asked the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what research he is sponsoring to improve capability in North Sea oil projects, such as the use of steam to reduce viscosity of oil; and if he will make a statement;(2) whether he is funding experimental work in the fracturing of rock, with a view to improving the flow potential of oil at great depths.
The Department has, under the aegis of the Offishore Energy Technology Board, initiated a relatively modest programme of research which is being undertaken by a group based at the Atomic Energy Establishment at Winfrith and at a number of universities. The work at Winfrith has concentrated on defining the most promising areas for research which might suit the conditions likely to be experienced in the North Sea and seeing how this might link in with work already undertaken within the industry industry itself.It is the intention that the programme of work which emerges from these preliminary studies be carried out in close co-operation with the oil industry and include fundamental work appropriate to the universities. The programme is expected to get under way later this year. The use of steam will be one technique studied but this will have a relatively low priority at this stage. It is not the intention to carry out any experimental work in the fracturing of rocks; methods for fracturing are not of general interest for North Sea reservoirs.