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Field Examples

This section presents brief discussions of several field examples of how geologic and
other factors led to uncertainties in reserve estimates. References cited will provide
additional, detailed information.

Auk (Oil) Field, North Sea

The Auk field, discovered by Shell UK Exploration and Production in 1971 and placed
on production in 1975, is not a typical North Sea field (Buchanan and Hoogteyling
1979). Exploited with a total of eleven wells by 1981, the main reservoir is a thin
Zechstein dolomite; average production during 1987 was approximately 10,000
BOPD. The history of the field provides an example of how geologic and reservoir
uncertainty can lead to large variations in reserve estimates.

By 1972, the operator had drilled four delineation wells, including the discovery well.
The Rotliegende formation, which was the main objective, had been found to be
water bearing. The only apparently commercial reservoir was the thin (approximately
30 feet thick), highly permeable Zechstein dolomite. This thin zone, however, could
not be distinguished on the seismic sections, and the areal extent of the
accumulation was in doubt (Brennand and Van Veen 1975).

The operator estimated Zechstein oil reserves to be in the range 30 to 100 million
barrels, with an expectation of 60 million barrels. Based on available geologic
information, which indicated the Zechstein to be limited in size, the operator did not
expect a significant water drive. As the oil was highly undersaturated at initial
conditions, water injection was planned from the start.

A production platform was installed in 1972, and production was initiated in

December 1975 from one of the development wells. From observation of this well’s
performance, it soon became apparent that reservoir pressure was not declining as
rapidly as anticipated. Initiation of water injection was postponed pending further
analysis. Buchanan and Hoogteyling (1979) observed that "it was not apparent
whether the small pressure drop was caused by a larger oil accumulation, a strong
natural water drive, or a combination of the two."

One of the wells, near a fault bounding the west side of the reservoir, began
producing significant water only six months after being placed on production. It
seemed apparent the reservoir was in communication with a strong aquifer. The
operator conducted extensive computer simulation studies to identify the source of
the water. This work lead to the hypothesis that the Zechstein was in communication
with the underlying, water bearing Rotliegende dune sands through a fault bounding
the west side of the reservoir. The hypothesis was confirmed by water breakthrough
in a second well near the west-bounding fault.

Still another surprise confronted the operator. The highest well on the structure
began producing significant water shortly after it was placed on production, an
occurrence not predicted by the reservoir simulation model. After extensive pulse
testing, the operator concluded there was a high-permeability channel linking the
upstructure well to the water encroaching into the downstructure areas of the
By spring 1978 the operator had drilled eight wells. Five of these wells were
Zechstein producers; two were Rotliegende completions; the other, a dry hole.
Buchanan and Hoogteyling (1979) noted that "the estimated ultimate recovery from
these (Zechstein) wells is about 45 million barrels ... thus, the initial reserve
estimate of 60 million barrels in the Zechstein ... can be met only if the northern or
southern extensions are proved." The authors were referring to possible extensions
to the Zechstein which had been suggested by a new seismic survey.

In reviewing the history of this field through 1978, the authors observed "every well
yielded some surprise ... plans are firm only until the next well result or latest
production performance."

In concluding this brief summary, it is noted that through mid-1987 the field had
produced 72.6 million barrels. Ultimate recovery is estimated to be about 83 million
barrels (Hughes 1988), considerably in excess of the initial expectation, but within
the range of the initial estimate. Since the Buchanan and Hoogteyling (1979) paper
was published, several more wells apparently have been drilled. The increase in
reserves, over the operator’s 1978 estimate, could be attributable to additional areas
being proved.

Leduc D-3 (Oil) Pool, Alberta

The Leduc D-3 Pool, discovered in 1947 by Imperial Oil Company, is the largest
reservoir in the Leduc field, and one of the largest fields in Canada (Horsfield 1958).
The reservoir is an example of how heterogeneities — thin low-permeability zones-
were favorable to reservoir performance and how uncertainties in porosity led to
continued upward revisions in estimates of oil initially in place.

