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ISSN 1757-2134 October 2011 Volume 04 Issue 07

Palladian Publications Ltd 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the
copyright owner. All views expressed in this journal are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily the opinions of the
publisher, neither do the publishers endorse any of the claims made in the articles or the advertisements. Printed in the UK.
On this months cover >>
Oilfield Technology is audited by the Audit Bureau
of Circulations (ABC). An audit certificate is
available on request from our sales department.

Ann Davis and Dewey Berger, Champion Technologies, USA, discuss
how new frac chemistry prevents scaling in the Bakken shale wells.

Matt Wilson, Tracerco, UK, demonstrates different applications for
radioisotope technology, to help offshore operators achieve effective
pipeline flow assurance.

Terje Baustad, Emerson Process Management, Norway, explains how
to reduce well intervention by taking flow assurance downhole.

Ian Anderson, Camcon Oil, UK, highlights the growing influence of
digital artificial gas lift in flow assurance.

B.A. Coward, Honeywell Process Solutions, UK, demonstrates the
savings and benefits of using gas lift optimisation technology.

Willem Ryan, Bosch Security Systems, Inc., USA, introduces
explosion protected video surveillance solutions in challenging

Potential decommissioning expenditure in the
UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) will be higher than initially forecast.
Brian Nixon, Decom North Sea, UK, explains.

James Vultaggio, Trelleborg Offshore, USA, looks at the latest
developments in syntactic foam insulation.
Asia Pacific is rich in new opportunities. Richard Bailey,
Executive Vice President for Asia Pacific, GL Noble Denton, explains.
Matt Underhill, Hays Oil & Gas, Australia, discusses global staffing in
the oil and gas industry.
Mark Amelang, CGGVeritas Land, USA, demonstrates how cableless
operations afford flexibility, HSE advantages, and improved imaging.
The next revolution in land seismic data acquisition is here.
Dennis Freed, FairfieldNodal, USA, explains.
Chip Abrant and Jonathan Lightfoot, Scientific Drilling, USA, consider
ranging applications in the industry.
Claire Adam, Baker Hughes, UK, looks at concurrent drilling and
completion fluid design and explains why an integrated approach
improves well performance.
Herrenknecht Vertical GmbH, Germany, goes offshore with modern
hydraulic hands-off technology. Thomas Janowski explains.
Oilfield Technology Correspondent Gordon Cope, provides an
insight into the controversial topic of fracturing, which has either
revolutionised the energy sector in North America or imperilled its
environment, depending on ones point of view.
350XT is Arncos next generation in tool-joint protection. This casing-friendly
alloy produces a non-cracking deposit that is easily reapplied over itself,
and most competitive products without removal of the previous worn layer
of hardbanding. Please contact Arnco to learn more about this, and other
hardbanding products to meet your drill pipe and casing wear protection needs.
James Little
Managing Editor
Contact Information >>
Palladian Publications Ltd,
15 South Street, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7QU, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1252 718 999 Fax: +44 (0) 1252 718 992
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POSTMASTER: Send address corrections to Oileld Technology c/o Mercury International Ltd, 365 Blair Road, Avenel, NJ 07001.

Managing Editor: James Little
Deputy Editor: Anna Scordos
Editorial Assistant: Cecilia Rehn
Advertisement Director: Rod Hardy
Advertisement Manager: Ben Macleod
Business Development Manager: Chris Lethbridge
Production: Peter Grinham
Website Editor: Anna Scordos
Reprints / Subscriptions: Victoria McConnell
Publisher: Nigel Hardy
lobalisation of energy demand is one of those
buzz phrases that you cant seem to avoid
at the moment. The worlds energy balance
is certainly changing as surging demand in emerging
markets, such as China and India, capture an ever
greater share of the worlds oil and gas consumption.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in China where
annual car sales have increased from a meagre
2 million in 2001 to 18.06 million units in 2010. Chinas
Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
predicts that by 2020 this gure will increase to
40 million units per annum with a total of 200 million
registered vehicles on Chinas roads by this date. In
contrast, US annual sales have reduced from 17 million
in 2001 to 11 million in 2010. For many of the worlds
auto manufacturers China will soon become far and
away their largest market. Mercedes Benz saw sales
increase 115% in 2010 to 147 700 vehicles whilst Audi
sold 227 900 vehicles, up 43%.
Clearly the challenge for the oil and gas industry
will be to meet the escalating demand that will surely
accompany such rapid expansion and which is by no
means unique to China but is evidenced to a greater or
lesser extent across all of Asias emerging economies.
Whilst there are signs that saturation of car ownership,
an ageing population and increasingly fuel efcient
vehicles in the developed world are leading to a decline
in energy consumption, the overall global picture is of
a tightening in the supply and demand balance that will
inevitably lead to rising worldwide energy prices.
The Asia-Pacic region undoubtedly represents a
signicant opportunity for the energy sector that will only
multiply as the globalisation of energy demand gains
an ever tighter grip on supply. This trend is identied
in a recent report commissioned by the Economist
Intelligence Unit and prepared by GL Noble Denton
entitled, Deep Water Ahead? The outlook for the oil
and gas industry in 2011. The ndings of the report are
discussed in this months regional overview beginning on
page 10 of the issue. The article provides an insight into
the challenges and opportunities facing the industry in
this region and documents the increasing prominence of
mega projects, often in geographically harsh locations,
being pursued by a new breed of dynamic Asian
internationalising NOCs, or INOCs, such as Malaysias
Petronas or PetroChina. It certainly makes for interesting
reading, as does our keynote article by Matt Underhill of
Hays Oil & Gas, Australia, which begins on page 16 and
provides a perspective on the thorny topic of recruitment;
arguably an even greater challenge to the future of the oil
and gas industry.
We will be attending the ATCE Conference & Exhibition
in Denver, USA, later this month and look forward to seeing
some of our readers there.

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During the underbalanced drilling of a series of laterals, the system
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world news
October 2011
Mubadala Development, a strategic
investment company owned by the
Abu Dhabi government, has bought into
a one-fifth stake of an oil exploration
block in Tanzania, a nation that has yet to
find any crude. Dominion Petroleum, the
British oil exploration company selling
the share, recently announced the deal.
However, according to analysts,
the reason behind the US$ 23 million
investment by Mubadala Oil & Gas,
could be demand for natural gas.
Although oil itself hasnt been
discovered in Tanzania, there are large
reserves of natural gas, and thats
what is driving the interest in the
country, said Patrick Mair, the analyst
for sub-Saharan Africa at the risk
assessment group Control Risks.
Despite being the worlds fourth
biggest oil exporter, the UAE has a
growing need for natural gas to fuel its
growing electricity demand.
In a move that could raise up to
e35 billion in revenues in the next
two decades, the Greek government has
approved plans for oil exploration and
drilling in western Greece. The formal
open door invitation of interest to
investors will be issued in January 2012
once procedures for seismic studies for
possible hydrocarbon deposits have
been completed.
The National Energy Authority of Iceland
(NEA) has confirmed the opening of
a second licensing round for oil and
gas exploration and production on its
continental shelf. The blocks on offer
are in the Dreki Area, in the northeast,
and the offer will remain open through to
April 2012.
With the Gulf of Mexico oil spill still
fresh in many peoples memories,
US authorities have announced they
are looking to regulate the contractors
of oil companies that work offshore,
as well as the operators. There is
no compelling reason or logic not to
do [this], said Michael Bromwich,
Director of the US Bureau of Ocean
Energy Management, Regulation and
After the discovery of a gas deposit by
Cairn India Ltd, the countrys Petroleum
Minister announced that Sri Lanka
will soon tender for oil exploration in
five blocks in the northwestern offshore
Mannar Basin. Seismic data for the
region reportedly shows more than
1 billion bbls of recoverable oil in a
30 000 km
area. Sri Lanka produces no
oil and is dependent on imports, which
last year cost the country US$ 3 billion.
// Chevron //
Solar oileld project
// Mubadala Development // Tanzanian gas reserves
Overcoming cost overruns and delays,
the USs second largest oil company
is now expected to unveil its solar
oilfield project, which will serve as
a showcase for the technology of
Chevron-backed solar thermal company
BrightSource Energy.
Chevron Corp. recently confirmed
that three of its executives would attend
the launch of the demonstration project
in Coalinga, California, USA, which is
designed to use solar power to create
steam to inject into wells to improve
heavy oil flow. The project covers 26 ha.,
consisting of 7600 mirrors focusing
sunlight on a 100 m tower.
Success in Coalinga would be a
boost for solar thermal technology, as
many other projects have been scrapped
in favour of photovoltaic systems.
Under the agreement, which
requires the approval of the Tanzanian
government, the company will pay
US$ 20 million for its stake and up to
US$ 3 million of the costs of a seismic
programme scheduled to begin this year.
Marn Beukes, an analyst at
IHS Global Insight in London, noted that
during the past year, smaller exploration
companies have made a series of
significant gas discoveries and there are
signs that Tanzania is considering plans
to build an LNG plant.
East Africa is currently on the rise.
Recently, China agreed to loan Tanzania
US$ 1 billion to build a gas pipeline,
and oil discoveries in Uganda are also
helping to drive interest in the region.
However, there are concerns
regarding threats to the offshore industry,
as Somali pirates are moving farther
down the African coast and up the oil
production chain.
Marking the largest takeover by a
Chinese oil company in North America,
Sinopec has offered C$ 2.2 billion to
buy Canadian firm Daylight Energy.
The board is said to be supporting the
deal, which must still be approved by
shareholders and regulators.
Daylight is a junior oil and gas
exploration company with large partially
developed acreage in Western Canada.
During the Q2 of 2011, the company
produced 37 000 bpd, and reported oil
and gas revenues of C$ 163 million.
Chinese oil companies have signed
around US$ 125 to US$ 130 billion
in deals in the last two years, and I
would expect they would do at least
that much again in the next two years,
said Laban Yu, analyst at Jefferies in
Hong Kong.
// Sinopec //
Canadian acquisition
world news

October 2011
30 October 2 November
Denver, USA
E: service@spe.org
7 11 November
World Shale Gas
Houston, USA
E: garanda@thecwcgroup.com
4 8 December
World Petroleum Congress
Doha, Qatar
E: info@20wpc.com
16 January 2012
Annual Offshore Production Technology
Summit 2012
London, UK
E: richard.jones@wtgevent.com
15 February 2012
MTB Oil & Gas Forum
Dubai, UAE
E: marketing@coplandevents.com
22 May 2012
MOC 2012
Alexandria, Egypt
E: conference@moc-egypt.com
23 25 May 2012
OTE 2012
Nanjing, China
E: info@ote-china.com
// Anadarko Petroleum Corp. // Raising estimates
According to Canadian Offshore
Petroleum (COP), the semisub
Ocean Nomad has been on location
at the Esperanza exploration
prospect in block 22/15 of the UK
central North Sea, waiting for a
weather window to start drilling
The Esperanza 22/15-D well
marks the first to be drilled by the
company under its UK North Sea
joint venture with BG Group.
The well is designed to target light
oil in the Palaeocene Forties sand.
Through paying an amount
equal to 75% of the costs to drill
the well, COP will acquire a right to
purchase a 50% equity interest in the
BG-operated block, which includes
the Banks discovery.
After appraising the Camarao
prospect, Anadarko Petroleum Corp.,
the largest US independent oil and
natural gas company by market
value, raised estimates of reserves at
its offshore Mozambique fields.
In a statement, the company
stated that the cumulative results
of exploration have substantially
increased the prospects of
Offshore Area 1 of the deepwater
Rovuma Basin. It is also confident
the Windjammer, Barquentine,
Lagosta and Camarao complex
holds at least 10 trillion ft
of gas
more than the proven reserves of
the UK, according to BP Plc data.
Our successful drilling
programme offshore Mozambique
continues to expand the
already world-class resource
potential of this frontier basin,
// COP //
Exploration prospect
Oil production has begun at the
US$ 800 million joint venture Chim Sao
project, offshore southern Vietnam. The
projects gross production rate is expected
to level out at ~25 000 bpd from six wells.
Premier holds a 53% stake in the JV,
Santos another 32% and PetroVietnam
holds a 15% stake. In addition, the
development includes a platform and
floating processing, storage and offloading
Oil from Chim Sao, located about
310 km off Vietnams southern coast, will
be exported via shuttle tanker and its gas
will connect into the existing infrastructure
via a subsea pipeline.
According to Santos, the group plans
to undertake further exploration drilling
and expects to add significant resources
to the project in the near future.
// Premier Oil PLC //
Oil in southern Vietnam
Vice President Bob Daniels said in the
statement. We are optimistic that our
current resource estimates will increase,
as we still have significant exploration and
appraisal work ahead of us.
Earlier, in August, Anadarko hired
Technip SA and KBR, Inc. to design
an LNG plant in Mozambique after
appraising reserves in the Rovuma Basin.
The partners, including Mitsui & Co. and
Cove Energy Plc, may build as many as
six trains, or LNG production units.
One of the partners, Cove said last
year it would sell its 8.5% stake in the
exploration venture to avoid development
costs. Its shares jumped 11% to 0.74 in
According to estimates by
Wood Mackenzie Consultants Ltd and
Deutsche Bank AG, East Africa may hold
as much as 40 trillion ft
of potential gas
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world news

