Carbonate reservoirs contain over 60% of the world’s remaining conventional oil reserves and account for over 30% of the world’s daily oil production. However, most oil is left underground: On average less than 20% of available oil is recovered. Hence a small (1 to 2 %) increase will make a substantial impact on global hydrocarbon reserves. The low oil recovery is due to the multi-porosity and multi-scale nature of carbonates, which poses significant challenges on reservoir characterisation, modelling, and simulation technologies. In addition, carbonate reservoirs have major potential for producing geothermal heat and storing greenhouse gases as well as other forms of energy (e.g. hydrogen or methane) that was converted from renewable energies. In these cases, much of the reservoir characterisation, modelling and simulation challenges that we already tackle can be mapped to these wider “geoenergy” applications. Due to their global importance, improved prediction of flow and energy recovery in carbonate reservoirs are likely to be among some of the most significant developments for the wider energy industry, not just the oil and gas industry, in the next decades and will play a crucial role in the transition to a low-carbon energy future.

Our interdisciplinary research tackles these challenges and aims to improve our ability to characterise, model, and predict recovery of hydrocarbons and other forms of energy (e.g. heat) from carbonate formations, from pore- to reservoir-scale, using a range of state-of-the-art experimental, modelling, and simulation technologies, many of them developed in-house. The Carbonate Reservoir Group has strong financial support from Energi Simulation. Energi Simulation is a not-for profit foundation, formerly known as Foundation CMG, which promotes and financially supports R&D and students through research grants and university chair programmes. We are currently working on three different themes, with several projects supporting each theme.

International Centre for Carbonate Reservoirs

Here we focus on the static and dynamic characterisation and modelling of pore-scale processes in carbonates, the poro-perm evolution of carbonates due to chemical and mechanical processes (both at production and geological time-scales), and the geophysical characterisation of carbonate rocks. This theme is carried out in close collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford, who are partners in ICCR.

ICCR comprises Europe’s largest and most interdisciplinary team of academics working on carbonate reservoirs.

IOR and EOR simulations in fractured carbonate rocks

Here we focus on fluid-structure interactions during IOR and EOR in carbonate formations (from pore- to inter-well scale), develop and prototype new model concepts to improve the simulation of IOR and EOR processes, and invesitage the use of proxy models for robust optimisation of complex recovery processes in fractured carbonate reservoirs. Much of these learnings are then also mapped to the wider geoenergy challenges such as the production of geothermal energy of CO2 storage.

Next generation experiments and modelling

Here we focus on developing flow diagnoistic tools for real-time modelling of flow processes in fractured carbonate reservoirs, using concepts from computer graphics to prototype geological models (see the Rapid Reservoir Modelling project), and combining 3D printing of porous materials with flow experimentation and modelling.