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AUTHORS

Mahendra K. Verma U.S. Geological


Survey, P.O. Box 25046, MS 939, Denver
Federal Center, Denver, Colorado 80225;
mverma@usgs.gov
Mahendra Verma specializes in reservoir en-
gineering and has more than 26 years of world-
wide oil industry experience. Currently, he is a
research petroleum engineer with the U.S.
Geological Survey, providing engineering sup-
port to various geological assessments of fields
and provinces in the United States, Canada,
North Sea, Russia, and the Middle East. He holds
petroleum engineering degrees from the In-
dian School of Mines, India (B.S. degree), the
Imperial College of Science and Technology,
London (Diploma of Imperial College), and Bir-
mingham University, United Kingdom (Ph.D.).
Kenneth J. Bird U.S. Geological Survey,
Menlo Park, California 94025; kbird@usgs.gov
Kenneth Bird specializes in the petroleum
geology of northern Alaska, where his experi-
ence spans more than 40 years. Currently, he
is the coleader of the U.S. Geological Survey
Alaska Petroleum Studies Project. With inter-
ests primarily in stratigraphy and sedimentolo-
gy, he has been extensively involved in petro-
leum resource assessments. He holds geology
degrees from Oregon State University (B.S.
degree) and the University of Wisconsin (M.S.
degree and Ph.D.).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
We thank U.S. Geological Survey reviewers
Thomas S. Ahlbrandt and Michael D. Lewan
and AAPG reviewers Kent A. Bowker, Naresh
Kumar, and Jerry Lucia for their in-depth re-
views and valuable comments. We also thank
U.S. Geological Survey staff for assistance in
preparing this article and Richard Nehring for
his permission to use the NRG Associates da-
tabase in this study.
Role of reservoir engineering in
the assessment of undiscovered
oil and gas resources in
the National Petroleum
Reserve, Alaska
Mahendra K. Verma and Kenneth J. Bird
ABSTRACT
The geology and reservoir-engineering data were integrated in the
2002 U.S. Geological Survey assessment of the National Petroleum
Reserve in Alaska (NPRA). Whereas geology defined the analog pools
and fields and provided the basic information on sizes and numbers
of hypothesized petroleum accumulations, reservoir engineering
helped develop necessary equations and correlations, which allowed
the determination of reservoir parameters for better quantification
of in-place petroleum volumes and recoverable reserves.
Seismic- and sequence-stratigraphic study of the NPRAresulted
in identification of 24 plays. Depth ranges in these 24 plays, how-
ever, were typically greater than depth ranges of analog plays for
which there were available data, necessitating the need for establish-
ing correlations. The basic parameters required were pressure, tem-
perature, oil and gas formation volume factors, liquid/gas ratios for
the associated and nonassociated gas, and recovery factors.
Finally, the results of U.S. Geological Survey deposit simulation
were used in carrying out an economic evaluation, which has been
separately published.
INTRODUCTION
Reservoir engineering has taken on greater importance in recent
U.S. Geological Survey assessments of undiscovered oil and gas re-
sources, particularly as economic analysis has become an integral
part of the assessment process. Some of the earlier assessments of
undiscovered oil and gas resources have been based on geologic
information (i.e., geology, geophysics, geochemistry, and petrophys-
ics), and assessment results are typically reported in terms of gross
AAPG Bulletin, v. 89, no. 8 (August 2005), pp. 1091 1111 1091
Copyright #2005. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.
Manuscript received May 24, 2004; provisional acceptance November 17, 2004; revised manuscript
received February 24, 2005; final acceptance April 4, 2005.
DOI:10.1306/04040504055
in-place or technically recoverable resources (e.g.,
Masters, 1984; Rice, 1986). However, experience has
shown that assessment results are much more quanti-
fiable when (1) they are reported in terms of sizes and
numbers of petroleum accumulations and (2) they in-
corporate engineering and economic analysis. Reservoir-
engineering studies, when integrated with geologic
analyses, strengthen and broaden the outcome. The di-
minishing numbers of new discoveries around the world
and the importance of economics in the exploration for
and exploitation of hydrocarbons also necessitate an
engineering approach. Such evaluations are particularly
important in remote frontier areas where infrastructure
is limited or nonexistent and where there may be com-
peting land-use issues. This study describes an integrated
reservoir engineering and geosciences approach to the
evaluation of the undiscovered hydrocarbon-resource
potential of the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska
(NPRA), a large, remote, and little-explored region on
the North Slope of Alaska (Figure 1).
The function of reservoir engineering in the as-
sessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources of the
NPRA is to provide basic information that allows the
estimation of hydrocarbon-in-place volumes using fluid
and reservoir parameters, converting them from sub-
surface to surface volumes using formation volume
factors (FVFs) and then calculating technically recov-
erable volumes by multiplying the surface hydrocar-
bon volumes by a recovery factor. Therefore, the main
objectives of this article are to (1) provide a procedure
for data analysis to establish equations for the calcu-
lation of oil and gas FVFs and gas-liquid ratios; and
(2) define recovery factors required for estimation of
undiscovered oil, gas (associated and nonassociated),
and natural gas liquid resources. This study is the first
attempt to compile and analyze all available reservoir-
engineering data for North Slope hydrocarbon accu-
mulations and to characterize undiscovered oil and
gas accumulations in the little-explored NPRA area.
Twenty-four individual petroleumplays have been
identified for resource assessment in the NPRA, based
on the general definition of a petroleum play as being a
set of known or postulated oil and (or) gas accumula-
tions sharing similar geologic, geographic, and temporal
properties, such as source rock, migration, timing, trap-
ping mechanism, and hydrocarbon type. In practice, each
play has a geographic outline and includes a specific
interval of strata. Many of the plays have no discoveries
in NPRA; it is a largely unexplored area, and so analogs
are required. Therefore, the greatest challenge in pro-
viding reservoir-engineering support to an assessment
of undiscovered resources is to incorporate appropriate
analog data in reservoir-engineering equations, which
can be applied to the entire range of reservoir condi-
tions postulated to exist in the plays being assessed.
