SPE Technology Updates

Industry and Society news grouped by SPE technical discipline

Multilateral/Extended Reach

Mitigating Risks in Development Projects

Our industry has been involved in incidents that demonstrated the need of a new approach for evaluating and mitigating the risks in well construction.

The “what’s worked well in the past” conservative approach is not possible anymore, in face of the damaged trust of the public about upstream activity. Though the criticism soars against exploration and production activities, the industry has allocated substantial investments in research for new technologies aimed to preclude risk events of recent years. New procedures and technologies, in addition to existing ones, will be deployed in the near future to eliminate blowouts or underground contamination from upstream operations.

The initial results can be seen in field operations such as the application of managed-pressure drilling (MPD) for offshore and onshore, the use of long horizontals or extended reach in the shale plays, and new fluids and techniques for fracture treatments that minimize the amount of water required in such operations.

The effects of drilling operations in the shale plays of the USA are clear, but recent research will result in a consistent reduction of environmental damage. Research is minimizing fluid losses into reservoirs and helping with mitigation of well-control situations when applying the MPD technique.

The use of nanotechnology will provide fluids that improve fracture treatments through the control of fluid losses, with a subsequent reduction in the amount of fresh water required. Today, an average fracture treatment in the Barnett shale requires 235,000 bbl of water. These treatments are essential to reduce the number of wells and to improve the performance of the fracture treatments for environmental-impact reduction.

The use of extended-reach drilling or long horizontal wells, combined with multilaterals, will reduce the number of wells without impairing expected production. This will mitigate the effect on aquifers or shallow formations with a reduction in surface infrastructure. Some of the papers featured or listed for reading show advances in the technology of extended-reach and multilateral wells that will help achieve such objectives.

Finally, the combined use of extended-reach and multilateral wells, nanotechnology fluids, and MPD will result in a more environmentally-friendly operation with a cost-effective development plan, which is essential for improving the industry’s image.

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

Alvaro Felippe Negrão, SPE, is Senior Advisor for Woodside Energy USA. Previously, he was with Repsol, Halliburton, and Petrobras. In his 33-year career, Negrão has been involved in drilling and completion engineering and operations for wells in deepwater Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, the North Sea, West Africa, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and North/South America and in new-ventures evaluation and asset management. He has served on several SPE committees and currently serves on the JPT Editorial Committee and serves as vice chairperson for the SPE Subcommittee for the Offshore Technology Conference. Negrão holds a BS degree in civil engineering from the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, an MS degree in petroleum engineering from the Universidade de Campinas in Brazil, and a PhD degree in petroleum engineering from Louisiana State University.

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.

Deepwater Projects

No word defines deepwater projects better than “innovation,” and on 25 February 2012, one of the most innovative field-development projects came on stream: Cas- cade and Chinook (C&C) in the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM). One well is producing from Cascade to the first floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel in the US GOM. The project brings several firsts and innovations that will be available to the entire oil industry in the near future. I would like to call attention to some of those innovations. First, the FPSO uses a detachable buoy that allows early installation of the buoy and all umbilicals before arrival of the FPSO. This feature will allow the FPSO to disconnect and sail away from hurricanes, avoiding damages to the facilities. C&C also presents the first freestanding riser in the US GOM. Subsea boosting will increase production and reduce workover costs. These examples are just a few that show inno- vation applied to a deepwater development. I believe strongly that C&C will lead the way for future development of Lower Tertiary plays in the GOM.

I selected one paper for this feature that describes the planning, logistics, and technology of the two largest deepwater high-pressure perforation jobs executed suc- cessfully in the GOM; certainly, this provides very interesting reading if your company is in the Tertiary play or is planning to be.

Drilling management in deep water has always been a great challenge because of several constraints, including high cost; well engineering (exploratory wells); logistics (remote locations); health, safety, and environmental (local and international laws); licenses; and personnel management. One of the papers presents a very objective and clear explanation of the well-management process, describing the design methodolo- gy and the well-execution procedures used by Petrobras International in a remote and challenging area. This methodology can be applied to any well and could bring huge benefits for any drilling operation.

Are you lost in a “cloud” of drilling data? You are not the only one! Drilling-data management is one of the biggest challenges in our industry today. One of the feature papers presents solutions, gives examples, and shows the benefits of a correct use of drilling data.

Enjoy your reading.

