Maybe give that bacteria that’s downhole some vitamins. Or pump that field gas back into the well. Soak the hole with CO₂? Soak it in water? Give it some water with a field-gas chaser?

The right recipe for unconventional-rock EOR remains elusive. But operators—from the Bakken to the Eagle Ford to the Permian Basin—are looking at all the formulae yet imaginable. They’ve started with what conven­tional-rock formations seem to like. Most of it works at least a bit; some of it doesn’t work for very long. And, then, there’s the cost of this method vs. that method—and in contrast to what additional oil it nets. In addition, the math has to factor for production lost while the well is offline during treatment.

Ultimately, though, the perfect cocktail will boost wells’ EUR by a worthwhile fraction—without an operator paying for another hole at a cost of another 640 acres, 20,000 feet of pipe, dozens of frack stag­es, thousands of barrels (bbl) of water and hundreds of tons of sand.

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