Covering an area of approximately 22,000 acres, the reservoir initially contained an

oil column approximately 38 feet thick overlain by a gas cap up to 158 feet thick
("m" — the ratio of initial gas cap volume to oil column volume — was approximately
1.4). Development was on 40-acre spacing. Oil stock tank gravity is 39° API. The oil
column is completely underlain by a regional aquifer which is in pressure
communication with other fields in the D-3 trend. The reservoir rock has been
described as a "biohermal" carbonate. Horsfield (1958) reported that "the porosity
consists mainly of vugs interconnected through the dense matrix by small crevices
and fractures."

The vugular nature of the reservoir rock reportedly led to difficulties in recovering
and analyzing cores, which led to the development of special techniques. The original
estimate of oil initially in place, 307 million stock tank barrels, was based on an
average porosity of 8* and 15* average water saturation (Horsfield 1958). However,
this estimate was revised upward to 354 million stock tank barrels "because of a
higher estimated porosity based on ... performance" (Wellings 1975). This estimate
was revised again in 1983 to 386 million stock tank barrels, which reportedly was
based on 10* porosity, 14% average water saturation, and a slightly larger initial
formation volume factor than that used in the 1958 estimate (ERCB 1984)

The reservoir has produced by a combination of gas cap expansion and water drive
(Horsfield 1958). The aquifer has been supplemented by water injection into a single
well since 1955.
It is remarkable that this well has been able to inject up to 65,000 barrels of water
per day with "no deterioration in injection capacity" (Horsfield 1958). Supplemental
gas injection into the gas cap was initiated during 1961.

In 1975, estimated ultimate recovery was 70* of STBOIP (Wellings 1975). In 1985,
however, this estimate was revised to 65* of STOIP (ERCB 1987); through 1987,
cumulative oil recovery was 63.6* of STOIP. This unusually high recovery efficiency
from a relatively thin oil column between a gas cap and bottomwater is attributed
mainly to a very high ratio of horizontal to vertical permeability (Wellings 1975). Well
completion practices apparently contributed to this unusually high recovery
efficiency. Prior to 1970, over 90* of the wells were completed in a common 5-ft
interval approximately 20 feet above the initial oil-water contact (OWC).
Subsequently, recompletions were made over a common 2-ft interval approximately
23 ft above the initial OWC; later recompletions were made in a common l-ft

At the time of the last published study of this field (Wellings 1975), the oil column
had been reduced to approximately 8 ft by a combination of gas cap expansion and
aquifer encroachment. Individual wells, however, were still capable of producing up
to 150 BOPD. From careful monitoring of the advance of the gas cap and the aquifer,
a "flushing efficiency" of 80* was estimated (Wellings 1975).

Recovery efficiency from the Leduc D-3 Pool is compared to that from another D-3
Pool, in the Redwater field, which is in the same trend, approximately 50 miles
northeast from Leduc. The Redwater D-3 Pool also produces with a strong
bottomwater drive, but did not have an initial gas cap, as did the Leduc D3 Pool
(Willmon 1967). The Redwater D-3 also was developed on 40-acre spacing. Average
initial oil column thickness at Red-water, however, was 101 feet, or approximately
2.6 times that at Leduc. Estimated ultimate recovery from the Redwater D-3 is 62*
of STOIP (ERCB 1987).

