Energy Resources TechnologyOver the past 150 years, oil companies and prospectors have drilled more than two million wells around the world in hopes of striking oil. Many of the early wells turned out to be dry. At Princess Three Operating, LLC we use sophisticated technologies and tried-and-true techniques to find oil and gas under the earth’s surface. More recently, scientific techniques and new technologies have greatly improved the odds.
Before we put drill to soil we use any applicable tools to enhance our success; such as, topographical maps, aerial photography, sound waves, 2D and 3D projections and other tools to help us form an educated guess about the size, shape and consistency of the oil or natural gas reservoir.
Why are oil and natural gas so difficult to locate? The best way to answer this is to look at how oil and gas came into being in the first place.
How Oil and Gas Is Formed and Why Fossil Became a Fuel SourceIf you have ridden in a car, fossils propelled you and got you where you needed to go. If you’ve used a gas stove, it was fossils that cooked your food. The petroleum oil that becomes gasoline and many other useful products wouldn’t exist without tiny plants, algae and bacteria settling to the bottom of the sea as they died millions of years ago.
There is no oxygen under the earth’s crust, so the tiny plants, algae and bacteria changed into a substance scientists call kerogen. When the temperatures rose to 110˚ Celsius or higher the kerogen over time changed into oil and/or natural gas. The process takes at least a million years.
Crude oil is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons. In other words, it is made up of hydrogen, carbon and traces of other substances. Its texture varies, but it is generally liquid. Natural gas is mainly made up of the chemical compound methane. It is gaseous, or lighter than air.
OilThe world has produced about 1 trillion barrels of oil to date. Over the next century or so, approximately 2 trillion barrels more are expected to be produced from conventional proved reserves and undiscovered conventional oil. Even more will be produced from unconventional oil resources, such as extra-heavy oil in Venezuela, bitumen in Alberta and shale oil in the United States. Oil and petroleum products have powered the world in the form of motor fuels for more than a century, and demand is expected to grow over the long term. Between now and 2030, global energy consumption is projected to increase between 40 and 45 percent, with oil and gas, along with coal, continuing to meet the largest part of that demand.
What a Barrel of Crude Oil MakesOil is a key ingredient in thousands of products that make our lives easier.
Natural GasWhat Is Natural Gas?
Dismissed as a useless byproduct of crude oil production until the second half of the 20th century, natural gas now provides 23 percent of all energy consumed in the world. And the demand is growing.
Natural gas is primarily methane (CH4). Its purity makes it an environmentally friendly fuel. Methane is a nonreactive hydrocarbon which means its emissions do not react with sunlight to create smog. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is nontoxic, non carcinogenic and noncorrosive.
Found in large underground fields much like crude oil, natural gas isn’t feasible to transport over land due to its gaseous state. Rather, extensive underground pipelines are developed to carry it from the wellhead to customers thousands of miles away. Most U.S. households have access to a source of natural gas from a Local Distribution Company (LDC). These LDC’s provide gas at pressures ranging from 4-50 psi.
Natural gas is lighter than air, making it a safe fuel for many applications. Any leakage will quickly dissipate into the atmosphere, reducing the risk of an explosion as compared to liquid fuels, which pool on the ground or pollute our ground water. An economical, environmentally friendly and efficient energy source, natural gas is the cleanest-burning conventional fuel, producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than do heavier hydrocarbon fuels, such as coal and oil. Historically, natural gas also has been one of the most economical energy sources. Natural gas fuels electric power generators, heats buildings and is used as a raw material in many consumer products, such as those made of traditional plastics.
Why We Should Use Natural Gas?
Natural gas is by far the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon on the planet, with much lower CO2 emissions and fewer pollutants than coal or oil when burned.
Vast new natural gas resources are being discovered every year across North America, and according to recent academic and government agency studies, we have at least a 120-year supply. It’s affordable.
Today, with fluctuating cost of oil per barrel, natural gas remains a highly attractive alternative at its current price. It’s American.
Providing fuel for American homes, natural gas is a quintessentially American fuel, produced in 32 states from coast to coast.
How Natural Gas Is Used
Natural gas has many residential, commercial and industrial applications. It is also increasingly used as an alternative transportation fuel. As technology is developed and implemented, additional uses are being found for natural gas.
