SPE Technology Updates

Industry and Society news grouped by SPE technical discipline

Seismic Applications

Following an increased investment in advanced seismic solutions, we have
experienced some remarkable boundary shifts in seismic-data quality in recent years.
Significant improvements have been achieved in densely sampled wide-azimuth seismic
acquisition and in wave-equation-based imaging techniques, such as full-waveform
inversion and reverse time-migration, in processing. Also, emerging marine
broadband-seismic solutions promise a real step change in resolution, offering
unprecedented detail in subsurface interpretation and enhanced penetration of low
frequencies for deep imaging.

Massive changes are also happening in the amount of data being acquired,
leading to new challenges in processing and interpretation. The channel count for
onshore-acquisition systems continues to increase, and new records have been set in
the towing capacity of marine-seismic vessels. These continuing developments enable
efficient acquisition of larger and denser surveys with longer offsets and rich azimuth
data. However, these developments generally are also associated with an increased
footprint that must be managed both operationally and environmentally.

It is, therefore, evident that not all new techniques can be ported easily to all environments.
Adequate solutions must be chosen from the growing geophysical toolbox,
balancing technical aspects with operational constraints and business requirements.
Large-scale regional exploration surveys in environmentally sensitive or remote areas
can differ significantly from detailed surveys required for infill-drilling targets. Flexible
and scalable survey techniques are particularly important to enable smart data
acquisition in areas where access had been notoriously difficult because of environmental,
operational, or economic restrictions.

This seismic feature provides examples for ongoing boundary shifts in seismic
technologies complemented by a guide for the interpretation of microseismic data
and a pilot study about pushing time-lapse seismic monitoring toward carbonate reservoirs.
A common element of the documented successes is continued commitment to
and investment in technology and a close integration with business.

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

Gerd Kleemeyer, SPE, leads the Integrated Geophysical Services team in Shell’s Global Solutions Upstream organization in Rijswijk, the Netherlands. During 17 years with Shell, he has worked on exploration and development projects in the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and Russia, and as geophysical consultant for global new-venture exploration. Kleemeyer holds an MS degree from the Technical University of Clausthal, Germany, and he serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.

Heavy Oil

The rapid growth in interest and in development activities related to unconventional oil and gas resources, including heavy oil, is clearly evident throughout the industry. One outcome has been a tremendous increase in the number of SPE papers written this past year on various topics associated with development and recovery optimization of heavy-oil reservoirs. Another is that petroleum-engineering departments at many more universities worldwide are actively engaged in teaching courses and performing research related directly to viscous- and/or heavy-oil recovery.

One topic in particular has gained more attention: development and application of enhanced thermal-recovery methods that use various solvents as a means to improve recovery and to reduce operating costs significantly relative to conventional thermal projects. Continued knowledge development in this subject area through a combination of reservoir-scale physics and chemical-process analysis, simulation capability advancement, laboratory testing, and field-piloting work is needed to enable operators to design and implement these methods effectively and commercially, especially for viable development of thinner, lower-quality heavy-oil reservoirs. One synopsis paper and a reading paper were selected to provide further insights regarding the potential and the challenges associated with the use of solvent-recovery techniques in such applications.

The other papers were chosen to illustrate the variety and significance of the challenges operators may encounter in assessing and/or pursuing the development of heavy-oil reservoirs under different settings and conditions. These include various problems that had to be dealt with during testing of a heavy-oil well in an offshore location; the many planning issues, design tradeoffs, and performance considerations associated with the sequencing and conversion of a heavy-oil-field development from cold to hot production; the difficulties experienced in planning and conducting
pilot operations in a high-viscosity oil field overlain by thick permafrost in the Russian Arctic; and the ability to achieve adequate recovery with steaming of fractured carbonate reservoirs.