The following table compares other properties of the two reservoirs (Horsfield 1958;
Willmon 1967; ERCB 1987):

Pool Porosity Permeability Oil


Leduc .100 > 1000 md 0.78 cp

Redwater .065 500 2.7

Little Creek (Oil) Field, Mississippi

The Little Creek field is located in Mississippi, in southeastern United States. The field
was the location of a highly successful peripheral (line drive) waterflood between
1962 and 1978. The Little Creek waterflood is an example of the high volumetric
sweep efficiency possible in a relatively uniform sand; there were, however,
difficulties in evaluating the reservoir because of diagenetic clay lining the sandstone
pore walls.
Discovered by Shell Oil Company in 1958, the Little Creek field produced from a
complex of remarkably uniform Lower Tuscaloosa (Cretaceous) fluvial point bar
sandstone, which formed a stratigraphic trap, draped across a low-dip structural
nose. Occurring at a depth of approximately 10,750 feet, the reservoir was
developed on 40-acre spacing. Initial productive area was approximately 6300 acres;
average net pay was approximately 29 feet. The reservoir oil was highly
undersaturated at initial conditions; bubble-point pressure was 2050 psi compared to
initial reservoir pressure of 4850 psi. Gravity of stock tank was 39° API (Cronquist

The Lower Tuscaloosa sands in this area typically contain diagenetic clay coating the
pore walls. Because of this clay coating, the sands typically contain high irreducible
water saturation; 50 to 60* is not uncommon. In addition, the clay coating causes
problems in obtaining representative porosity and residual oil saturation data; special
core handling techniques must be used.

In 1960, when the reservoir was almost completely defined by drilling, oil initially in
place was estimated using volumetric methods to be 112 million stock tank barrels
(STB). It was anticipated the reservoir would produce by expansion of the
undersaturated reservoir oil and solution gas drive; primary recovery efficiency was
estimated to be 22.5*.

It was recognized that fluid injection would be necessary to supplement natural

reservoir energy to maintain reasonable production rates and improve ultimate
recovery. However, because of traditional concerns about not being able to develop
an oil bank by waterflooding high connate water sands, attention first was directed to
gas injection.

It was estimated that reinjection of 80* of produced gas would increase ultimate
recovery efficiency to about 31*. This estimated recovery efficiency was lower than
the 35* recovery efficiency observed in another gas injection project in a Lower
Tuscaloosa reservoir in the area. The lower recovery efficiency calculated for Little
Creek was attributed to less favorable gas-oil relative permeability characteristics
measured in the Little Creek cores (Bruist 1958).

Determination of waterflood potential was hampered by conflicting laboratory

measurements of residual oil saturation and questions about well productivity. For
example, laboratory data indicated waterflood residual oil saturations ranging from 6
to 25* of pore space. Also, it was known that production of water at a nearby Lower
Tuscaloosa reservoir caused losses in well productivity of as much as 50 to 60%.

The major cause for conflicting data on waterflood residual oil saturations were
wettability changes that occurred during core handling; the problem was aggravated
by the clay coating on the pore walls. Additional cores were taken under carefully
controlled conditions; waterflood susceptibility tests were run to establish
floodability. As a result of this work, it was determined that waterflooding was
feasible; ultimate recovery efficiency was estimated at 57%, or 63.9 million STB.

Reservoir performance under waterflood was excellent. Fillup was achieved within
less than a year after flood operations commenced. Flood fronts advanced uniformly
across the field at rates ranging from 0.7 to 12 feet per day (Cronquist 1968).
After flood operations had been under surveillance and revised, detailed mapping
was completed, and the original estimate of oil initially in place was revised
downward from 112 to 102 million STB. Also, the original estimate of ultimate
recovery efficiency was revised downward from 57 to 47*, or 47 million STB. The
following factors led to these revisions (Brock et al. 1963):

· The net pay determination in the original estimate was based on

"mechanical ground rules" established to determine participation
factors for individual tracts — these rules did not permit realistic
interpretation and led to an unreal istically high estimate of total net
sand volume.

· Porosity used in the original estimate was corrected downward from

0.244 to 0.234 to account for compaction.

