TORP Basics

Welcome to tertiary oil recovery program.

In this section you will learn about basic oil recovery and how  other technologies recover oil when it becomes too expensive to simply pump it out of the ground.

Core SampleWhat is tertiary oil recovery?

Black Gold – For most people born during the last one hundred years, oil or, “black gold” sits below ground in large caverns waiting to be discovered. If you are lucky, sweet crude oil will simply bubble to the surface after a missed shot hunting deer.

Unfortunately, oil discovery and use is rare. In reality oil resides in a rock. It sits in small spaces, or pores, that exist between the solid particles of rock. The area where oil exists is called the reservoir. To bring oil to the surface fluid must push the oil out of the openings in the rock and into the well bore.

Primary Production

During primary production “Mother Nature” supplies the energy necessary for oil production. A reservoir produces approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of oil in this stage.

During “primary production” nature provides the fluid and force to move the oil. Gas associated with oil or water from an aquifer forces the fluid and moves the oil through the rock. For primary production the oil  simply pumps to the surface.

When the cost of pumping oil exceeds the value of oil, due to the loss of the driving force, then another method for producing oil must be selected.

Secondary Production

Secondary production injects water into the reservoir to displace and produce additional oil not recovered during primary production. This stage produces an additional 10 percent to 20 percent of the oil in the reservoir.

During secondary recovery, injecting water into the reservoir under pressure to moves the oil. This process is called waterflooding and acts more efficiently and economically because water displaces oil better than gas.

However, eventually secondary recovery methods also reach its economic limit leaving approximately two-thirds of the original oil in the reservoir. This unrecovered oil amounts to 300 billion barrels nationally; and 10 billion comes from the State of Kansas, making it necessary to use another method of recovery.

Tertiary Production

After using primary, secondary and tertiary oil recovery techniques, around 50 percent of the oil in the reservoir is recovered.

Tertiary, or enhanced oil recovery, can be expensive and involves the use of chemicals to mobilize trapped oil or heat to thin oil so it flows more freely. During this stage of recovery, the reservoir recovers an additional five percent to 15 percent of the oil.

The Tertiary Oil Recovery Program conducts research to find economic tertiary (third) methods to obtain additional oil from the reservoir.


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