Recent literature also describes several interesting technology developments, modeling studies, and field-trial activities related to the use of in-situ combustion and electrical-heating methods as alternative heavy-oil-recovery techniques. Several additional papers present results from investigations of CO2 injection into heavyoil or bitumen reservoirs to achieve both improved oil recovery and greenhouse-gas sequestration, while many others describe new developments and/or field experiences involving waterflooding and polymer flooding of heavy-oil reservoirs. The many papers written on these topics can be sourced through OnePetro.

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

Cam Matthews, SPE, is Director–New Technology Ventures for C-FER Technologies, organizing R&D programs related to production operations and drilling and completions. He holds five patents on drilling and production processes. Matthews earned BS and MSc degrees in civil engineering from the University of
Manitoba and the University of Alberta, respectively. He serves as a Director of the SPE R&D Technical Section, on two ad hoc SPE Board committees, and on the JPT Editorial Committee.

Production Operations

At the 2011 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in Denver, there were many interesting discussions on shale-gas (and/or liquid-rich) resources. While already an important part of the industry, we are just beginning to identify some of the challenges with these resources and how best to deal with them. With hydraulic fracturing being an integral part of these operations, one area of focus is how to optimize the well geometry and the fracturing treatment to achieve long-term production and high ultimate recovery. Nevertheless, two other key considerations concern where to obtain the huge volumes of water that are required for these fracturing jobs, and what water treatment is required to ensure a safe and problem-free operation. With the need to rely less and less on fresh surface water to minimize the environmental effects, operators have been forced to explore other options, including finding suitable aquifers and/or water-recycling technologies. Some of the papers featured in this issue (or listed as additional reading) illustrate some of these challenges and how companies are trying to address them.

During this last year, we also saw an increase in the use of inflow-control devices in conjunction with horizontal wells in a variety of applications throughout the world. One of the most interesting developments is that of the so-called “autonomous” devices, which should be capable of adjusting themselves on basis of the type of fluid flowing through them (i.e., applying more choking to less-viscous fluids such as water and gas). There also have been interesting advancements in sandface-monitoring systems, as illustrated in two of the papers in the reading list.

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

Francisco J.S. Alhanati, SPE, is Director of Exploration & Production for C-FER Technologies. Previously, he was with Petrobras. Most of Alhanati’s 29-year career has been in applied R&D related to well construction and production operations. He has served on several SPE committees, as an SPE Distinguished Lecturer, and as a Technical Reviewer for the SPE Journal, and he serves on the JPT Editorial Committee. Alhanati holds a PhD degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Tulsa.

Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic Fracturing: 2012 and Beyond

It is a good time to be in the oil industry. The rig count, drilling activity, and oil prices are high, and shale plays are a significant reason for each. And, because it is shale, it is an especially good time to be a completion engineer!

Even though we have been able to make these unconventional reservoirs economic by drilling horizontal wells and by multistage fracturing, it is important for us to realize (especially with low gas prices) that there is still plenty to learn about shale fracing (not spelled “fracking”). Buzz words fly around the industry: complex fractures, brittle vs. ductile shale, proppant transport in slickwater, and more. Each is a start, but what I challenge everyone to do is to ask the questions: What is really happening when we are fracturing the various shale plays; and how do we model it so that
we can predict and optimize performance?

Economic and political implications of shale are enormous. The USA recently, for the first time in many years, became a net exporter of energy. The USA has clear shale development advantages compared with other countries at this time because it has the rigs, hydraulic horsepower, personnel, and a long history of hydraulic fracturing.

But truth be told, there are disadvantages that must be dealt with. The USA is dealing with an oversupply of gas, which is reducing prices and making shale-gas plays marginally economical. To date, despite industry efforts, there still is no political will to substitute fuel sources on a large scale, create a widespread gas-fueling infrastructure, or increase automobile shale-gas usage appreciably.

So even though it is a good time to be in the oil field, remember that as completion engineers it is our job/duty to understand what is happening downhole when we are fracturing—Do we really have complexity? Does complexity occur in every shale interval or just the brittle ones? Does proppant “turn the corner” and go into the natural fractures? Knowing the answers to these and other questions can make the economics of shale plays become even better.

