Oil and Gas

Enhanced Oil Recovery

Tracer Technology, which was developed by the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) is an important and costeffective contribution to our better understanding of reservoirs. The technology makes it possible to optimize production and thereby achieve maximum profit. Thanks to IFE’s effort in this field, the Norwegian government and the oil companies have enjoyed considerably increased earnings from oil and gas operations.

Bjørnstad, Tor

Research Manager

Stavsetra, Liv

Specialist Group Manager


IFE has developed non-radioactive and environmentally friendly tracers, which are in demand among the entire international oil and gas industry. These tracing substances enable operators in the worldwide oil and gas business to obtain unique information about flow characteristics in reservoirs.

Various types of tracers

IFE has spent 40 years developing many types of tracer compounds for use in a wide variety of industry-related conditions. During the last 20 years, special focus has been placed on applications in the oil and gas industry, with the particular emphasis on the extraction of oil and gas. An operator at a given oil field can inject a tracer into an oil reservoir, in which the oil is present in layers of porous sandstone or limestone. The tracers flow together with the water or the gas that is being injected in order to press out oil of these layers. The operator takes samples of the water during production and ship them to IFE laboratories for analysis of the amount of tracers present in the samples. Thereby the operator obtains valuable information about the reservoir and particularly where there may be remaining oil deposits. Such information makes it easier to formulate strategies for further extraction from the reservoir.

Enormous savings

It is difficult to perform accurate cost/benefit analyses for tracer technology. However, there is one specific example of an oil company being able to document a saving of more than 15 million dollars by preventing the drilling of unproductive wells. At an oil reservoir in Columbia, BP used tracers from IFE. Without the information obtained about blockages in the reservoir, the company would have drilled two useless wells in order to produce oil. Two wells would have represented a cost of 10-15 million dollars whereas the tracer operation cost amounted to 150 thousand dollars, or about one percent of the cost of two wells. It is even more costly to drill wells offshore, so the potential savings there are even greater. A typical cost estimate for a single offshore well is abour 25 million dollars. Tracers are currently used in most fields on the Norwegian continental shelf, and they make important contributions to optimised production.

Comprehensive surveys

IFE carries out comprehensive field surveys for the oil companies. IFE’s staff of professionals are experts on how tracers behave in oil fields and they know which substances should be used in different situations. A noticable point is that the Institute is able to analyse tracers at extremely low concentrations. In the course of a standard field survey, IFE is involved in all phases of the project, including the preliminary work of pumping the tracers down into the reservoir. After a tracer has been injected into a well, it may take several years before it reaches a production well. The normal routine following an injection is that samples are sent to IFE over the course of several years. It is not unusual to follow a tracer movement over five or six years. IFE currently carries out more than 4,000 analyses anually of samples taken from various fields all over the world where the Institute is involved. Based on the results of their analyses, IFE performs for optimization of the reservoir descrription. For this type of evaluation, the Institute performs simulations using both standard software and special applications softwate developed by IFE in order to handle the unique challenges related to tracers’ special characteristics.