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

Jacques Braile Saliés, SPE, is the Drilling Manager of Queiroz
Galvão E&P. His 30-year career at Petrobras included various engineering and management positions in E&P: coordination of the Petrobras Technological Program on Ultradeepwater Exploitation Systems— PROCAP 3000, drilling manager for Petrobras America, and well operation manager for Petrobras International. Saliés holds a BS degree in mechanical engineering from the Military Institute of Engineering, Brazil, an MS degree in petroleum engineering from the Federal University of Ouro Petro, Brazil; and a PhD degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Tulsa. He has authored or coauthored several papers on drilling and subsea technology. Saliés served several terms on the SPE Board of Directors for the Brazil Section and serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.

SPE Economics & Management Volume 4, Number 2 Available Online

i-field™ Programs Enable Operational Excellence in a Challenging Environment–Pushing the Limits of Large Data Transfer for Real-Time Monitoring and Surveillance Operations in San Joaquin Valley.
Andrei Popa, SPE, and Steve Cassidy, SPE, Chevron Corporation

Proactive Indicators To Control Risks in Operations of Oil and Gas Fields
S.O. Johnsen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and SINTEF, E. Okstad, SINTEF, Andreas L. Aas, JBV, and T. Skramstad, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Intelligent Exploration and Appraisal Program for a Multiprospect Development
Pierre Delfiner, SPE, PetroDecisions

Regulated Self-Regulation or External Control? Effects of Different Legislative Approaches in the Petroleum Sector in Norway and Brazil
Celma Regina Hellebust, Hellebust International Consultant, and Geir Sverre Braut, SPE, Norwegian Board of Health Supervision and Stord/Haugesund University College

Using the SPE/WPC/AAPG/SPEE/SEG PRMS To Evaluate Unconventional Resources
Phillip Chan, SPE, Chance Petroleum Limited; John R. Etherington, SPE, PRA International; and Roberto Aguilera, SPE, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary

For the latest content, visit http://www.spe.org/go/speem/

History Matching and Forecasting

Many reservoir engineers dislike the very idea of automatic history match- ing applied to real full-field studies. They believe there is no artificial substitute for experienced reasoning, deep understanding of the reservoir mechanisms, and atten- tion to real-life practical aspects of the problem. Some use terms such as art and intu- ition. For them, even if computers long ago learned to play chess, computers will never be able to perform real-case history matching on their own or at least they are still too far from this achievement. Very often, during technical sessions, immediately fol- lowing an advanced mathematical presentation on history matching, someone in the audience makes his or her point about the limits of automatic approaches. To avoid disputes, experienced speakers prefer less pretentious expressions such as assisted or semiautomatic history matching.

Indeed, history matching can be seen as a two-step iterative process, normal- ly requiring many cycles to be completed. Broadly speaking, the first step is about analysis and setting the problem parameters, and the second step is about search- ing for and computing solutions. We start our discussion with the second part, which has a more obvious algorithmic nature. There has being a great deal of research and progress in this area. The ensemble Kalman filter is dominating the scene, but gradi- ent-based methods and global-optimization stochastic methods are attracting mer- ited attention. Most published contributions come from universities, and, typical- ly, papers include examples to demonstrate successful algorithm application. These examples can be simple synthetic or somewhat-more-realistic cases, but the discus- sion is naturally focused on the solution method and not on the entire problem as found in the field.

The first part of the problem is less mathematized, for now, and involves essen- tial tasks such as to be clear about the practical purposes and requirements in the par- ticular context; to have a full understanding of the quality of the reservoir model and the production data; to design or redesign well-justified objective functions; to set adequate parameterization, considering the main uncertainties and their effect on the simulation results; to represent properly and sample the uncertainty space; and to evaluate results from the previous steps of the history-matching process judiciously. Unfortunately, the strategies used to consider this part of the problem are much less discussed and documented. In fact, many of these tasks are open to further formal- ization and, ultimately, can be automated also. We definitely need more papers illu- minating these other aspects of the reservoir-engineering problem, instead of relying on intuition.

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

Régis Kruel Romeu, SPE, is a Senior Consultant at Petrobras Research Center (CENPES) in Rio de Janeiro. With 31 years’ experience in petroleum engineering, he has worked mostly in reservoir- characterization and -simulation applied research. Romeu’s main activities and areas of interest are heterogeneities representation, scale up, history matching and optimization, integrated reservoir studies, coordination of research projects, relationship with Brazilian universities, and reservoir studies related to Brazilian presalt fields. He holds a BS degree in civil engineering from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; an MS degree in petroleum engineering from Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Brazil; and a PhD degree in quantitative geosciences from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. Romeu has served as Editor for SPE Res Eval & Eng and serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.

