Great leaps have been made in the imaging of hydrocarbons over recent years and it should therefore remain a top priority for technology developers after being named as one of the SPE’s five ‘Grand Challenges’.
Whilst exploration activity is being hindered by the low oil price and downturn, it would be dangerous to take an eye off the longer term. Investment in E&P programmes is still needed as well as in the technologies that can aid the discovery of new reserves and optimise recovery.
Seismic data today is produced in massive volumes, with more and higher quality 3D and 4D data being processed each year. Advanced computing capabilities permit construction of more detailed inversion models from the collection of high-quality datasets.
UK production efficiency has dropped from 80% to 60% over the last decade making technologies that can help extend the life of current assets and rejuvenate uptime increasingly important.
Gerald Schotman, Chief Technology Officer at Shell put it wisely: “If you simply stick with existing technologies then our industry becomes very labour intensive and unaffordable.”
Yes there is a risk involved, but we take an even bigger risk of failure if we do not, as an industry, fund innovations that can address production challenges and support recovery.
The oil and gas industry, in common with other highly complex sectors such as aerospace, defence and nuclear, has traditionally experienced long development times and high up-front costs.
Despite the current economic challenges faced by the industry, a significant hydrocarbon prize remains up for grabs. The associated drive for efficiencies should be used as a catalyst to examine and implement approaches which may bring technology into operation as early as possible, optimise decision making, or generate efficiencies in other areas.
Identifying common needs that present barriers to development and offer opportunities for collaborative working is a start.
In today’s economic climate, using existing infrastructure to gain increased production whilst reducing the complexity and costs of operations has become paramount.
The Wood Report recommends that the industry deploys existing technologies to full effect and that new technologies are developed to maximise recovery from the UKCS – a recommendation that is particularly relevant for Improved Oil Recovery (IOR) and Reservoir Management techniques.
The industry has become adept at collecting and analysing large volumes of data to assess subsurface conditions, but these techniques typically require complex and expensive data acquisition - e.g. 4D seismic – in association with large scale model analysis. The complexity of these techniques means that results and interpretations on the performance of injection operations during IOR activities are often derived days, weeks or months after measurements have been collected from the field.
Oil and gas companies have committed to jointly funding two projects worth more than £4million through the Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF).
The full details will be announced at the Technology Showcase conference in Aberdeen this week.
The first project is the Fullwave Game Changer research project, which has been extended for a further phase, with a consortium of 15 oil and gas operator and service companies working in collaboration with Imperial College London.
The phase II investment of more than £2.5million brings the total funding over the last nine years to £7.5million.
The offshore oil and gas industry is reaching an inflection point. As the oil reserves in shallow waters reach the end of their production lives, operators must take the long view and drill in deeper waters to find new recoverable resources.
Doing this economically presents some significant challenges – a feat which will require serious innovation if firms which grew up with the North Sea are to successfully export their skills.
Using conventional methods is not an option – it’s simply not feasible to place a production rig above a well in water that’s thousands of metres deep. For that reason, the industry is thinking differently about how it works and how it uses technology.
A few short weeks after Subsea Expo 2015 took place, delegates from all over the world will descend on Aberdeen once again for the ITF (Industry Technology Facilitator) Showcase.
Organised by ITF in partnership with Oil & Gas UK, the event at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on March 4, will discuss current technology challenges for the UKCS (United Kingdom Continental Shelf).
Technology is and always has been key to tapping the oil and gas reserves under the North Sea.
Patrick O’Brien knows only too well the importance of investing in the engineering and scientific know-how required to extend the lifespan of the UK offshore industry.
He is also well aware of the need for collaboration, which was a mantra of the organisation he leads long before Sir Ian Wood highlighted shortcomings in this area in his review.
Sir Ian said a lack of co-operation and “overzealous” legal and commercial behaviour among operators had increased costs, caused delays and led to poorer hydrocarbon recovery.
Technology and collaboration are at the heart of everything ITF, the Aberdeen-based oil and gas industry technology facilitator, does. Mr O’Brien is its chief executive.
Researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have completed a short project that studied the feasibility of applying a new coating process, which was initially developed for use in the production of solid oxide fuel cells, to the oil and gas industry. The project secured industry support through the Aberdeen-based global technology facilitator, ITF.