Encouragement in and focus on research are the key elements of successfully developing and implementing new, innovative technologies at DPE.
Based on leading-edge experience in the simulation of reservoirs, the monitoring and analysis of drilling data and improved production methods, new and innovative topics relevant in research as well as in lecturing. Cost efficient drilling systems, advanced measurement systems for the oil&gas industry and production from fractured carbonates requires establishing new ideas in existing markets.
In addition, geothermal energy recovery or hydrogen storage in depleted natural gas fields are targeting new fields of application. New research laboratories and ‘well scale testing facility’ as part of the recently opened ‘Zentrum am Berg’ (ZAB) at the Erzberg are projected.
Drilling and Completion Engineering
Cost Effective Drilling Systems
Today, the conventional drilling industry is using a very complex and therefore expensive way to drill wells. In many cases the effort to drill a well is unnecessarily high, which makes projects uneconomic or even not feasible. The industry is looking for more cost effective but safe ways to construct wells. Cheaper wells and a smaller environmental and logistic footprint would make projects feasible which are now uneconomic or impossible to realize.
Digital Design and Manufacturing
The successful development of Digital Design and Manufacturing of components for the oil and gas industry will change the status-quo and help to bring just-in-time strategy to the oilfield. For instance, technologies such as Additive Manufacturing (AM) are being investigated. This will reduce the inventory cost, improve well efficiency, safety and economics.
DDM will also help the industry produce oil and gas from mature wells safely and economically. This also opens the opportunity to incorporate features into the component which were not done earlier due to the limitation of conventional manufacturing.
The objective is to implement and research digital technology and software that allows contractors, operators, and service companies to be fit for the digital transformation of their businesses and to perform the operations safely and efficiently. Therefore, we provide realistic drilling operations training and a monitoring environment for event detection, root cause identification, and predictive analytics.
These competences are expanded by innovation management and digital transformation frameworks. Highly sophisticated drilling simulators in combination with small scale drilling test rigs allow the development of tailor-made solutions for the challenges of the drilling industry. Additionally, the open collaboration space generates the perfect environment for knowledge exchange amongst different domains to develop disruptive and innovative ideas.
To ensure a secure and environmentally safe wellbore over the whole life cycle of a well from drilling up to production, short and long term wellbore barriers are put in place. Key topics of the integrity of a well are the interaction between the various components which provide the integrity of the wellbore. There are evaluations of the long term risk, the cement/casing bond as well as the cement/rock bond.
The risk for future well integrity failures are assessed by taking into account historical cement data, available geology and possible long-term stress deformations. For the cement/casing bond the effects of local peak loads and changing hoop stresses in casing, resulting from temperature and pressure variations over the life time of an installation are studied. The adhesive forces between rock and cement are influenced by formation characteristics like in-situ stresses, porosity, permeability, wettability.
Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Recovery
The uninterrupted fluid production from the reservoir to the point of use is essential in the petroleum and geothermal industry. Corrosion, sand production, organic scale accumulations, or inorganic scales influence the production significantly in the field. The design, strategies, and principles for maintaining or even preventing flow interruptions require a fundamental knowledge of the production fluid chemistry, thermodynamic behavior, and interaction with the operating conditions.
Using software and the lab infrastructure, the chair is researching to extend the knowledge of the interaction of the impurities and their sedimentation processes in single and multiphase fluid flow. The target is to develop together with the partner university, environmentally friendly procedures for maintenance and mitigation.
Geothermal Energy Recovery
Geothermal energy is an inexhaustible source of primary energy, spread globally and in massive amounts worldwide. The recovery of geothermal energy requires only small footprint facilities, and its extraction is known to be CO2 neutral and waste-free. To reach the defined emission limits, a considerable effort will be spent in the early future. A key technology will be to recover geothermal energy from small to large scale, as it provided besides other ground load potential.
The chair concentrates on steady-state and transient heat flow simulations for the conditions in- and outside of the geothermal well. Besides, the investigation of alternative materials for improving the operability of geothermal wells is done.
Simulation and Production Data Management
We are living in the era of data and we must learn how to capitalize its meaning. In Petroleum Production Engineering we are focusing on developing tools based on gigabytes of production data received daily in order to reduce operating costs and risks, increase production rates, contribute to faster and better decision making processes, reduce emissions, all these in order to lead to a more sustainable industry.