High-Pressure/High-Temperature Challenges

Exciting operations are ongoing on the shallow-water US offshore continen- tal shelf (OCS) that will influence the entire high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/HT) community going forward. McMoran and their operating partners are actively drill- ing, evaluating, testing, and bringing to production several deep HP/HT plays. These prospects are named in the Treasure Island theme with identities such as Davy Jones, Blackbeard, and Lafitte. The Davy Jones 1 is in the completion phase, incorporating multiple Eocene Wilcox sands, and it represents the first 25,000-psi completion of its kind in the world. The Davy Jones 2 encountered confirmed pay and is progressing well. The original Blackbeard well was taken to 32,997-ft total depth, and operations on Blackbeard East have been permitted to 34,000 ft. As with Davy Jones, these wells represent substantial extensions to or step changes in current HP/HT technologies.

To address the substantial engineering challenges associated with these wells, the operator formed a significant project team and is drawing on the expertise of several vendors in a collaborative manner to make the many advances necessary in HP/HT drilling and completion procedures and in production equipment and proce- dures. Downhole tools have been upgraded to 30,000 psi and 500°F. It will take con- siderable effort to catalog all of the “industry firsts” and “Serial-Number 1s” associat- ed with these ongoing operations. Both Davy Jones wells are expected to be flow tested and put on production later this year.

HP/HT continues to be of international interest, with global operations ongoing from the North Sea, to Latin America, to the Middle East, and of course in the “ring- of-fire” regions in Southeast Asia. Operators, service companies, equipment suppli- ers, drilling contractors, and other involved parties share a common goal of address- ing the many HP/HT challenges successfully and in a safe and efficient manner. These goals create a need to exchange information effectively, openly share lessons learned, and embrace a collaborative spirit that respects the competitive nature of business while valuing the shared interest that we all have in safe and reliable operations. Thus, the industry looks forward to learning more from the success of these HP/HT step changes in the US OCS ventures and from advances in other HP/HT operations around the globe.

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

Mike Payne, SPE, is a Senior Advisor in BP’s Exploration and Production Technology group. He has 29 years’ experience including drilling operations, computing technology, and consulting. Payne holds BS and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from Rice University, an MS degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Houston, and an Executive Business Education degree from the University of Chicago. He has extensive industry publications and has held key leadership positions with the American Petroleum Institute and the International Organization for Standardization. Payne has been an SPE Distinguished Lecturer and received the SPE International Drilling Engineering Award in 2000. He has chaired or cochaired several SPE Advanced Technology Workshops and 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.

Offshore Drilling and Completion

In the 2 years since the Macondo incident, we have seen a lot of action toward new regulations, procedures, and norms to be implemented in an attempt to reduce the risks of those tragic events happening again. But the industry did not stop working; wells were drilled and completed, even in the Gulf of Mexico after the long period of inactivity. As expected, we saw a big focus on subsea-equipment testing and procedures and on needed equipment improvements. But we also saw many reports highlighting improved operational performance, confirming that the industry continues with significant activity.

We should work proactively with the public and regulators to bring a framework that will lead to a safer environment for everyone. And we should not be happy with just more paperwork that may not bring needed effective improvement. For obvious reasons, the first step has been focused on the equipment responsible for providing the last barrier of protection, the blowout preventer (BOP). One paper describes BOP upgrades, and another one discusses software-based deepwater-BOP testing. We all must recognize that there has not been a significant advance in terms of BOP testing in
the last 30 years. We are still relying, most of the time, on the old paper disks to record tests and on forms filled in by hand to confirm the pressure and duration of the tests prepared on each component tested. We should do much better than that.

The third paper highlights the drilling campaign in a promising offshore area in Brazil. But do not forget the underground blowout that leaked oil into the ocean offshore Brazil a few months ago, reminding us that continuous improvement of all offshore operations must take place. The alternative is that we again will face setbacks like those in the Gulf of Mexico after the Macondo accident.

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

Helio Santos, SPE, is President of Safekick Limited. In his 29 years in the industry, Santos worked as a Drilling Engineer for Petrobras both onshore and offshore and led several projects in the Research and Development Center. He also was with Impact Engineering Solutions as Vice-President of Technology, President of Impact Solutions Group, and President of Secure Drilling, which was acquired by Weatherford. Santos earned BS and MS degrees in civil engineering from Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and a PhD degree in geological engineering from the University of Oklahoma. He has authored several SPE papers, holds two patents, has served on SPE conference and Advanced Technology Workshop committees, and serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.