October 2011
// Oceaneering // New TQR facility in Scotland
All actions on the Chukchi Sea in the
Arctic Ocean have been on hold until the
litigation over the original Sale 193 EIS filed by
environmental groups is resolved by the court.
Work on a draft plan of exploration filed by Shell
can begin once a decision is made.
We believe the Chukchi plan we submitted
in May is technically and scientifically sound,
and we look forward to exploring this critical part
of our Alaska portfolio in 2012, Curtis Smith, a
spokesman for the oil giant said.
The Beaufort Sea exploration plan has
already received approval from BOEM, but this
has now been appealed to the 9
Circuit Appeals
Court by the environmental group, Earth Justice.
The US EPA has also issued air permits for
Shells drilling vessels planned to be used in both
the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and those are still
vulnerable to appeals.
According to Smith, Shell which has already
spent tens of millions in advance preparation
work, will not order a mobilisation for 2012 until
a final go/no go decision, expected later this
month, is made.
Planning to drill in an area where oil has
previously been discovered but not developed,
Shells Beaufort Sea primary targets are in an area
near Camden Bay, east of Prudhoe Bay. Since
the company can take advantage of existing
pipelines, the Beaufort Sea oil is considered to
be the best prospects for near-term additions of
throughput for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.
In the next couple of years, a new pipeline
will be built farther east from Badami to the
Point Thomson area, where ExxonMobil, BP and
Chevron are working to develop a gas cycling
and condensate production project.
In the long run, it is believed that the
Chukchi Sea has prospects for much larger
discoveries. However, extensive infrastructure will
be needed, including a pipeline built from TAPS
across the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
and an undersea pipeline built 60 miles or farther
into the sea.
Shell is not alone in the region:
ConocoPhillips, Statoil and Repsol also have
leases in the Chukchi Sea and are planning
// Shell // Facing appeals
TQR centre explained Joao Melo, Test
and Reliability Manager at Oceaneering
Umbilical Solutions. Part of this
will provide a comprehensive data
shop, generating analysis to add
significant weight to our proposition as
a complete one-stop-shop for umbilical
manufacture, test and supply.
The custom-designed testing
machinery from AJT Equipment Ltd
will permit technicians to study and
understand corrosion and fatigue
in umbilicals, with the aim to further
increase their average 25 30 year
In addition to investing in
equipment, the company also stressed
the importance of recruiting, training
and retaining talent. Greg Scott
General Manager for Engineering,
emphasised that Oceaneering cannot
stand still in [its] engineering capability.
The company promotes student
internships and partnerships with
engineering colleges, and internally
rotates engineers to extend knowledge.
It is part of the larger corporate
vision of sharing best practice
across the company, Houston-based
Vice President, Chuck Davison
On 21 September 2011, Oceaneering
Umbilical Solutions opened the doors
to its new test, qualification and
reliability (TQR) laboratory in Rosyth,
Fife, Scotland. An intimate gathering of
journalists, local dignitaries, and local
businesses were invited on a factory
tour and student internship award
ceremony, highlighting the companys
investment in growing its own talent.
The new 600 m
TQR facility
will house specialists to carry out
performance tests to simulate the
immediate and long-term stresses
placed upon umbilicals in the
challenging environments of the ocean
floor, during the installation process,
and even during the transportation of
a 30+ km long chord from the factory
onto vessels.
Previously much of this testing was
subcontracted but the company has
now invested US$ 2 million into its own
TQR, a cost justified by the reassurance
it will now be able to offer customers,
who are increasingly more interested in
risk-reducing data, statistics and results.
The testing is carried out to industry
standard ISO 135628-5.
We have made a significant
investment in new machinery for the
Oilfield Technologys Cecilia Rehn at the TQRlaboratory in Rosyth, Scotland.
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he oil and gas industry has experienced a period
of unprecedented volatility in recent years,
with record prices followed by a crash and
subsequent recovery. High oil prices have led to a rise
in exploration and production activity across the world,
with the Asia Pacic region identied as an emerging
opportunity for the energy sector, both in terms of
demand and supply.
In January 2010, GL Noble Denton, an independent
technical advisor to the oil and gas industry,
commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to
research and publish a report that provided a unique
view of the challenges that those working in the sector
expected to face across 2011 and beyond.
Nearly 200 senior industry executives were
questioned in order to provide insight and commentary
as part of the report, Deep Water Ahead? The outlook
for the oil and gas industry in 2011.
Those surveyed said they believed that the
greatest opportunities for them would be focused
in the emerging opportunities of the East, with the
largest proportion of respondents (32%) identifying
South East Asia as the most signicant region. That
proportion rose to 58% when combined with China
and the Far East.
Asia Pacific is rich in new opportunities.
Richard Bailey, Executive Vice President for
Asia Pacific, GL Noble Denton, explains.
October 2011
Australasia too has been identied as a burgeoning
region in terms of the opportunities it can offer the oil and
gas industry. The rate of development in Australias upstream
sector is expected to grow signicantly over the next
15 to 20 years, while the country is anticipated to become the
second largest exporter of LNG by 2015. Currently, Australias
top 10 projects total more than 100 billion of capital
expenditure (CAPEX).
Large-scale projects such as Gorgon, Wheatstone and
Ichthys are worth tens of billions of dollars. They have either
already been granted environmental approval, or are expected
to receive this soon.
These emerging markets have underpinned oil demand,
boosting condence and enabling oil prices and capital
expenditure to remain high. This condence in the sector was
also highlighted by the Economist Intelligence Unit report,
with the majority of survey respondents either highly or
somewhat condent (76%) about their companies business
outlook for 2011. This compares with just 8% who described
themselves as highly or somewhat pessimistic. With the
strongest demand coming from the East, it is no surprise
that companies believe that their revenue growth will be
increasingly focused on opportunities in the Asia Pacic region.
Natural gas
Natural gas is one of the most important considerations for
operators seeking to exploit opportunities in the Asia Pacic
region. Asia is not just one of the largest consumers of natural
gas; it is also considered the global hub for LNG design and
component construction.
In the global context of rising energy demand, the report
refers to natural gas as a key industry game changer, seen
as an affordable and relatively low-carbon source of energy
also suitable for use in electricity generation. Its popularity
has risen as Asia has sought to increase its supply options.
While oversupply from US shale gas production and a surfeit
of LNG (particularly from Qatar) has swamped the market of
late, the report suggested that demand from Asia is expected
to eat away at these reserves, with the impact expected to be a
modest rise in natural gas prices.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in
March this year impacted severely on the countrys energy
sector, resulting in the need to import unprecedented quantities
of LNG in the long-term in order to offset the loss of its nuclear
power capacity. Already considered one of the worlds largest
importers of LNG, demand is expected to rise further as a
result. Much of the extra fuel is expected to come from Qatar,
(see Figure 1), one of the worlds largest LNG producers, while
other key suppliers include Russia (the island of Sakhalin, north
of Japan), with important supplies also being generated from
east Siberia and the Caspian region.
Workforce supply challenges
With LNG activity levels at an all-time high, a key challenge
to the oil and gas industry in Asia is the provision of staff to
supply growing demand for energy. Whilst there is an abundant
supply of potential workforce candidates in the region, a lack of
technical experience has proven a barrier to operations.
Some countries have started to address this challenge.
Indonesia, for example, has openly enlisted in foreign
technical expertise in order to maximise the potential results
of technically challenging developments and the country
is recognised for having a well-balanced approach to
international involvement more so than other Asia Pacic
Figure 1. Image courtesy of Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar. Qatar is one of the world's largest exporters of LNG, and is well positioned to help
meet increased energy demand from Japan.
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October 2011
countries. As with many developing regions, there is a high
demand for project management experience. Malaysia in
particular is home to several major LNG engineering projects,
with a strong desire to attract technical expertise from around
the world.
Meanwhile, the slowdown of activity in the Middle East as
a result of political unrest has seen many Australian residents
return to their home continent for employment, satisfying the
high demand in this region for LNG, project engineering, and
quality, procurement and construction personnel.
The rise of the Asian national oil companies
The rise of the national oil company (NOC) has been a topic for
discussion in the global oil industry for more than a decade.
The Economist Intelligence Units report found that rising energy
prices and the growing scarcity of easy-to-access development
opportunities have delivered greater advantages to state-owned
companies than their international oil company (IOC) rivals.
In Asia, NOCs have emerged with a mandate to acquire
steady supplies of oil and gas to ensure economic expansion
continues uninterrupted, and IOC chiefs have identied this
competition as one of the biggest corporate challenges in
gaining access to new prospects.
Many IOCs understand that their relationships with NOCs
are becoming increasingly important, with 34% of survey
respondents holding the expectation that NOC policies towards
IOCs will either be somewhat or signicantly more restrictive
across the remainder of this year.
NOCs themselves, however, are facing new forms of
competition too. The new breed of Asian internationalising NOCs
or INOCs have emerged as competitors over the past two
years. Companies such as PetroChina and Malaysias Petronas,
for example, boast healthy cash ows, self-sufcient, integrated
operations and already function in a similar way to IOCs.
The report also acknowledged that in some cases, IOCs
and Asian NOCs are collaborating in key resource opportunities.
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Petronas
(Malaysia), for example, both won substantial stakes in ve elds
in Iraqs rst two licensing rounds, securing recoverable crude
resources estimated at 13 billion bbls. The two INOCs joined
with BP and Shell respectively in Iraq, forming formidable
IOC-INOC partnerships that represent a potentially seismic
change in the relationships between resource holders and
foreign oil companies. For CNPC, exposure to its BP partnership
will allow it to develop its own technical skills.
The report said these new market entrants have created
consternation for NOCs and IOCs alike.
The scale of projects in Australia in terms of CAPEX has the
potential to run into tens of billions of dollars. Signicant
investment has been made into exploration offshore Northwest
Australia in particular, while a number of gas discoveries have
also been made in recent years.
Chevron, the company behind the development of the
Wheatstone project, is extremely active in the region. A
founding partner in the Northwest Shelf Venture, the company
has been exporting LNG to customers in the Asia Pacic
region for around 20 years and supplying natural gas to
Western Australia for 25 years. Chevron is also leading the
development of the Gorgon Project, Australias largest single
resource venture, with an expected economic life of more than
40 years from the time of start-up (scheduled for 2014).
Australia is also considered a growth centre by Shell. The
company is developing large gas resources, while maintaining
a substantial exploration portfolio off the coasts of Western
Australia and the Northern Territory.
As the full-equity holder and operator of the
WA-371-P permit, an area covering approximately 1000 km
the Browse Basin, Shell discovered the Prelude gas eld in
2007 and the Concerto gas eld in 2009. Between them, the
elds have around 3 trillion ft of liquids-rich gas.
Tokyo-headquartered INPEX Corp. has also recognised
the huge potential on offer in the Australasian region, working
with joint venture partner Total to develop and explore the
Ichthys Field in the Browse Basin offshore Western Australia.
The eld has the potential to be a world-class gas project, with
the expectation for it to produce more than 8 million tpy of LNG
and 1.6 million tpy of PG, with 100 000 bpd of condensate.
A oating production storage and offtake facility (FPSO) will
be used to develop the eld, with condensate transferred to a
nearby FPSO via subsurface pipeline, where it will be treated
and transferred to offtake tankers for export. Natural gas will
be directed through export pipeline to onshore facilities for
processing into LNG and LPG. A massive scale project, the
mooring chain alone will take two years of the worlds production.
GL Noble Denton will work with the Queensland Curtis
Liqueed Natural Gas (QGC) project, which is expected to
supply more than 12 million tpy of LNG through the development
of three LNG trains on Curtis Island. Gas will be supplied to
the trains through a 500 km pipeline from the Surat Basin.
The contract will see the company provide quality assurance
oversight for the pipeline construction portion of the project,
including onsite support to QGC to co-ordinate inspections.
With the rapid rate of development in Australia, labour
availability is a critical consideration. Quick to recognise this
however, the federal government has developed a range
of training and re-skilling programmes aimed at bringing
expatriate workers back to the region.
There are many uncertainties for oil and gas worldwide,
inuenced by the scale and cost of gas developments, the rate
in growth of demand from China, the burgeoning opportunities
in Australasia, the continued skills shortage and of course the
risk of geopolitical conict and natural disasters.
The growing importance of natural gas as a major energy
source is demonstrated by the amount of investment being
devoted to the sector across the globe, with increasing
demand leading to new expansion and exploration projects
around the world.
Meanwhile, Australasia and countries across the
APAC region are becoming increasingly important in terms
of the supply and demand of oil and gas worldwide. There is
the expectation that the traditional global balance in activity
will shift from Europe and North America to these emerging
regions, where governments and state-controlled companies
will play a major role in future activity.
These are all events that can inuence activity and
trends within the sector and, with plenty of exploration and
development in the pipeline, it remains to be seen the exact
role that these regions will play going forward.

