Discrete cosine transform for fluid flow characterization

Shell-backed MIT research team maximizes return on limited subsurface measurements.

New mapping technology developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has the potential to ‘significantly’ increase oil recovery. The new technology uses a discrete cosine transform (DCT) to describe spatially distributed reservoir properties such as permeability. MIT’s experiments suggest that that the DCT makes the history matching problem better-posed and improves the realism of reservoir property estimates.

MIT researcher Behnam Jafarpour, now an assistant professor in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M, said, ‘Our studies indicate that this approach has the potential to improve current reservoir characterization techniques and to provide better production forecasts and development strategies.’ The technique uses oil flow rates and pressure data from oilfield wells to create a realistic image of the subsurface reservoir. The MIT technique categorizes the ‘complex subsurface pathways’ that convey oil to wells even when they are beneath the resolution of seismic and well observations.

Co-researcher Dennis McLaughlin explained, ‘The methods we’ve developed extract more information from those limited measurements to provide better descriptions of subsurface pathways and the oil moving through them.’ This research was funded by Shell International and will be the subject of a paper in an upcoming issue of the SPE’s Journal of Petroleum Technology.

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