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UNCONVENTIONAL OIL 2018/ key statistical indicators (research papers)

Recent Research Papers/ Brief Overview

Unconventional oil (Heavy oil, Oil shale, Oil sands) is becoming an increasingly important component of the hydrocarbon resource base, but its exploration, production and processing require a significant revision of traditional technologies, additional research and development of new technical solutions.

To assess the prevailing research interests and identify the most productive authors and organizations, a selection of relevant publications published in 2018 in the Google Scholar database was conducted. In total, 679 works were selected for consideration, published by 474 researchers from 48 countries. All selected articles can be found in the library section on the Advanced Energy Technologies website. The simplest key phrases - types of unconventional oil - were used as a filter for the selection of articles. Further, from the resulting array of publications, virtually non-relevant topics were screened out, and the rest were subjected to detailed analysis. Clearly, not all publications over the past year were considered; however, the non-complaint nature of their selection and detailing allows us to hope for the adequacy of the following comparative statistics.

As in the previous year, the largest number of publications were submitted by researchers from Canada - more than 36% of the total number of references. Residents of China (19.1%) and the United States (11.9%) also remained among the most productive authors. Together, the share of representatives of these countries in the review in the current year amounted to about 70%, while compared with the previous year, the share of residents of Canada and China has increased slightly, and the share of the United States has decreased.

Top 10 countries by research activity

Source: Advanced Energy Technologies

Technological areas related to Heavy oil and Oil sands in publications were prevailing. 11 generalized groups of technological problems Low efficiency of primary production was considered most often - in 447 publications, or almost 43% of the total number of problems mentioned. In addition, quite often, researchers addressed the issues of Environmental balance and protection (11.2% or 115 references), Low production efficiency in general, Exploration problems. As in 2017, to a lesser extent, researchers turned to a group of economic problems - High capital costs of exploration and infrastructure, High running costs of repair and replacement, High running costs of maintenance and High capital or running costs in general.

Distribution of scientific papers on problems

Source: Advanced Energy Technologies

LEPP - Low efficiency of primary production; LESP - Low efficiency of secondary processing; EXP - Exploration problems; LPE - Low production efficiency in general; HCEI - High capital costs of exploration and infrastructure; HCRR - High running costs of repair and replacement; HRCM - High running costs of maintenance; HCG - High capital or running costs in general;  EGWC - Energy, gas or water consumption; EBP - Environmental balance and protection; AOP - Administrative and organizational problems

The list of the top 10 most productive research organizations in 2018 is dominated by representatives of Canada, in addition to them, there are residents of China, Kuwait, Russia and the United States. In total, they accounted for more than 50% of all publications reviewed. Obviously, the giant reserves of bituminous oil in Alberta and the developed production infrastructure for its extraction and refining stimulate, on the one hand, a significant flow of scientific research by representatives of Canada, and on the other, provide an excellent experimental base for this.

The scientific departments of the Canadian University of Alberta and University of Calgary were significantly more active compared to other participants. In addition to them, the list of Canadian representatives of the top 10 list included Environment and Climate Change Canada, University of Regina, University of Waterloo.

The list of leading research organizations included UPC China University of Petroleum, CUP China University of Petroleum, Beijing Campus, Kuwait Oil Company, Russian Kazan Federal University and American University of Texas at Austin.


Top 10 organizations by the number of publications

StatusCountryNameTotal, 2018
OrganizationCAHalliburton Energy Services, Inc.103
OrganizationCASaudi Arabian Oil Company71
OrganizationCNPetroChina Company Limited47
CompanyKWDow Global Technologies, LLC25
OrganizationCNExxonMobil Upstream Research Company20
OrganizationCAConocoPhilips Company20
OrganizationRUAramco Services Company, Inc.19
OrganizationCAXyleco Inc.19
OrganizationUSCabot Corporation18
OrganizationCABaker Hughes Incorporated14

Source: Advanced Energy Technologies

Almost all participants in the list of the top 10 most active researchers addressed the problems of Low efficiency of primary production. Environment and Climate Change Canada and the University of Waterloo conducted their research in the field of Environmental balance and protection. Kuwait Oil Company more than others paid attention to the problems of High capital costs of exploration and infrastructure, and the University of Alberta and the University of Texas at Austin to problems of High running costs of maintenance. Problems related to the Low production efficiency in general were most widely addressed by the University of Regina, the University of Texas at Austin and UPC China University of Petroleum.
The process mentioned most in the publications of the top 10 researchers was the steam injection in oil production. Often turning their attention to this technology were the University of Texas at Austin, UPC China University of Petroleum, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Kuwait Oil Company and Kazan Federal University. The last two organizations have also often reviewed processes related to Underground reservoir exploration in a large number of publications. Chemical stimulation more than others was the subject of research for the University of Regina and the University of Calgary, and In-situ combustion in the works of Kazan Federal University. Almost all organizations conducted research in the field of Reservoir permeability improvement and extraction.

Distribution of scientific papers on technologies elements among Top-10 research organizations

Source: Advanced Energy Technologies

CS - Chemical stimulation;  D - Drilling and well elements; DDH - Directional drilling or hydraulic fracturing; GWF - Gas injection or water flooding; ISC - In-situ combustion; ME - Mechanical extraction; OU - Other unclassified; RPIE - Reservoir permeability improvement and extraction; SEI - Surface exploration and infrastructure; STI - Steam injection; SUM - Surface or underground mining; TR - Treatment and refinement; UAM - Undefined activation method; URE - Underground reservoir exploration; UTR - Uncommon thermal recovery; WP - Waste processing

Scientific articles and Press releases, etc. accounted for the majority of scientific works in this summary. Separate works are presented in the form of Technical reports, Presentations and reviews. In the content of publications, research data, methodology and modelling, as well as issues related to Infrastructure, Resources, Projects and Legislation etc., represented a significant share of documents. To a lesser extent, issues of Technology and Equipment.

A significant number of publications were published in the magazines, such as Fuel, Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, Science of The Total Environment (ScienceDirect); Energy Fuels, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research (ACS Publication), SPE Journal, SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering (OnePetro), Petroleum Science and Technology (Taylor & Francis Online), as well as Energies (MDPI).