Key uses include:
• Residential uses
• Commercial uses
• Industrial uses
• Power generation
• Transportation fuel
How A Reservoir Forms
If the story ended there, oil and gas might never have become the global energy sources they are today. The deposits would be so scattered that we would have almost no chance of extracting them in usable amounts. Even after oil has formed in the rock, pressure continues to rise, squeezing the oil out or upwards through rocks that have more pores, or spaces, within them.
All oil moves like this. Some of it will eventually reach the surface and seeps out naturally into land or water. However, most of it comes up against a layer of rock that it can’t move through. This impermeable rock forms a trap, and slowly, very slowly, the oil builds up. As it does, it forms a reservoir.
Reservoirs are rock formations that hold oil, natural gas or both within their pores, like a fossilized sponge. Reservoirs can be massive. Some may be as large as London, Hong Kong or New York. Rocks also move over millions of years, as tectonic plates shift. This makes oil and gas reservoirs extremely difficult to find.
Science Of Searching
There may be no more unexplored frontiers on earth, but deep inside the earth there is plenty that we don’t yet know. Oil companies have a range of technologies to assist in locating oil and gas reservoirs deep beneath land and sea. The search remains a complex business. Success is never certain.
Improving The Odds
In the early days of oil exploration, oil companies and prospectors focused their search on areas near seepages where oil bubbled up naturally in pools. Drilling is still the only sure way to find out whether there is oil or gas down there. But drilling is expensive. So before we drill, we do as much planning as possible, and that can take months to years.
The Geologist’s Eye
We begin with what we can see. Both geologists and geophysicists are crucial at this stage in the exploration process. Geologists look at what rocks are made of and the formations. Geophysicists use physical characteristics, such as magnetic and gravitational properties, to guess the type and shape of subsurface rocks.
Aerial photography from aircraft and satellites can be revealing. The same tectonic shifts that formed mountains and other topographical features above the earth’s surface also shaped the rock formations down below. To the trained eye, these photographs can say a lot about what lies beneath the soil.
Aircraft can measure the gravitational pull over an area. Even small gravitational differences can reveal large clues about the density of underlying rocks.
Seismic ExplorationWhat Seismic Exploration Is
One of the biggest breakthroughs in natural gas exploration has been the use of basic seismology. Seismology is the study of energy, in the form of seismic waves, moving through the earth's crust and interacts differently with various types of formations.
The basic concept of seismology is:
A. The earth's crust is composed of many layers, each with its own set of properties. Energy (seismic waves) travels underground and interacts differently with each layer.
B. Transmitting from a source, these waves travel through the earth’s surface and are reflected back toward the source. Each layer reflects the waves in a different direction.
C. The reflection allows the seismology to identify the properties of underground geology. Geophysicists are able to create vibrations on the surface and record how they are reflected back to the surface.
How Seismic Exploration Is Used
The reflection of the seismic waves are picked up by sensitive pieces of equipment called “geophones,” imbedded in the ground. The data is transmitted to a seismographic recording truck for further interpretation by geophysicists and natural gas and oil reservoir engineers. They use this information to best determine the locations of natural gas and oil.
3-D Seismic Imaging
3-D imaging utilizes seismic field data to generate three dimensional “pictures” of underground formations and geologic features. 3-D seismic allows geophysicists and geologists the opportunity to study the composition of the earth's crust in a particular area. Anyone who has seen a 3D film on a large-format screen can imagine the next stage in our exploration process. In a special room called a highly immersive visual environment, or HIVE, geologists, geophysicists, computer scientists, drilling engineers and others come together to view the seismic data – in four dimensions. (The fourth dimension is time.)
This is extremely useful in the exploration of natural gas, as an actual image can be used to estimate the probability of formations existing in a particular area and the characteristics of that potential formation. This technology has raised the success rate of exploration efforts. In fact, the use of 3-D seismic has increased the likelihood of successful reservoir locations by up to 50%. By providing data about the location of natural gas reservoirs, 3-D seismic imaging ensures more accurate placement of drillsites and results in more productive wells. Viewed through 3D glasses, these projections provide a way to more accurately plan the next step: drilling into soil and rock to find out for certain whether these visualizations are correct.
