We were part of an SPE event recently that discussed the future of unconventionals. Unconventional resources are those petroleum reservoirs whose permeability/viscosity ratio requires use of technology to alter either the rock permeability or the fluid viscosity in order to produce the petroleum at commercially competitive rates. 

Unconventional resources include both low permeability (shales, tight sandstones) and high permeability (coalbed methane) reservoirs with both low viscosity (oilsands) and high viscosity fluids.

This subject was chosen as the topic because the development of and production from a particular type of unconventional resource – low permeability shale formations - now accounts for ~90% of the capital spending by US operators. The industry and investors are wondering what happens next.

And while the details of the group discussions are confidential, we noticed that projections about the oilfield of 2030 tended to fall in these categories:


As we look at the top two topics, we realize they are probably the same – water is an issue that only gets worse as a field ages. So maybe the chart should read RUNNING OLD FIELDS = 13.

The move to so-called “unconventionals” feels fairly new still, but the challenge of running these assets has captured the imagination and attention of the best and brightest in the industry.

Sidebar:  Notice, though, how nobody mentioned how we drill the original wells?