Wintershall is continuing to invest in domestic oil production: Germany's largest crude oil and natural gas producer is now drilling the first of 16 new wells at its Emlichheim operations on the German-Dutch border. In the next five years the company plans to sink twelve horizontal and four vertical wells in total. The new wells will also be supplemented with 13 extended reach wells at existing production sites. More than 60 million euros have been earmarked for these investments. The wholly owned BASF subsidiary currently produces around 140,000 tons of crude oil a year in Emlichheim. "With the new wells we will be able to maintain this level of production to at least 2016," Joachim Pünnel, Head of Wintershall's activities in Germany explained. "But this doesn't rule out other projects in Emlichheim either." On the basis of current calculations Emlichheim will continue to contribute to Germany's crude oil supply for at least another 20 years.
The production site in the county of Bentheim is one of Winterhall's traditional production operations in Germany. The company has been producing crude oil there for 65 years - a challenging task compared to producing in other oil regions of the world because the oil in Emlichheim is extremely viscous and therefore more difficult to extract. Wintershall uses a special method to recover the oil: steam at a temperature of 300 °C is injected into the deposit at high pressure, which warms the oil embedded in the rock, making it less viscous and therefore easier to produce.
Innovative production techniques boost production operations and know-how
"By applying steam flooding technology we can keep production in Emlichheim stable at around 140,000 tons of crude oil per year," Pünnel explained. Wintershall has applied and constantly developed this sophisticated steam flooding technology in Emlichheim since 1981. This has allowed the unusually long plateau production phase in international comparison. "With the help of steam flooding technology in combination with the enhanced oil recovery method of horizontal drilling we will be able to increase the ultimate recovery factor of the Emlichheim deposit to over 40 percent," Pünnel said.
Innovative technologies like this are becoming increasingly important in the production of oil and gas. They can help to significantly extend the life of existing older oil fields. Oil and gas fields in Germany are not easy to develop because of the difficult geological conditions. "Compared to production in operations abroad, production in Germany is often only possible with considerable additional expenditure and special techniques," Pünnel explained. However, the expertise that Wintershall acquires in exploration and production in Germany enhances the company's technical competence and is applied to international projects too.
Production in Germany
The proportion of crude oil produced in Germany compared to overall consumption is relatively low - domestic production of about 3 million tons covers just three percent of demand in Germany - but any production "on one's own doorstep" enhances supply security. A large proportion of overall production in Germany is produced by Wintershall - from 15 oil fields in total. Wintershall is also active in the production of natural gas in Germany, currently from 35 gas fields. The annual consumption of natural gas in Germany is about 100 billion cubic meters, with domestic production accounting for about 15 percent of this figure.
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