Oil Drilling and Natural Gas ExplorationAfter all the experts have been consulted, the risks have been assessed, the environmental studies have been completed and the data has been compiled into workable maps, the drilling rig and crew is sent in. Before any drilling begins we have to build access roads, construct a temporary power station or drill a water well.
Studying the Mud Cuttings
Even at this stage, with crews and heavy machinery in place, there is a possibility that nothing will be found. Or that the oil and gas discovered would be of such small quantities that extracting it would not be worthwhile.
As the diamond or tungsten drill bit goes into the hard rock, a substance called ‘mud’ is pumped down through the pipe. This mud isn’t really mud. It’s a fluid consisting of water, clay, additives and thickeners. It both cools the drill bit, which can get really hot, and flushes out cut rock from the reservoir.
As the mud comes back up through the outer part of the pipe, we get the first hard evidence indicating whether there exists a possibility of discovering oil and gas. Geologists or mud logger monitors the cuttings to determine whether they are returning in the sequence expected. The records of the mud and rock fragments are kept for further study.
Once the exploratory well has been drilled, the well is logged to learn more about the reservoir. The log measures the natural radioactivity and electrical resistance of the rocks, as well as the pressure and temperature of the fluids or gases.
Because crude oil and natural gas are hot and highly pressurized, great care must be taken to control pressure during the drilling process.
However, it is not quite as dramatic a job as some old Hollywood movies suggest, with struck oil spewing violently out into the sky. As a precaution, modern wells are fitted with emergency valves (blowout preventers) to prevent this kind of blowout.
Everyone involved in a drilling project undergoes rigorous safety training. Risks are assessed at every step.
After a determination has been made that the well appears to be capable of producing oil and gas in commercial quantities, the well is cased, the formation perforated and any and all other operations are completed that are deemed necessary to produce the oil and gas. The next step is to plan and build a production facility, taking environmental, social and logistical factors into account.
Over the decades-long lifespan of most production facilities, chances are new technologies will help us reach deeper and deeper into reservoirs, helping us to extract more of the resources within it.
Using New Technology
Is the world running out of oil and gas? Not immediately. By most estimates, today’s known reserves would last for at least another 40 years at current usage levels. In other words, these estimates don’t take new discoveries into account. Meanwhile, new technologies are helping us tap large amounts of oil and gas that were once considered unreachable.
For example, Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska has been in operation for over 30 years. Originally it was expected that only 40% of the oil in place could be extracted. But with the help of new technologies that estimate is 60%.
Our technology experts and research partners are constantly experimenting with new techniques, including new twists on tried and tested techniques.
Reaching Out for More Oil and Gas
Not long ago drilling only went in one direction. Down. Now we can drill at any angle, including straight out horizontal. Horizontal drilling can reach large amounts of natural gas that were previously trapped within rock formations too tight to let the gas flow naturally. Horizontal drilling and fracturing is primarily used to extract natural gas from shale or deep rock formations. The horizontal drilling method uses vertical drilling from the surface down to a desired level. Then, the drill is turned in a right angle and bores into a gas reservoir horizontally. Fracturing is an innovative technique that involves pumping fluids or water into the wellbore with enough pressure to create fractures in the rock formation. It is this fracture through which natural gas moves into the wellbore and up to the surface.
Here are a few other recent and developing innovations that may help us get more oil and gas from known reservoirs:
Fracturing The Rocks
By exerting the right level and type of pressure into rocks with tight pores, we can cause fine cracks that stimulate a freer flow of natural gas deposits that would previously have remained trapped there. This is called increasing the formation’s permeability.
Our LoSal Process
Injecting water into a reservoir to flush out some of the remaining oil trapped in rock pores is a long-established technique. This is known as a water flood project.
Injecting CO2 Into Wells
Injecting natural gas is one way of flushing more oil out of a well. Tests have shown that carbon dioxide, which can be separated from oil and other hydrocarbons during hydrogen power production, may be an effective substitute. Putting this CO2 back into the reservoir means it will not be released into the atmosphere.
Sending in Micro-Organisms
Using micro-organisms may sound like science fiction, but DuPont, the Energy Biosciences Institute, and others are studying whether microbes could help stuck oil to flow. Feeding certain micro-organisms in reservoirs might help lubricate rock surfaces, while others may simply munch on the oil until it breaks down, becoming runnier.
