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Igor Shurov: Western technologies dont work with Pre-Jurassic and Bazhen development

June 22, 2018/ 15:07

Moscow. Experts refer the reserves of the Pre-Jurassic formations in West Siberia to hard-to-recover category, though they can actually be extracted. The problem is the geologists don’t have methods of recovering such reserves yet.

Igor Shpurov, the general director for the State Mineral Reserves Committee talked to the Oil and Gas Information Agency about the ways specialists approach this problem and the perspectives in developing another tight formation, the Bazhen suit. 

- In West Siberia the base for reserves increment is the Pre-Jurassic suit. How much increment may it account for?

 - Potential resources of the Pre-Jurassic suit are estimated at 5 billion tons. They shouldn’t be confused with reserves. They need to be discovered and booked first. The amount of such reserves can be proved by exploration. Currently we rate them as hard-to-recover.

- Why is it difficult to explore these reserves?

- The thing is, we have not worked out exact criteria on their exploration. In other words, geologists don’t know to look for them, where to place exploratory wells. 

If we deal with conventional reserves, we use traps defined by seismic surveys. This method doesn’t work in the Pre-Jurassic complex. One of the key objectives is to develop criteria for exploring such reserves. 

- What do you think of forming a scientific consortium dedicated to the Pre-Jurassic complex study?

-  This will be a great opportunity to join efforts in developing criteria and new technologies for exploration. Specialists at the West Siberian Research and Development Institute of Geology and Geophysics (ZapSibNIIGG) have been working on the criteria of exploring the reserves of the Pre-Jurassic sediments for quite a few years, but they haven’t found a solution yet.

- Can the State encourage exploration, discovery and production of hard-to-recover reserves at this stage?

- The purpose of any stimulus is to make it possible to develop the hard-to-recover reserves economically. The main drive is creating new technologies which would enable to recover such reserves profitably. The tax relief provided by the government to the subsoil users should be spent on the technologies’ development. Otherwise it is just a waste of money. One of the options is creating private-state partnerships dedicated to the development of new technologies.

Another drive is joining the efforts of the state and business in developing remote oilfields or challenging assets. For instance, the development of the Uvat project was made possible thanks to such a partnership. The state undertook the responsibility of constructing transport and energy infrastructure. Another example is the Yamal LNG project, where the state promotes gas transportation.

So, tax relief is not the only way and it certainly isn’t the only cure. 

- How would you estimate the level of technological development in Russia’s exploration?

- Developing technologies is an ongoing process, it’s not a revolution, but rather an evolution. Technologies are being developed, thanks to the efforts from companies and the state. It certainly doesn’t happen as fast as we’d love to. A successful case which can be used as an example is the findings of Tyumen Technopark’s residents. It was the state which made this project possible. This way the support of technoparks promotes the development of hard-to-recover reserves.

Tyumen specialists came up with a well test technology compliant to Western standards, state-of-the-art production technologies and other successful projects already employed by the industry. Along with the technoparks in Russia there are large research and development centers such as Skolkovo, MIPT, which are creating new technologies, also involving major companies. There are well test and production technologies exceeding global standards. The producers supply them to Western companies as well. This is something to be proud of.  

 - What can you say about the technologies of the Bazhen suit development, Igor?

- They are proper shale deposits, there are no technologies in the world to develop such formations economically. The technologies used in the US won’t be efficient under our conditions. They use a multistage frac in extremely low-permeable tight rocks, which are not similar to the Bazhen. Using frac they create a network of fissures, thus forming an artificial reservoir. The Bazhen is plastic, so frac won’t work there.

In the US they are also testing new technologies for their shales, but despite the pilot tests being carried out, they are not implemented widely. There is the in-situ retorting technology, for one. In Russia the technology is used by RITEK at its Bazhen fields demonstrating some results. This is just a pilot operation.       

 - How does the state support the Bazhen’s development?

- First of all test sites are created. Secondly, the state finances drilling of the exploratory well 1 Bazhen in Yugra. Hopefully it will help us understand its geology and inspire finding the technology for its development. 

I’d like to add that the State Mineral Reserves Committee has worked out a preliminary technique to estimate the Bazhen reserves, which is already being used by operating companies. We believe that this technique will drive finding new ways to study and develop the Bazhen.

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