UW collaborates with oil/gas producers on research project

Oil and gas producers in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin are expected to gain insights that will improve the precision and effectiveness of their operations as a result of a cooperative research project with the University of Wyoming.

A team of researchers from UW’s Department of Geology and Geophysics, as well as the School of Energy Resources, has joined forces with Helis Oil & Gas Co. and Devon Energy for the second phase of the Cretaceous Tight Oil Consortium. The group aims to find the best ways to tap unconventional oil reservoirs in what has been one of Wyoming’s busiest oil fields this decade.

“We’re excited to be working with these independent companies to help figure out ways to be more efficient in developing existing fields,” says Erin Campbell-Stone, senior lecturer in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. “We hope the result will be more production, which means more revenue for the state and the university, along with an increased general understanding of Wyoming geology.”

The first phase of the research, which began in 2012, focused on the stratigraphy of the tight sandstone of the Frontier Formation in the Powder River Basin. Using core and outcrop analysis, as well as well log interpretation, graduate student Rebekah Rhodes provided a clearer picture of the subsurface that will help companies better model and more efficiently extract oil from deep reservoirs.

The second phase, which is just getting started, involves analyzing the interaction of hydraulic fracturing fluids with the minerals of the Frontier Formation. Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to extract oil and gas from rock by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals.

“We’re looking at how the fluids react with the Frontier Formation,” says John Kaszuba, associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the School of Energy Resources. “That should provide companies with information about what treatments to use downhole to maximize production.”