feature

new lab changing how we see reservoirs

In an unassuming petrophysics lab in Houston, Texas, Chevron Energy Technology Company (ETC) scientists and engineers are changing the way Chevron looks at reservoirs.

At the new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Lab at Chevron’s Briarpark facility, the Reservoir and Production Engineering Technology team in collaboration with the Earth Science Technology team has an advanced level of NMR technology never before applied in the oil and gas industry. Chevron was the first to research NMR technology for subsurface exploration in the early 1950s in California, and now the Houston lab puts the company at the forefront of the industry when it comes to advanced measurements at high-pressure, high-temperature reservoir conditions for upstream technical service support.

NMR lab

Chevron’s new NMR lab in Houston, Texas, measures key geological elements under actual reservoir conditions.

What is NMR?
You may be familiar with NMR technology when it comes to material science or healthcare. Just like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) allows doctors to “see” inside a patient’s body to diagnose health issues, MRI and NMR allow a look inside reservoirs to optimize production techniques.

What can we see when this technology is applied to subsurface exploration? “The NMR lab measures key geological elements under actual reservoir conditions, which paints a much clearer picture than typical exploration tools,” says ETC’s Ross Hodge. “This lab will not only allow us to advance the level of rock and fluid characterization measurements used in modeling, but also aid stimulation design and recovery methods.”

Low-field NMR simulates properties of logging tools to enable calibration and interpretation of subsurface data, providing an essential view of reservoir characteristics. NMR can quantify moveable fluids, porosity and permeability, and measure reservoir fluid saturations and types. High-field NMR analyzes fluid and solid samples with the sensitivity and resolution needed for chemical analysis and structural determination on the molecular level.

NMR analyzer

The new NMR lab is industry-leading in replicating high-pressure, high-temperature downhole conditions for analyzing reservoirs.

A technical advantage
The lab allows Chevron to reproduce high-pressure, high-temperature downhole conditions for core flooding measurements using reservoir fluids – providing a view of the core at different stages of the flooding process. Researchers can use corrosive fluids and live oils to simulate real well conditions. Combined with MRI, this provides a clear picture of the recovery process by monitoring dynamic changes in the petrophysical parameters of the formation.

The technology in the new lab has the capability to analyze any type of asset class from heavy oil to tight rock, bringing promise to complex unconventional resources like organic-rich shales. Shale plays remain difficult to analyze due to their microporosity and complex mineralogy.

“The new laboratory is a platform for the development of future improved core measurement services, including reservoir condition measurements and integration of multiple petrophysics technologies, such as dielectrics,” notes ETC’s Scott Seltzer.

Updated: May 2016