Category Archives: Projects, Facilities and Construction

Intelligent Fields Technology

At the 2011 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) in Denver, a panel discussed the question, “10 Years of Digital Energy: What Have We Learned?” Those leading the discussion, mostly experts from major operators and service companies, centered on two main themes:

  • Consolidating and Institutionalizing Successful Patterns
  • Handling of Large, Disparate Data Sets

As an industry, we clearly have moved beyond the heady first years of the digital transformation, where the anticipation from many was that within a few years we would have a consolidated software solution spanning the scope of E&P workflows. While the stories told by such a panel naturally focused more on success cases (particularly for large greenfield applications), what emerges is evidence of large-scale benefits when a company invests in repeating successful patterns at its scale of operation—this is found to be true for both operators and service companies. The clearest examples of such success were on the fundamental aspects of data quality, exception- based surveillance, standardization of human workflows, and large-scale applications of focused software solutions, often having required an investment cycle of at least 5 years. Focusing on the scaling of fundamental aspects to broad application provided significant return while managing risk, with the result of sustaining those programs that delivered benefits. If the human workflow failed to rely on any new technology deployment, any gains found in the first year or two following the deployment were not sustained. So, a simple, “fast follower” approach is unlikely to be successful, unless the follower can adapt the leader’s success to their own culture and processes well.

Of course, the challenges are becoming more complex. Scaling successes from large, greenfield applications (in which initiatives may be justified easily) to brownfields, “difficult oil and gas,” and IOR/EOR will require us to focus more on the “big- data” challenge and the efficient application of qualified data to improve reservoir management through better daily decisions and more-accurate forecasting. In many cases, the problem has moved from a lack of data to an inability to contextualize the available data quickly into a particular decision process. As a result, information relevant to a decision may be available to some extent within the organization, but not easily applied to the decision because it first must be found and qualified, often through an undocumented process, before it can be used.

Once organizations can depend on a service level for qualified data, they can begin to exploit the data by use of established patterns, such as those outlined by the ATCE panelists, and emerging patterns, as illustrated by the papers in this feature.

Read the paper synopses in the May 2012 issue of JPT.

John Hudson, SPE, Senior Production Engineer, Shell, has more than 25 years’ experience in multiphase-flow research, flow-assurance design of deepwater production systems, and development of model-based real-time operations- decision systems. Since joining Shell, he has held technical and managerial positions in Europe and North America, including leading a team that developed a model-based, cloud computing solution that was deployed globally to gas plants with a total production capacity in excess of 10 Bcf/D. Hudson currently provides production-engineering support for the development of a next-generation simulator. He holds a PhD degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois. Hudson serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.

Natural Gas Processing and Handling

In 2010, natural-gas reserves were approximately equivalent to 75% of the oil reserves (including oil sands). Unconventional gas sources continue to make up an increasingly important part of the natural-gas supply, particularly shale gas and coal- bed methane (CBM), which contribute approximately 40% to US natural-gas reserves.

Generally, very remote offshore gas reserves cannot be exploited economically by use of fixed subsea pipelines that tend to link the field with a specific geographical market. Operators can maximize market reach through natural-gas liquefaction and improved marine liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) tankers. For ultimate flexibility, four floating LNG-production facilities are predicted to come on stream within this decade.

Commercial exploitation of the known massive hydrate reserves probably is some time off; however, the chemistry research involved in hydrate management for current natural-gas production may accelerate progress in that area. Hydraulic-water reuse is key to the future of the CBM and shale-gas industries.

There are many opportunities to learn about and share natural-gas technologies. An SPE workshop, “Reducing Environmental Impact of Unconventional Resources Development,” will take place in San Antonio, Texas, 23–25 April 2012. A joint SPE/ SEG workshop, “Injection Induced Seismicity,” will be held in Broomfield, Colora- do, 12–14 September 2012. There will be an SPE “Tight Gas” workshop in Adelaide, Australia, 10–13 June 2012, and the SPE Unconventional Reservoir Technical Interest Group (TIG) provides a useful information exchange, as does the Gas Technology TIG. The 2013 SPE Unconventional Gas Conference and Exhibition will be held in Muscat, Oman, 28–30 January. The 2013 SPE International Symposium on Oilfield Chemis- try to be held in The Woodlands, Texas, 9–13 April, includes topics on gas-processing chemical applications.

Acid-gas (CO2 and H2S) removal from natural gas and sequestration/recovery/ disposal technologies are very important in exploitation of poorer-quality gas finds. Much work continues in this area, and very large acid-gas-removal units are in opera- tion or are planned for the Arabian Gulf region.

The future of natural-gas processing and handling has never looked better.

Read the paper synopses in the April 2012 issue of JPT.

