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Kern River Field: Framework and Future of an Old Giant

Jim Swartz1, Larry Knauer2, Jim Eacmen1, Al Hunter1, and Jerry McNaboe1
1Chevron, 9525 Camino Media, Bakersfield, CA 93311
2Chevron, 1546 China Grade Loop, Bakersfield, CA 93308

2007 marked a historic date for the Kern River Field as it produced its 2 Billionth Barrel of oil after 109 years of production. Estimated to have over 3.5 billion barrels of Original Oil in Place, the field was a sleeping giant until the late 1960’s when steam flooding began and oil production ramped up from 19,000 BOPD to over 142,000 BOPD by the mid 1980s. Kern River Field is now in decline, but still produces over 80,000 BOPD, making it one of the largest onshore oil producers in the lower 48 States. Since discovery, over 16,000 wells have been drilled in the field with additional drilling continuing today. Nearly all production from the Field is heavy oil, produced from the braided stream channels of the Kern River Formation. Average oil gravity is 13 deg API and average viscosity is 4,000 cp at initial reservoir temperature. The top of the reservoir is 100’ to 1000’ below the surface. Porosities range from 29-33% and permeabilities generally fall in the 1 to 8 Darcy range. Nine producing zones are recognized in the stratigraphic column with additional stratigraphic complexity introduced by the braided stream environment. Though the oil production is in decline, new opportunities are continuing to be identified and exploited using a broad array of observation wells. The primary tool utilized for both tactical and strategic planning are geostatistical 3D earth models to effectively use the large volume of well information. Most recently, the application of horizontal wells has proven to be effective for late life oil recovery. In addition, a project is under way to reduce the reservoir pressure from the underlying aquifer in order to allow more effective heating and production from some areas of the lower zones that were previously bypassed during development of the field core. Efficient management of the field will enable it to continue to be a key producing asset well into the future.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90076©2008 AAPG Pacific Section, Bakersfield, California