Energy giant BP said yesterday technology it had worked on for 10 years could yield an extra 42million barrels of oil at a huge field west of Shetland.
BP is developing the £4.5billion Clair Ridge project, where it hopes to recover 640million barrels of oil over the next 40 years.
The company said its recoverable reserves estimate would have been lower had it not been for its research into a new enhanced oil recovery (EOR) scheme, which lowers the salt content of seawater for use in extraction.
BP found that using reduced salinity water boosted recovery, and has named the technology LoSal EOR.
Although BP said Clair Ridge would be the first development to use LoSal EOR, it plans to use £75million desalination facilities on all future projects. If used across all developments, the technology could increase net recovery by 700million barrels of oil equivalent.
The company is also assessing the benefit of using it on existing platforms.
Bob Fryar, BP’s executive vice-president for production, said: “LoSal EOR and other technologies developed by BP are increasing the world’s energy supplies, improving recovery rates and getting more for every dollar we invest.
“LoSal EOR has immense potential for increasing the amount of oil recovered from the ground. If it can be successfully applied to similar fields around the world, it would increase the world’s recoverable oil by billions of barrels.”
Offshore operators traditionally use seawater to “waterflood” dwindling oil reservoirs to increase the pressure and improve output.
BP’s EOR technology team found waterflooding with water with a lower salt content was more effective in releasing oil bound to rock miles below the surface of the sea.
Development work at Clair Ridge, where production is expected to begin in 2016, now employs more than 1,000 people after the energy giant signed a series of multimillion-pound deals with contractors.
Canada’s natural resources minister said yesterday that the country did not have enough money to develop its oil resources and needed foreign investment.
Joe Oliver added that Canada would welcome capital from overseas to help it to realise the full potential of its energy reserves. He was responding to questions on China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s proposed £9.7billion acquisition of North Sea operator Nexen, which is Canadian.