George Hobbs, SPE, is Director, Strategic Chemistry Pty. Ltd., a production consulting group. Previously, he was with Nalco/Exxon, Exxon Chemical Energy Chemicals, NL Treating Chemicals, Baroid, British Gas, Kemira Oy, and Blue Circle Cement. Hobbs has 34 years’ experience in solving oil and gas and geothermal drilling and production problems in Europe, the USA, North Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, and Australasia. He studied at the University of Glasgow, Brunel University, and the University of Adelaide, earning a BS degree in applied chemistry and a Graduate Diploma in business. Hobbs is past Chairperson of the SPE Gas Technology TIG and served on the SPE TIG Advisory Committee. He serves on the SPE Production and Operations Advisory Committee and the JPT Editorial Committee. Hobbs is a Certified Corrosion Specialist and Chemical Treatment Specialist.

April Oil and Gas Facilities now available

The April issue of Oil and Gas Facilities features in-depth articles about decommissioning activities in the Gulf of Mexico and how a systems-wide engineering approach to facilities design helps in the planning for initial startup. View the Table of Contents to see the regular columns and peer-reviewed papers. Subscribers can view the entire issue. Learn more about Oil and Gas Facilities or view the entire first issue.

Offshore Facilities

Last year, we reviewed some of the more-prominent examples of how the industry continues to respond to the need for safe and cost-effective production facilities in ever-more-challenging environments. We also highlighted the increasingly important role that constructive collaboration can play in facilitating the desired outcomes for all parties.

This year, we illustrate how this same theme of constructive collaboration has been applied effectively at the other end of an offshore facility’s life span, in the major decommissioning program for the Frigg field. Most of us are very familiar with the term offshore hookup, but soon we may become equally familiar with what offshore “hookdown” really involves.

We also take a look at an approach for safely extending the useful life of aging offshore- production infrastructure, in locations where the subsea tieback of new fields warrants the associated investment.

Our focus is not entirely on end-of-life scenarios though. New offshore-platform concepts continue to evolve to suit the changing needs of operators. Some of these aim to offer the reduced well cost of fixed structures with the redeployment advantages offered by floating structures.

One of the most challenging new frontiers for the offshore industry and for society at large is the Arctic region. More specifically, it is development of underwater hydrocarbons where the presence of ice affects the nature of the development. Moving into any new frontier first requires gathering sufficient environmental data to be able to predict quantitatively the character and envelope of conditions at that location throughout the field’s production lifetime. We take a look at how these issues are being addressed in the specific case of the proposed Shtokman-field floating production facility.

As we return for this annual JPT Focus on the technology associated with offshore oil/gas facilities, it is timely to mention the launch of the new SPE magazine Oil and Gas Facilities, primarily geared toward the whole offshore-facilities sector. This effort represents a significant initiative to broaden the appeal and relevance of SPE to the wider oil/gas community, and any feedback that you may have in this regard would be welcomed warmly.

Read the synopses in the February 2012 issue of JPT.

Ian G. Ball, SPE, is Technology Director with Intecsea (UK) Ltd. Previously, he was retained by Reliance Industries Ltd Bombay, and was with Shell with assignments in Norway, the UK, and the US Gulf of Mexico. Ball earned a BS degree in electrical engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. He serves on the JPT Editorial Committee and chairs the Editorial Committee of SPE’s new Oil and Gas Facilities magazine, the inaugural edition of which is available this month.

New SPE magazine, Oil and Gas Facilities, now available

John Walsh, Technical Director As SPE Technical Director for Projects, Facilities, and Construction (PFC), I invite you to take a look at Oil and Gas Facilities, SPE’s magazine dedicated to our discipline. Oil and Gas Facilities focuses on the projects, systems, and technologies of facilities engineering. Feature articles give timely reports on PFC-related news, technical advances, and people, and each issue of the magazine includes several peer-reviewed technical papers.

The idea for this magazine was born in a 2011 meeting of our PFC Advisory Committee, made up of industry volunteers and SPE staff. We recognized that SPE is providing many good programs in our discipline—workshops, Distinguished Lecturers, conference sessions, study groups, and so on—but many PFC specialists don’t view SPE as their professional home. This magazine, launched in February 2012, helped change that perception.

We also recognized the dramatic increase in complexity and technical challenges facing our discipline. Several years ago, developments such as major offshore projects, deepwater, and subsea tie-backs provided the justification for the PF&C discipline within SPE. Today, new developments have dramatically increased the demands of our discipline—intense IOR/EOR activity, ultra deep water, subsea processing, unconventional gas (fracturing), stranded gas (gas to liquids, floating LNG), sour hydrocarbons, remote locations, harsh environments, water handling issues, etc. SPE, with guidance from industry leaders, is responding to this greater need for technical information and knowledge sharing in our discipline.