As input for resource calculations, the assessor
provides a probabilistic range of estimates of reservoir
thickness, porosity, and the number, depth, and areal
dimensions of prospective hydrocarbon accumulations.
Engineering details, suchas solution gas/oil ratio (GOR),
oil FVF, gas volume factor or gas FVF, and recovery
factor (subjects of this article), are then incorporated
into the calculations prior to running the U.S. Geolog-
ical Survey deposit simulation, which results in prob-
abilistic estimates of sizes and numbers of hydrocarbon
accumulations for individual petroleum plays (Schue-
nemeyer, 2003). Hydrocarbon accumulations are mod-
eled either as oil fields or nonassociated gas fields.
Subsequently, economically recoverable estimates are
produced (e.g., Attanasi, 2003) that are based on es-
timated cost of finding, development, production, and
transportation to market.
BACKGROUND
The NPRA is a large, 23-million-ac (9.3-million-ha),
little-explored tract of land owned by the federal gov-
ernment. It includes nearly the entire western half of
the North Slope (Figure 1) and lies beyond the west-
ernmost extent of northern Alaskas existing petroleum
infrastructure. Government exploration programs in
19441953 and 19741982 resulted in the collection
and analysis of large amounts of geological and geo-
physical data, the drilling of 45 shallow core tests and
64 deeper exploratory test wells, and the discovery of
about 10 noncommercial oil and gas fields. These explo-
ration programs were summarized by Reed (1958) and
Gryc (1988) and the oil and gas discoveries by Kumar
et al. (2002). Near the end of the second government
exploration program, in 1980, the U.S. Geological Survey
completed an assessment of undiscovered oil and gas re-
sources of the NPRAusing an early version of the deposit-
simulation method. Because the North Slope reservoir-
engineering data at that time were limited to just one
producing oil field (Prudhoe Bay), that assessment in-
corporated no engineering or petroleum fluid details;
it reported only in-place resources and, for economic
analysis, it applied the same single-value recovery fac-
tors (35%for oil, 75%for gas) to all plays (Gryc, 1988).
Since 1982, the NPRA has been open to explora-
tion by private industry. In the mid-1980s, several lease
1092 Reservoir Engineering
sales were held, and two industry wells were drilled
with no announced discoveries. The 1996 announce-
ment of ARCOs Alpine discovery just beyond the
eastern edge of NPRA, with an estimate of 429 million
bbl of recoverable oil (Hannon et al., 2000), sparked
renewed industry interest in exploring the NPRA. In
recent years, additional lease sales were held in north-
ern NPRA; exploratory wells were drilled; and oil dis-
coveries, such as Lookout and Spark, were announced
(Figure 1). These recent developments and a 20-yr-old
perspective on the geology, engineering, and economics
of the NPRA(Gryc, 1988) prompted a newassessment
in 2002; a summary of that assessment was published as
a U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet (Bird and House-
knecht, 2002a). The 2002 U.S. Geological Survey as-
sessment relied heavily on reservoir-engineering data
collected over the last 20 yr (since the 1980 assess-
ment) from 33 reservoirs in 15 North Slope oil and
gas fields, most of which are located near the NPRA
(Figure 1), as well as several recently published reports
or otherwise publicly released information.
GEOLOGIC SETTING
The NPRAoccupies a central position in the north Alas-
ka region and shares a common stratigraphy and many
regional tectonic features. Within the NPRA, major tec-
tonic features include a remnant of a late Paleozoic
early Mesozoic south-facing continental margin and a
CretaceousTertiary foreland basin and fold and thrust
belt. Late Mesozoic rift margin and rift shoulder fea-
tures (Barrow Arch), the site of most commercial oil
accumulations east of NPRA, are located mostly north
of and offshore fromNPRA, except at BarrowPeninsu-
la where they are present onshore. Sratigraphically, the
NPRAincludes a basement composed of Devonian and
older metasedimentary and some igneous rocks that
are generally referred to as the Franklinian sequence.
Above the basement, in upward succession, are tecto-
nostratigraphic sequences representing a Mississippian
to Triassic south-facing passive continental margin se-
quence (Ellesmerian), a Jurassic to Early Cretaceous syn-
rift sequence (Beaufortian), and a Cretaceous to early
Tertiary forelandbasinsequence (Brookian). Most North
Slope oil and gas reservoir rocks and source rocks are
represented in the NPRA; at least five petroleum sys-
tems (four oil and one gas) are present (Figure 2a).
The 2002 U.S. Geological Survey assessment of
NPRA identified 24 petroleum plays based primarily
on reservoir characteristics, trapping mechanism, ther-
mal maturity, and source and migration considerations.
Most of the plays (20) are stratigraphically defined and
located in the northern, relatively undeformed part
of the NPRA; by sequence, these 20 plays include
five Brookian, eight Beaufortian, and seven Ellesme-
rian. Four structural plays were evaluated in the fold
and thrust belt region of southern NPRA. Of these,
two are Brookian, one Ellesmerian, and one composite
Ellesmerian, Beaufortian, and Brookian play. The strati-
graphic interval encompassed by each play is shown
in Figure 2a. A schematic cross section (Figure 2b)
shows the relative locations of plays in each tectono-
stratigraphic sequence. Maps and resource estimates
for each play are presented in Bird and Houseknecht
(2002b), and descriptions of most plays can be found in
the report by Houseknecht (2003), Moore and Potter
(2003), and Potter and Moore (2003).
