The Oil and Gas Authority ("OGA") has unveiled its Enhanced Oil Recovery ("EOR") Delivery Programme, accessible here. This latest publication fleshes out the high-level overview of EOR opportunities contained in the earlier EOR Strategy (the “Strategy”). Within that Strategy, OGA offered an incentive: a “significant prize” that is still to be gained by increasing recovery from existing oil fields. In one of the most mature offshore basins in the world, maximising economic recovery is central to the UKCS’s oil and gas lifecycle. Yet, according to the Strategy, the average recovery factor is projected to be around 46% at the end of field life. Through advocating and facilitating the use of tertiary EOR techniques, OGA seeks to support the extraction of up to 250 mmboe.

The Delivery Programme

The Delivery Programme describes in more detail how and when near-term EOR priority areas will be delivered. It describes an eight-step programme borne from the principles of the EOR Strategy and Asset Stewardship Strategy (including the Stewardship Expectations, as considered in our previous Law Now). The focus areas are as follows:

  1. Existing EOR projects: ensuring current polymer and low salinity EOR projects are progressed in line with their Field Development Plans ("FDPs").
  2. MER for future EOR projects: ensuring EOR opportunities are identified early enough in the field life cycle to maximise economic recovery.
  3. Workgroups and industry partnerships: ensuring that EOR technology and implementation lessons are shared.
  4. Technology development and deployment: gaining additional buy-in from EOR technology providers and operators to develop and then deploy economical EOR technology.
  5. Creating value - improving economics: ensuring the economics of marginal EOR projects do not stifle investment.
  6. Advance next EOR and support CO₂ storage: ensuring that, while prioritising polymer and low salinity EOR, other EOR technologies are not neglected.
  7. Knowledge management: ensuring EOR knowledge is widely available, improving awareness and knowledge transfer.
  8. Communication and stakeholder plans: ensuring investment in EOR projects is not limited by lack of senior industry leadership buy-in to the deployment of EOR technology.

The Delivery Programme provides schedules for each element indicating the key activities and dates by which the corresponding outcomes are to be achieved. This includes, for instance, updating FDP guidance and creating an OGA library of EOR technologies by Q1 2017, making available a "Starter Pack" that assists operators to evaluate EOR from Q3 2017, and publishing a CO₂ EOR Strategy and Plan in Q2 2018. In total, 33 deliverables are promised by the Programme - the majority of which are to be delivered by OGA.

Comment

EOR has significant potential to increase hydrocarbon recovery in the UKCS. However, the Strategy admits that offshore EOR remains “largely unattractive economically”. The burden of high capital costs and a low oil price results in marginal economics, so that a longer-term vision is required. To a great extent, this echoes the message of the overarching MER Strategy: one ought to have in mind the ‘bigger pie’ rather than the ‘bigger slice’.