I am delighted to be serving alongside some of the most distinguished professionals in our discipline on the Oil and Gas Facilities Editorial Board: Ian Ball, Technology Director, INTECSEA, UK, chairman; Paul Jones, Subsea Manager, Chevron; Kenneth E. Arnold, Senior Technical Advisor, WorleyParsons; Joseph Lee, Director, Process Solutions Group, Process System Division, Cameron; Howard Duhon, Systems Engineering Manager, GATE LLC; Simon Richards, Supervisory Engineer, Wood Group Frontier; and Jim Collins, Principal Development Engineer, ConocoPhillips (Peer-Review Editor)

SPE members can subscribe to this bimonthly magazine at a special introductory price of USD 39. Subscribe on your 2013 dues statement or, if you have already paid your dues, by ordering a subscription at

Oil and Gas Facilities is the industry’s most important periodical serving production, facilities, and construction professionals. Subscribe now so that you don’t miss a single issue.

John M. Walsh

Reducing the Hidden Costs of Subsea Well Completions

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT/JPT Online Staff Writer

Subsea completions have made it possible to produce oil in remote locations and from smaller reservoirs. But the cost of maintaining them may shorten their productive lives.

“Subsea wells have the same things that go wrong as other wells, but fixing them requires moving in a rig and the cost can often be USD 1 million a day,” said Matthew Law, technical manager of sales and marketing at Expro Ax-s Technology. “Where there is direct access from a production platform, there is generally regular well intervention. As a result, the recoverable reserves are higher.”

Major producers such as BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Statoil, and Shell are among those seeking to cut the cost of deepwater workovers by 50% or more to allow better maintenance. There is no accepted industry average for how much production can be gained from regular interventions. The consensus is that the potential impact on the thousands of subsea completions represents billions of dollars worth of hydrocarbons.

Read the entire article in the January 2012 issue of JPT.

West of Shetland Development Gathers Momentum

John Sheehan, JPT Contributing Editor

BP is ramping up its West of Shetland operations with the UK government approval to push ahead with the second phase of its giant Clair field development, Clair Ridge. Plans to redevelop the Schiehallion and Loyal fields with a new floating production, storage, and offloading vessel (FPSO) are also gathering pace.

The Clair reservoir is the largest known hydrocarbon resource on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), occupying an area of 220 sq km. It is located approximately 75 km west of the Shetland Isles in 459 ft of water. Because of its size and complexity, it is being developed in phases.

Clair Ridge, in UKCS Block 206/8, lies to the northeast of Clair Phase 1 and will be tapped with a pair of bridge-linked platforms–a drilling and production (DP) facilities platform and an accommodation and utilities (QU) platform. The new platforms have a 40-year design life and will require a total capital investment of about GBP 4.5 billion (USD 7.16 billion).

Read the entire article in the December 2011 issue of JPT.

Production Facilities

Every year, SPE organizes more than 30 conferences worldwide. Critical issues of current interest to the oil industry are reflected in the SPE papers presented at these conferences. When selecting papers for this feature, I was not surprised that many papers deal with topics related to safety in facilities design and to asset integrity.

With recent publicized accidents and the industry’s continuing concern about its public image, operating companies are focusing on process safety and improving asset integrity, and are addressing these issues early in facilities design. Indeed, it can be argued that enhancing safety performance and dealing with the increased environmental risks remain the key challenges facing the industry today. Some concepts relevant to these topics are briefly outlined.

Asset integrity can be defined as the ability of the asset to perform its required function effectively and efficiently while managing health, safety, and the environment. In this context, asset integrity refers to hydrocarbon systems and includes support systems and infrastructure, such as platform structures.

Critical safety elements are those systems and equipment that prevent, control, or mitigate major accidents. They include elements such as pressure-relief valves, shutdown systems, fire- and gas-detection systems, and firefighting equipment.

Safety instrumented systems (SISs)—since its publication in 2003, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61511 standard is becoming the basis for the specifications and implementation of SISs in the oil industry. Initially, the industry was relatively slow to adopt this standard. A dilemma facing operating companies is what to do about the existing shutdown safety systems that were installed before 2003 and that are not in compliance with IEC 61511.

Papers selected for this feature along with those recommended for additional reading highlight industry progress in these issues. I hope that they will be of interest to you.

Read the paper synopses in the December 2011 issue of JPT.

Hisham Saadawi, SPE, is Vice President (Engineering) for Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO). He has more than 30 years’ experience in the design, construction, startup, and operation of oil- and gas-processing facilities. Saadawi’s current areas of interest include multiphase pumping, CO2 enhanced oil recovery, technical safety, as well as training and development. He is a recipient of the 2011 SPE Regional Projects, Facilities, and Construction Award. Saadawi is a 2010-2011 SPE Distinguished Lecturer and an SPE course instructor. He has served on several committees and subcommittees of SPE conferences and workshops, and he serves on the JPT Editorial Committee. Saadawi holds a PhD degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Manchester, UK, and is a Chartered Engineer in the UK.