There are signs that shales in Japan could harbor commercially viable oil and gas reserves.
Test drilling by Japex (Japan Petroleum Exploration Co) has demonstrated the presence of oil-bearing shales in the Ayukawa prospect located in the Akita prefecture (district).
Japan is desperately trying to diversify its approach to energy which has for several decades been largely dependent on oil, gas and coal imports, plus nuclear-based power generation. There is severely limited domestic oil and gas production.
However, hopes are high that shales (onshore) and gas hydrates formations (offshore) can be successfully tapped.
The lethal combination of a still weak economy coupled with the Fukushima nuclear disaster have served to drive home to need for alternative domestic solutions to the nation’s mounting energy bill.
Having drilled a well at Ayukawa, Japex succeeded in obtaining oil by pumping hydrochloric acid into the target shales some 1,800m below ground.
Shale oil was confirmed after the produced, acidized fluids were put through a centrifugal separator. The trial lasted four days.
Japex pumped 141,600 liters of fluid into the Ayukawa-1 well and had recovered just over 52,000 liters of fluids by early on day four of the trial, of which 6,900 liters was oil.
The company is currently analyzing the oil sample obtained and plans to drill a further well in April. A horizontal well is being contemplated. The company is also investigating possible means of extracting the oil other than by acidization.
The company estimates shale oil deposits at Ayukawa and neighboring prospects to be around 5million barrels. The Akita prefecture resource base could be as large as 100 million barrels oil equivalent, which approximates to 10% of Japan’s annual oil consumption.
Conventional oil reserves were estimated to be around 44 million barrels early last year.
In 2011, Japan’s total oil production was roughly 130,000 barrels per day of which only 5,000 barrels per day was crude oil.