A sustainable energy project to recover oil from rocks is under way
The School of Petroleum Engineering at University of New South Wales (UNSW) has forged a research agreement with the State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to evaluate the production potential of an unconventional oil resource. The project will assess the feasibility of recovering hydrocarbon fuel from hard-to-access offshore geological structures known as basement reservoirs. The ONGC is interested in its Mumbai offshore basin located on the Western coast. “These are very hard rocks that contain fractures, which in turn, contain oil that is very difficult to extract. We have ongoing programmes in geothermal energy led by Professor Sheik Rahman, which basically look at characterising fracture systems in rock structures and forming strategies to develop these fractured reservoirs. We also have ongoing programmes in fracturing hard rocks to enhance production. Together, these research efforts will provide the framework for this project,” Professor Val Pinczewski, Head of the School of Petroleum Engineering, stated.
The UNSW engineers and geo-scientists will be developing a range of mathematical models to predict fracture characteristics of this particular basement rock type, simulate fluid flow through its interconnected fracture system and estimate the hydrocarbon potential. Later, they will conduct experiments with rock samples provided by ONGC and applying their models in the field to test how much oil is recoverable. “The actual technology you need to develop these reservoirs is not much different from the technology used to develop shale gas,” says Professor Pinczewski. This technology is already quite popular in the US, and has the potential to gain grounds in Australia, he added.
The work will feed into the Australian Energy Research Institute, a sustainable energy think-tank based at UNSW, which connects engineers, scientists, economists and policy experts. Valued at $2.05 million over a period of the next two-and-a-half years, this is the fourth major project between UNSW and ONGC since first signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2002.