New techniques for old wells…and cheaper oil

When oil flourished at more than $100 a barrel, it was hard for oil companies to justify adopting new techniques or spending the money to advance new technology to maximize the yield of each well. Eking out production efficiencies and innovating new ways of doing things weren’t necessary – nor as cost efficient – as exploring for new oil and drilling new wells.

TAG Oil drill bitsBut as oil prices plummeted and then stayed in the prolonged slump we’re experiencing, companies were forced to change, innovate and grow out of their old ways of thinking.

The new reality is to get oil out of the ground the quickest, safest and most affordable way possible, and that isn’t always by drilling new wells. When you think of the roughly nine to twelve percent of oil left in reservoirs worldwide, about $165 billion worth – just waiting in already drilled wells – revisiting old wells starts to make a lot of sense.

Modernization and optimization have emerged in the form of advanced techniques and technology, from software and microbes to lasers and re-fracking. Some of these  aren’t new endeavors, but they’ve been updated from procedures used in the 1900s to take advantage of today’s technology, production techniques and scientific knowledge.

Lets break down a few of the procedures.


TAG Oil ShaleAlthough this is still an experimental approach, companies are now returning to previously fracked oil and gas wells in horizontal wells drilled in tight shale plays, which typically have steep decline curves and low overall recovery rates. New wells cost millions to complete, so why not expand productivity and extend their life by using more effective fracking techniques? These techniques include using fiber-optic tools to monitor what’s happening as the frack takes place, using finer grains of sand and finding other optional ways of sealing off pathways to create a new path for oil and gas to flow. It is about finding the right effective stimulation mechanism for specific formations.

Big Data Analytics

Big data is making an impact in the oil and gas industry in more than a few ways. For new wells, engineers are relying more than ever on software and sensors to determine exactly the right places to use different amounts of sand, water and chemicals to maximize the amount of oil a well produces.

Data collected can be compared and analyzed alongside other data from around the world, allowing more accurate recommendations of where to drill and making forecasting more precise and effective.

Also downtime and overhead is being reduced by way of big data by collecting data by way of senor on well machinery to collect information about its performance and comparing it with aggregated data.


TAG Oil geologistsAlready present in oil fields, these tiny organisms can be used to boost output and increase oil flow. The microbes are stimulated using a special nutrient mix, which allows them to metabolize, break up and attach to bits of oil, allowing it to flow more freely.

Another way they work is by channeling the water through different pathways by blocking existing water channels within the soil, causing oil to rise to the surface.


Lasers are showing their face in more than a few fronts. First, they’re being used to locate the optimal areas to drill by analyzing changes in photons that bounce back from underground rock, helping to determine where the oil deposits are in the formation.

Second, lasers are proving to be a low-contact way of assisting in drilling the wells. Updated lasers can penetrate rock at a faster rate than conventional drilling, drilling more efficiently through very hard rock. The laser is integrated with a mechanical drill bit, softening the rock as the mechanical drill clears it away.

TAG Oil core measuresAlthough TAG Oil isn’t using these particular techniques, we have been revisiting old wells to increase production through the implementation of a water-flood program, specifically at each of the Cheal oil pools. We’re also focusing on reactivation of several shut-in wells.

In traditional production of crude oil, 60 to 70 percent of oil is typically left behind, making mature oil fields such as those in the Taranaki region a prime target for oil optimization in low oil-price times.