DERIVATION OF RESERVOIR-ENGINEERING
PARAMETERS
In the 2002 NPRA assessment, existing North Slope
oil and gas fields provided useful analogs, but for less
than half of the identified plays. In addition, for any
individual play with analogs, the number of fields is
too small to derive meaningful reservoir-engineering
data that might be specific to that play. Our approach
was to use reservoir-engineering data from all North
Slope fields to derive correlations and engineering pa-
rameters that could be applied to all plays.
We relied on data from 27 reservoirs in 10 oil fields
(Table 1) and 6 reservoirs in 5 gas fields (Table 2), in
conjunction with corrected bottom-hole temperature
data from NPRA exploratory wells (Blanchard and
Tailleur, 1982), to establish correlations and equa-
tions as described in the following sections. Data
were extracted from the proprietary NRG Associates
(1998) and publicly available documents from the
Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Petro-
leum News Alaska, and Society of Petroleum Engineers
(SPE) publications.
Equations for Pressure and Temperature
Two basic equations, one for pressure (Figure 3) and
one for temperature (Figure 4) are presented below
along with discussions on data regression.
Pressure depth 0:5 1
Verma and Bird 1093
1094 Reservoir Engineering
where pressure is in pounds per square inch and depth
is in feet below surface.
For developing correlations, the original reservoir
pressure at depth below surface from all fields, except
Badami and Point Thomson fields (Figure 1B) with high-
pressure gradients (0.700.85psi/ft; 15.819.3kPa/m),
were regressed, giving 0.99 as the value of R
2
(correla-
tion coefficient), which is a measure of the high level of
correlation and, hence, provides validity to equation 1.
Pressures based on the above equation show an error
range of 1.0 to +15.5% when compared with ob-
served pressures on the North Slope reservoirs, except
for pressures in Badami and Point Thomson fields with
known high pressures (Gautier et al., 1987). The Umiat
pressure was excluded because of inadequate data.
Although data for temperature-depth correlations
were available fromtwo sources (individual North Slope
fields from the NRG Associates [1998] and bottom-
hole temperatures from individual wells in the NPRA
from Blanchard and Tailleur [1982]), we used the lat-
ter source as being more appropriate for the NPRA
area. The data consist of 68 corrected bottom-hole tem-
peratures (range: 90420jF [32215jC]) from 28 ex-
ploratory wells, and these temperatures are plotted
against depths in Figure 4, resulting in the following
equation:
Temperature
1:9 depth
100
30 2
where temperature is in degrees Fahrenheit and depth
is in feet below surface.
Because of the presence of permafrost, the in-
tersection of the regression line with the X-axis at
30jF (1.1jC) does not necessarily reflect the sur-
face temperature.
Sixty of the sixty-eight bottom-hole temperatures,
excluding too high or too lowtemperatures (data points
that fall either too far belowthe 1.5jF/100ft (55.6jC/
100 m) line or too far above the 2.2jF/100 ft [54.3jC/
100 m] line) shown in Figure 4, were regressed, giving
0.92 as the value of R
2
. These excluded temperatures
were from the Lisburne and South Meade wells: tem-
peratures in the Lisburne well were found to be higher
than the normal trend at depths above 1200 ft (365 m)
and lower than the normal at depths ranging from 7975
to 16,955 ft (2430 to 5167 m); temperatures in the
South Meade well were higher than the normal trend
for depths greater than 8000 ft (2438 ft).
The temperatures based on equation 2 were found
to be accurate within 18% of the observed tempera-
tures for reservoirs on the North Slope with depths
greater than 3600 ft (1097 m) and calculated temper-
ature ranges of 70250jF (21121jC), except in the
Badami, Milne Point (Schrader Bluff), and Point Thom-
son fields. In fact, it is difficult to predict temperatures
for shallow reservoirs with any accuracy because of
the variable thickness of permafrost (Lachenbruch et al.,
1988).
In addition to basic equations 1 and 2, separate cor-
relations or equations were established for oil and gas
reservoirs.
Equations for Oil Reservoirs
Estimation of undiscovered oil resources requires a de-
termination of the FVF as a function of depth. Because
FVF is a function of the solution GOR, it is necessary
to first establish an equation for solution GOR, which
is a function of pressure, temperature, and the compo-
sition of oil and gas. Because solution-gas gravity data
for all the North Slope reservoirs are not available, we
developed a correlation for gas gravity based on pres-
sure, temperature, and oil-gravity data, as shown in
Table 1 and plotted in Figure 5. We found the loga-
rithmic function to be most appropriate for regres-
sing the data. Equations for the three correlations are
shown on the individual plots. The empirical equa-
tion we formulated to calculate the gas gravity is
g
0:1582 ln P 0:5840 0:1732 ln T 0:1709 0:2105 ln

API 0:0194
3
3
where g is the symbol for gas gravity; P is for pressure
in pounds per square inch absolute; T is for tem-
perature in degrees Fahrenheit, and jAPI is for oil
gravity.
Figure 1. Maps showing the locations of North Slope oil and gas pools and fields. (A) Index map showing areas of major federal land
holdings (shaded), the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) with feeder pipelines, and the location of Prudhoe Bay. (B) Map of that part
of the North Slope where oil and gas fields have been discovered. Pool names, if different from field names, are shown in parentheses.
Dotted line, NPRA boundary. (C) Detailed map of the Prudhoe BayKuparuk area where most oil accumulations have been found. Fields
are shown in black. Pool names, if different from field names, are shown in parentheses. KR = Kuparuk River; PB = Prudhoe Bay.
Verma and Bird 1095
1096 Reservoir Engineering
The values of R
2
for solution-gas gravity vs. pres-
sure and temperature correlations are in the range of
0.800.87. The value of R
2
for the gas-gravity-vs.-oil-
gravity correlation is about 0.70. The above composite
equation yields gas-gravity values that are within 7% of
the observed gravity values.
