, and duration of production from the resource. Perceptions of these factors inevitably change over time and they often differ among users of the term.
A while ago we published a series of articles on unconventional oil resources that are still of interest today. Here they are:
- Part 1: What Makes Oil Unconventional?
- Article defines unconventional oil, outlines the challenges of finding, producing, and refining it, and introduces the technologies used.
- Part 2: The Arctic Frontier
- The Arctic region holds vast potential for E&P. The harsh conditions of the Arctic regions mean tremendous financial, research, and technological investments will be required to build the knowledge, equipment, and infrastructure to access these reserves. This articles outlines the reasons why Arctic exploration is commercial viable.
- Part 3: Ultra-deepwater Oil
- It was once thought nearly impossible to access the oil that lies far beneath the ocean floor, but new seismic and drilling technologies, including drills that can be placed in 10,000 feet of water and drill five miles into the earth, have made ultra-deepwater oil production reality. Read about the organizations supporting this industry.
- Part 4: Tight Oil
- Tight oil is found within shale and sedimentary rock formations with very low permeability where fluids can’t flow freely. Even though tight oil is the same as oil extracted by conventional means, it’s classified as unconventional because it can’t be extracted using conventional methods. Read about the reservoir evaluation techniques used to infer mineralogy, lithology and chemostratigrapy.
- Part 5: Oil Sands
- Oil sands, sometimes called tar sands or bituminous sands, are made up of sand, water, clay minerals, and bitumen, which is heavy, viscous, molasses-like oil that requires extensive processing to separate it from the sand and other materials and refine it into usable fuel. Shallow deposits can be extracted using open pit mining but most oil sand reserves are located too far underground and require unconventional technologies such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and other in-situ techniques to extract and separate the oil. Read about the in-situ technologies used today.
- Part 6: Horizontal Drilling Gives New Life to an Old Oil Play
- The use of horizontal drilling is gaining momentum, but volumes of stratigraphic and lithographic data must be translated to form reservoir characterization models to determine which areas are most favorable to hydrocarbon production. Read about the work being done in the the Permian Basin.
EIA’s AEO2017 projects the United States to be a net energy exporter in most cases. To help ensure that happens, oil and gas companies must ensure they are using the latest technology and exploring in unconventional places using unconventional methods.