ENVITRACER - Running EU project under the 5th framework

Development of environmentally friendly tracer technology for improved reservoir description.

Muller, Jiri

Special Adviser



Tracers are chemical compounds used in tracer technology programmes aimed at hydrocarbon reservoir characterisation and efficient oil recovery. Currently used non-radioactive gas tracers, such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6) are ozone depleting substances (CFCs) or have high Global Warming Potential (GWP) and extremely long lifetimes in the atmosphere (PFCs, SF6), constituting them very potent greenhouse gases (GHG). Regarding water tracers, Fluoro-Benzoic Acids (FBAs) bio-accumulate in the seawater posing a threat to the ocean environment. Given (i) the current pressure of the environmental authorities on the oil industry to reduce and even ban the use of such chemicals and (ii) their proven usefulness in the oil exploration and production operations, the project aspires to enlarge the portfolio of environmentally acceptable gas and water tracers thus, ensuring the routine application of a cost-effective method like tracers in reservoir operations. This means that the project aims to identify chemical compounds satisfying both the requirements of being stable in the reservoir over a long time period and at the same time being degradable to avoid bioaccumulation or irreversible accumulation in the atmosphere.

Therefore, ENVITRACER objectives include: a) Develop and test new, non-radioactive, water and gas tracers that satisfy the current requirements of the oil industry while reducing substantially the aforementioned harmful environmental effects, b) Assess the cost-effectiveness of the new tracers (production and field application) and propose recommendations and guidelines for the industrial practice on this issue

Brief Description:

To ensure the smooth execution of the project the following main targets have to be achieved:

  • Identification of chemical compounds with a potential to qualify as gas or water tracers
  • - Studying the behaviour of the compounds in the laboratory at reservoir conditions to ensure thermal, chemical and microbial stability
  • Evaluation of the environmental friendliness of the compounds
  • Reduction of the costs of tracer production and of the respective detection limits for field application
  • Development of an advanced tracer flow electronic laboratory
  • Evaluation of the flow behaviour of the tracers
  • Testing the selected compounds in the oil field
  • Evaluation of the results, cost effectiveness of the new tracers, integration into recommendations and guidelines for industrial practice
  • Effective exploitation and dissemination to selected target groups.

Several aspects of the proposal take on an innovative character (developing and testing new, cost-effective tracers, proposing guidelines for the oil industry). While during the development of the previous generation of tracers their environmental impact was not given sufficient attention, the ‘environmental inertness’ becomes now on a prerequisite for the selection of the new generation of water and gas tracers. In addition, some of the expected results on the new tracers are generic in nature and have important applications in other sectors that use these compounds and should reduce their emissions soon (e.g. hydrology). This aspect makes the project of multi-sectorial importance and shows how its results and the associated benefits may diffuse to other interested parties.


IFE (Norway)
Statoil (Norway)
SFT (Norway)
NCSR Demokritos (Greece)
CEPSA (Spain)
MOL (Hungary)