Russian scientists have found a way to generate an extra 100 billion per year for the State budget

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The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation joined the discussion on the risks of a rapid fall in oil production in our country. On 4 February, Alexey Sazanov, the Head of the Department of Tax and Customs Tariff Policy, told the reporters that there was no information on possibility of these events in the project documents provided by Federal Agency on Subsoil Use and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. Therefore, incentive measures proposed by the Ministry of Energy require additional justification. The question, though, is what kind of profit it is possible to generate by increasing the oil recovery rate. Are there developments in Russia that could help us create breakthrough technologies?

Last year, Minister of Energy Alexander Novak informed that, if no stimulus measures taken, oil extraction in Russia will reach its peak in 2021 (570 million tons) only to start rapidly declining. In this case, oil production volumes will fall by 2035 to 310 million per year. Given that oil imports constitute a greater part of the federal budget, this statement is, at the very least, disturbing.

Industry experts also confirm it. After the fall of the Soviet Union, increase in hydrocarbon resource base in our country was rather caused by upward revaluations of old oil reserves. If we want to be sure in our future, it is important that we increase our efforts and consider performing oil exploration activities, as well as we need to boost the oil recovery rate. This basic condition is a prerequisite for maintaining economic growth.

Vladimir Litvinenko, the Principal of Saint-Petersburg Mining University, expressed a similar opinion, "Today, in Russia we are dealing with unacceptably low oil recovery efficiency. At the same time, if we manage to raise the rates by at least 1% on average, Russian state will face a possibility of receiving 23-25 billion dollars of additional income annually".

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He argues that the required technologies already exist. It is possible to reach the higher rates, but there are no state regulatory mechanisms that would allow implementing these technologies. As a result, innovators have to make arrangements with subsoil users by themselves. Companies, in turn, are not always interested in such negotiations.

Scientists from the Mining University have been constantly seeking the ways to improve oil recovery efficiency. One of the possible solutions is improvement of tertiary recovery methods. An innovative technology has been provided by Alexandra Kuznetsova, an Assistant of the Department of Development of Oil and Gas Fields. Through the use of this technology, it is theoretically possible to increase oil extraction from low-permeability reservoirs by 4.2% at once. The project will be presented at the youth forum "Oil capital", which will be held in February in Khanty-Mansyisk.

Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Александра Кузнецова
Величина КИН в сверхнизкопроницаемыых коллекторах для рассмотренных вариантов заводнения построенной гидродинамической модели участка залежи

As Alexandra Kuznetsova explains, "Previously, in Western Siberia hydrocarbons were extracted from those deposits, which were formed during the Cretaceous period. They were located at shallow depths and were well permeable. In other words, there was no need to incentivize the process of oil extraction. Unfortunately, those days are long gone, for now we are required to develop deposits of the Jurassic period. In connection with this, we need to introduce new methods that would increase efficiency of subsoil exploitation".

Oil field is a huge underground reservoir, which is limited by clay interlayers that keep hydrocarbons inside. The bigger part of oil basin is filled with geological materials, and mineral resources are found in interstices. The efficiency of production mostly depends on the amount of oil-filled interstices in the reservoir and on hydraulic permeability or, to put it differently, on the ability of a reservoir rock to conduct the flow of hydrocarbon fluids.

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According to the representative of the Mining University, "A commonly used way to keep reservoir pressure at the required for oil inflow level is to pump water into reservoir through the use of injection wells. However, if fresh water is used, it might cause clay swelling. Porosity and permeability will be affected, consequently leading to reductions in oil recovery efficiency. For these reasons, subsoil users add specifically designed surfactant species into the water. They usually either prevent swelling or allow for reducing oil interfacial tension. We, in the Mining University, have produced a composition that allows solving both problems at the same time. Moreover, the concentration of an additive in the water is minimal".

A geological model of low-permeability reservoir was built by the scientists of the university, and, by using hydrodynamic simulation, it was determined that oil recovery rate, in case of applying new technology, increases by 4.2%. Alexandra Kuznetsova mentioned that it is currently impossible to say that technology implementation in practice will be as effective as theoretical research results imply. However, the very possibility of changing the properties of the shelf, underground storage pools included, opens up a possibility for the Russian state to replenish the government budget, as well as to ensure the growth of the mineral resources base.