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offshore environments.
imelines and cost blowouts on capital projects have been
a major concern for CEOs in the oil and gas industry this
year. The sheer magnitude of some of these projects
now means that their relative success or failure can have a
material effect on the share price of the companies controlling
them. Given that human capital is estimated to cost on average
30% of project value, it is without doubt mission critical to
understand the supply and demand relationship within this, the
most important asset in the world today people.
This years Global Oil and Gas Salary Survey conducted
by Hays Oil & Gas in association with Oil and Gas Job Search
produced a wealth of much needed data and information,
including not only salary levels and benets data broken down
by country, but also demographics and migration of skills within
the industry.
At the time of writing, the oil and gas industry is going
through a signicant period of growth, and rarely have so
many countries and regions all been growing at such a rate.
It has been well documented that the developing world of the
BRIC countries and others outside of the OECD are driving
the new economy, and demand for oil and gas skills in these
regions is undoubtedly at an all time high. However, since the
turn of the year, there has also been a resurgence in demand
from the more traditional regions of the industry; the North Sea,
Gulf of Mexico and the Middle East. This has added to an
overheated market and started to create skill shortages that will
challenge even the most tenacious recruiter.
The issue that the industry now faces is whether supply can
match demand for skills, both on a regional level as well as a
global one. As with the demand for energy, the level of demand
for skills is only going to increase. Of course the introduction of
incentives and taxation to increase the use of renewable energy
will temper that demand for oil and gas skills. However the EIA
(Annual Energy Outlook 2011) estimates that the worlds energy
needs will grow by a massive 50% between 2009 and 2035,
and in the US in particular, 78% of this demand will still be met
Matt Underhill, Hays Oil & Gas, Australia, discusses
global staffing in the oil and gas industry.
by fossil fuels (down from 83% in 2009). One can also assume
that future consumers of energy will be more prudent in their
use, however with the global population approaching 9 billion by
2035 (according to the UN World Population Prospectus 2010)
this will surely only have a marginal effect.
Matching supply to the inexorable growth in demand is really
where the battle grounds lie and the question that is occupying
the minds of many of the industrys stakeholders.
Supply of new talent into the oil and gas market is a complex
mechanism, especially when considered against the backdrop
of the worlds various competing industries. Hays has noted that
free markets are adept at channelling money and the resulting
resources to where it is needed most, and it is no coincidence
that salaries in the oil and gas industry are currently running at a
premium of 20% or more to other comparable industries.
With that said, it is important to consider that some of
these competing industries will share many of the engineering
disciplines that are present within those of oil and gas, and
will themselves be inuenced by the same inherent demand
that is driving energy i.e. population growth. This battle has
already commenced in Australia where oil and gas companies
are slugging it out with those in mining, an industry with just as
much at stake and arguably equally deep pockets. While this
is good news for individuals, it is not so good for the project
accountants who built their models based on labour cost
estimates made before the pressure started to rise. At certain
levels, salaries start to become uneconomical and will take their
toll on the number of projects passing FID.
Therefore, the generation and development of skills (as
opposed to hiring them in) is where many of the larger players
in the industry are concentrating their investments. Technology
Centres, company sponsored Universities and dedicated
Colleges and courses are now becoming more common in the
developing world as companies start to take a long-term stake
in their own pipeline of skills. Brazil, India and China are the key
recipients of such investment to date.
October 2011
The biggest impact on skills supply however is the ageing
workforce. For many years the industry has been warning
of signicant issues, with engineers who rst trained in the
energy boom of the 1970s now approaching retirement. With
the geographical focus of energy production changing globally,
and more and more countries investing in their own long-term
resources and supply chain, it is timely to analyse whether this is
indeed the case.
Hays Global Oil & Gas Salary Survey 2011, conducted
in association with Oil and Gas Job Search, provided salary
levels and benets data by country in addition to demographics
and migration trends. It took data from over 11 000 industry
professionals around the world, including demographic
information, and as Figure 1 demonstrates, concern regarding
the retirement of talent is unfounded when considered globally.
Figure 1 shows the breakdown of the sample pool by age
compared to a demographic curve for the OECD nations, rstly
in 2000 and secondly as forecasted for 2050. It indicates that
the lower age brackets are being redressed at an equal rate
to those being lost to retirement. Indeed the replacement ratio
(those under 35 years of age compared to those over 50) is 1.31,
which indicates a healthy number of new skills coming in to the
industry and reects the fact that many of the nations coming
into the industry for the rst time are focused on growing their
own talent from the bottom up.
However, when looking at the same data for specic
countries, the picture is not as reassuring. Figure 2 represents
the demographics for those working in Australia, the US and the
UK. Australias replacement ratio is 0.58, the UKs is 0.78 and
the USs is a lowly 0.20. Thus, demographics is very much an
issue in these countries.
So, what are the potential solutions for those organisations
seeking to move forward with critical projects that face
diminishing local talent pools and rising workloads?
Hoping the market will reset itself is one option, however
like all free market economies any short fall in
skills available will simply be reected in rising
salaries. This has already been happening in
both Australia and Brazil. In the survey results
from 2011, Australia had for the second year
running the highest salaries in the world at an
average of US$ 143 700. Brazils salaries rose
by a massive 12% in one year alone to just
under US$ 100 000 equivalent. These will all
add to project costs and may challenge many
Internal Rate of Return thresholds before
projects pass FID.
This scenario of dramatically rising salary
costs however ignores the ability of the
market to migrate skills to where they are
needed. (Both Australia and Brazil are faced
with massive capital investment programmes,
the key source of increasing stafng costs.
However both also have barriers that have
prevented the free ow of skills. In Australia
tough visa restrictions play a part, as do
stringent labour laws and to some extent
remote work locations; and Brazils minimum
local content and Portuguese language
requirements both take their toll, ultimately
providing upwards pressure on salaries.)
Figure 1. Percentage of oil and gas workers based on their age
group globally.
Figure 2. Percentage of oil and gas workers in Australia, the US and
the UK based on their age.
Figure 3. For many years the
industry has been warning
of signicant issues, with
engineers who rst trained in
the energy boom of the 1970s
now approaching retirement.
2011 Halliburton. All rights reserved.
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As we move through the second decade of the
century, recruitment markets are becoming more
globalised. National boundaries, whilst still an issue to
contend with are becoming less signicant. There is much
evidence to suggest the market is already functioning this
way. According to the Hays Global Salary Guide 2011, over
40% of those working in the industry are working outside of
their home country. With over 6 million people estimated to
work in the industry in total, this accounts for over 2.4 million
currently residing overseas.
In times gone by, the vast majority of these would be
experienced professionals working on lucrative expatriate
salaries, enjoying one or more postings overseas before
returning to their home countries. Yet today it is estimated that
only a quarter of those working overseas are doing so under
the tag of ex pat package. The remainder can be split evenly
between those that have emigrated to reside in a new country,
are globally mobile and working on local package short-term

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contracts, or are escaping low wages and/or standards of
living in their own country of origin with temporary work in
higher paying countries.
Any stakeholder of a major oil and gas project will be set
up to resource from all of these talent pools: relocating internal
staff to areas of demand; hiring temporary skills on contract to
offset peaks in demand; and constantly seeking lower
cost/better skilled labour from other locations to reduce costs.
Like most macro issues facing the industry, these are
solutions best provided by multiple stakeholders in the
industry working together. However, Hays has found that
such collaboration is extremely rare and success limited. The
reality will be that the industrys leading/largest companies will
provide most of the solutions working independently through
signicant investment with the benets cascading down the
industry through suppliers and partners.
Sadly the investment required to set up your own
university, or relocate multiple ex pats around the world to
ll critical roles is not available to most
medium to smaller players. Consequently
the majority of companies will have to rely
on effective planning and astute hiring to
meet this challenge.
This year Hays produced a white paper,
Bridging the skills gap that provides some
assistance for those seeking to navigate
their way through skills short markets. At its
heart was a six-point plan:
x Be flexible. Above all hiring needs to be
pragmatic, both in terms of cost and
x Have a plan. Those that take a long lead
in time to planning will benefit when
shortages are at their most acute.
x Create an employment brand. Gaining
success in this regard allows the
company to punch above its weight
when it comes to attracting talent.
x Source far and wide. It is indeed a
global market in oil and gas, and
it is possible to find skills available
elsewhere when they are in short supply
x Train and develop. Generation of skills
will always take longer, but ultimately it
is possible to reduce the dependence
on external resources.
x Focus on retention. It goes without
saying the less you lose, the less you
need to hire.
The combination of the size of
investment currently being put into the
oil and gas industry and the scale and
number of subsequent projects underway
as a result, are unprecedented. The latest
resources boom will undoubtedly reshape
the labour market as employers and the
governments scramble to nd solutions to
potential skills shortages. If you have not
started to think about how you might nd
the staff you need to deliver on plans, now
may be a good time to start.




and, USA, d




, H
SE advantag



n June this year, a highly unconventional 2D seismic
data acquisition was conducted in Mississippi, USA by
CGGVeritas. Typically, an exploratory 2D seismic survey
is conducted in a sequential manner where individual
lines of data are acquired as opposed to multiple lines
shot simultaneously, as is the case with 3D data surveys.
However, after more than two months of collaboration with
the client and extensive modelling, an alternative 2D design
was proposed to take into consideration the local terrain,
the imaging objectives, and the permitting restrictions,
which included acquiring partial data on multiple lines
that were spaced several miles apart from each other.
The survey utilised both explosive and vibroseis energy
sources, 4865 receiver points, and covered 148 miles in
a densely populated city, residential communities, thick
forests with major undergrowth, and commercial areas with
October 2011
trafc and noise pollution from the local airport and highways.
In the past, an acquisition of this magnitude would have been
prohibitive from both an environmental and operational overhead
point of view. However, with the evolution of next generation
wireless technology, crews now have the exibility to adapt
easily to the changing landscape with less invasive methods
than in years past.
Two decades ago, the rst radio seismic recording system
entered the market and was widely accepted as an alternative to
traditional cable-based systems designed to address obstacle
avoidance and environmental sensitivity. The design was rugged
and durable, but very large and bulky in comparison to todays
cableless equipment. The heavy casings were made of metal
instead of the thick plastic manufacturers prefer now, and rather
than being truly cableless, the ground units were connected to
one another in clusters. While this certainly reduced the amount
of cable deployed and simplied troubleshooting, it was not truly
a wireless system by todays standards. Using radio frequency
data transmission, which sometimes required a license, the older
technology could provide status updates on the quality and
health of the equipment, but it could not send data packets in
real time back to the recording trailer for QC. To view the data
and ensure the quality of the shoot, the electronics had to be
removed from the spread and transported to a transcriber before
a tedious download of the data could provide a glimpse of the
quality of the programme. Or at a minimum, they were manually
connected to a harvesting device.
The advent of todays wireless technology, with its smaller,
more portable and lightweight design coupled with its ability to
work autonomously or in conjunction with other cable-based
recording systems, solves two basic problems for the industry.
HSE drives innovation
First and foremost, it provides a cost-effective, HSE-friendly
solution to acquiring data in restricted areas where terrain
or the local environment might preclude the use of legacy
radio systems or would limit the accessibility for cable-based
operations. As was the case for CGGVeritas in Mississippi,
cableless equipment provided the exibility for the crew to
operate without clearing lines through vegetation and forests,
and without impeding daily life in an urban setting.
With a smaller footprint, cableless equipment enables
crews to work in ecologically sensitive environments, such
as protected wildlife reserves or in rugged terrain where it
would be difcult to deploy cables over sheer cliffs or in deep
canyons. It also eliminated the problem of receiver lines being
disabled by damage to cables caused by livestock or heavy
farming equipment, which reduces the amount of time spent
troubleshooting and decreases the number of personnel
required for the shoot. The reduction of operational overhead
during a complex programme affords greater efciency in
terms of acquisition production and reduces the crews HSE
exposure. With a compact design and reduction in equipment
weight, HSE risk is further decreased, as cableless equipment
does not require as many crew members to deploy and retrieve
The exibility for E&P operators to now access
previously restricted areas encourages exploration and
development of hydrocarbons in new regions. In the
Pennsylvania Marcellus shale play, for example, cableless
acquisition has been the predominant choice for seismic
surveys because the area is characterised by undulating
terrain, expansive farmland, urban environments, and oil
Figure 1. An HSE-friendly solution to
acquiring data in restricted areas where
terrain or the local environment might
preclude the use of legacy radio systems
or would limit the accessibility for
cable-based operations, provides the ideal
exibility for hydrocarbon exploration.
October 2011
and gas infrastructure. The operational complexities of
seismic acquisition in this region are difcult to mitigate using
conventional systems.
Imaging complexity and flexibility
The second problem cableless acquisition addresses is
accommodating the more demanding imaging requirements
for complex reservoirs. There is a tremendous improvement in
subsurface image resolution as more channels of equipment are
deployed and new operational methods such as point-source,
point-receiver are implemented.
Cableless systems provide the needed exibility to
adapt to survey designs with unique geometries tailored to
the subsurface that are not restricted by cable lengths and
paths. Many cableless systems can work autonomously in
conjunction with cabled recording equipment to accommodate
inll requirements in areas where laying cable would have been
difcult. Additionally, cableless acquisition is not constrained to
pre-determined receiver intervals, therefore near and far offsets
are easily accommodated without the burden of mobilising,
or potentially underutilising, additional equipment. Cableless
systems have given the industry the ability to truly maximise
reservoir illumination by offering the exibility to produce
image-driven, rather than equipment-driven, survey designs.
A standard complaint among service providers about legacy
wireless applications is the inability to QC data in real time, and
the necessity to adopt the method of shooting blind. Because
equipment had to be physically retrieved thereby taking it out
of production in order to harvest the data, observers could not
validate data quality during the acquisition. Blind operating made
it difcult to verify the data was of acceptable quality and within
satisfactory levels of harmonic distortion. If the data is of poor
quality, then E&P operators are limited in their ability to make
strategic drilling decisions for eld development and the area
may require a costly reshoot.
One of the most innovative and operationally liberating
features of this new generation of cableless acquisition
systems is the ability to support remote data harvesting during
acquisition. While many of the systems still utilise transcribers
to gather the raw data, state-of-the-art systems provide the
ability to review and/or harvest data during production, in near
real time. Crew personnel collect data via drive-by utilising
vibrators or standard automobiles, y-by when helicopters are
used to transport equipment, or walk-by during normal crew
activities. In production, data harvesting is a unique advantage
for geophysical service providers as it provides an opportunity
to make near real time, in-eld adjustments to the programme
based on the ability to QC not only the trace attributes, but
the actual raw data as it is being acquired. E&P consultants
on the programme can quickly review the data and make
recommendations about the programme, which ultimately saves
time and money.
Additionally, as survey designs become more complex
and require operations with cable and cableless systems, data
reconciliation can be a real challenge. Several of the wireless
systems enable master-slaved operations, however they are
recorded on two different platforms and will require additional
time during processing to integrate the data accordingly. The
use of one recording platform in a truly seamless integration
provides a single data set with one SEG-D le created directly
in the recording truck. This also improves data quality as it
removes any ambiguity about the time, location, and signature
recorded from the source and sensors, and further ensures data
integrity. Observers can quickly see the entire spread during
the acquisition eliminating the risk of missed records due to
master-slaved operations.
The advent of new generation cableless acquisition systems
offers many advantages to the service companies collecting
seismic data and the oil companies that underwrite and use
the data acquired. These systems improve the quality of data,
reduce the footprint on the environment, minimise the impact on
local communities and improve overall safety for the workers.
In addition, cableless systems dramatically improve
productivity in difcult or restricted access areas and in some
cases allow for the generation of seismic data where it was not
possible before. Improved productivity and seismic data reduces
drilling and production decision cycle-time and decreases
exploration and production risks, ultimately reducing the time
and cost to rst production a large nancial benet for oil and
gas companies.
The paradigm shift to image-driven seismic acquisition
design, from equipment-driven seismic acquisition design, is
beginning to change common precepts of survey planning.
Reservoir illumination is improving as a result and that means
more dollars to the bottom line, and that is good for the entire

