California's need to focus on the smaller wells

Apr 17, 1997 02:00 AM

As California's ageing oil fields gradually dry up, wells once considered too small to keep open will take on a larger role in feeding the state's large appetite for oil, industry experts say. A panel of academics and small producers met at the University of Southern California Thursday to discuss the growing importance of small, or "marginal" wells in the nation's fourth largest oil producing state. Marginal wells -- pumping five or fewer barrels a day -- make up 40 % of the state's 43,000 active wells. "More and more wells will join the ranks of marginal," said Shahed Meshkati, a researcher from the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC), a new group which gathers production and technology data for small producers. A quarter of the state's oil field operators own more marginal wells than any other kind, according to Meshkati. The wells are plagued by high levels of water, which cuts oil output, and sand, which damages equipment. But Meshkati and other panellists said these wells deserve closer examination rather than shutdown if California expects to keep getting 90 % of its energy from oil and gas.
Another concern shared by panellists was the gradual abandonment of California production by major oil companies, who have the technological know-how to squeeze more oil from marginal sites. While only 28 % of all California wells are owned by independents, they run nearly half the marginal wells. "The burden of marginal wells will eventual fall on the shoulders of independent operators," Meshkati told. A dozen consultants, academics and technology companies, showed methods of increasing production from marginal fields. Techniques such as drilling sideways into reservoirs, using advanced software to analyst production, and unleashing pent up reserves using heat, were discussed. Panellists emphasised the need for independents to share information, because their lack of research departments and previous experience put them at a disadvantage to majors.

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