The increase in oil prices in the mid-1970s led to incredible euphoria about the promise of enhanced/improved oil recovery. We thought that the technology was there and the economic conditions were just right. Some 30 years later, we see that the EOR production is less than 700,000 B/D in the U.S.A. instead of the projected millions of B/D, even though the oil prices are much higher than those used in some of the predictions. Canada has fared slightly better. Worldwide the EOR contribution is less than 5% of the total oil production of 87 million B/D. What went wrong? Basically two factors: first, some of the recovery technologies then considered to be promising were not ready for large-scale field application, for various reasons; and second, the research effort took a nose-dive so that today the industry has virtually relinquished long-range research in preference to overseas investment in new oil fields. For example, much effort was expended in chemical and miscible flooding, shale oil recovery, and underground coal gasification, as well as other ideas, with very little return. The present situation is grim: world oil production is starting to peak, while the consumption is continuing to increase. What should be done? Greater participation of the government in the research effort is needed. What lies ahead? Under current conditions, ever higher oil prices and worldwide recession.
S.M. Farouq Ali is Honorary Professor of oil and gas engineering at the University of Calgary since 1995, and he also serves as a petroleum consultant. He holds BSc (Hons.), MS, and PhD degrees in petroleum engineering. He served as professor at the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Alberta for nearly 40 years. He has authored more than 500 papers, supervised more than 200 graduate theses, and carried out more than 300 reservoir studies. Recipient of numerous awards, including two honorary doctorates from universities in Russia, he received the Petroleum Society’s Distinguished Service Award in 2000, APEGGA’s Summit Award in 2001, and Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Improved Oil Recovery Pioneer Award in 2002, and Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal in 2008. In 2009, he was elected as a member of the U.S. Academy of Engineering