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

Karen Olson, SPE, is the Completion Expert for Southwestern Energy. She has worked in the oil industry for 28 years, including positions with the Western Company of North America; Mobil E&P, working in west Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, and Norway; and most recently with BP as a Deepwater Completion Engineering Team Leader. Olson has written and presented many SPE papers and has been a discussion leader at SPE workshops and forums. She has served on several SPE committees and serves on the JPT Editorial Committee. Olson earned a BS degree in petroleum engineering from Louisiana State University and an MS degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University.

While Surfing – A blog by Ahmed Abou-Sayed

If you are here then, like me, you must be curious on what is the P&O community is up to? Well that is the idea of this place (page) and its linked websites. As the Production and Operations Technical Director, it pleases me to welcome you to your window on the production and operation world of activities. The P&O Discipline Page, as we will refer to this website, belongs to you, the P&O members and is administered by the SPE staff. We hope you will make it your gateway to explore and discover what is new in technology, where the upcoming events are and who authored the latest papers on your favorite subjects.

We encourage you to make it an active and viable website so as to spread the knowledge and share the benefits. I hope to be able to update this blog every month and whenever new or important happenings take place. I expect and solicit your input, and look forward to your feedback; please keep your contributions coming.

Finally, please watch this space as work is underway to update and roll the new P&O Technical Section community site with its attempt to provide a more focused technical feed to you, our members, on several main work tracks of the P&O community. We intend to link the technical section seamlessly to your P&O Discipline Page. Happy web-surfing everyone.

SPE Economics & Management

View the January 2012 issue

153117-PA – Decision Criteria for Climate Projects
P. Osmundsen, University of Stavanger, and M. Emhjellen, Petoro A/S

139716-PA – Perspectives on CCS Cost and Economics
H.S. Kheshgi, SPE, and H. Thomann, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company; N.A. Bhore, Exxon Mobil Corporation; R.B. Hirsch, ExxonMobil Gas and Power Marketing Company; M.E. Parker, ExxonMobil Production Company; and G.F. Teletzke, SPE, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company

158241-PA – Geologic Heterogeneity and Economic Uncertainty of Subsurface Carbon Dioxide Storage
J.E. Heath, SPE, P.H. Kobos, J.D. Roach, T.A. Dewers, SPE, and S.A. McKenna, Sandia National Laboratories

139616-PA – Unique CO2-Injection Experience in the Bati Raman Field May Lead to a Proposal of EOR/Sequestration CO2 Network in the Middle East
S. Sahin, U. Kalfa, and D. Celebioglu, Turkish Petroleum Corporation

133246-PA – How Significant Is the P90 Value as a Measure of the Reserves’ Downside?
S. Gupta, SPE, University of Western Australia; R. Gupta and J.F. van Elk, Curtin University of Technology; and K. Vijayan, University of Western Australia

143950-PA – Implementing i-field-Integrated Solutions for Reservoir Management: A San Joaquin Valley Case Study
A. Popa, SPE, K. Horner, SPE, S. Cassidy, SPE, and S. Opsal, SPE, Chevron Corporation

Well Testing

The value of information has a ubiquitous and sometimes pervasive role in modern well testing. From exploration to field management to surveillance, well-test practitioners deal with a wide array of measurements (e.g., pressure, flow rates, temperature, and fluid analysis) that, more often than not, encompass large amounts of data. This is particularly true for long-term-production-data analysis of established fields, and one can argue the same for any current pressure-transient analysis that also has benefited from improved and more-robust data-acquisition available today. Likewise, dynamic information through downhole testing equipment can be acquired in real time—wirelessly and at sampling frequencies that were not possible only a decade ago.

