Upstream technology

In our more than 80 years of managing the Kingdom’s oil and gas resources, continuous technological innovation has been the driving force behind our upstream operations and remains fundamental to our future success. Our technological advances have made exploration more effective and economical, opened new sources of supply, and enhanced our ability to recover more oil and gas to secure sustainable growth.

Every percentage increase in recovery rates adds millions of barrels of recoverable oil to our reserves base. Every gain in operating efficiency expands our ability to provide more energy at lower cost. More reserves and longer-lived production mean more energy for opportunities, in Saudi Arabia and for our customers around the globe.

Boosting oil recovery

SmartWater Flood

Our SmartWater Flood research program continues to show potential to improve oil recovery rates from carbonate reservoirs by an additional 4% to 8%.The results of our in-house research program and single-well field trials have shown that injected seawater whose ionic composition has been optimized outperforms traditional seawater injection.

In 2016, we completed detailed engineering design for the main surface facilities for a multi-well demonstration project at ‘Uthmaniyah, and advanced the design of another demonstration project at Khurais.

CO2 enhanced oil recovery

With a goal to reduce CO2 emissions while also efficiently increasing oil recovery, we continue to monitor the performance of our CO2 enhanced oil recovery demonstration project — the largest such project in the Middle East. Since the initial injection of CO2 in north ‘Uthmaniyah in 2015, the response from the test wells has been positive, with oil production rates increasing three to four times.

Chemical enhanced oil recovery

Progress continues on several in-house studies of chemical enhanced oil recovery, including better characterization of the pre-selected chemical formulation in different rock types and evaluation of potential synergies with our SmartWater Flood technology. We plan to conduct a single-well tracer test in 2017 to demonstrate the effectiveness of the chemical formulations in the field.

Surfactant nanoparticles

Surfactants are chemicals that reduce the surface tension of liquids, and can be used to help loosen oil from rock. We have conceived and developed sustained release surfactant nanoparticles in-house as a potentially efficient means of enhancing oil recovery. In 2016, we completed new formulations and conducted characterization and stability tests in support of a single-well test planned for 2017.

Integrated reservoir studies

We completed integrated reservoir studies for 31 fields and reservoirs, incorporating static data (geology and petrophysics), and dynamic data (well testing and production), to create detailed 3-D models. Applying best-in-class reservoir development and depletion strategies, including advanced well architecture and completion technologies, enables us to analyze the oil recovery performance of reservoirs and manage them for the long term.

Under-balanced coiled tubing drilling

This technology allows us to optimize drilling performance and maximize recovery rates from gas wells to help meet growing demand. In 2016, it helped mitigate formation damage to achieve a production rate of 60 million scfd from a gas well. We plan on assigning additional wells to the technology project in 2017 to enable the drilling of areas with low reservoir pressure, without damaging the reservoir. 

Improving efficiency and performance

Cable-deployed electric submersible pump (ESP) systems

We continue to investigate cable-deployed electric submersible pump (ESP) systems that can be deployed and retrieved in one day using the pump’s power cable, thereby eliminating the need to use a workover rig and significantly reducing costs while boosting oil recovery. Major milestones achieved in 2016 included the testing of ESPs in our Khurais and Abu Hadriyah fields.

Waterless fracturing fluids

This technology uses supercritical CO2 (carbon dioxide in a fluid state) to keep hydraulic fractures open. We synthesized nearly 100 polymers and co-polymers and expect to test them under supercritical CO2 conditions in 2017.

Local sand

We conducted a successful implementation of using resin-enhanced local sand to fracture a gas well in 2016, with further trials to follow in 2017. This initiative offers the potential to lower gas production costs as well as promote economic development using local resources. We are also identifying locally produced drilling and stimulation chemicals to replace imported versions.

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