· Conformance efficiency was revised downward from 81* to 75*

based on waterflood results elsewhere in similar depositional

Later in the life of the flood, however, it became apparent that overall volumetric
sweep efficiency was substantially greater than anticipated, apparently exceeding
90*. To account for the observed flood-out performance, residual oil saturation had
to be higher than the average of 15% used in the 1963 calculations. Based on new
laboratory data, average residual oil saturation was estimated to be 21%, which was
consistent with the higher volumetric sweep efficiency (Cronquist 1968). The net
effect of these revisions resulted in estimated ultimate recovery of 46 million STB.

Actual (1978) ultimate recovery from the Little Creek field was 46.8 million STB; the
detailed work done by the operator in 1963 and 1966 proved to be remarkably
accurate. The actual volumetric sweep efficiency was calculated to be over 90*
(Cronquist 1968).

Of interest is a 31-acre tertiary miscible pilot using highpressure carbon dioxide,

which was conducted by Shell during 1974-1977. The pilot area, one quarter of an
inverted nine-spot, was confined on two sides by the sand-shale pinchout and on the
other two sides by five water injection wells. Approximately 3.4 BScf of carbon
dioxide was injected into a single well; 124 thousand barrels of oil were recovered
from three wells in the pilot area. Reportedly, "a significant volume of previously
immobile oil, trapped during the waterflood ... of this field [was] displaced from the
pilot area" (Thurber 1978).

Spraberry (Oil) Field, West Texas

The Spraberry field is an example of how reservoir rock proper-ties control recovery
efficiency of oil and gas, despite the continuing improvement in exploitation
technology. Also, the field history demonstrates that pressure communication
between widely spaced wells does not necessarily mean that the inter-well area can
be effectively drained at commercial rates.

Discovered in 1947, the Spraberry field has been described as the world’s largest
uneconomic oilfield. Oil initially in place has been estimated at 10.6 billion STB
(Galloway et al. 1983). The field covers over 700,000 acres; over 3500 productive
wells have been drilled. Waterflooding operations have been conducted for over 25
years using a variety of innovative techniques (Byars 1970; Elkins et al. 1968;
Guidroz 1967).

Cumulative recovery, however, is only 615 million STBO. Ultimate recovery has been
estimated to be only 6.4* of OOIP (Galloway et al. 1983); continued infill drilling and
improved hydraulic fracturing techniques may increase this slightly.

The field produces from the Spraberry Formation (Permian) which is a thousand foot
thick section of sandstones, siltstones, shales, and limestones; the top of the interval
is at from 6300 to 7200 feet deep. The structure is predominantly monoclinal,
dipping westward at about 50 feet per mile. The trap is stratigraphic; the productive
sandstones and siltstones pinch out against shelf edge carbonates to the north and

The productive zones include the upper and lower Spraberry and the Dean
sandstones which have been described as basin filling submarine fan systems
(Handford 1981). Reservoir rock quality is very poor; porosity averages 11*,
permeability 1 millidarcy; water saturation, 35*. The reservoir oil was approximately
12* undersaturated at initial reservoir pressure; stock tank gravity is 37° API.

Although the productive interval is naturally fractured, most wells had to be

hydraulically fractured to obtain satisfactory productivity (Christie and Blackwood
1952). Individual wells initially averaged 250 BOPD, but decreased rapidly. The rapid
decline in productivity was attributed to the initially undersaturated reservoir oil, the
rapid drainage of the fracture system, the subsequent slow influx of oil from the very
low permeability matrix, and the relative inefficiency of the solution gas drive in the
highly fractured reservoir rock.

Shortly after the field was discovered, Sohio Petroleum Company, one of the major
operators in the field, undertook extensive studies to better understand the reservoir
and improve the economics of exploiting this accumulation. In a paper by Elkins
(1953) in which he reported a comprehensive program of interference testing, it was
concluded that "a well can deplete an area of at least 160 acres in the Spraberry as
efficiently as could many wells in the same area."

As a result of this work, most of the field initially was developed on 160-acre
spacing. Since initial development, however, significant additional oil has been
recovered from the Spraberry by infill drilling to 80-acre spacing. As of 1988,
approximately one-third of the producing wells were on 80-acre spacing.

