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Wintershall sends out a positive signal for domestic crude oil and natural gas production
- Opening of the new global drill core warehouse in Barnstorf, Lower Saxony, underlines the future viability of oil and gas as energy sources
- Seele: "Domestic production makes an important contribution to supply security and the development of globally recognized technology and environmental standards"
Domestic production is becoming increasingly significant in the global race for crude oil and natural gas. Natural gas produced in Germany covers about 15 percent of the country's overall requirements - this equals the annual consumption of more than six million single-family homes. At the same time, the very demanding geological and legal conditions in Germany mean that the domestic production of oil and gas also creates continuous innovation, which also makes its mark internationally. "Domestic production is indispensable, for supply security begins on our own doorstep," Rainer Seele, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of Wintershall, said today at the opening ceremony of the new global drill core warehouse at the company's operations in Barnstorf. "Our work here in Germany also forms the basis for innovation and advanced technology with which we can prosper globally and forge international partnerships," Dr Seele explained.
This is complemented by our world-renowned expertise in handling strict environmental standards on a daily basis. However, it is not just consumers and companies that benefit from local production; but also the German states and the municipalities. "The oil and gas companies are an important employer there and often the largest trade tax contributors," Seele said.
About 95 percent of Germany's natural gas production and a large share of domestic crude oil come from Lower Saxony. "Our activities in and around Barnstorf make a key contribution to Germany's energy supply and to the research that Germany needs," Dr Seele explained. The crude oil works in Barnstorf in Lower Saxony, where there are over 350 employees, are at the center of Wintershall's exploration and production activities. Today's opening ceremony for the global drill core warehouse reinforces the central role of Barnstorf.
Barnstorf - Center of domestic production
"With our new drill core warehouse, we are bringing the expertise of our global activities closer together in Barnstorf," the Wintershall CEO explained. To this end, a new warehouse was built at a cost of more than a million euros, and which can now hold more than 70,000 meters of drill cores from all round the world. These rock samples come from the global research and production activities of Wintershall and will be stored and analyzed properly in Barnstorf. According to Seele, the new drill core warehouse is a clear sign of the future viability of oil and gas, particularly in Germany, and of the Barnstorf operations: "After all, even if we are active and travel all round the world, Barnstorf is the home of our production activities," he explained.
Potential for expanding natural gas production in Barnstorf
For Dr Seele there is major future potential in natural gas production at the Barnstorf site, especially in the project "Düste Z 10". The exploration well of the same name was completed in May 2012. Experts at Wintershall are currently analyzing the geology of the rock samples gathered and the results of the physical tests to see whether the assumed recoverable reserves of about ten billion cubic meters of natural gas can actually be extracted. "If they can, Wintershall could continue producing natural gas at the Barnstorf site for several more decades," Joachim Pünnel, Head of Wintershall's activities in Germany, said. If successful, the entire reservoir in the district of Diepholz could be developed from 2015.
The gas deposit contains so-called tight gas, which is stored in layers of rock deep underground made of compact sandstone, and can be produced with the hydraulic fracturing method. Wintershall has already been producing tight gas in Lower Saxony for more than 30 years with the help of this tried-and-tested technology - as well as in the Netherlands, Russia and Argentina. Seele explained that what was important in the use of this method was ensuring the technology was also compatible with ecological considerations. Wintershall works with high environmental standards as a matter of principle and ensures a maximum level of environmental protection and transparency by means of a voluntary commitment. An application to the State Mining Office is currently being prepared.
Pilot project: a mushroom helps raise oil production rates
Owing to the geologically demanding conditions at the production sites, domestic production also represents a source of innovation for new technologies for Wintershall. The company now plans to increase crude oil production with the help of a mushroom. When it absorbs starch and oxygen, the "split gill fungus" generates a biopolymer which can be used as a thickening agent for oil production. The gelatin-like substance thickens the water that is injected into the reservoir during production. This aims to extract more oil from the reservoir - and to do so in an environmentally sound way, because this biopolymer is biologically degradable.
After researching and testing the biopolymer Schizophyllan in the lab together with BASF in the last few years, from late summer 2012 Wintershall will assess whether it is suitable for enhanced oil recovery with a practical test in the field Bockstedt near Barnstorf. The findings will provide information on whether the biopolymer can cope with the difficult conditions in crude oil reservoirs in practice.
Innovation with tradition: steam flooding technique in Emlichheim
The spirit of innovation at Wintershall is also associated with another operations site in Lower Saxony: Emlichheim. Wintershall has been producing crude oil from the reservoir here for almost 70 years. Production will continue until 2035 at least. This long production lifetime is partly due to another highly effective innovation: the combination of horizontal drilling and steam flooding. In this process the oil in the reservoir is heated with hot steam, which makes it thinner and easier to extract. "Even if domestic production only covers three percent of Germany's overall requirements at the moment, in Germany we are developing knowhow that we can export worldwide," the Wintershall CEO explained.
The crude oil works in Barnstorf in Lower Saxony are the center of Wintershall's exploration and production activities. This is where crucial knowhow on drilling and production techniques is obtained - and then applied internationally, too. The crude oil works produce around one million tons of crude oil and about 900,000 million cubic meters of natural gas per year. Wintershall employs over 350 staff at the Barnstorf operations.
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