Figure 2. In production, data harvesting is a unique advantage for
geophysical service providers as it provides an opportunity to make
near real time, in-eld adjustments to the programme based on the
ability to QC not only the trace attributes, but the actual raw data as it
is being acquired.
The next revolution in land
seismic data acquisition is here.
Dennis Freed, FairfieldNodal, USA, explains.
utting the cord. Severing ties. Going wireless. However you describe it, the act of
replacing what once seemed to be an integral part of an industrys operations with
technological advances is revolutionary. Think smartphones and laptop computers.
Now, new options can have the same impact on an industry long burdened by bulky,
expensive, environmentally unfriendly cables: land seismic data acquisition.
The burdens of convention
A conventional cabled land system requires a monumental amount of equipment. Take for
example a typical 4000-channel seismic acquisition system with receiver-station spacing of
30 m (plus 10%).
This system requires 132 000 m (132 km) of in-line cable to house telemetry twisted-pair
wires and, in most instances, power wires. The in-line cable alone weighs 6000 kg. Add in
33 m of geophone strings, each with six geophones, and this totals 132 km of cable and more
than 15 000 kg. At 58 kg each, the 84 required power stations add an additional 4872 kg.
October 2011
This 4000-channel 2D line requires approximately 264 km of
cable and weighs in at close to 25 900 kg. That is slightly under
6.5 kg per channel. Add three connections to each receiver
station two for telemetry/power and one for the sensor and
one connection for each power station, and quickly more than
12 000 connectors are reached. Even without considering
any cross-line requirements for 3D operations, this is a lot of
equipment to protect and maintain.
Complicating matters is the fact that weight is not the only
issue with seismic cables. Consider simple logistics. Cable must
always be cut to specic lengths, or takeout intervals. When
there is not enough cable, planners and contractors have to
redesign the project to account for the limits of the equipment
at hand. When there is too much cable, it must be piled or
coiled between receiver stations. This requires extra equipment,
creates an environmental and operational burden, and can lead
to seismic noise problems due to leakage.
Finally, further complicating matters, cables are easily
damaged by natural and cultural causes, and connectors wear
out. This halts production and requires eld crews to repair or
replace the defective cables and connectors. Troubleshooting
the spread becomes a continuing challenge and expense. The
more time seismic crews spend acquiring data and not having to
make repairs, the more efcient the operation. Lost production is
lost time, and lost time is lost money.
Working with what was available
Cable has always been a burden, starting with the very rst
crew. Production required massive amounts of it, and that
required heavy, cumbersome equipment for transportation
across treacherous terrain, often in harsh weather. Cable also
placed a burden on the land being surveyed and, ultimately, on
the individuals who used the acquired data.
Using cables for seismic exploration became an accepted,
common-sense choice, mainly due to the lack of alternatives.
Crews needed to wire together large moving mass-coiled
seismic sensors, called jugs, and connect them to a
magnetometer to translate the earths physical motions into
squiggles on graph paper.
Thankfully, times are changing. Todays sensors, from highly
sophisticated velocity sensors to cutting-edge accelerometers,
have dramatically improved. Acquisition output has evolved
from those raw analog squiggles to digital representations
on magnetic and optic media. Still, despite the signicant
technological advances, very little changed regarding the use of
cable. The vast majority of seismic data acquisition systems still
required tonnes of it.
The next logical extension
Recently, geophysical equipment manufacturers began
developing and introducing acquisition systems to make cables
obsolete. These new options not only eliminate the telemetry
cables that carry data from the various remote units to a central
location, they also eliminate remote-unit power cables and the
analog cables that transmit signals from the sensors to the
remote units. Some include systems that eliminate the need for
a string of geophones.
These new cable-free systems are commonly referred to
as nodal data acquisition systems. Nodes represent one of the
most important technological advances in the industrys history.
They are rightfully generating a great deal of attention from an
increasing number of contractors and oil companies worldwide.
A pioneering real-world example
For some time, crews have used cable-free autonomous nodes
for offshore seismic data acquisition. FaireldNodal rst acquired
Figure 1. Cable repair shop in operation. Figure 2. True cable-free nodes are entirely self contained, with all
essential components sealed inside.
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We know nodes.
Do more with less:
Less trouble. Less worry. Less downtime.
Seismic nodal technology is changing whats possible in seismic acquisition. We should know. We practically invented it.
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tons of cable to contend with, this compact, lightweight nodal system requires signicantly less equipment, so you can safely work
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Just as important, because the system is completely self-contained, ZLand works in any environment, with any source and in
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data for BP in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005 using its cable-free
Z3000 system, a 4C marine acquisition system capable of
operation to depths of 3000 m. Today, a 1000-node Z3000 system
is acquiring data in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell. In 2009, the
company deployed over 1300 nodes, using its 4C Z700 system,
for a long-term acquisition project in the Red Sea. That same year,
the ZLand, the industrys only truly cable-free nodal system for
use on land, was developed.
The autonomous FaireldNodal ZLand nodes are similar in
concept to the companys proven marine nodes working deep
in the Gulf of Mexico. They are completely cable free, with all
the essential elements needed to acquire seismic data sensor,
batteries, control circuitry, A/D converter, lters, memory and a
highly accurate clock to maintain timing contained within each
lightweight, self-contained node. This approach allows the seismic
contractor to offer clients ultimate exibility in layout design, whilst
simultaneously reducing their exposure to the many hazards
posed by deploying a conventional system with its onerous
bundles of cables.
Toward a cable-free future
Seismic contractors nally have options that simply were not
available even just a few years ago. In addition to the cable-free
systems pioneered by FaireldNodal, there are a number of
commercially available minimal cable systems. These systems
are somewhat similar to traditional radio telemetry systems, with
some using radios to transmit quality control data to a central
station or to a eld data collection reader. The systems eliminate
the need for telemetry cables interconnecting the individual
seismic data acquisition units to a central recorder, but still require
cables connecting the individual pieces of equipment, such as
a battery and sensors to a remote unit, and their operation may
require a radio license. These connection cables, however short,
are also still prone to the same hazards as the conventional
seismic cables of the past.
The movement toward cable-free land data acquisition is on.
These alternatives deserve serious consideration as productivity
and HSE demands increase. It is time for a long-overdue
revolution and a transition to simpler, more effective means of
acquiring critical data.

Figure 3. 1134 nodes staged for eld deployment.
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Chip Abrant and Jonathan Lightfoot,
Scientific Drilling, USA, consider ranging
applications in the industry.
his article explores the signicance of
MagTraC MWD Ranging