From recent geologic studies (Tyler and Gholston 1987) it has become apparent that
the Spraberry is extremely heterogeneous. Different subenvironments of deposition
have been identified. It is suspected that interwell facies boundaries
compartmentalize the reservoir, resulting in interwell stratigraphic traps that have
been only partially drained by existing wells.

With reference to the Elkins (1953) paper, given the example at Spraberry, it seems
apparent that because wells are in pressure communication does not necessarily
mean that the interwell areas can be drained effectively at commercial rates. This
may be attributed to two factors: (a) reservoir heterogeneity and (b) low
transmissibility in the interwell area.

Turtle Bayou "AA" Sand (Gas) Reservoir, Louisiana

The "AA" Sand is one of the major reservoirs in the Turtle Bayou field, which is a
multi-horizon gas field in the Middle Miocene trend on the U.S. Gulf Coast (Cronquist
1984). Discovered by Shell Oil Company in 1949, the field is expected to be
essentially depleted by 1990. The history of the "AA" Sand reservoir is an example of
the importance of accurately determining the initial pressure and carefully
monitoring the early production behavior of geopressured gas reservoirs and the
uncertainties caused by conflicting volumetric data and pressure performance.

The "AA" Sand, which occurs at a subsea depth of approximately 11,380 feet at
Turtle Bayou, was geopressured; the initial reservoir pressure gradient was 0.63

The original volumetric estimate of gas initially in place and ultimate recovery —
made in 1952, before the field went on sustained production — was 36 BScf and 31
BScf, respectively. As the sand was initially geopressured, it was assumed the
reservoir would produce by pressure depletion, and the recovery efficiency was
estimated to be 90% of gas initially in place.

In 1963 the operator conducted a major geologic and engineering review of this
field. The nature of the drive mechanism in the "AA" Sand was uncertain but was
believed to be edgewater drive. Based on volumetric methods, gas initially in place
and ultimate reserves were estimated to be 24 BScf and 16 BScf, respectively. At the
time of this work, it was noted that a definite gas-water contact had not been
established and that the downdip limit was based on a cased-hole test in a flank well
that produced gas and water. It also was reported that a deeper well had been
logged slightly resistive — although not conclusively " commercial " — thereby
suggesting the possibility of an accumulation larger than mapped (Cronquist 1984).

In 1984, by which time most of the other reservoirs in the field had been abandoned,
it become apparent that (1) the "AA" Sand was producing by pressure depletion, not
edgewater drive, and (2) the gas initially in place was approximately 145 BScf-
almost 6 times the 1963 estimate (Cronquist 1984).

The size of the discrepancy between the 1963 and 1984 estimates prompted a re-
evaluation of the 1963 data, which led to the following observations:

· Initial reservoir pressure had not been measured; it had been


· The first BHP survey was not made until after the reservoir had been
on production about 9 months (cumulative production was 1.2 BSCF);
it was a static survey for which the well had been shut in only three

· Shut-in time for subsequent surveys varied from five to 72 hours.

· The first pressure buildup survey was not made until about six years
after the reservoir had been placed on production (cumulative
production at that time was 8.8 Bscf).

"Rejecting those BHP surveys taken after short shut-in times, linear regressions were
run on the remaining data to determine which data set gave the best fit. This
resulted in a correlation coefficient of 0.995 from one data set and an estimated gas
initially in place of 157 BSCF (Cronquist 1984).

The agreement between the (re-evaluated) 1963 and 1984 estimates may be
fortuitous, but it does illustrate the need for accurate measurement and careful
analysis of reservoir pressures early in reservoir life, especially in geopressured

Regarding the cased-hole test tjat established the lower limit of this reservoir for the
original volumetric work, given current knowledge about gas percolation into setting
cement, it seems apparent the water production on that test was due to inadequate
zonal isolation.