If values for pressure, temperature, oil gravity, and
gas gravity are available, solution GOR can be calcu-
lated either by an equation from Standing (1947) or
one fromLasater (1958). Gas/oil ratios calculated from
both of these equations are plotted against the observed
or reported GORs in Figure 6 to determine which was
most suitable for our use. The plot shows that the
Standing (1947) equation gave relatively better results
based on the fact that calculated GORs lie closer to the
unit-slope line on a plot of observed vs. calculated
GORs in Figure 6. Therefore, the Standing equation,
which has been derived from the bubble-point pres-
sure equation, was chosen for the calculation of solu-
tion GOR. Although based on an assumption that the
oil is saturated with respect to gas, which may not
apply to all oil reservoirs, this equation simplifies the
procedure and provides reasonable values for the res-
ervoir parameters, particularly with respect to undis-
covered oil reservoirs. The Standing equation for cal-
culating solution GOR is
Solution GOR g
gas

P 10
0:0125g
oil
18 10
0:00091T
! 1
0:83
4
where g
gas
is the gas gravity; g
oil
is the oil gravity in
jAPI, P is the pressure in pounds per square inch ab-
solute, and T the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
However, the calculated GORs required correc-
tion for a better match with the observed GORs from
reservoirs on the North Slope of Alaska. This was
achieved by regressing a best fit line through the cal-
culated data, which resulted in a correction factor (CF)
of 0.86, for all the GORs below 1200 scf/STB. The
precision of regression (R
2
) for this correlation was
0.74. To determine a CF for higher than 1200 scf/STB,
we used data from Northstar field (Figure 6) with its
high API-gravity oil and high GOR, which required a
CF of greater than 1.1 for a better match. We used a
sine function to gradually increase the value of CF
from 0.86 at a calculated GOR of 1200 scf/STB (the
value just below the calculated GOR of 1250 scf/STB
for the Sag River reservoir in Milne Point field, where
the observed GOR was 974 scf/STB) to 1.1 at about a
GOR of 2250 scf/STB (corresponding to the North-
star GOR of 2150 scf/STB), based on the empirical
equation
CF 0:86 0:24 sin
GOR 1200
2250 1200

p=2

2
5
where GOR is based on equation 4.
Application of equation 5 for correcting calculated
GORs resulted in accuracies of 16%, except for the
Alapah, Milne Point (Kuparuk reservoir), Northstar,
and Tarn fields (Table 1), where GOR values deviated
by 1937%. The GOR for the Badami field was not
considered because of its abnormally high pressure.
This difference in calculated and observed GORs could
be caused by errors in any of the reservoir parameters.
After calculating the solution GORs using equation 4
(Standing equation) and modifying them using the
proposed correction factor from equation 5 (modifi-
cation to the Standing method), we used a two-step
procedure based on the Standing (1947) correlation to
calculate FVFs as follows:
1. The correlation factor (F) is calculated as per the
equation
F GOR
g
gas
g
oil

0:5
1:25 T 6
where g
gas
is the gas gravity; g
oil
is the oil specific gravity;
and T is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
Figure 2. (a) Generalized stratigraphic column for the NPRA region north of Brooks Range showing tectonostratigraphic sequence
subdivisions, petroleumsystem source rocks, and petroleumplay (reservoir) intervals. Play numbers are keyed to play names in Table 6.
GRZ = gamma-ray zone of Hue Shale; LCU = Lower Cretaceous unconformity; *Blankenship, Otuk, and Kuna are distal facies of Kingak,
Shublik, and Lisburne, respectively, that are known only from the Brooks Range and thus are not shown on this stratigraphic
column. (b) Schematic section illustrating the distribution of assessed petroleum plays in relation to major tectonic and stratigraphic
features. Half arrows = schematic representation of thrust faults.
Verma and Bird 1097
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1098 Reservoir Engineering
2. The FVF is calculated as per the Standing (1947)
equation:
FVF 0:972 0:000147 F
1:175
7
where F is the correlation factor, as in step 1.
To cross-check the accuracy of the calculated FVFs
from the proposed modified Standing method (equa-
tions 47), the FVF vs. solution-GOR correlation
(Figure 7) and apparent gas density (Standing, 1977)
method was used to calculate FVFs. Based on the avail-
able data, the following equation was established to
calculate FVF from solution GOR (in scf/STB):
FVF 0:00058 GOR 0:9544 8
The precision of regression for data in Figure 7 is
0.99.
The calculated FVFs from the proposed modified
Standing method (equations 47) are compared with
the FVFs fromthe apparent gas density method and the
FVF vs. solution-GORcorrelation (Table 3). The FVFs
Table 2. Summary of Selected Reservoir Data for North Alaskan Gas Fields Used in the Derivation of Reservoir Engineering
Parameters for the 2002 Assessment of the NPRA*
Field Pool Reservoir Depth (ft SS)** Depth (ft S)** Pressure (psi) Temperature (jF)
Barrow East Barrow Barrow 2000 2024 985 58
Barrow South Barrow Barrow 2250 2280 1088 63
East Umiat East Umiat Nanushuk 1929 2466 735 50
Kavik Kavik Sadlerochit 3500 4852 2385 121
Kemik Kemik Shublik 7433 8653 4495 215
Walakpa Walakpa Walakpa 2073 2103 1012 64
*Data source: NRG Associates database, reports from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Petroleum News Alaska, and Society of Petroleum Engineers
publications.
