Gazprom Neft, together with the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT, project leader),* and other partners in a technological consortium has, as part of a state-sponsored target programme,** developed a range of new technologies and techniques for the commercial development of non-traditional reserves — specifically, the Bazhenov Formation, considered to bear considerable similarities to shale oil. Outcomes from the industry’s most extensive ever research into the Bazhenov Formation include tools for the local evaluation of promising sections thereof, recommendations on new methodologies for developing these reserves, and unique IT facilities, created to optimise multi-stage fracking technologies in non-traditional reserves.

This extensive investigation of the strata of the Bazhenov Formation — which includes an assessment of the characteristics of hydrocarbon-bearing strata, and the most promising technologies for developing these — was undertaken by a consortium of leading Russian higher educational establishments, together with the Gazprom Neft Science and Research Centre. More than 330 metres of core samples, from depths of up to 3,000 metres, were extracted from 15 wells located throughout seven fields in the Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs between October 2014 and the end of 2016. This material was then subjected to more than 2,000 laboratory investigations and experiments, resulting, ultimately, in nine patents and software licences being obtained.

Consortium specialists undertook an overall assessment of the geological terrain of the Bazhenov Formation, and identified the most important sections for research, as well as developing recommendations on the selection of core samples and the methodologies for their examination.

The Bazhenov Formation refers to a specific geological stratum identified in the centre of Western Siberia, running to depths of 2,000–3,000 metres. Estimates suggest that oil reserves at the Bazhenov reservoir could amount to as much as 100–170 billion tonnes in Western Siberia alone. The stratum covers an area of approximately one million square kilometres and is 10–100 metres thick. The Bazhenov Formation is classified as unconventional type of reserves, comprising what is known as “shale oil”, development of which currently awaits the selection of technological solutions for its full-scale development.

The development of non-traditional reserves — including those at the Bazhenov Formation — is a core strategic objective for Gazprom Neft which, under the company’s adopted “Technology Strategy”, is involved in developing and adapted new technologies for improving efficiency in working with non-traditional reserves. The Gazprom Neft Science and Research Centre is involved in the Federal Programme for the Comprehensive Study of the Bazhenov Formation as part of the above consortium.

The consortium’s work has focussed on three key areas — the key objective of the first of these being the development of methodological recommendations for research into the Bazhenov Formation, with an approach for estimating and appraising Bazhenov reserves being created, for the first time in Russia, as a result, and technology allowing immediate research into the physical properties of the Bazhenov Formation also being developed.

The second sub-project was directed at developing tools for optimising multi-stage fracking technologies which are being used to develop the Bazhenov Formation, and at developing specialist chemical fluids to enhance oil recovery. The consortium’s work has resulted in the development of the first — and, thus far, the only — IT product in the world developed specifically for the modelling of fractures under hydraulic fracking in the Bazhenov deposits.

The third area of focus has involved the study and creation of alternative fracking technologies for developing the Bazhenov Formation. The possibility of producing oil from the kerogenic shale of the Bazhenov Formation was confirmed, and the correlation between this oil’s composition and thermal exposure (the temperature and duration of heat impact) also brought to light. On that basis, a range of 300—350oC was experimentally proved to be the optimum temperature for maximum crude production — the optimum temperature having previously been believed to be approximately 600oC.

The completion of the Federal Programme notwithstanding, the consortium partners are expected to continue their collaboration in various areas.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

* The lead contractor on the project is the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), represented by its Center for Engineering and Technology for Hard-to-recover Reserves, one of whose responsibilities includes coordinating the work of the consortium, which comprises, in addition to MIPT, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), Lomonosov Moscow State University, and the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas. The industrial partner on the project is Gazprom Neft, which has provided financial support for the project (extra-budgetary funding), as well as providing field data and materials for research, together with specialist support to the work of the consortium, in addition to conducting validation and practical implementation of results obtained.

** The Gazprom Neft Science and Research Center, as industrial partner, joined the Federal Program for the Comprehensive Study of the Bazhenov Formation to engage in the further assessment of its characteristics and the selection of potential technologies. The project was based within the Engineering Center of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), the latter having won a competitive tender held by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation for the selection of scientific developments of national importance as part of the Federal Target Programme for “Research and Development on Priority Directions of the Scientific and Technological Complex of the Russian Federation, 2014–2020”.