No Reservations for Oil Reserves

The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, a subsurface pool of hydrocarbons contained in purpose of fractured rock formations, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called “oil in place.” It is often abbreviated as STOOIP, which stands for “Stock Tank Original Oil in Place,” or STOIIP for “Stock Tank Oil Initially In Place,” referring to the oil in place before the commencement of production.

However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitation is petroleum extraction technologies, the process by which usable petroleum is extracted and removed from the Earth, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is only this producible fraction that is considered to be “reserves.”

The ratio of producible oil reserves to total oil in place for a given field is often referred to as the “recovery factor.” Recovery factors vary greatly among oil fields. The recovery factor of any particular field may change over time based on operating history and in response to changes in technology, the making, usage and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function, and economics, the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

The recovery factor may also arise over time if additional investment is made in enhanced oil recovery techniques (EOR), a generic term for techniques for increasing the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from an oil field. It could be gas injection, surfactants (compounds that lower the surface tension of a liquid, the interfacial tension between two liquids, or that between a liquid and a solid) injection, water-flooding, or microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR), a biological based technology consisting in manipulating function or structure, or both, of microbial environments existing in oil reservoirs.

Based on data from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a intergovernmental organization of 12 oil-producing countries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. At the beginning of 2011, the highest proved oil reserves including non-conventional oil deposits are in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (20& of global reserves), a tropical country on the northern coast of South America, Saudi Arabia (18% of global reserves), one of the world’s largest energy producers, pumping approximately 10.782 million barrels per day (1.7142×106 m3/d) of petroleum, and Iran (9% of global reserves), which has the fourth largest oil reserves and the second largest natural gas reserves in the world.

Because the geology, or the science comprising the study of solid Earth of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves, of the substance cannot be examined directly, indirect techniques–exploration geophysics, the applied branch of geophysics which uses surface methods to measure the physical properties of the substance Earth, in order to detect or infer the presence and position of ore minerals, hydrocarbons, geothermal reservoirs, groundwater reservoirs, and other geological structures–must be used to estimate the size and recoverability of the resource. While new technologies, like reflection seismology (seismic reflection), a method of exploration geophysics that uses the principles of seismology to estimate the properties of the Earth’s subsurface from reflected seismic waves, have increased the accuracy of these techniques, significant uncertainties still remain.

In general, most early estimates of the reserves of an oil field are conservative and tend to grow with time. This phenomenon is called, reserves growth.” This is as experience shows that initial estimates of the size of the newly discovered oil fields are usually too low.

Many oil-producing nations do not reveal their reservoir engineering field data and instead provide unaudited claims for their oil reserves, thus, doubts about the reliability of official OPEC reserves estimates, which are not provided with any form of lubrication or verification that meet external reporting standards, came out. The number disclosed by some national governments are suspected of being manipulated for political reasons.


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