Advanced technologies show the way forward
Advanced technologies can help companies to achieve a myriad of different targets and ambitions, says Colin Chapman
Generally, offshore and onshore E&P, R&D activities aim for the same goal: cost-efficient profitable process. Thus, some technologies may be applicable to both ‘worlds’, i.e. advanced developments in automatic control systems could be implemented to almost any kind of drilling and production unit with some alterations. The idea of merging technologies is not particularly new, but it proved its viability in the low oil price environment and the urge to extract HTR reserves.
Companies have become more aware of reliability and safety issues, ecology and effective energy consumption than ever before. Sophisticated tools have been offered to measure and monitor risks and hazards, performance and other key parameters.
Smart wells have evolved into smart oilfields, possibly becoming smart hubs in the nearest future. The whole intelligent valve and well systems (MIT Technologies, Baker Hughes) have emerged that improve process economics with shorter response time, agility and remote controlling of modes.
Key words now are ‘efficiency of operations’: from drilling to marketing, every part of the supply chain should bring value to the product and be executed at highest possible levels of quality.
Solutions that help offshore business include enhanced rigs, platforms and all other elements, vehicles, etc. that are used for E&P. Deepwater and subsea technologies are now on top of the list for operators and service companies: deepwater drilling (Frigstag), testing and monitoring (Nexans, Emerson Process Management, Tracerco, FMC Technologies, Halliburton), specialised software (GE O&G, Cameron) and integrated technologies (Schlumberger, Oceaneering) – designs should reduce impact on environment, provide technological and human safety, save down time and expenses.
As has been said, cost cutting is a must for any operating company, therefore this principle should be applied not only for fields in early stages of lifecycle, but brownfields, too – as an example, Weatherford claims that aging wells should be treated with a systematic approach, which includes combination of valves, completion tools and wellheads to increase their productivity.
Not all of the technologies should necessarily be entirely fresh to be innovative – sometimes, rethinking the design and capacities is enough to deliver a completely different product.
Air Liquide introduced a modern version of gas cylinder quad for drilling, being same size as previous one, but made of much less corrosive materials, simplified control for operators, an easier tracking web system and a number of safety features.
Horizontal wells have made their way back lately because of the introduction of technology that is able to show the position of a drilling bit under the ground, and the process has become significantly more accurate and precise in getting to the formation. But in some places controlling the process is difficult, that’s why the technique was advanced to logging-while-drilling system.
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists says seismic-while-drilling could soon be developed – a level-up technology for collecting data. Companies aim to work with thinner layers of oil collectors, previously the risk of skipping them with a well was too high, but if such revolutionary methods will be approved, the whole horizon of high productivity opens.
ME region also has been active in terms of offshore technologies development: Saudi Aramco sets a goal to expand gas production at its two main offshore fields in the Arabian Gulf to provide supply for electricity production. When they realised that all existing technologies could not fit their requirements, they started research on wellhead, power cables, gas trunk lines, protection systems and some other equipment suppliers to produce high pressure and temperature resistant pieces. During the three-year-long programme they managed to solve some of the issues, but are still seeking cooperation opportunities to further develop their plan.
Another promising area of future development is utilisation and generation of renewable energy. Though it might seem irrational to use unconventional sources of energy to produce oil and gas, but for offshore units delivery of fuel and electricity from the continent contribute to breakeven point shift to higher levels.
The latest report of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory predicts global offshore wind industry to reach a peak of capacity and annual installations this year, totalling to 11,800 MW and growing additionally by 36,000 MW by 2020. First started in Europe, offshore wind facility construction projects have become popular in North America and Asia. According to the research, wind energy should become competitive to other renewable sources of energy.
The challenges that industry players face are mostly connected with viability of these costly technologies and unstable perspectives of the market that undermine sustainability of domestic wind energy production at the offhore sites.
In order to optimise CAPEX, integrated platforms for offshore energy generation have been introduced in the late 2000-s. Synergy is achieved by using common facilities and infrastructure as well as by renewable energy production.
There’re two main types of offshore combined (or multi-use platforms) for renewables: offshore hybrids (with converters wind- or wave-into-energy) and energy islands (utilise several sources of energy from environment – wave, tidal/sea or ocean current, biomass, wind and solar in different combinations depending on requirements and conditions; they even can include offshore pump accumulation stations). Developers suggest research and implementation of different forms of synergy like combined energy devices, logistics and other infrastructure, and process engineering activities.