WMU News

Earth-friendly ways to find oil in old places

Sept. 7, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- High gas prices have driven the need to find new sources of oil, but the search is sometimes stymied by controversies over the environmental impact of drilling in such environmentally sensitive places as the Alaskan wilderness.

Two geoscientists, however, say that new techniques can find petroleum resources in old places with minimal environmental impact. They will present a workshop on these innovative methods at Western Michigan University Wednesday, Sept. 26.

The workshop, titled "Improving Recovery from Old Fields Using Geochemical and High Resolution Seismic Techniques," will be held from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Fetzer Center. Dr. Dietmar Schumacher, director of geochemistry at Geo-Microbial Technologies, and John Clark, vice president of Bay Geophysical Associates, Inc., will talk about how using chemical/microbial analysis of soil and seismic imaging can locate petroleum reserves that remain in long-abandoned or marginally producing oil fields.

The workshop is presented in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Eastern Section of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists which is being held at WMU's Fetzer Center Sept. 22-26. (Click for related article.) Sponsored by the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council's Michigan Center based at WMU's Michigan Basin Core Research Laboratory, the workshop is expected to attract representatives from the Michigan oil and gas industry, service companies and governmental agencies.

Because of the inefficiency of traditional oil drilling and production techniques, many oil fields that are now abandoned or marginally in use still have ample reserves of petroleum and natural gas. In Michigan alone, it's estimated that nearly one-half to two-thirds of the petroleum and natural gas originally in the state's oil fields is still present.

Schumacher and Clark will present case histories to illustrate how new techniques are allowing oil producers to find more product and do so with little environmental impact.

"The techniques that Dr. Schumacher and Clark will discuss are surface techniques for finding oil," explains Dr. William Harrison III, director of the Michigan Basin Core Research Laboratory. "Through geochemical and geomicrobial soil analyses as well as high-definition seismic surveys, oil producers are able to more accurately hone in on the best places to drill a well. These techniques are cheaper, more productive and noninvasive."

The cost to attend the workshop, which is open to the public, is $75 and includes lunch. The cost increases to $95 for those registering after Sept. 18. Attendees who bring a guest who has never attended a PTTC workshop will both receive a discounted rate of $60 per person, if they register together before Sept. 18.

The PTTC, which is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, has been run by WMU's Michigan Basin Core Research Laboratory since 1998. The laboratory, part of the Department of Geosciences in the WMU College of Arts and Sciences, houses more than 35,000 feet of core samples from wells across Michigan and is an invaluable repository of information on the state's oil and gas resources.

For more information about the workshop, contact Harrison at the Michigan Basin Core Research Laboratory at (616) 387-8633 or <harrison@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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