**ft SS = feet sub sea (depth in feet below sea level); ft S = depth in feet below surface.
Figure 3. Plot showing pres-
sure vs. depth below surface
for oil and gas reservoirs in fields
on the North Slope of Alaska
(data in Tables 1 and 2). Data
from all fields, except Badami
and Point Thomson (both Flax-
man Island and Point Thomson
pools) with high-pressure gra-
dients, were regressed using lin-
ear function, giving the best fit
line with 0.5 psi/ft (11.3 kPa/m)
gradient. R
2
= 0.99. The pres-
sure gradient in Badami field is
0.7 psi/ft (15.8 kPa/m), whereas
it ranges from 0.79 to 0.85 psi/ft
(17.9 to 19.2 kPa/m) in Point
Thomson field, depending on
the reservoir.
Verma and Bird 1099
based on the proposed modified Standing equation com-
pare well with those from the other two methods and
are within 8.5% of the observed values.
Equations for Gas Reservoirs
For gas reservoirs, the procedure for estimating undis-
covered resources is straightforward because the gas
volume factor, or gas FVF, is calculated using a general-
ized gas equation, which includes a compressibility fac-
tor to account for the deviation in the behavior of natu-
ral hydrocarbon-gas mixtures from that of ideal gases.
The theorem of corresponding states (Kay, 1936)
is widely used to calculate the compressibility of a
mixture of gases, which requires calculating pseudo-
reduced pressure (the ratio of reservoir pressure to
pseudocritical pressure) and pseudoreduced tempera-
ture (the ratio of reservoir temperature to pseudo-
critical temperature). If the composition of the hydro-
carbon gas mixture is not available, charts or plots are
used to determine pseudocritical pressure and pseudo-
critical temperature (Standing andKatz, 1942; Standing,
1977). From these parameters, pseudoreduced pressure
and temperature are calculated for a specific reser-
voir pressure and temperature. These pseudoreduced
pressure and pseudoreduced temperature values are
then used to determine the compressibility factor (z)
from a correlation chart (Standing, 1977) that is based
on data ranging as high as 8200 psia and 250jF (121jC),
respectively (Standing and Katz, 1942). For other pres-
sure and temperature conditions, several charts are
available for use, such as a chart by Katz et al. (1959)
for high pressures (10,00020,000 psia) and charts
by Brown et al. (1948) for lower pressures (Beggs,
1992).
Once the value of compressibility factor (z) is
known, gas FVF is calculated using the following gas
equation:
FVF 35:37415
P
z T
9
where P and T are the reservoir pressure in pounds
per square inch absolute; temperature is in degrees
Rankine (jR), respectively, and z is the compressibil-
ity factor. Absolute pressure (in psia) is obtained by
adding 14.7 to the gauge pressure (psig or just psi),
and the temperature in Rankine (jR) is obtained by
adding 460 to the temperature in Fahrenheit (jF).
Pressure and temperature are calculated using equa-
tions 1 and 2.
The results are fairly accurate for pure hydrocar-
bon systems. However, natural gases contain nonhy-
drocarbon gases, such as nitrogen (N
2
), carbon dioxide
(CO
2
), and, in some cases, hydrogen sulfide (H
2
S),
which introduce errors in the compressibility factor.
For natural hydrocarbon gases, the use of the chart
developed by Standing and Katz (1942), which relates
pseudoreduced pressure and pseudoreduced tempera-
ture with gas gravity, results in gravities that are ex-
pected to be accurate within 3%. For higher percentages
Figure4. Plot showing cor-
rected bottom-hole tempera-
ture data vs. depth below sur-
face for wells in the NPRA. Most
(82%) data lie between gradi-
ents 1.5 and 2.2jF/100 ft ( 55.6
and 54.3jC/100 m). Data
were regressed using linear
function, giving the best fit line
with a slope of 1.9jF/100 ft
(4.9jC/100 m). The precision
of regression, R
2
, is 0.92. Data
source: Blanchard and Tailleur
(1982).
1100 Reservoir Engineering
Figure 5. Plot showing gas
gravity as a function of pressure,
temperature, and oil gravity for
oil reservoirs in the North Slope
fields (data listed in Table 1).
Not knowing the relative impact
of these three major reservoir
parameters on the gas gravity,
the gas gravity values were
obtained by combining in equal
proportion the values of these
parameters from their individual
correlations to gas gravity. Data
have been regressed using log
function. The first two correla-
tions gave R
2
values as 0.80 and
0.87 and the third one as 0.70.
Verma and Bird 1101
of nonhydrocarbon gases, various methods are avail-
able, depending on the degree of accuracy required.
When the concentration of nonhydrocarbon gases is
greater than 5 mol%, Carr et al. (1954) suggested the
use of a correction factor for each individual nonhy-
drocarbon gas to correct the pseudocritical pressure and
temperature, followed by the use of a chart presented
by Standing and Katz (1942) to determine the com-
pressibility factor. Corrections for nonhydrocarbon
gases, as proposed by Carr et al. (1954) are as follows:
(1) for each mole percent of carbon dioxide, subtract
0.8jR; for each mole percent of hydrogen sulfide,
add 1.3jR; and for each mole percent of nitrogen, sub-
tract 2.5jR from the pseudocritical temperature; and
(2) for each mole percent of carbon dioxide, add
4.4 psi; for each mole percent of hydrogen sulfide,
add 6.0 psi; and for each mole percent of nitrogen, sub-
tract 1.7 psi from the pseudocritical pressure.
Figure6. Plot showing observed
or corrected GOR against the
calculated GOR using Standing
(solid diamonds) and Lasater
(open triangles) equations for
North Slope reservoirs (see text
for explanation). The Standing
equation was chosen for calcu-
lating GORs with a correction
factor of 0.86 (dotted line) re-
quired for a good match with the
observed GORs for a range of
1601200 scf/STB, and higher
correction factors for GOR range
of 12002250 scf/STB to accom-
modate higher GOR in fields like
Northstar. A unit-slope line, which
represents an ideal correlation
between the two GORs, is also
shown.