, the process of using sensor

data from a measurement while drilling (MWD) system
to calculate the relative position between two wellbores. The
raw data taken from the MWDs three-axis sensor package
is used to determine the location of magnetic interference in
the earths natural magnetic eld. Magnetic interference, as
it applies to MWD Ranging, refers to localised anomalies to
the earths magnetic eld caused by a casing string and/or
sh in a nearby well. During drilling operations, this is often
referred to as a hot survey, meaning that the survey tool
(i.e. MWD) is detecting magnetic interference, normally due to
the presence of positive and negative poles that exist near the
couplings on the casing string. The range of detection varies,
but a key advantage of MWD Ranging is that the necessary
data to determine the distance and direction to the source of
the magnetic interference is available from most commercial
MWD systems. Casing connection ranging calculation points
are typically used as the key ranging shots, while drilling a
ranging well for avoidance or intercept applications. Casing
joints are generally 40 ft long, so the larger natural magnetic
eld at each casing coupling helps to provide many data
points while drilling the new wellbore to ensure proper
spacing is maintained. In instances of close proximity, such
as an intercept application, the MWD sensors detect detailed
magnetisation along the entire casing string, not just near the
couplings. Using the MWD Ranging process allows MagTraC
services to quickly and efciently obtain a x on the location of
the offset well without adding any costly bottom-hole-assembly
(BHA) or wireline trips for special tools, as is required with
some ranging systems.
Scientic Drilling International (SDI) has worked for many
years to establish and develop the process and capabilities
of MWD Ranging. The method was achieved by developing
Figure1. Many mature elds have closely spaced wells.
October 2011
proprietary algorithms within computer
software used to model and locate an
offset target well relative to the well being
drilled, without having to run any additional
sensors or equipment into the wellbore.
Since MWD data is readily available on
nearly all directional drilling applications,
the MagTraC MWD Ranging service can be
provided on a global basis with very short
notice. In many instances it can be carried
out entirely offsite on projects anywhere in
the world a service referred to as remote
MWD Ranging, greatly reducing the
logistical and commercial issues related
to mobilising personnel and/or equipment
to a remote well site. As previously
mentioned, although MWD Ranging works
extremely well with the Scientic MWD,
it works equally well with all other
commercial MWD systems.
MagTraC MWD Ranging has two
broad applications; rstly in clearance and
avoidance and, secondly, in intercept. Both
of these will be discussed in more detail in
this article.
Figure 2 depicts an example of avoidance
when drilling a new wellbore next to an
existing well. This offset parallel position
technique is commonly called twinning or
also occasionally referred to as hand-rail
wells. Several applications exist where parallel
wellbores in a productive zone can aid in the
recovery of natural resources.
One interesting application referred to
as frac-recovery is the process of drilling a
low-cost directional replacement well into the
region of a costly fracture stimulation zone
of an existing well that has been rendered
nonproductive. On the west coast of the US,
the usual cause of these well issues is related
to either tectonic occurrences or to eld
subsidence that causes casing collapse at
intermediate depths, resulting in inability
to produce the well (rod pump) (Figure 1).
It has proven to be cost-effective to drill a
replacement wellbore placed in close bottom
hole (across production zone) proximity
to the original wellbore. Essentially, it is more
economically effective to quickly and efciently
drill the new well into the old (target) well stimulated zone, thereby
restoring production without having to frac the new well.
Another key application of MWD Ranging is anti-collision or
collision avoidance. Today many operators are drilling multiple wells
from a limited surface location such as pad (onshore) or template
(offshore). In some cases, these onshore project sites now have in
excess of 60 wells per pad, similar to congested platform templates
in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. As the number of wells
drilled from the pad or template increase, subsequent wells to be
drilled have the increasing challenge of getting clear of magnetic
interference while near the surface, and at
times where another well is crossed at depth
while drilling to target locations. Having
access to MagTraC MWD Ranging offers
additional condence that the new wells are
drilled accurately versus drilling blind while in
the zone of extreme magnetic interference.
Figure 3 illustrates the potential complexity
of wells drilled from multiple pads, as well
as a high density pad. The ranging process
in this case is very much the same as the
parallel well case except the new well will be
steered to avoid the offset well, as opposed
to intentionally staying close to the target well.
Again, MWD Ranging helps to ensure that the
offset wells actual location is known, allowing
the new well to be safely and efciently
drilled while greatly reducing the risk of an
unintentional collision.
A subset of the anti-collision application
is occasionally referred to as ghost well
avoidance. In many mature basins around
the world it is not unusual to unexpectedly
experience magnetic interference when
drilling a new well. Often this magnetic
interference is an indicator of an unknown
offset well. An operator may choose to take
the chance and drill ahead and hope that the
unknown well goes away, or invest a few
hours of rig time to collect the necessary data
to allow for MagTraC MWD Ranging to be
performed in order to locate the ghost well
relative to the well currently being drilled.
Finally, there is an MWD Ranging
application referred to as kick-off assurance.
In instances where a wellbore is being
directionally kicked off in proximity to
magnetic interference, whether from below
a shoe with offset wells nearby, such as
a platform template, or from a casing exit
(whipstock or section), MWD Ranging may
prove invaluable to guide the directional
wellbore away from the offset wells (Figure 4).
This application is likely to continue to grow
as the multi-lateral market increases and
as continued eld development in the tight,
unconventional plays continues to require
downspacing in order to optimise reservoir
Intercepts are an exercise in exact well placement, where
MagTraC MWD Ranging is used to intentionally guide the well being
drilled into a direct collision with an offset (target) well (Figure 5). Two
of the most important applications of intercept wells are plug and
abandonments (P&A) and relief wells. P&A wells are those requiring
permanent abandonment without the ability to access the required
plug depths through the wellbore, thereby not meeting regulatory
abandonment requirements. A relief well refers to a remedial
well that must be drilled in order to access a well that has been
compromised beyond control.
Figure2. Three-axis sensor package in MWD
detects magnetic interference from an offset
Figure3. Requirement for multiple wells to
fully monetise the reservoir coupled with
minimum surface impact, results in closely
spaced wellbores.
October 2011
In all parts of the world, many wells exist
that require permanent abandonment. In
fact, for 2011 in the US, it is estimated that
nearly 40 000 wells are to be abandoned. At
some point in the future, all wells will require
permanent decommissioning. The decision
to decommission is usually made when
production of the resource has depleted to a
level of noneconomic ow, without any other
remaining productive zones available or
accessible. Many of these wells are uniquely
challenged because access to the wells
productive zone(s) is limited or not available
due to a variety of casing issues, such as
uphole casing corrosion, casing collapse,
or casing wear caused by rod wear and/or
excess well intervention work.
P&A intercept
In the Permian Basin of west Texas, there
have been many cases where operators have
used the MagTraC MWD Ranging service to
successfully and permanently abandon wells
to prevent future contamination of fresh water
aquifers and other intervals exposed when
the well was originally drilled. In these cases,
after conventional remedial steps proved to
be uneconomic and/or unsuccessful due
to casing issues (corrosion, collapse, etc.),
the problem well can be exited above the
casing problem and guided to an intercept
point below the problem. In some cases
a new well is spudded nearby (typically
30 to 100 ft of surface location offset) and
drilled directionally toward the well requiring
abandonment. MWD Ranging is performed in
order to guide the remedial well to intercept
the older, damaged (target) wellbore at the
appropriate depth(s). Once the casing of
the target well is encountered, access to
the target well is accomplished by either
milling through the casing, or in many events,
perforating into the casing to establish
hydraulic communication allowing cement
to be pumped. During these operations
it is important to communicate with the
appropriate regulatory body to ensure that
all regulatory requirements for abandonment
are met.
Relief wells are among the most
challenging type of ranging application
because of the urgent, and sometime
high-prole nature to regain control of the
well and minimise environmental impact. MWD Ranging proves
valuable in these situations because it helps to efciently drill a
relief well that will intercept the target well, allowing for a permanent
kill without requiring numerous round trips. The MWD Ranging
service allows the relief well to be placed accurately and efciently
to the required depth of intercept. The faster that a relief well is
placed in the appropriate position, the sooner hydraulic well control
actions can be commenced. In the unfortunate situation when
wells are compromised, it is important to
consider which technology should be used
to quickly and efciently resolve the problem
and simultaneously minimise environmental
impact and risk to personnel.
Remote operations
MagTraC is a global, rapid response service
usable with any MWD system. The offsite,
remote capability of this service is proven
to be especially helpful anytime a standard
magnetic MWD system has invalid surveys,
as a result of being too close to another
wellbore. When magnetic interference
occurs, the MWD operator for any service
provider can transmit the raw data values
to a Scientic Drilling MagTraC Operational
Support Centre, to get a target location of
the offset well. The cost savings in this case
are signicant considering the alternative of
drilling with no assurance and extra risk, or
having to mobilise additional survey tools
to reduce the positional uncertainty of the
offset well(s) on location in an effort to nd
the cause. Lastly, Scientic Drilling provides
planning assistance to help operators and
other service providers better understand the
ranging process and how it applies to their
particular situation.
gMWD: magnetic and gyro
Use of a gMWD (Gyro MWD) system further
enhances the MWD Ranging process
because the gMWD has both magnetic and
gyro sensors in the same survey package.
SDIs Keeper gyro system provides the
directional drilling team with an accurate
measure of inclination and azimuth. The
north seeking earth-rate gyro is unaffected
by the magnetic interference caused by a
target wells casing magnetic eld, allowing
interference-free directional surveys and
toolfaces during the close approach. This
allows drillers to steer the BHA and eliminates
the need to survey the well with a wireline
gyro at the completion of the job. The
magnetic sensor package records accurate
magnetic eld intensity measurements that
are then used by the MagTraC software to
calculate the position of the offset (target)
well. The accuracy of ranging calculations
continually improves as the well being
drilled moves closer to the target well. The combination of gyro
and magnetic MWD coupled with MagTraC MWD Ranging allows
an operator to drill new wells very close to others, with additional
control and reduced uncertainty in the borehole position. This
technology has become the industry standard for drilling wells on
tightly spaced platforms and on onshore pad locations helping
operators substantially reduce risk while also reducing surface

Figure4. Kicking off or Sidetracking a well in
a congested area.
Figure5. Intercepting a wellbore for P&A or
relief well purposes.
n impressive body of literature concerning
drilling and completion uids has been
accumulated and published over the last
several decades. The formulation and testing
methodologies required to reduce risk and enhance
productivity are much too specic to cover
adequately in the space of one article. Therefore,
this article will not focus on a specic design
process, but will take an overview approach to the
main factors to be considered when designing a
well uid programme, including reservoir geology,
type of completion and stimulation considerations.
A methodology will be demonstrated whereby the
propensity to maximise reservoir performance is
greatly enhanced when all wellbore construction
variables are taken in account.
When drilling a well, effective uid design is
a critical initial consideration. Varying geology
Claire Adam, Baker Hughes, UK, looks at
concurrent drilling and completion fluid
design and explains why an integrated
approach improves well performance.
October 2011
and completion types require different uid properties,
and sometimes a single well can encounter a multitude
of different conditions. All of these variables and their
implications must be accounted for in the uid design.
A reservoir drill-in uid (RDIF) is a custom designed
uid that is used to drill through the reservoir section
of a wellbore. The purpose of this uid is to minimise
the damage to the reservoir, which enables maximum
production so that the well can generate the optimum
return. To be able to do this, a uid has to be formulated
to meet reservoir specic criteria.
Some of the basic attributes of an RDIF include lter
cake deposition, ltrate invasion, ltrate compatibility
and readily removable lter cake. The following is a brief
discussion of each of these desirable characteristics.
Rapid deposition of filter cake
The more quickly a lter cake is laid down, the less
damage created in the reservoir. If the lter cake does
not form quickly and efciently, uid and even whole mud
can invade the formation, leading to extensive damage.
To produce an effective lter cake, the uids solids
must be the optimum size to bridge the formation pore
throats. If the solids are too small to bridge, whole mud
can enter the formation and if they are too large to form
an effective bridge, a quantity of ltrate containing small
solid particles can enter the formation; both conditions
can cause extensive formation damage. An effective
bridge will only allow clean ltrate to enter the formation,
minimising damage the optimum scenario.
Controlled filtrate invasion
An effective lter cake will prevent excessive invasion of
the ltrate into the reservoir. Clean ltrate is much less
damaging than whole mud, but any uid invasion into the
producing zone is not desirable and must be minimised.
Compatible filtrate
Using a ltrate that is incompatible with the reservoir can
cause instability in the wellbore, leading to mechanical
problems. For example, many shales react with water, so
inhibitors need to be used; oil or synthetic-based uids
are another alternative.
Filter cake that can be readily removed
The lter cake needs to be easily removed when
production is initiated so that the ow of oil or natural
gas can be rapidly maximised. If the lter cake is not
fully removed then some of the pore spaces will remain
blocked, which will reduce productivity.
Reservoir studies optimise choices
To achieve these requirements there are a number of
factors for consideration. These include:
x Type of formation: is it sandstone or limestone and
what is the shale content?
x The total length and tortuosity of the well path.
x The type of completion that has been chosen (open or
cased hole, screens, gravel pack).
x Other factors to mention are the damage mechanism
potential, the temperature and the annular hydraulics.
Figure 1. Filter cake destruction by applying mesophase post
SDI ofers ft-for-purpose solutions built in-house down
to the sensor level, and our application engineering group is
constantly developing and implementing new technologies.
Tats the power of Scientifc.
ince 1969, Scientifc Drilling International (SDI) has
pioneered many Directional Drilling and Wellbore
Navigation technologies now commonly used around
the world.