Our Chair has already been successful in this area during tight collaborations with several operating companies by building well monitoring and failure prediction tools for artificial lift systems. The outcome has demonstrated an increased data quality, more efficient production operations and more effective decision support tools.
Testing and Improving of Artificial Lift Systems
Artificial lift systems play a significant role in the recovery of oil, gas, and geothermal fluid. The change in reservoir conditions and techniques applied to increase the fluid recovery, alter the produced fluid properties, and challenge the artificial lift systems. The chair is specialized in testing and improving artificial lift systems for the complete range of its application. Simulations, like computational fluid dynamics analysis and finite element analysis, are applied to evaluate the overall performance and improvement of the systems. Mechanical and operational optimizations of the artificial lift systems are studied.
The chair’s pump test facility allows testing artificial lift systems at almost real field conditions and fills the gap between simulations and field tests. The pump test facility allows low testing costs in a controlled environment before expensive field testing is performed.
Due to the growing global demand for energy and the relatively slow transition to sustainable energy sources, the combustion of carbon-based fuels will remain the world’s major energy source for the coming decades. In order to achieve climate targets, transition technologies are required to reduce CO2 emissions during this period. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is such a technology with a high potential to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and potentially even achieve a negative CO2 footprint. Research in the area of subsurface storage is typically focused on storage capacity and storage safety.
In this context, a currently ongoing PhD project is focused on the coupling of flow and geomechanics. The final goal is to model CO2 injection in fractured reservoirs with pre-existing faults and to estimate the effect of mechanics on flow and on storage capacity as well as estimating the risk of leakage and fault activation.
Despite the challenges and ongoing R&D, current knowledge and capabilities are sufficient to already identify safe subsurface containers in which CO2 can safely be stored. In particular, depleted gas fields and sandstone reservoirs are promising candidates for storage operations. But even in such cases, an elaborate effort of reservoir characterization and reservoir engineering is needed to guarantee safe storage and to optimize injection performance and storage capacity. Further R&D is focused on carbonate reservoirs. Those are more complex due to their multi-scale structural heterogeneities. Also the high reaction rate of carbonates with carbonic acid raises some challenges for predictive reservoir modeling and is hence a rich playground for research.
Geological Hydrogen Storage
Hydrogen is a very valuable source of energy. It can be produced from – e.g. – a surplus of renewable energy production or from heavy-oil production through upgrading. However, the production of large amounts of hydrogen needs the respective storage capacity to meet the demand. This is what we are working on.
The Reservoir Engineering group participates in a pilot project assessing the feasibility of large-scale hydrogen storage in a former gas field in Upper Austria (which should not be confused with – e.g. – the more developed small-scale hydrogen storage devices for – e.g. – transport applications). The target is the temporary surplus of wind and solar energy, which demands for storage capacity in order to cover for seasonal fluctuations of renewable energy production (www.underground-sun-storage.at).
We work on the chemical interaction between the injected hydrogen, the formation rock and the fluids in place. The target is to predict the stability of hydrogen in the reservoir as compared to the intended time scale of storage, which defines the purity and the value of the back-produced gas.
Improved and Enhanced Oil Recovery
A major part of the conventional oil reserves cannot be recovered by primary and secondary recovery methods. Tertiary processes or Enhanced Oil Recovery methods (EOR) have been developed to extract more oil from mature fields and enhancing recovery. However, EOR is typically expensive and is applied at high oil price.
Our aim is to establish the necessary numerical and experimental tools to better understand EOR processes on multiple scales (pore to field) in order to be able to develop low-cost options tailored to individual fields. The focus areas will be on water-based techniques such as alkaline and low-salinity water flooding and on CO2 EOR.
Upscaling of Porous Media Flow
Our primary research interest relates to multiphase flow in complex rock such as multi-porosity and fractured carbonates. Thereby we place emphasis on flow processes that dynamically change rock and fluid properties – i.e. reactive transport, wettability alteration, etc. – and their feedback to flow mechanisms. We aim to address these mechanisms on their natural length and time scales by state-of-the-art laboratory experiments, numerical interpretation and upscaling to the field-relevant scales.