Deepwater production technology focus turns to smaller fields

Nov 20, 2003 01:00 AM

The focus of deepwater production technology (in 2,000-3,000 metres of water) now is on less costly and less risky methods for bringing onstream smaller satellite fields, in the range of 100 to 300 mm barrel. These smaller fields will become the "bread and butter" of the deepwater industry, as discussed in presentations at the 15th Deep Offshore Technology (DOT) Conference and Exhibition in Marseille, France.
The industry has drilled wells in nearly 3,000 metres of water, with the deepest exploration well drilled in about 2,900 metres of water in the Gulf of Mexico. The deepest producing field, on the other hand, is in only in 2,200 metres of water, also in the gulf.

Companies have found only a few giant fields. The bulk of discoveries are the smaller hydrocarbon accumulations that require new concepts and technologies for economic development. To meet this challenge, the industry is pursuing such technologies as less-costly commodity-type production facility supporting structures; lighter and less costly risers; better flow assurance; longer tie-backs; more seafloor and downhole monitoring and control; less-costly flowlines and umbicals; and subsea metering, pumping, and processing.
Zaki Selim, president, well completions and productivity, for Schlumberger Oilfield Services, said fluid recovery would increase substantially from satellite fields with technologies that boost flow streams. He estimated that wells with long tie-backs currently have a potential for recovering only 75 % of the expected recovery from similar land or platform wells.

Selim said the addition of technologies for boosting the flow could greatly increase recovery by reducing backpressure on wells to 50 psi from the 2,000 psi range now often encountered. He also saw the need for subsea monitoring and control modules or seabed local area networks (LANs) that could transfer data at 100-150 megabytes/sec. With advanced monitoring and control, Selim said, companies would no longer have to design for the worst-case scenario.
Selling the associated gas produced with oil is another issue that the industry needs to resolve. No longer is it appropriate to flair gas, and reinjecting it into the subsurface formation is expensive. Floating gas-to-liquids, LNG, and methanol facilities are some solutions discussed that may become economic as the industry makes advancements in these technologies.

Charles Mattenet, executive vice-president, technology and operations division, for Total, estimated that the industry to date has found 60-70 bn barrel in deepwater. Total expects the industry to find another 60-80 bn barrel in the future.
Mike Rodgers, exploration and production portfolio and business development manager, PFC Energy, Washington, DC, said the major companies need to continue to look for these deepwater reserves because of the limited remaining potential of shallower water prospects. He said nine companies own 75 % of the discovered deepwater reserves and operate about 87 % of them. Rodgers estimated -- excluding exploration -- current deepwater field development costs are in the $ 3.50 a barrel range and that operating costs are also in this range.

Source: Oil & Gas Journal
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