Montana Tech Partners with Board of Oil and Gas for Oilfield Research



The Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation and the Petroleum Engineering Department at Montana Tech are announcing the start of a major engineering study to focus on the Elm Coulee Bakken oil field in eastern Montana. The study will determine the technical and economic feasibility of specific Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods which could be applied in Elm Coulee field to increase future oil production. The Board of Oil and Gas is funding the study on an annual basis for up to five years, for a project total of $864,000. The study will be conducted by faculty and students in the Petroleum Engineering department.

The Elm Coulee Bakken oil field, located in Richland County, MT, is producing from over 700 wells drilled over the past ten years, and completed with horizontal wellbores in the deep Bakken shale formation. The field has been one of the top producing areas in Montana but as the producing oil rates decline, alternate ways must be found to recover oil that would otherwise be left behind. The future potential of remaining oil in the Elm Coulee Bakken is in the range of 500 million barrels. This is the target for the engineering study, to evaluate the use of fluids such as natural gas and carbon dioxide injected into the oil zone to mobilize additional oil. The nature of the Elm Coulee field is that of an unconventional reservoir rock, with horizontal wellbores, and with each well having been hydraulically fracture stimulated in multiple stages. This presents a unique situation where typical EOR technologies have not been studied or tested. Leo Heath, head of the Petroleum Engineering department at Montana Tech, says, "We are excited to be working with technologies that have not been used in this way before." The work is expected to provide a technical and an economic basis for Elm Coulee operating companies to move forward with field pilot tests and eventually with full field EOR development. Tom Richmond, Administrator for the Board of Oil and Gas in Billings said, "The Elm Coulee Field is a major oil asset in Montana and the Board wants to support the work of Montana higher education in providing qualified technical studies that can be used to further increase the economic benefits of oil production in the state." The Elm Coulee EOR Feasibility study is designed to do exactly that.