Figure 7. Plot showing oil
FVF vs. solution GOR for oil res-
ervoirs on the North Slope of
Alaska (Table 1). Data (shown
as solid diamonds) were re-
gressed using a linear function.
The value of R
2
for the corre-
lation is 0.99.
1102 Reservoir Engineering
Equations for Natural Gas Liquid Estimates
Two kinds of natural hydrocarbon-gas accumulations
exist: nonassociated gas (gas reservoirs) and associated
gas (gas cap or solution), both of which contain varying
amounts of liquid hydrocarbons, which are in the va-
por phase under reservoir conditions but drop out as
liquid at atmospheric conditions. These hydrocarbons
have been given various names, such as condensate and
natural gas liquid, and are reported in terms of liquid/
gas ratios in barrels of liquid per million standard
cubic feet of gas (bbl/MMSCF) at standard temper-
ature and pressure (STP); the standard temperature
is 60jF (15.5jC), and the pressure is 14.7 psia.
Because some undiscovered oil accumulations in
the NPRA are postulated to lie at much greater depths
than the known North Slope fields, it was necessary
to establish some correlation between liquid/gas ra-
tios and reservoir depths. This was achieved through
the regression of data using appropriate mathematical
functions. Liquid/gas ratio data from the North Slope
reservoirs have been collected (Table 4) and plotted
against reservoir depth separately for both the associ-
ated and nonassociated gas reservoirs.
Table 3. Formation Volume Factors Calculated from Three Different Methods*
Formation Volume Factor (bbl/STB)**
Field Pool Reservoir
Observed
Data
Modified
Standing Method
Apparent
Density Method
Gas/Oil Ratio
Correlation Method
Badami Badami Canning Abnormal high pressure
Colville Alpine Alpine 1.44 1.46 1.42 1.45
Endicott Alapah Lisburne No data available
Endicott Eider Ivishak 1.36 1.38 1.35 1.40
Endicott Endicott Kekiktuk 1.35 1.40 1.35 1.39
Endicott Sag Delta North Ivishak No data available
Kuparuk River Kuparuk River Kuparuk 1.26 1.25 1.23 1.25
Kuparuk River Meltwater Bermuda 1.33 1.28 1.30 1.31
Kuparuk River Tarn Bermuda 1.39 1.28 1.34 1.37
Kuparuk River Tabasco Schrader Bluff 1.06 1.06 1.06 1.05
Kuparuk River West Sak Schrader Bluff 1.07 1.06 1.07 1.07
Milne Point Kuparuk River Kuparuk 1.16 1.27 1.15 1.14
Milne Point Sag River Sag River 1.56 1.67 1.55 1.52
Milne Point Schrader Bluff Schrader Bluff 1.07 1.08 1.07 1.07
Milne Point Ugnu Ugnu No data available
Northstar Northstar Ivishak 2.20 2.17 2.26 2.20
Point Mcintyre Point Mcintyre Kuparuk 1.39 1.42 1.36 1.42
Point Thomson Flaxman Island Canning No data available
Point Thomson Point Thomson Thomson No data available
Prudhoe Bay Aurora Kuparuk 1.35 1.32 1.32 1.37
Prudhoe Bay Lisburne Lisburne 1.39 1.43 1.38 1.44
Prudhoe Bay Midnight Sun Kuparuk 1.33 1.38 1.31 1.37
Prudhoe Bay Niakuk Kuparuk 1.35 1.39 1.30 1.34
Prudhoe Bay Prudhoe Bay Ivishak 1.40 1.42 1.35 1.38
Prudhoe Bay Prudhoe Bay North Ivishak 1.48 1.60 1.44 1.49
Prudhoe Bay West Beach Kuparuk 1.36 1.39 1.33 1.39
Umiat Umiat Grandstand No data available
*The three methods for calculation are (1) modification of the Standing (1947) method, (2) the apparent gas density method, and (3) the GORFVF correlation
method. Data source: NRG Associates database, reports from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Petroleum News Alaska, and Society of Petroleum
Engineers publications.
**FVFs are compared to observed FVFs in selected north Alaskan oil reservoirs based on data provided in Tables 1 and 2. bbl/STB = barrels per stock tank barrel, a unit
of oil formation volume factor.
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Verma and Bird 1105
For associated gas (solution gas and/or gas-cap gas),
liquid/gas-ratio data are plotted against reservoir depth
in Figure 8. Limited data on liquid/gas ratios for so-
lution or gas-cap gas in the North Slope reservoirs show
the ratios to range between 10 and 100 bbl/MMSCF
for a depth range of 800013,000 ft (24383962 m).
By way of comparison, the liquid/gas ratios for the
United Kingdom North Sea reservoirs range from 29
to 400 bbl/MMSCF at STP for similar reservoir con-
ditions (Department of Trade and Industry, United
Kingdom, 2001). Considering the above liquid/gas ra-
tios for the two areas and the value of R
2
for the three
mathematical functions (0.08 for the linear, 0.19 for
the power, and 0.22 for the exponential), we chose
an exponential function to regress the data, which gave
the following equation.
Liquid=gas ratio 3:3523 e
0:000185 Depth
10
where Liquid/gas ratio is the condensate reported in
barrels per million standard cubic feet, and Depth is the
reservoir depth in feet below surface.
The use of equation 10 yields a liquid/gas ratio of
21 bbl/MMSCF at 10,000 ft (3048 m) and 136 bbl/
MMSCF at 20,000 ft (6096 m), the maximum depth
of NPRA oil plays. These values are within the ranges
of liquid/gas ratios for the North Sea reservoirs as well.
For the nonassociated gas reservoirs, liquid/gas ra-
tio data are plotted against depth, as shown in Figure 9.
