Fluid inclusion analysis to unlock oil and gas potential

Our innovative techniques to analyse fluid inclusions in petroleum reservoirs and sedimentary basins are reducing the risk of oil and gas exploration and unlocking the potential of Australia’s many underexplored regions.

The Challenge

Lower cost oil and gas exploration

Oil and gas exploration and production is an important industry for Australia. As existing oil and gas fields begin to decline, operators are seeking to extract more from existing permits or prospect in new areas.

Oil-filled inclusions under ultraviolet light

Offshore prospecting costs are significant. To reduce the chance that drilling may result in unsuccessful wells, exploration companies collect large amounts of technical information on many targets prior to drilling.

Fluid inclusions – tiny encapsulations of fluid that trap oil, gas and water in the rock – are a useful source of information for exploration companies.

If enough of these petroleum-filled inclusions are found near a potential drill site they can be used to answer key questions for petroleum exploration such as prospectivity for oil and gas accumulation, hydrocarbon source and type, and when hydrocarbons migrated.

Our Response

Analysing fluid inclusions

We have been analysing fluid inclusions in sedimentary rocks since 1989, and our pioneering work in this area is recognised worldwide. We have developed a suite of techniques to analyse the history of palaeo-fluids in sedimentary basins:

  • Grains containing Oil Inclusions (GOI™) identifies palaeo-oil zones that may be in a current oil zone or in rocks that are now saturated by gas or water.
  • Raman spectroscopy directly detects dissolved hydrocarbon gases (CH4, C2H6, C2H8) and non-hydrocarbon gases (CO2, H2S, N2, H2).
  • Thermometric measurements of water inclusions are used to evaluate how the composition and salinity of aquifer water has changed in relation to the stepwise hydrocarbon fill history of the reservoir.
  • Resistivity from Oilwater Inclusions (ROI) determines the resistivity of water in the reservoir at the time of oil accumulation and, with Raman spectroscopy, can also be applied to irreducible water salinity in gas reservoirs.

We conduct our analyses in the laboratory using samples obtained when the well is drilled, or retrospectively to samples from an archive.

GOI workstation for petroleum inclusion analysis

The nature of fluid inclusions means that their contents are unaffected by drilling and archiving, and can be regarded as pristine samples of fluid that may no longer be in the rock.

The technology provides information about the past movement of both oil and gas in the pore spaces of rocks – the fluid history – and the thermal conditions at which this occurred.

This technology is routinely used to:

  • detect palaeo-oil zones and potential for nearby oil prospects
  • detect oil migration in out-of-closure wells and proximity to pay
  • predict regional hydrocarbon charge and type
  • constrain the timing of oil and gas charge to reservoirs
  • estimate oil and gas reserves (irreducible water salinity)
  • identify sources for oil when combined with related CSIRO technologies like Molecular Composition of Oil inclusions (MCI).

This contributes to lower finding costs for oil by better calibration of oil and gas generation and migration models and in avoiding high risk exploration wells.

Expertise

Our multi-disciplinary team has expertise in:

  • specialist fluid inclusion studies
  • petroleum geosciences
  • spectroscopy
  • microthermometry
  • petrography/diagenesis.

Facilities

We have access to a range of facilities to conduct research and provide analytical services, owning and operating a fully equipped fluid inclusion laboratory with:

  • GOI™ microscopy workstations with UV fluorescence illumination and spectrometer
  • Horiba LabRam HR Evolution Raman spectrometer
  • Linkam Scientific thermometric heating/freezing equipment.

The Results

Trusted advice based on quality science

Our work has contributed to the management of risk in drilling for new oil and gas reserves by:

  • Informing decisions to explore in certain offshore sedimentary basins
  • selecting targets for exploration wells
  • characterising the evolution of oil and gas sources, and alteration events that have affected its value.

As a trusted advisor, we deliver commercial and research services to both the Australian and international petroleum industry with over 140 partnerships worldwide. We collaborate with other Australian and international research organisations like Geoscience Australia and fluid inclusion laboratories such as:

  • Centre de Recherches sur la Geologie des Matieres Premieres Minerales et Energetiques (CREGU), France
  • United States Geological Survey
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA
  • Centro de Pesquisas Leopoldo Américo Miguez de Mello (CENPES), Brazil.

Past projects include:

  • working with BP Developments Australia, through the Great Australian Bight Research Program, to de-risk some elements of petroleum prospectivity that, in this remote and largely unexplored region, are only accessible from fluid inclusions.
  • working with Geoscience Australia to better understand the prospectivity of the offshore northern Perth Basin, resulting in new industry investment in the region in the order of $70 million.
  • investigating palaeo-temperature, salinity and gas content of water inclusions from the aquifer underlying large gas accumulations in the Browse Basin, resulting in new methodologies to assess irreducible water saturation in gas reservoirs.

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