Natural Gas and Oil Terminology
Mcf: one thousand cubic feet of natural gas
Mmcf: one million cubic feet of natural gas
Bcf: one billion cubic feet of natural gas
Tcf: one trillion cubic feet of natural gas
Mmcf/d: millions of cubic feet of gas per day
Boe: barrel of oil (one barrel of oil equals 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas)
Mboe: one thousand barrels of oil equivalent
Mmboe: one million barrels of oil equivalent
Mmcfe: one million cubic feet of natural gas equivalent
Bcfe: one billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent
Tcfe: one trillion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent
BTU – British Thermal Unit. The amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one Fahrenheit degree. One BTU is equivalent to 252 calories, 0.293 watt-hours or 1,055 joules.
CCF - One Hundred Cubic Feet. One CCF is one hundred cubic feet of natural gas at standard distribution pressure of 14.73 pounds per square inch and 60° Fahrenheit.
Christmas tree - The arrangement of pipes and valves at the wellhead to control the flow of oil or natural gas and to prevent blowouts. (See Wellhead)
CNG – Compressed Natural Gas
Completion - The procedure by which a successful well is readied for production.
Compressor station - Stations located along natural gas pipelines which recompress gas to ensure an even flow.
Conventional Resource – Any area where natural gas can be drilled and extracted vertically.
Cubic foot - The amount of natural gas required at room temperature at sea level to fill a volume of one cubic foot.
Derrick/Drilling Rig - A steel structure mounted over the borehole to support the drill pipe and other equipment that is lowered and raised during drilling operations.
Directional drilling - A technique that enables drilling at an angle to reach a particular underground formation.
DOE - Department of Energy. A cabinet-level federal agency created in 1977 to replace the Federal Energy Administration. The DOE manages national energy policy, nuclear power and nuclear weapons programs, and the national energy research labs.
Drilling permit - Authorization from a regulatory agency to drill a well.
Drillbit - Tool used in drilling to break up rock mechanically in order to penetrate the subsoil. The bit drills a circular hole.
EIA – Energy Information Administration. An agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. EIA provides energy data, forecasts and analyses.
Flaring - The controlled and safe burning of gas which cannot be used for commercial or technical reasons.
Fracturing or fracing - The pumping of crude oil, diesel, water or chemicals into a reservoir with such force that the reservoir rock is cracked and results in greater flow of oil or gas from the reservoir.
Gas processing plant - A facility which extracts liquefiable hydrocarbons or sulfur from natural gas and/or fractionates a liquid stream.
Gathering - The process of collecting natural gas flowing from numerous wells and bringing it together into pooling areas where it is received into transmission pipelines.
Gathering lines - Pipelines that move natural gas or petroleum from wells to processing or transmission facilities.
GGE - Gasoline Gallon Equivalent
Horizontal drilling - An advanced form of directional drilling in which the lateral hole is drilled horizontally.
Landman - The individual in an oil and gas company or agent who negotiates oil and gas leases with mineral owners, cures title defects and negotiates with other companies on agreements concerning the lease.
LDC - Local Distribution Company
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) - Natural gas that has been cooled into a liquid state so that it takes up only 1/600 of the volume of natural gas.
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) - Propane, butane or propane-butane mixtures derived from crude oil refining or natural gas fractionation. For convenience of transportation, these gases are liquefied through pressurization.
Mineral interest - An ownership of the minerals beneath a tract of land. If the surface ownership and the mineral ownership are different, the minerals are said to be “severed.”
Natural gas - A naturally occurring mixture of hydrocarbon and non-hydrocarbon gases found in porous rock formations. Its principal component is methane.
Natural gas liquids (NGL ) - A general term for liquid products separated from natural gas in a gas processing plant. These include propane, butane, ethane and natural gasoline.
NGV - Natural Gas Vehicle
Operator - The party responsible for exploration, development or production projects.
Pipeline - A string of interconnected pipe providing a route for natural gas to travel from the wellhead to market. Without pipelines, natural gas cannot be transported and sold at market to provide royalty payments, clean energy and economic benefits to the community.
Plug - A permanent plug, usually cement, set in a borehole to block the flow of fluids, to isolate sections of the well or to permanently plug a dry hole or depleted well.