Data were regressed using three possible mathematical
functions: linear, logarithmic, and power. We chose
the linear function (equation 11, below) partly because
of its relatively higher value of R
2
(0.21) compared
with logarithmic (0.10) and power (.07) functions, and
partly because the correlation resulted in liquid/gas
ratios similar to those in North Sea and North Slope
reservoirs.
Liquid=gas ratio 0:0013 Depth 11
where Liquid/gas ratio is the condensate reported in
barrels per million standard cubic feet, and Depth is the
reservoir depth in feet below surface.
Liquid/gas ratios of 7, 20, and 33 bbl/MMSCF for
5000-, 15,000-, and 25,000-ft (1524-, 4572-, and
7620-m) reservoir depths, respectively, were calculat-
ed based on equation 11. The maximum depth pos-
tulated for gas prospects in the NPRA is 28,000 ft
(8534 m). For the nonassociated gas reservoirs on the
North Slope of Alaska, the liquid/gas ratios range be-
tween 0.1 and 22 bbl /MMSCF. These ratios compare
well with gas reservoirs in the United Kingdom sector
of the North Sea, where ratios range from0.2 to 16 bbl/
MMSCF for similar reservoir conditions (Department
of Trade and Industry, United Kingdom, 2001).
The ratios defined in equations 10 and 11 have
been used to estimate the volumes of in-place natural
gas liquids for the NPRA plays. Because calculations
were based on limited data, however, additional data
Figure 8. Plot showing liquid/
gas ratio data for associated gas
vs. depth for wells on the North
Slope of Alaska (Table 4). Of
three possible functions (linear,
logarithmic, and exponential), the
exponential function was consid-
ered more appropriate to re-
gress the data because of the
relatively higher value of R
2
.
1106 Reservoir Engineering
are required to further improve correlations and to pro-
vide better estimates of natural gas liquids for both as-
sociated and nonassociated gas.
Recovery Factor
Technically recoverable resource volumes are calcu-
lated by multiplying in-place hydrocarbons by a recov-
ery factor that, although critical to the assessments for
both discovered and undiscovered fields, is not easily
defined because of its dependence on many interrelated
parameters. Porosity, permeability, reservoir litholo-
gy, hydrocarbon composition, oil gravity and viscos-
ity, reservoir depth and thickness, reservoir pressure
and temperature, type of trap, and type of drive (so-
lution gas, gas cap, water, or a combination drive) are
among the many variables that affect recovery factors.
Considering our limited knowledge of these param-
eters and their complexities, it was possible to only
estimate average recovery factors for oil and gas for
each play in the NPRA. In making these estimates, we
gave considerable weight to the recovery factors for
producing North Slope oil reservoirs that are summa-
rized in Table 1. Our estimated recovery factors for
the NPRA plays include that proportion of in-place oil
resources that is recoverable using both primary- and
secondary-recovery techniques.
Based on the information in Table 1, recovery fac-
tors for oil were established for three different groups
of reservoirs: reservoirs with poor-, intermediate-, and
good-quality porosity and permeability parameters, as
shown in Table 5. Adequate data were available from
reservoirs on the North Slope of Alaska to establish
the basic criteria for oil recovery factors, but not for
gas recovery factors. However, having definitive data
for establishing gas recovery factors for gas reservoirs
in this region is not as critical as for oil, because the
gas recovery factor is known to be high in general; for
example, recovery factors ranging between 65 and
72% have been reported for the Khuff gas reservoir
in the Bahrain field of the Middle East (Janahi and
Dakessian, 1985); the Northeast Hitchcock field in
Galveston County, Texas (Ancell and Manhart, 1987);
Table 5. Recovery Factors (Primary Plus Secondary Recovery)
Applied to the Petroleum Plays in the 2002 Assessment of the
NPRA*
Reservoir Rock/Fluid Quality
Reservoir Parameters Poor Intermediate Good
Porosity (%) <15 2025 >25
Permeability (md) <50 100200 >200
Oil Gravity (jAPI) <20 2030 >30
Oil Recovery Factor (%) 30 3540 50
Gas Recovery Factor (%) 60 65 70
*Based on oil recovery factors for reservoirs with different fluid and rock
properties (shown in Table 2) and gas-recovery factors from a generalized
criteria established in the text.
Figure 9. Plot showing liquid/
gas ratio data for nonassociated
gas in wells on the North Slope
of Alaska (Table 4). Of the three
functions (linear, logarithmic,
and exponential), the linear
function was considered more
appropriate to regress the data
because of relatively higher value
of R
2
.
Verma and Bird 1107
and an offshore Gulf Coast field (Hower et al., 1992).
In addition, Moltz (1993) has reported a recovery fac-
tor as high as 85% for Tom OConnor 5100-ft Sand, a
gas reservoir in Refugio County, Texas.
In some cases, observed recovery factors may be
higher than the maximum shown in Table 5 (e.g.,
Ivishak reservoir in Prudhoe Bay field at greater than
50% recovery), but these higher values are related to
tertiary-recovery methods. Our estimated recovery fac-
tors for individual plays in the NPRA, which are limited
to a maximumof 50%for oil and 70%for gas, represent
average values for all undiscovered fields in a particular
play based on the application of primary- and secondary-
recovery techniques.
APPLICATION OF DERIVED EQUATIONS TO THE
NPRA ASSESSMENT
Estimation of technically recoverable hydrocarbon-
resource volumes for reservoirs in each of the 24 de-
fined plays in the NPRA was one of the main objec-
tives of the 2002 U.S. Geological Survey assessment;
this was achieved by incorporating all of the available
geologic and reservoir-engineering information to first
calculate the volume of hydrocarbon-in-place and then
multiply that value by a recovery factor to estimate
technically recoverable volumes. Figure 10 shows an
example of those parts of the assessment form dealing
with recovery factors and fluid characteristics. Table 6
Figure 10. Portions of
the 2002 NPRA oil and
gas assessment form
showing postulated en-
gineering parameters for
oil and nonassociated
gas accumulations for an
individual petroleum
play.