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Laboratory tests can be used to simulate the well
conditions and, therefore, assist with the uid design. It is
then possible to test a number of options to ensure that the
best uid is used for each well. Experience can give insight
into how different chemicals might react, but this approach
can be unreliable. Specic testing on actual core will provide
the most accurate information and lead to a uid design that
can reduce the risk of formation damage.
To further reduce drilling uid damage, stimulation
treatments can be used to disrupt lter cake integrity. Enzyme
treatments are used with water-based RDIFs to break the
polymers in the lter cake. Then organic acids can be formed
in situ, their production delayed to allow various completion
operations to take place before the lter cake is broken
down. This delay mechanism also allows for the uniform
destruction of the lter cake, ensuring the effective removal
of a potential damage mechanism. A similar process can be
used for oil-based lter cakes, using surfactants to change
the surface wettability and organic acid to dissolve lter cake
components, which stimulates production.
Testing for Ormen Lange
The Ormen Lange gas project in Norway required dedicated
planning and uid design. When it comes into full production,
it will supply 20% of the UKs gas requirement and will make
Norway the second largest natural gas exporter in the world.
Norway has very strict environmental legislation, and to
minimise environmental impact the decision was made early
on to use only water-based uids. However, one downside of
Figure 2. Application of state-of-the-art investigative techniques to fully understand rock and uid interactions.
using water-based uids is the increased risk of gas hydrate
formation when experiencing gas inux. The well conditions
in this particular eld exacerbate the problem with elevated
hydrostatic pressure and low seabed temperature, inherent
to the deepwater environment and the use of a subsea
stack. These conditions instigated an extensive hydrate
measurement programme and the use of saturated brines as
the base uid.
The RDIF technical requirements for this project were:
x Minimal productivity impact.
x Use of green or yellow chemicals (best environmental
status, Norsok regulations).
x Hydrate inhibition.
x It was also required that the RDIF provide good hole
cleaning, borehole stability and effective filtration control.
All of this was achieved with careful planning and
extensive testing in a lab environment. Basic testing using API
standard test procedures to optimise the uid properties were
carried out, as were thorough permeability, corrosion testing
and compatibility testing. The resulting uid formulations have
allowed the trouble-free drilling and completion of the most
productive gas wells in the world.
As drilling conditions become more challenging and
environmental regulations more stringent, the uid design for
each well becomes even more critical and challenging. The
investment of time and resources in the initial stages of the
uid design results in productivity optimisation, minimisation of
downhole damage and environmental impact of the project.
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Figure 1. Impressions from the load test in
the Port of Rotterdam 250t at the hook.
Herrenknecht Vertical GmbH, Germany, goes
offshore with modern hydraulic hands-off
technology. Thomas Janowski explains.
he Terra Invader rigs are specically
adapted to customer and project
requirements, offering high technical
standards based on offshore technology and a
number of new developments. They are produced
by Herrenknecht Vertical GmbH (a subsidiary of
Herrenknecht AG), a company that designs and
manufactures deep drilling rigs and equipment for
wells down to 6000 m. Central features of the rigs
comprise an optimised safety concept (hands-off
technology) and exible energy management,
comprehensive automation of working processes
to increase time savings, as well as integrated
noise protection devices to benet our
environment. Since its foundation in 2005, the
company started its business in the onshore deep
drilling sector. In 2011, it took its rst step into
offshore with its modern hydraulic deep drilling
rig type Terra Invader 250CL, named B-011, for
Dutch customer Swift Drilling BV.
All deep drilling rigs are designed in such a way
that a maximum degree of hands-off procedures
can be realised. This reduces the risk of accidents
on the one hand, and personnel costs on the other.
For the Terra Invader 250CL this can be achieved,
above all, by the automated pipe handling system.
This unique pipe rack provides the appropriate
rods or casing on the catwalk at any time. The pipe
handler picks them up and brings them directly
into the well centre position where the hydraulic
hoisting system takes over. This means that
The Terra Invader
October 2011
the rig can be operated safely and with fewer personnel than
conventional rope installations.
The control is semi-automatic and the pipe handling operator
or the driller operates the system and the operations are
documented in the electronic pipe book.
The complete pipe handling system is designed to handle
drill pipes range 3 in super singles, drill collars and casings. The
pipe handler is designed for picking up and laying down tubulars
with a diameter of 2 in. to 24 in. The maximum lifting
capacity is 3 t.
Table 1. Project characteristics (North Sea/The Netherlands)
Project data Machine data
Location North Sea
Herrenknecht Vertical Terra Invader
Drilling depths
Up to 6500 m
(slim well)
Substructure Cantilever
Well diameter 3.5 in. Hook load 325 t
Oil and gas
well cleaning/
Hoisting system
1200 kW
(1600 hp.)
Customer SWIFT Drilling
Top drive
800 kW
(1000 hp.)
tripping speed
350 m/h
Figure 3. Hyraulic pipe handler.
Figure 2. SWIFT 10 on its rst location in the North Sea, 50km west
of the coast of Den Helder, The Netherlands. Swift Drilling.
Pipe handling system in detail
x The basic idea is to have horizontal pipe boxes to fill up the
pipe rack. These boxes are placed beside the catwalk.
x Within the boxes there are yokes. This is a steel frame in
which multiple drill pipes can be stored.
x Such a yoke is picked up with a pipe feeder system. The
pipe feeder then transports the yoke to the catwalk, so
that there are several pipes in an intermediate pipe storage
installed beside the catwalk.
x The catwalk picks up a single pipe and transports it to the
hand-over position of the pipe handler.
x The pipe handler then picks up the drill pipe and transports
it from horizontal to vertical.
x In the vertical position, the drill pipe is handed over to the
x Afterwards, the pipe handler moves out of the well centre
and the drilling process continues.
The Terra Invader 250CL is part of the SWIFT 10 jack-up
drilling unit that was built by Swift Drilling, a joint venture
between Fabricom Oil, Gas & Power and the Van Es Group,
under commission of the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV
(NAM), which in turn is a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil.
The different parts of the SWIFT 10 were built all over the
world and were brought together in the Port of Rotterdam in
December last year for nal assembly. In all, the construction
and the engineering of the SWIFT 10 took approximately
three years.
The drilling rig components of Herrenknecht Vertical GmbH
were installed directly onto a cantilever at the wet dock in the
port of Kehl, only 40 km away from the company headquarters in
This cantilever was then integrated into the jack-up
barge, a movable offshore drilling platform with four
hydraulically-movable legs.
The SWIFT 10 will be used to tap new wells and to work on
existing installations. The platform is specially designed for use in the
southern part of the North Sea. With only 50 to 60 crew members,
it operates with a 50% lower headcount than a conventional
drilling platform. Technically, it is adapted to the conditions in
this part of the North Sea, with the automated pipe handling and
reduced crane movements. Its rst mission was situated in the
L13-block of the North Sea, located approximately 50 km west of
Den Helder. SWIFT 10 has been shutting down a well denitively;
good preparation for the more complex tasks to follow. Start of
operation was on 27 May this year.
The second job of the jack-up drilling rig started at the
beginning of September and consists of drilling a deviated
development well with a measured depth of approximately
4800 m for gas exploration.
The SWIFT 10 will enable the continuation of exploiting the
mineral wealth in the North Sea as efciently as possible in the
future. For years, the Dutch government has been pursuing a
small elds policy, in order to preserve the large Groningen
gas eld. At NAMs request, the SWIFT 10 was specially designed
to exploit these small elds as optimally and efciently as
The Herrenknecht Vertical deep drilling rig from type
Terra Invader 250CL, which is comparably light with a hook load
of 325 t, can drill down to depths of 6500 m for slim hole wells
and is therefore perfectly suited for the exploitation of these
small elds with the SWIFT 10 platform.

ydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has fundamentally changed the dynamics of oil and
gas production in North America. As recently as 2005, gas production in the lower
48 states was 48 billion ft
/d, and annually dropping at a rate of 1 billion ft
/d. By
2010, however, it had climbed to 59 billion ft
Much of that reversal can be attributed to the success of the Texas Barnett shale
play. Starting in the early 2000s, innovators such as Mitchell Energy began experimenting
with ways to open up the gas-rich, but permeability-poor shales that lay beneath the
Dallas/Fort Worth region. After much trial and error, Mitchell discovered that a large
fracture using millions of gallons of water and hundreds of tonnes of sand was the key
to releasing the gas. Today, thousands of wells produce approximately 5 billion ft
/d from
the Barnett.
That success has led producers to focus on other shale plays, including Louisianas
Haynesville shale, the Fayetteville shale of Arkansas, and Pennsylvanias and New Yorks
Marcellus shale. ExxonMobil, for instance, has spent over US$ 40 billion to acquire
land positions and production from shale gas (as well as other unconventional plays,
such as tight sands and coal bed methane). Chinese oil and gas producer CNOOC
recently paid Chesapeake Energy US$ 2 billion for its Texas shale acreage. Shell bought
Oilfield Technology Correspondent Gordon Cope, provides an
insight into the controversial topic of fracturing, which has either
revolutionised the energy sector in NorthAmerica or imperilled its
environment, depending on ones point of view.
October 2011
East Resources, Inc. for US$ 4.7 billion in a deal that includes
a major land position in the Marcellus shale play. Chevron
acquired Atlas Energy and its extensive Marcellus gas play
holdings for US$ 4.2 billion.
IHS CERA, a consultancy, estimates that shale gas has
more than doubled the amount of natural gas reserves and
resources in North America, adding 1200 trillion ft
of shale gas
in the US and 500 trillion ft
in Canada (to the 1300 trillion ft

of existing conventional and tight reserves). By 2035, the
Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates shale gas
could account for 16 billion ft
/d of production in the US, and
5 billion ft
/d in Canada.
Finding the right target
Shale is a low permeability, ne-grained rock that contains
varying amounts of carbonate, silica and kerogen (organic
material). The gas forms when the host rock passes through
high pressure and temperature regimes; the gas, which can be
as high as 7% content, is adsorbed onto the surface of organic
material, and dispersed in tiny pores.
However, because shale has low permeability, producing
the gas is very difcult; it requires a multi-disciplinary
approach, of which fracking is only one essential part.
High-grading shale gas plays is the rst step. A 100 m thick
shale can contain anywhere from 50 billion ft
to 400 billion ft

per square mile. Estimating gas in place is carried out through
a combination of geochemistry screening of cores and chip
samples, examination of mud logs for gas sniffs and well logs.
Mineralogy is also important; kerogen, or organic source
material, can vary highly due to depositional environment, as
can clay, silica and carbonate content. In addition to core and
chip samples, explorers use resistivity, gamma ray, neutron
density and sonic logs to determine silica and carbonate
lithologies, and ECS spectroscopy measurements to measure
clay content.
Experience has shown that shale gas production can be
affected by the regional stresses and strains affecting the
host rock. Areas of high stress, for instance, reduce potential
production, while regions of low stress respond much better
to fracking. A 3D seismic survey can extrapolate stresses
measured near a wellbore over a larger exploration area.
Amplitude variation with offset (AVO) inversion of 3D
seismic data allows for the creation of Poissons ratio (PR)
volumes and maps which reect the heterogeneity of the
reservoir associated with grain size and mineralogy. A low
PR level indicates a region with high quartz to clay ratio,
which in turn signals higher porosity and gas content, ease of
stimulation and higher production ows.
Bringing all the information together helps determine the
sweet spot for each shale, where production is highest. The
best production from the Barnett shale, for instance, comes
from regions that contain a high quartz to clay ratio, low stress
and high kerogen.
Once a prospective zone has been identied, engineers design
a drilling programme to maximise production. Traditional
vertical wells offer insufcient exposure of the wellbore to
the reservoir; directional drilling must be used to increase
penetration. Starting in the 1980s, steerable mud motors
allowed drillers to control the direction of the well. The drill
bit on the bottom of the string rotates thanks to an attached
turbine that spins from the force of circulating mud. By
stopping periodically, the driller can measure the direction of
the bit, then make corrections. Wells can be drilled horizontally
for over 4000 ft into a reservoir.
Several advances have been made to directional drilling.
In the mid-1990s, service companies began to develop rotary
steerable systems (RSS) in which the drill string was kept
rotating during directional drilling. The main component is
the steering tool. There are two distinct types. A push-the-bit
tool has a series of pads that rotate with the string and
push on the side of the borehole and exert a force in order
to deect the bit in the direction the operator wants to drill.
The point-the-bit tool has an electric motor that is offset on the
drive shaft. The electric motor rotates in the opposite direction
of the drill string, holding the shaft geostationary and keeping
the tool face pointed in the desired direction.
The direction of the steerable tool is measured while drilling
(MWD), using a directional module that measures inclination
and azimuth using triaxial magnetometers and gravity sensors.
The system contains a transmitter/receiver to send data
uphole through the mud system and receive commands back
downhole. Logging While Drilling, or LWD, enables the operator
to keep the tool in the productive reservoir. RSS allows
horizontal and directional holes to be drilled farther, faster. Not
only does the company save up to 20% on the cost of drilling
the well, it increases the amount of shale gas produced from
the reservoir.
How fracturing works
After the horizontal wellbore section has been drilled and
cased, a specialty service company is called in to oversee
the hydraulic fracturing. Major frac service companies in
North America include CalFrac Well Services, TriCan, FracTech,
Baker BJ, Halliburton and Schlumberger.
CalFrac, based in Calgary, performed 2000 fracs in
2006, and 12 000 in 2010. The exponential growth is due to
the growth in horizontal wells, says Chad Leier, Sales and
Marketing Manager for CalFrac. With a vertical well, we might
do one or two fracs, but now, we might do 10 or more in a
single horizontal well.
Prior to arrival onsite, the service company puts together a
frac plan. Chemistry technology specialists look at formation
uids and pressures, the type of rock, and then come up with
a frac recipe. A frac eet is then assembled and driven to site.
A eet is generally composed of six pumps, a uid proppant
truck, uid tanks, a blender truck, and numerous worker
protection vehicles. The frac uid is mixed onsite. Most of a
frac is water, about 85%, then diesel and foam made from CO

or nitrogen, says Leier. Additives might account for 1 l/m
The target within the wellbore is isolated using packers,
then perforations are made through the casing. The frac uid is
then injected at sufciently high pressure to crush the rock into
a ne matrix of interconnecting fractures. Concurrently, up to
300 t of sand or proppant is injected to help keep the fractures
open. Service companies typically perform 10 or more fracs
per well.
Operators are increasingly using microseismic surveys
to monitor fracture stimulation. Sensitive geophones are
lowered into nearby wells in order to record the noise caused
by the expanding rock, giving feedback to the progress of the

