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Interview with Salem Thyne, E-Sal: Innovators in Petroleum Optimization Series

Published
American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

New processes and technologies are coaxing oil and gas from difficult unconventionals and re-establishing flow and improving the oil cut in the produced fluids in mature fields. One of the most effective approaches involves wettability alteration. Welcome to an interview with Salem Thyne, E-Sal, who speaks with us here and will be at AAPG's Success with Difficult Unconventionals in Houston, Nov 12-13.

What is your name? What is and your background?

I joined ESal in 2017 bringing 23 years of experience in corporate management, regulatory compliance and operations. I previously have worked in a variety of fields including oil, chemicals and nuclear operations. I believe the breadth of my background gives me an ability to look at industry challenges through a different lens and conceive innovative solutions to long-standing problems.

What do you consider to be a key challenge in today's oil and gas exploration and operations?

I believe one of the greatest challenges for E&P companies in the market today is achieving sustainable profits while developing less prolific acreage. US shale is demonstrating that $50 per barrel is not sufficient to maintain activity levels and production over the next decade. The likelihood of oil prices increasing substantially is not likely over the next several years given supply and demand, and service-related costs savings have been incorporated over the past several years which leaves operators with limited means of improving profit margins. Couple these conditions with the retraction of capital investment sources for new drilling programs and the environment for E&P s murky in my opinion.

Tertiary effect

Which technologies are addressing the issues?

We have seen the development of numerous technologies in oil and gas over the past few years. Whether it be migration of data to cloud-based platforms, the use of drones in field operations or using AI in evaluating plays and informing drilling decisions, the majority of these technologies offer only incremental improvements that lower costs and improve efficiency. While this is most undoubtably important very few, if any, truly move the needle for E&P companies’ long-term profitability. The most impactful technology in recent years is the development of drilling technology to improve shale and tight formation productivity yet these plays still only produce single digit recovery on average. I firmly believe that the industry should focus more on technology that can be applied to both unconventional and conventional plays. The industry shouldn’t be content with a world-wide average recovery of approximately 32% and we shouldn’t always use the solution to drill more. Technologies today should focus on maximizing production for operators, whether it be in initial drilling or, in older fields where significant oil has been left behind as it was considered to be unrecoverable.

Shale effect

Have you done anything personally to adopt or develop technologies? What did you do? What was your goal? What were the results?

Speaking on my feelings above, my company has focused on how to improve production for operators by leveraging a better understanding of oil-water-rock chemistry and interactions. Over the past 6 years, we developed a breakthrough method to increase oil recoveries by optimizing reservoir wettability via altering the inorganic chemistry of injected water.

Waterflood effect

The ESal® solution can be applied in all three phases of oil field production at a cost significantly lower than alternatives and without using chemicals. Our goal is to improve operators production by 50% over the lifetime of the well with a process that avoids high capital expenditure with >85% success rate. We have proven the technology with numerous companies in our laboratory and have entered the demonstration phase with pilots on unconventional and conventional reservoirs. We expect to release our results in 2020.

What do you have planned for the future?

As I mentioned before, we are excited to be able to release the results of our projects in 2020, but we are also developing a more agile solution to offer the market. In parallel to our demonstration pilots, we are developing a software to encompass the full suite of services our technology offers, from screening acreage to giving the solution with financial analysis. We have a vision that the application of wettability alteration should be at the fingertips of any engineer in the industry. In the next two years, any engineer will be able to enter their reservoirs data for rock, oil and water into our software and know instantly if wettability alteration will benefit production and, if so, what their injection/completion water chemistry should be using our software. No more years of studies and excessive expenditures on failed projects. Just real solutions with real results for any sized operator!

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