Oil and Gas

Increasing Domestic Oil and Gas Recovery through New Information and Technologies

At Western Michigan University’s Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education, ground-breaking research by faculty and students has had a significant positive impact on increasing domestic oil and gas supplies.

The Michigan Basin is one of America's 25 "priority" basins, as defined by the United States Geological Survey. These basins collectively contain 90 to 95 percent of the nation's known and undiscovered hydrocarbon resources.  Michigan has produced about 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 5.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas over the past 75 years. Petroleum production in the state has been declining steadily in recent years as known oil fields are depleted.  As with many other basins in the United States, primary recovery efforts develop only a relatively small fraction of the hydrocarbons in place, typically leaving 50 to 75 percent of the total hydrocarbons in the ground.

Combined with our extensive collection of cores, cuttings and well records, our 3-D modeling software at MGRRE will help us to better understand the distribution of these reservoirs underground, leading to more production from known domestic reservoirs, rather than having to search for new deposits of hydrocarbons, or increase imports to satisfy the nation’s hydrocarbon needs.

We present our results and techniques through a series of workshops for professionals and at regional and national geoscience conferences. By applying these technologies, companies from Michigan and around the country will be able to increase hydrocarbon recovery from newly discovered reservoirs as well as maximize recovery of bypassed or stranded hydrocarbons in existing fields. The impact of this research includes:

  • Economic benefits of more cost-efficient oil and gas exploration and recovery.
  • Smaller companies can operate more productively.
  • Increased employment.
  • Increased revenue to property owners.
  • Increased royalties to the state, which are channeled into new recreation areas through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
  • Reduced negative impact on environmentally sensitive areas through less drilling.
  • Reduced dependency on foreign oil.

Research Projects and Partnerships

Research Partnership to Supply Energy for America: This project was focused on evaluating the relationship between fracture-related dolomite and dolomite constrained by primary rock fabric in the three most prolific reservoir intervals in the Michigan Basin: the Dundee (Devonian), the Trenton/Black River (Ordovician) and the Niagaran (Silurian).

Midwest Region Carbon Sequestration Partnership: We are research partners in the MRCSP, working to store CO2 underground while producing more domestic energy.  After completing geological mapping and reservoir analyses for formations throughout Michigan, an excellent site was delineated in northern Michigan where field tests, well drilling, core analysis and reservoir tests have been conducted. Continued work includes establishing a monitoring and verification system to assess the effectiveness of CO2 sequestration and long-term storage, working with regulators and property owners, and public awareness through outreach and education.

Recent Formation-Specific Research

Recent Devonian Carbonate Reservoir Research

These are some of the most productive units in the Michigan Basin with over 560 million barrels of oil and 175 BCF of natural gas produced from nearly 500 separate reservoirs since 1925: