Exposed cliff section of faulted turbidites in Taranaki on the North Shore of New Zealand.

The Sisters at Mount Taranaki, New Zealand.

Optimising oil and gas reservoir performance

A North Island site in New Zealand is being developed by CSIRO Petroleum into a natural laboratory to develop technology to access deepwater oil and gas reserves.

  • 28 September 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

Accessing deepwater and frontier reserves of petroleum

With advances in deepwater drilling technology unlocking challenging, frontier reserves of petroleum, the ability to find and develop deepwater turbidite fields holds huge potential for the fossil fuel industry.

Faulted deepwater turbidites involve a bed of sediment formed from a rapid, underwater landslide at the base of a submarine slope. They host a significant amount of Australia's and the world’s hydrocarbon reserves, and are becoming increasingly more important as technology unlocks deepwater environments.

In 2002, however, only five per cent of the estimated 58 billion BOE (barrel of oil equivalent) in these reserves was being produced, a testament to the need for technological advancement in this area.

Additionally, recovery from complex reservoirs is typically low. Therefore, development of enabling technology, even if it only increases recovery by a few percent, translates into billion dollar returns.

The TURI solution

The TURI (Turbidite Research Initiative) project came about when CSIRO scientists became aware of a superbly exposed cliff section of faulted turbidites in Taranaki on the North Island of New Zealand. The rocks can also be accessed behind the cliff via farmland giving an enormous amount of field data.

The site is unique as it constitutes a natural laboratory to develop technologies.

The rocks are exposed along a cliff section allowing the results from remote sensing technologies (like ground penetrating radar, seismic imaging, well-logs and pump tests) to be tested against conditions found on the ground.

The project will help companies better understand, and therefore better forecast, reservoir behaviour - which ultimately controls how efficiently hydrocarbons are extracted.

The study addresses the main uncertainties in predictions of reservoir behaviour:

  • constraining the properties of fault and reservoir rocks
  • how to incorporate them sensibly in reservoir models.

The project will help companies better understand, and therefore better forecast, reservoir behaviour - which ultimately controls how efficiently hydrocarbons are extracted.

Industry partnership and research alliances

World leaders in reservoir modelling software, Roxar, have thrown their support behind the new research and development (R&D) project led by CSIRO Petroleum with Dr Julian Strand as Project leader.

The CSIRO team has also joined with Curtin University of Technology from Western Australia and the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences in New Zealand.

Project Team leader, Dr Strand says, 'Now we can investigate how to exploit faulted turbidites by integrating geological, geophysical and engineering disciplines in the interrogation of a world-class reservoir analogue which actually hosts hydrocarbon reserves on and off shore New Zealand.'

Learn how CSIRO is Meeting energy exploration and production challenges with geoscience.