Premature abandonment of marginal oil wells and fields is a growing energy problem in the United States. Once a field is abandoned, the remaining resources are essentially removed from future access by the high cost of reestablishing production. The growing rate of abandonment of wells and fields that contain substantial amounts of potentially recoverable oil will increase the nation’s dependence on imported petroleum products, which currently account for about half of total U.S. oil consumption and nearly one-third of the merchandise trade deficit. Maintaining a viable domestic supply of oil and natural gas is important to the United States for both economic and strategic reasons.
Prolonging the life of marginal oil wells and fields is a major component of the Department of Energy’s Oil Program. Based on its conclusion that the application of new and existing recovery technologies to marginal fields would have a major positive effect on future domestic oil production, DOE developed its Reservoir Class Field Demonstration Program to encourage industry, in a 50-50 cost-sharing effort, to demonstrate technologies that would prolong oil production in marginal fields at current and projected oil prices.
There are two main challenges to be met in achieving the desired outcome. The first, and perhaps the easiest, is demonstrating the variety of extraction technologies that can be applied to the various geologic classes of reservoirs that contain the greatest amount of remaining oil. Guided by