Pooling - A term frequently used interchangeably with “unitization;” more properly, it refers to the combining of small or irregular tracts into a unit large enough to meet state spacing regulations for drilling permits. “Unitization” is a term used to describe the combined operations of all or some portion of a producing reservoir.
Porosity - The open space within a rock, similar to pores in a sponge.
Processing - The separation of oil, gas and natural gas liquids and the removal of impurities.
Proved Reserves - The quantity of oil and natural gas estimated to be recoverable from known fields under existing economic and operating conditions. This is determined on the basis of drilling results, production and historical trends.
Reservoir - Porous, permeable rock containing oil and natural gas; enclosed or surrounded by layers of less permeable or impervious rock.
Royalty - The share of production or proceeds reserved to a mineral owner under the terms of a mineral lease. Normally, royalty interests are free of all costs of production except production taxes and transportation costs. It is established in the lease by reserving a royalty which is usually expressed as a fraction of production.
SCF – Standard Cubic Feet
Seismic - A tool for identifying underground accumulations of oil or natural gas by sending and measuring the return of energy or sound waves. It is a computer-assisted process that maps sedimentary structures to assist in planning drilling programs.
Shales – Gas reserves found in unusually nonporous rock, requiring special drilling and completion techniques.
Shut In Well - A well which is producing or capable of producing but is not produced. Reasons for wells being shut in may be lack of pipeline access to market or economically unfavorable market prices.
Sound Blanket - A sound blanket or a wall sometimes erected in order to reduce the noise emitted from a drilling rig.
Spacing - The distance between wells allowed by a regulatory body. Spacing is based on what is deemed to be the amount of acreage that can be efficiently and economically drained by a well.
Spud - The commencement of drilling operations.
Tank Battery - Tank batteries are part of the production equipment installed after a well is completed. They store the salt water that is returned from a producing well.
Wellhead - The control equipment fitted to the top of the well, consisting of outlets, valves, blowout-prevention equipment, etc.
Working Interest - The right granted to the lessee of a property to explore for and to produce and own oil, gas or other minerals. The working interest owners bear the exploration, development and operating costs.
Unconventional Resource - Any area (shales, tight sands, fractured carbonates) where natural gas cannot be drilled and extracted vertically.
Solar Energy. A Future Area of Interest to Princess Three Operating, LLC
What Is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is power from the sun's rays that reaches the earth. It is capturing the sun's light to achieve efficiency. Using photovoltaic cells made from silicon alloys, sunlight can be converted into other forms of energy, such as heat and electricity. Steam generators using thermal collectors to heat a fluid, such as water, sometimes convert even higher amounts of solar energy into electricity.
What Are the Benefits?
Volatile energy prices have fueled interest in alternatives such as solar energy. Using solar power can help alleviate capacity problems on local utility systems, especially during peak electricity demand periods. It also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the use of electricity generated by fossil-fuel power plants.
Is Solar Energy Practical?
Solar energy is abundant, local and emission-free. But the cost of turning sunlight into electricity is still too expensive to be competitive. Recognizing the limitations of conventional silicon-based solar technology, there are many oil and gas companies working on a cost-effective solution. Shell Solar is deeply involved in the development of the first-generation copper-indium-diselenide (CIS) thin-film technology, a less-complicated production process that doesn’t rely on silicon. The CIS metal solutions are sprayed directly on glass sheets in layers, eliminating the need for complex wiring and assembly. The technology also performs well under low-light conditions. Shell Solar and JV partner Saint Gobain are conducting advanced CIS research and development in Saxony, Germany. Chevron Energy Solutions, a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, works with schools, government and the private sector to install energy efficient, alternative technologies such as solar power. Chevron Energy Solutions, in collaboration with United Solar Systems Corporation, recently built the first photovoltaic facility in California to help power oilfield operations in the Joaquin Valley. Called Solarmine, the 500-kilowatt, six-acre facility is one of the largest arrays of flexible, amorphous-silicon solar technology in the world. The amorphous silicon technology-based panels can withstand direct impact and puncture without erosion of their power-generating ability, and can be used as roofing exterior.
What Are P3's Plans?
We intend to watch the evolution of this alternative energy very closely. As technology develops in the solar field, P3 intends to be a strong participant in the implementation and design process of solar energy alternatives.