In search of new methods for enhanced oil recovery, an assistant professor at Montana Tech’s petroleum engineering department is researching methods of utilizing gas that would otherwise be burned off into the atmosphere.
As reported by The Bakken Magazine, Todd Hoffman is in the process of developing and testing the viability of retrieving and compressing gas at the well site and then injecting the gas back into the well. Injecting the gas back into the well could potentially increase productivity in ways similar to injecting carbon dioxide. With gathering infrastructure in place, the gas can also be recaptured and stored on site.
Hoffman revealed his work to the oil and gas industry last year with a positive reception. He told The Bakken Magazine, “The idea is that operators get more well productivity, they prevent flaring and they can sell that injected gas at a later date.” As of April 1, North Dakota’s flare reduction regulations will go into effect, prompting many companies to look for viable gas capture methods. Hoffman anticipates that by the end of summer, his team will have research ready for release and for viewing.
The research began with computer analysis of what the process of injecting gas back into a well (and multi-well pads) would include. The computer models illustrated that on a multi-well pad the captured gas, when injected into one well, increased production on the adjacent wells. To use the process, a natural gas powered compressor would have to be installed on the well site. After being captured, the gas is routed to the compressor where it is matched with the well’s pressure rating before being injected.
After the gas is returned to the reservoir, it has similar effects to injecting carbon dioxide into a well. The gas merges with the already present hydrocarbons trapped in the rock formation, which causes the oil to expand, forcing them from the rock and into the well. Hoffman states that an economic analysis of the process, taking a range of oil prices into account, is overall net positive. The initial investment, according to the analysis, would be paid for by the increased well production and even increase a well’s financial rate of return.