1108 Reservoir Engineering
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.
Verma and Bird 1109
shows the calculated reservoir parameters and estimat-
ed recovery factors for undiscovered oil and gas fields
in each of the assessed plays. Reservoir parameters
shown are those for the 50th percentile estimate of
trap depth in each play.
The final step in the 2002 U.S. Geological Survey
assessment was to apply the U.S. Geological Survey
deposit-simulation method for oil and gas (Schuene-
meyer, 2003), which is a Monte Carlo-based system
that incorporates estimates of the geological, geochem-
ical, and engineering factors necessary to create an
oil or gas deposit. In this system, 10,000 simulations
are typically run for each play, and the resulting out-
put consists of probability distributions of field-size
distributions, as well as estimates of the in-place and
recoverable hydrocarbon volumes for each play. The
geographical distribution of plays, their estimated hy-
drocarbon volumes, and sizes and numbers of accu-
mulations provide the basic input for the economic
analysis. Total resource estimates for the assessment
area are obtained by an aggregation procedure that con-
siders interplay dependencies of hydrocarbon charge,
trap, and timing.
GENERAL COMMENTS AND CONCLUSIONS
1. Integration of reservoir-engineering factors leads to
better constrained calculations of discovered reserves
as well as estimates of undiscovered resources. More
precise estimates of the costs involved in field devel-
opment and infrastructure are also achieved, which
in turn leads to a better economic analysis of the play
area under consideration.
2. Pressure-depth and temperature-depth correlations
were established for the NPRA assessment.
3. A modification of Standings (1947) method was
developed to calculate GORs and FVFs for the un-
discovered oil reservoirs in each NPRA play. The
GORs are expected to be accurate within 16%and
FVFs within 8% for reservoirs with average reser-
voir conditions.
4. The equation for gas FVF is based on the general gas
equation, which includes a compressibility factor (z)
to account for deviation in the behavior of natural
hydrocarbon-gas mixtures from that of ideal gases.
Corrections to z are required for the presence of non-
hydrocarbon gases.
5. The study provides useful guidelines for similar
reservoir-engineering studies in support of assess-
ment of undiscovered oil and gas reservoirs in other
areas.
6. The 2002 NPRA assessment provides an order of
magnitude increase in richness of engineering detail
compared to the previous (1980) U.S. Geological
Survey assessment of the NPRA. Partly because of a
scarcity of North Slope analog data and partly be-
cause the assessment method was still being devel-
oped, the 1980 U.S. Geological Survey assessment
reported only in-place oil resources and applied the
same single-value recovery factors to all assessed
plays; FVFs were not considered in that analysis. The
significance of engineering factors is easily demon-
strated by the 2002 U.S. Geological Survey assess-
ment, where the application of FVFs resulted in
surface oil volumes 1550%smaller than in-place oil
volumes and surface gas volumes 82308% larger
than in-place gas volumes. Furthermore, recovery
factors, assigned to each play, ranged from30 to 50%
for oil and 6070% for gas.
REFERENCES CITED
Ancell, K. L., and T. A. Manhart, 1987, Secondary gas recovery
from a water-drive gas reservoir: Presented at the 62nd Annual
Technical Conference and Exhibition of the Society of Pe-
troleum Engineers in Dallas, Texas, September 2730, 1987,
SPE Paper 16944, p. 117124.
Attanasi, E. D., 2003, Economics of undiscovered oil in federal
lands on the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska: U.S. Geo-
logical Survey Open-File Report 03-044: http://pubs.usgs.gov
/of/2003/of03-044/ (accessed March 4, 2003).
Beggs, H. D., 1992, Oil system correlations, in H. B. Bradley, F. W.
Gipson, A. S. Odeh, P. S. Sizer, M. Mortada, L. L. Raymer, and
G. L. Smith, eds., Petroleum engineering handbook: Society of
Petroleum Engineers, Richardson, Texas, chapter 22, p. 22-1
23-13.
Bird, K. J., and D. W. Houseknecht, 2002a, U.S. Geological Survey
2002 petroleum resource assessment of the National Petro-
leum Reserve in Alaska ( NPRA): U.S. Geological Survey Fact
Sheet FS 045-02, 6 p.
Bird, K. J., and D. W. Houseknecht, 2002b, U.S. Geological Survey
2002 petroleumresource assessment of the National Petroleum
Reserve in Alaska: Play maps and technically recoverable re-
source estimates: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-
207, 18 p.
Blanchard, D. C., and I. L. Tailleur, 1982, Temperature and interval
geothermal-gradient determinations from wells in National
Petroleum Reserve in Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-
File Report No. 82-391, 79 p.
Brown, G. G., D. L. Katz, G. G. Oberfell, and R. C. Alden, 1948,
Natural gasoline and the volatile hydrocarbons: Tulsa, Okla-
homa, Natural Gasoline Association of America, 92 p.
Carr, N. L., R. Kobayashi, and D. B. Burrows, 1954, Viscosity of
hydrocarbon gases under pressure: Petroleum Transactions of
the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers,
v. 201, p. 264272.
1110 Reservoir Engineering
Department of Trade and Industry, United Kingdom, 2001, Devel-
opment of U.K. oil and gas resources: The Secretary Office,
Her Majestys Stationery Office, St. Clements House, 216
Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BQ, United Kingdom, 137 p.
Gautier, D. L., K. J. Bird, and V. A. Colten-Bradley, 1987,
Relationship of clay mineralogy, thermal maturity, and geo-
pressure in wells of the Point Thomson area, in K. J. Bird and
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