Yet what seems to be a relative abundance of data often is challenged by the complex environments in which we operate and by our need to assess its value against associated costs and business risks. One way to look at this is under the premise that, while “perfect” information is beneficial to have, it also is costly to acquire and economically inefficient. Is there a unique answer in our choice of type curves, material balance, or specialized graphs? Should we account for multiphase flow or rock compaction? More importantly, what is the value of the next-best substitute for the information we require? And can this substitute information still allow us to meet our testing objectives? Herein lies the delicate balance between our choices of risk and uncertainty, which brings us to the message of this feature: We should not look for data-rich, but information-rich, content that meets our testing needs.

The papers selected for this feature describe exciting advances and opportunities in well testing. They also show that the proper use of advanced techniques can lead to maximizing the value of the information at hand, even in hostile and unconventional situations.

Read the synopses in the February 2012 issue of JPT.

Renzo Angeles, SPE, is a Senior Engineering Specialist with ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company. His 12 years’ experience includes technical consulting in North and South America, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Angeles works with the unconventional-resources integrated project, and his areas of interest include well testing, formation testing, hydraulic fracturing, and near-wellbore modeling. Angeles holds MS and PhD degrees in petroleum engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and has published 16 papers. He serves on the JPT Editorial Committee.

Drilling Technology

Since the first downhole electric measurement was made in 1927 by the Schlumberger brothers (first electrical-resistivity well log), the oil/gas industry has been striving to develop and improve new tools and sensors for downhole measurements. Indeed, these sensors aim at measuring many parameters, such as physical properties of rocks and fluids (formation evaluation), wellbore position (inclination and azimuth), or downhole drilling-mechanics conditions. Over the last 12 months, I have been impressed by the number of papers and news articles dealing with drilling mechanics and with vibration-data measurement, transmission, processing, and interpretation. Dynamics and vibration events still are responsible for high nonproductive time (NPT) (e.g., tool failures in many cases) and suboptimal drilling performances. With advances in electronics components, tool reliability, battery technology, and sensors, many companies have begun to develop their own memory-based drilling-measurement tools and to offer the associated service (data processing and interpretation) to operators to maximize drilling efficiency and, thus, reduce NPT.

These downhole drilling-mechanics-measurement tools, rated up to 150°C, generally integrate the following sensors: bending moment, vibration (three-axis accelerometers), weight on bit, torque on bit, annular pressure, temperature, and magnetometers (downhole rotational speed). Data are stored in a memory-based subassembly powered by a lithium-based battery (capacity up to 200 hours), or are transmitted to the surface (by use of mud-pulse, electromagnetic, or wired-pipe telemetry). The latest developments include ingenious sensors placed in the pin of the drill bit (avoiding an extra subassembly in the bottomhole assembly). Though measurements originally were captured close to the bit in the bottom portion of the drillstring, the industry has identified the need to have multiple sensors deployed all along the string (from the bit to the topdrive) to monitor continuously and anticipate any drilling event.

This outbreak of downhole-sensor technology is good news for the industry because it will probably accelerate the understanding of what is happening downhole even more, thus improving the overall drilling efficiency. Downhole drilling measurements should not be limited to only high-cost environments, but should be used in the early stage of the field development to accelerate the learning curve and, thus, optimize the drilling process for the next wells. Even though some downhole drilling and dynamics tools were developed in the 1980s, the industry now has more-accurate sensors, better physical models, and more computational power to process and analyze this huge amount of drilling data.

Read the synopses in the February 2012 issue of JPT.

Stéphane Menand, SPE, is Managing Director of DrillScan US. Previously, he held a research position at Mines ParisTech University. Menand has 14 years of experience as an R&D project manager in drilling engineering–more specifically in directional drilling, drillstring mechanics (torque, drag, and buckling), drilling dynamics, and drill-bit performance. He has authored several SPE and other technical papers and holds several patents. Menand earned a PhD degree in drilling engineering from Mines ParisTech University. He serves on the JPT Editorial Committee, the SPE Books Development Committee, and the SPE Drilling and Completions Advisory Committee.

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.