Torsten Clemens talks Polymer Flooding
Friday, October 2, 2015

- October 2, 2015

The fall 2015 Energy Exchange series hosted another outstanding industry expert on the morning of Thursday, October 1st. Torsten Clemens, a Senior Reservoir Engineering Adviser currently with OMV Exploration & Production, educated the crowd on the implementation of polymer flooding in a mature oil field, including the various steps to reaching full implementation, as well as the challenges faced both by industry scientists and the corporations funding them.

Torsten Clemens has worked across the energy industry, including at Shell, before landing at OMV Exploration and Production. OMV E&P is a mid-size oil and gas producing company operating out of Vienna, Austria. As a mid-size oil and gas producing company, OMV E&P produces about 300,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Clemens compared OMV’s oil production with the “big guys,” referring to Shell and Exxon, as producing up to ten times more than the mid-sized company.

Clemens’ presentation was entitled “Implementation of Polymer Flooding in a Super-Mature Medium Viscous Oil Field in Austria.” Following his brief introduction of OMV E&P, Clemens introduced all of the steps in the implementation of polymer injection in what he called a “super-mature” oil field, meaning it has been in production for over 60 years.

According to Clemens, the first two steps in the process revolve around initially screening the technologies for polymer injection to conclude if they are ready for the industry and the company to implement; and, then screening the portfolio to determine whether polymer injection is worth the cost. If it is determined that a polymer injection oil-recovery method may be effective, they will move on to lab testing to determine whether the polymer flooding will produce enough incremental oil to truly make the investment profitable. The results of the lab test will influence whether the company, such as OMV E&P, will start doing field tests.

Clemens describes later, in the Q&A session, that field-testing is typically the point where a company decides whether polymer flooding will be beneficial. He concludes that up until lab testing, you could spend anywhere around one million dollars. However, once you start field tests, that cost grows very quickly and can last three to four years. Following field tests, if the company decides that polymer flooding is the route they wish to explore, sector development, and then, eventually, full-field development comes into effect. Finally, they are prepared to rollout the portfolio.

Polymer injection as an oil recovery method is not totally widely accepted and Clemens explains a few of what he describes as “key uncertainties.” Clemens’ doubts include ensuring polymer solution quality and safety, sufficiently injecting large polymer solution rates and sufficiently recovering incremental oil in order to achieve an economically attractive project, and whether a group can cost efficiently separate oil, water and gas after polymer breaks through at the producers.

In conclusion, Clemens warned of the learning curves for staffs and organizations for polymer injection implementation, stressed the need for a dedicated monitoring team, as well as other lessons-learned from his work in the field.

Torsten Clemens is a Senior Reservoir Engineering Advisor for OMV E&P, as well as the chairman of the IEA EOR Initiative and a recipient of the SPE Regional Award for Reservoir Description and Dynamics.