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fracture. The information allows operators to determine the
effectiveness of their fracture programmes.
Although fracking has evolved into a highly efcient and safe
technology, it faces many challenges. A single frac can use
1 million l of water, a serious drawback in arid regions. Water
is a focus for us, says Leier. We look at reduction, recycling,
the use of hydrocarbon uid alternatives and using produced
water that is high in salt.
A percentage of water from each frac is ushed back
to surface, but it often contains contaminants and must be
cleaned before it can be discharged to surface or re-used.
As part of water management, we look at recycling through
microltration and RO, to the point where the water is clean
enough to drink, says Leier.
But a far greater controversy surrounds the nature of
the frac uid itself. Some of the chemicals used to enhance
fracturing have been associated with cancer and ofcials are
concerned that they may leak beyond the borehole boundaries
and contaminate adjacent aquifers and drinking supplies.
Authorities in Pennsylvania and Wyoming have discovered
suspect chemicals in groundwater. In 2010, acting under
a directive from Congress, the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) requested chemical lists from nine major service
companies, including Halliburton and Schlumberger. The EPA
has also identied seven sites for case studies of potential
impacts from hydraulic fracturing on drinking water supplies,
including the Haynesville shale in Louisiana, the Marcellus shale
in Pennsylvania, the Bakken shale in North Dakota and the
Barnett shale in Texas.
At the White House, the Obama administration struck a
panel and authorised its members to spend over US$ 20 million
to assess the risks of fracking. Members include former
CIA Director John Deutch, Environmental Defense Fund
President Fred Krupp and Daniel Yergin, cofounder of CERA.
State governments have entered the fray. Michigan, Texas,
Wyoming and Colorado have enacted legislation that variously
calls upon operators to submit plans regarding where they are
sourcing fresh water, what chemicals are being used in the frac
water and the volume of water recovered.
New Yorks Department of Environmental Conservation
(DEC), which temporarily banned fracking of the prolic
Marcellus shale, announced a new set of regulations in July. The
new guidelines would continue the ban on high-volume hydraulic
fracturing in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, but
allow the practice on 85% of Marcellus shale within the state.
Where allowed, the guidelines emplace considerable restrictions,
including enhanced well casing, water withdrawal permits, ow
back water containment and disposal restrictions, and disclosure
of all frac chemicals (subject to appropriate protections for
proprietary information).
Other countries with shale gas potential are taking a cautious
approach. After numerous protests in southern France, the
French Senate passed a law banning hydraulic fracturing.
Although the practice is widely allowed in Canada, the province
of Quebec has banned fracking of the gas-rich Utica shale until it
can be proven benign.
The US gas industry maintains that hydraulic fracturing
has been safely used for six decades, but onerous and costly
restrictions and even moratoriums could reduce or eliminate
shale gas drilling. Protecting groundwater formations is a priority
for us, says Leier.
There are many controls in place regarding cementing and
curing of the well casing. Replacing harmful chemicals is also
being pursued. We are working on green chemical additives,
essentially commercial food additives, like guar gum, he added.
Ironically, the success of shale gas may be its undoing. The
growth in natural gas supplies has far outstripped demand, and
that has had a dampening effect on the price of natural gas. While
US production roughly meets consumption, North America has an
integrated gas market, and over 10 billion ft
arrives from Canada
each day, saturating the market and lling up the 4 trillion ft
storage space long before the winter heating season starts. As
a result, prices have tumbled from an annual average range of
US$ 6 7 per thousand ft
to under US$ 4, well below what many
shale gas plays need to cover costs.
There are several ways to improve the price of gas. Some
operators are shutting in production until gas prices improve.
Another outlet for the gas is LNG exports. Cheniere Partners
recently announced it is negotiating a long-term contract with
a Chinese rm to add liquefaction facilities to its terminal in
Sabine Pass, Louisiana. The plan is to build up to four liquefaction
trains, each with a capacity of 700 million ft
/d, or 3.5 million tpy.
Several companies are looking at building LNG plants at the
Canadian deepwater port of Kitimat, British Columbia, in order
to ship shale gas to Asia. Gas to power, or GTP, is also soaking
up excess supply. Coal-red plants in the US are already shifting
to gas for baseload requirements, reducing their costs and
carbon footprint at the same time. If federal GHG reduction
legislation is enacted (such as a cap and trade bill, for example),
GTP consumption could expand from 20 billion ft
/d in 2010, to
30 billion ft
/d by 2020.
In the meantime, exploration companies are switching
away from gas and focusing on oil-rich shales. Targets include
the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, the Bakken formation in
North Dakota and Montana, the Niobrara shale in Colorado and
Wyoming, and the Hogshooter formation in Oklahoma.
x The Eagle Ford Shale produces liquid-rich natural gas.
Approximately 1000 wells are being drilled and fractured in
the formation every year.
x In 1995, the USGS estimated that the Bakken formation
contained 155 million bbls of technically recoverable oil.
Today, thanks to the advancement of horizontal drilling and
fracking, it estimates that 3.6 billion bbls could be recovered.
x Apache recently drilled a 4000 ft horizontal wellbore into the
Hogshooter and fracked the wellbore 20 times. Initial flow
rates exceeded 1500 bpd and 3.2 million ft
/d of gas.
x Purvin & Gertz, a consultancy, predicted that unconventional
oil production from the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and other plays
is expected to approach 900 000 bpd in 2015 and exceed
1.3 million bpd by 2020.
While industry participants estimate that the use of fracking
is growing at over 20% annually, they are very much aware of the
challenges to the sector and the work that they have to do to allay
concerns. Areas that dont have a lot of traditional oil sectors,
like France, dont understand the process and put fracking on
hold, says Leier. We must address that learning curve until they
understand the facts.

1. Chad Leier is the Sales and Marketing Manager for CalFrac Well Services.
2. Don Santa is President of the INGAA.
ew scale-inhibition chemistry, developed for hydraulic
fracturing treatments in the brine and iron-saturated
Bakken shale and introduced early this year, is
controlling chronic scaling issues long after owback,
replicating results of lab tests and solving a production
problem that has plagued wells in the Williston Basin for
In addition, independent tests in the lab of a large integrated
oileld service company found the new Bakken scale inhibitor
does not degrade the carrying capacities of cross-linked gel
frac systems, used widely to complete Bakken wells.
In most applications, the Bakken scale inhibitor is
augmented by:
x A broad spectrum biocide to treat bacterial contamination
that can lead to souring of Bakken wells and corrosion of
production system components.
Ann Davis and Dewey Berger, Champion Technologies, USA,
discuss how new frac chemistry prevents scaling in the
Bakken shale wells.
x An iron-control agent that reacts with the high amount
of aqueous iron present in Bakken connate water to
minimise the formation of iron carbonate and iron sulfide
Post-frac monitoring of approximately 100 wells treated
this year with the Bakken scale inhibitor has found residuals
of the chemistry as long as 10 months after the wells
were hydraulically fractured. No scale-related production
failures have been reported at wells treated with the new
chemistry, which is a blend of partially neutralised specialty
One of many Williston intervals
The Bakken shale, which has been described by the
US Geological Survey as one of the worlds largest continuous
oil accumulations, is one of several petroleum-producing,
Figure1. A chemist in Champion Technologies Dickinson,
NorthDakota, district lab, analyses a uid sample from a Bakken
shale well to test for the level of post-frac iron control still present.
October 2011
sedimentary formations in the Williston Basin among them the
Lodgepole, Mission Canyon, and Red River deposited by an
ancient sea. Similar to the Williston Basin, the Bakken sprawls
over parts of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota in the
US and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba
(Figure 2).
When the prehistoric sea withdrew from what is now the
Williston Basin, some of the sedimentary geologic intervals it left
behind trapped so-called sweet uids; some trapped sour uids.
The common characteristic shared by all Williston formation
uids is that they are saturated with chlorides. Chloride content
in Williston Basin geologic intervals is so high that wells are
known to salt off, a condition in which production components
become so heavily coated with scales of various types that
blockages occur and corrosion mechanisms are activated.
Scaling is such a problem in Williston Basin that operators
frequently perform annular ushes in the wintertime to ward off
scale-related production failures.
Wildcatters chasing the Bakken play drill vertically to depths
of approximately 10 000 ft before turning the wellbore to the
horizontal in a sandstone/dolomite geologic interval sandwiched
between an upper shale and a lower shale interval (Figure 2).
When a horizontal lateral in the middle sandstone/dolomite
interval is hydraulically fractured, it yields light, sweet crude oil.
The learning curve is steep in exploration frontiers as operators
are not always certain which formations induced fractures are
penetrating, so whether sandstone or shale is the source rock of
Bakken crude is still under evaluation in some wells.
Producers also learned quickly that wells producing from
the Bakken, just as wells producing from other formations in the
Williston Basin, experience severe scaling issues. However, the
composition of Bakken reservoir uids resisted treatment with
conventional scale inhibitors.
Bakken water chemistry
Field experience, combined with analyses of Bakken water
chemistry, indicate Bakken shale wells are prone to calcium
carbonate and iron
carbonate scaling.
In addition, levels of iron
concentration in Bakken
reservoir uids can exceed
200 ppm (Table 1).
conditions are triggered
in Bakken shale wells as
soon as fracturing water
mixes downhole with
incompatible formation
water. Factors such as
temperature, turbulence,
pressure, CO
pH, and concentrations
of ionic species in the
waters which can vary
wildly during fracturing
operations, making accurate
scale formation predictions
extremely difcult
can contribute to scale
Table 1. Bakken water analyses (ppm)
Bakken Brine 1 Bakken Brine 2 Bakken Brine 3
Na 90 822 93 353 92 236
Mg 1628 1920 1604
Ca 18 320 18 160 17 680
Sr 0 0 0
Ba 0 1 0
Fe 221 236 197
232 134 220
289 281 289
Cl 176 853 181 388 177 839
pH 6.5 6.5 6.6
Figure3. Bakken stratigraphy.
Figure2. Bakken map.
Some parts of the Bakken formation contain as much as
50% clays. Dissolution of minerals in the reservoir can mobilise
clays, which can plug pore throats of the formation and/or lead
to signicant formation damage during ow back. As mentioned
above, due to the Bakkens high levels of soluble iron content,
iron sulde scale (a known plugging agent) and iron carbonate
scale can form as a result of metabolic activity by sulfate-reducing
bacteria (SRB).
Scale inhibitors that had demonstrated their effectiveness
in other US shale plays proved to be no match for the high
brine, high iron, high calcium carbonate conditions of the
Bakken shale.
New scale-inhibition
In late 2010,
Champion Technologies
embarked upon an intense
research programme to
develop new scale-inhibition
chemistry that was
compatible with gel fracs
and capable of maintaining
effectiveness in hostile
Bakken reservoirs:
x Dynamic Scale Loops
(DSL) apparatuses were
used to evaluate the
performance of scale
inhibitors on synthetic
brine containing more
than 200 ppm of iron.
x A static bottle test was
used to test the efficacy
of inhibitor chemistries
on both calcium
carbonate and iron
x Compatibility testing
of scale-inhibiting
chemistries was
performed using a
synthetic non-scaling
brine with scaling
anions omitted to avoid
interference with scale
In the DSL tests, two
scaling brines (one anionic
and one cationic) were
injected at equal rates into
the apparatus where they
passed through heating
coils before mixing at a
T-junction and passing into
a scaling coil. An increase of
differential pressure across
the scaling coil indicated
scale had begun to form
and adhere to coil walls,
reducing the coils capacity.
Differential pressures were
recorded as a function of time and the blank scaling time was
determined for each test brine. In a repeat test, each scale
inhibitor was dosed into the anion ow and its concentration
progressively reduced until scaling was observed during the test
To create anaerobic conditions for tests performed in the
presence of iron, a nontraditional oxygen scavenger was added
to the cations and both the cation brine and anion brine were
purged with nitrogen for about 60 min., both before and after the
addition of iron.
Although the Bakken brine chemistry had the potential to
form both calcium carbonate and iron carbonate due to the high
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levels of iron, the DSL did not differentiate among the scales
that formed within any individual brine formulation. Furthermore,
static bottle tests were performed to determine the efcacy
of the scale inhibitors on both calcium carbonate and iron
Static bottle tests were conducted at 90 C (194 F) using
the same brine chemistry as in the DSL testing. Samples were
dosed with a nontraditional oxygen scavenger and purged and
blanketed with 1% CO
in nitrogen to prevent iron oxidation
during testing. A vacuum oven was used to further reduce the
risk of iron oxidation.
Synthetic, non-scaling brine was used for all compatibility
testing. In order to avoid interference of scale formation, the
scaling anions were omitted. Samples of brine were dosed
with experimental scale inhibitors at concentrations of 1%,
5000 ppm, 1000 ppm, and 500 ppm. The brine and inhibitors
were mixed thoroughly and placed in an oven preheated
to 90 C (194 F). Compatibility was rated by way of visual
inspections at specied time intervals. Decline of solution clarity
and/or formation of precipitates were considered to be signs of
Within weeks, researchers amassed evidence indicating
that three trial scale-inhibitor chemistries based upon blends
of speciality phosphonates could maintain effectiveness
in the Bakken, despite the formations chronic scaling
tendencies and high concentrations of iron. Subsequent
independent testing by an integrated service company
a leading provider of cross-linked gels for Bakken fracs
concluded the new scale-inhibition chemistry does not
interfere with the performance of cross-linked gel systems.
Performance confirms lab findings
Applications in the eld since the new Bakken scale inhibitor
was deployed commercially early this year have fullled the
performance promised by lab work.
Blended phosphonate scale inhibitors are being injected
as a constituent of Bakken frac uid in concentrations ranging
from 480 ppm to 650 ppm, depending upon the characteristics
of Bakken strata in the vicinity of the well or customer
specications. Treatment of frac water with the new scale
inhibitor is recommended in combination with:
x A broad-spectrum biocide, either on-the-fly or in frac tanks
prior to treatment, particularly if the frac water has been
static for several days. Bacterial contamination in Bakken
wells can include, but is not limited to, acid-producing
bacteria (APB), sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), and
slime-forming bacteria (SFB). Alternating biocides helps
keep frac tanks clean. If not treated, bacterial contamination
can lead to reservoir souring and corrosion.
x An iron-control agent to minimise the formation of iron
carbonate and iron sulfide scales. The iron-control chemistry
must be compatible with cross-linked gel frac fluids.
Post-frac performance of the Bakken scale inhibitor is
veried with a check list of sampling and testing procedures
conducted at each treated well in accordance with industry
standards. Each well treated with the new scale inhibitor is
subjected to:
x Monthly testing for scale inhibitor residuals, up to 14 months
following hydraulic fracturing.
x A complete water analysis, beginning in the second month
following hydraulic fracturing; then monthly for the first
three months and quarterly for a year if no problems are
x A bacterial enumeration using the API serial dilution method
one or two weeks following hydraulic fracturing, then
quarterly for a year.
Elemental analyses by inductively couple plasma (ICP)
are used to help measure the cations in water samples. Ion
chromatography (IC) has been added to test for anions in water
samples and to help measure scale inhibitor residuals.
Table 2 shows the results of monitoring for post-frac scale
inhibitor residuals at several wells. Post-frac data from wells
fractured with the new Bakken scale inhibitor show much higher
levels of residual scale inhibitor than competing scale-inhibition
chemistry over the same time periods, well above the minimum
effective dose (MED) of the new scale inhibitor.
Similar post-frac monitoring is under way at about 100 wells
treated with the new Bakken scale inhibitor during hydraulic
fracturing. Some of the wells are still showing scale inhibitor
residuals above the MED rate after 10 months. Empirical data
obtained from these Bakken wells substantiate the ndings of
researchers who developed the scale-ghting chemistry and no
scale-related production failures have been reported.

1. Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc., The Bakken Boom: An
Introduction to North Dakotas Shale Oil (3 August 2011).
Table2. Monitoring post-frac
Week after
Champion technologies scale
inhibitor residuals (ppm)
technology (ppm)
1 < 1
2 5
3 3
1 n/a
2 60
3 48
1 n/a
2 20
3 7
1 113
2 92
3 80
1 n/a
2 77
1 n/a
2 79
Figure4. A Champion Technologies eld technician on location at
a Bakken shale well in the Williston basin of North Dakota monitors
concentrations of scale inhibitor, biocide, and iron control agent
injected on-the-y during a hydraulic fracturing treatment.
he rising demand for fossil fuels has resulted in
an increasing number of subsea pipelines for the
transportation of oil and gas. This, in turn, has led to
the development of different applications for radioisotope
technology, to help offshore operators achieve effective
pipeline ow assurance.
Well-established and radiologically safe techniques are
not dissimilar to the way in which the medical profession use
X-Rays and radioisotopes to diagnose clinical conditions. In
the medical world, a patient can take a low energy barium
meal so that an internal assessment can be made on the
condition of the humans internal system. Likewise, Tracerco
can make similar assessments to process systems by the
introduction of an appropriate isotope.
The companys technology offers several types of
inspection services for restrictions in a pipeline whilst in
operation. The data will determine whether local restrictions
in a pipeline have caused blockages and whether they
are present in limited locations or distributed evenly
October 2011
through the line. The total volume of deposits and percentage
bore restriction within the pipeline can also be identied.
Measurements can also conrm whether the annulus of a
pipe-in-pipe system is dry or ooded with seawater or product
since this can seriously effect production due to ow assurance
As remaining reserves of oil and gas become more difcult
to access and elds previously not regarded as economical to
develop become viable, there is an increasing requirement to
attain longer subsea tiebacks to production facilities. The ow
lines involved in longer tiebacks will become more prone to
blockage from deposits, such as hydrates or waxes. For mature
assets and for pipelines that require more routine inspection,
non-intrusive measurements are essential as a tool to reduce
unnecessary downtime.
Using techniques used in oil and gas processing for over
50 years, many different pipeline scenarios can be determined
from outside of the pipeline. Problems arise however when the
pipeline is buried, as in many subsea applications, and access
to the pipe is difcult. Here tracer techniques, similar to a barium
meal used in medical technology can be utilised to determine
deposit location (and ow regimes).
Radioisotope applications
Radiation is all around us all the time, whether from natural
sources or from certain devices encountered in everyday
life. When applied to industrial applications, Tracerco uses
radioisotopes with enough penetrative power to pass through
steel pipelines or process vessels. For ow assurance projects,
the gamma ray particle that will penetrate through steel, is used.
For medical applications, a radioactive tracer is introduced
into the human internal system, in this case by ingestion, and
then examined externally to determine where any problem areas
may be. It is possible to apply the same principles to pipeline
systems to locate and assess ow assurance conditions.
Flow assurance
This can be dened as the requirement to ensure satisfactory
ow from the reservoir to the point of sale, and the desire to
understand, map and study the volatile and unpredictable
oil and gas ow from reservoir. This can be a challenge. The
applications of the medical-based radioisotope techniques to
ow assurance can be summarised as:
x Identify, locate and quantify pipeline materials such as
waxes, scales, sand, sludge, hydrates.
x Assessing total pipeline deposits as part of a cleaning
programme to increase production.
x Accurately assess and quantify pipeline condition as per
corrosion condition models.
x Accurately assess and quantify pipeline condition prior to
pigging campaign.
x Identify and locate and pipeline restrictions such as stuck
x Profile pipeline wax build-up over long time periods.
x Assess and quantify flow measurements.
Liquid and gaseous tracing techniques are regularly used
for all of the above in multiphase systems. The tracer used
is designed to follow a particular material through a system.
Sensitive detectors are strategically placed on the outside
surface of a pipe (or other process system) and detect the
selected tracer presence upon its ow past specic positions.
These measurements can be used to directly measure uid
velocity, ow rate, phase distribution and deposit inventory.
Using Figure 1 as an example, by measuring the time
interval between detector responses and knowing the distance
between the detectors, the mean linear velocity can be
calculated. If full bore turbulent ow can be assumed, then
the velocity can be converted to volumetric ow knowing the
pipe internal diameter. Accuracy will depend on the precise
circumstances but the mean velocity can usually be measured
to better than 0.5%.
Flow assurance technique
The application of Tracercos ow assurance technique can be
summarised in the owing steps:
x Deploy GammaTrac detection units subsea at known
x The units are deployed at strategic locations. This is
critical when the pipeline is laid on a seabed that has many
undulations or depth changes.
x A suitable radioisotope is injected and its passage is
recorded for analysis.
x The data is gathered and evaluated by a fully qualified
engineer present at the worksite, thus, providing instant
feedback to the client.
Figure 1. Flow rate as determined by tracer injection and process in
action subsea.
The basic principle of a tracer investigation is to label a
substance or phase and then follow it through the system
using suitable detectors. Looking at tracer studies from a
problem-solving point of view, if problems of uid transport can
be described in terms of when?, where to? and how much?,
then they can be solved by means of tracer techniques.
The basic requirements of a tracer are as follows:
x It should behave in the same way as the material under
x It should be easily detectable at low concentrations.
x Detection should be unambiguous.
x Injection and detection should be performed without
disturbing the studied system.
x The residual tracer concentration in the product should be
The criteria can be met by the use of radioisotope tracers
and by careful selection of the most appropriate tracer for a
particular application. Frequently, more than one radioisotope
can be chosen and the factors that are important in the selection
of the tracer are include the:
x Half-life.
x Specific activity.
x Type of radiation.
x Energy of radiation.
x Physical and chemical form.
Whilst tracer studies are usually employed in basic ow
measurement, it has also been successfully used in the area of
ow assurance, where it is used to measure the location and
extent of solids within a pipeline. In this application, the ow rate
through the system must be known and kept constant. Detectors
are positioned at known distances apart along the pipeline.
A pulse of tracer is added to the pipeline and its velocity past
detector positions measured. Using the velocity and ow rate,
the average bore size can be calculated between detector
locations. This measurement can give critical information prior
to any proposed pigging operations and provides operators
with the condence to successfully run pigging campaigns, safe
in the knowledge a pig will not get stuck and cause signicant
production losses.
This technique is used when the total deposit inventory of
long lengths of line needs to be known. Access is not needed
to the entire pipeline (it can be buried or subsea), just specic
positions for detector location. For example, a recent study of a
110 km pipeline between two offshore platforms was conducted
with single measurement positions at each end of the line to
give a total deposit inventory of the line. A similar study was
conducted with subsea detectors deployed every 10 km along
a 60 km pipeline to provide information of the total amount of
deposit in each 10 km section.
Wax build-up
The use of the tracer study can be to determine wax build-up
rates within oil lines, such that a pipeline cleaning pigging
strategy can be implemented and production increased. By
determining an accurate build-up rate, both time and money can
be saved with any pipeline intervention and cleaning operation.
The position and build up of waxes can reduce the ow and
Solutions that provide safety
benets and improved
performance in your
daily operations
SiteCom monitor drilling operations
Rig Manager manage offshore
K-Spice dynamic process simulation
LedaFlow multiphase ow assurance
SIM Reservoir 3D visualization of
reservoir models
Riser Management System monitor
riser systems
Risers and Flow Lines analyses
and engineering
from Kongsberg Oil & Gas Technologies
Intelligent Improvement
October 2011
hence the protability of the pipeline and also increase the risk
of getting an object (such as a cleaning pig) stuck. The cost of
removal and/or recovery of a stuck pig can be signicant and
is likely to involve many specialist third party contractors. The
lost production time will cost the operator many millions and
therefore prevention is better than cure.
In Figure 2, a study was performed year-on-year to assess
the total pipeline wax content, and as can be clearly seen, the
wax rates increased from 2005 to 2007. In 2008, results were
not obtained and the cleaning campaign reduced and as such
the volume of wax in 2009 has had a detrimental effect on the
production ow rates, reducing from 98 m
/hr to 36 m
Flow profiling
Offshore processing is a complex process and, with ever
evolving elds and deeper wells producing more and more
three-phase ows, its imperative that slugging is understood,
monitored and controlled. With an array of in-eld ow lines tied
back to an FPSO, the need to understand and map slugging
is also a key requirement for pipeline integrity. With real time
data collection and analysis, a series of in-eld ow lines can
be accurately measured and monitored. The size and shape of
slugs of material can be sent directly to the operations team,
therefore alerting them to the potential for a process upset.
Likewise, long-term slugging effects can have a detrimental
effect on the pipeline condition and hence the data can be used
to conrm modelling information.
Figure 3 shows slugging in an oil line over a 30 min. period.
The measurement technique involves placing a frame over the
pipeline and measurements taken every one-second to produce
the density prole. As is shown above, the pipeline is running full
to empty in a very short time frame.
Hydrate formation
Hydrates form within pipeline systems and have a detrimental
affect on process operating conditions, resulting in lost
production through blockage and restriction. The need to
understand where and what size of hydrate plug or restriction is
present in the pipeline can greatly assist the operator in getting
the pipeline back into full production as soon as possible.
In the study below, the operators gas well started to produce
water unexpectedly, much earlier than had been predicted. As
such, a standard procedure of injecting methanol was started
but unfortunately production stopped and a hydrate plug was
suspected as the probable cause of the blockage. The operator
then added a chemical to the line to clear the restriction,
however, a build-up of pressure indicated that the chemical
injection had little effect.
The real time, non-intrusive scan, (Figure 4) of the line
showed the pipeline density prole and therefore the hydrate,
methanol, chemical and gas could all be located and monitored
during remedial operations.
Radioisotope technology offers powerful and well-proven
techniques for determining ow assurance conditions. Until
recently, direct measurements of pipeline contents were thought
difcult, but many operators have used the technology recently
and its use is rapidly increasing worldwide.
The important features of using radioisotope tracer
techniques may be summarised as follows:
x The techniques described above make process systems
transparent, which means that rather than guessing at what
might be happening, it will be possible to make accurate,
informed decisions in respect of further intervention or
x Most pipeline systems/subsea production systems are
extremely complex, the techniques described above allow
the complexity of the system to be broken down into
individual component modules and assessment made of the
performance of the individual parts.

Figure 2. Wax deposit amounts and ow rates.
Figure 3. Pipeline slugging in oil line.
Figure 4. Real time, non-intrusive data provides a pipeline density prole.
ne of the most widely used terms in the oil and
gas industry today is that of ow assurance. From
the multiphase transport of oil, gas and water
ows through pipelines to corrosion and sand monitoring
technologies, hydrate prevention, subsea sampling and
PVT analysis, ow assurance is all about the continuous
and optimised ow of oil and gas out of the reservoir.
Yet, while measuring production rates might be the most
accurate means of determining the success of ow
assurance, there is another equally important criteria
reducing the need for well intervention.
It is true that well intervention has undergone signicant
changes over the last few years from large mobile
installations to lighter subsea well intervention systems
without the need for a riser.
However, the costs involved (sometimes having to
shut down production, for example, with rig costs being
as much as US$ 1 million/day) and the added risks of
intervening in deepwater HP/HT environments have made
well intervention very much a last option in the eyes of
many operators.
So how can well intervention be pre-empted? The
author believes that the need for well intervention can be
reduced by taking ow assurance further downhole into the
The downhole information gap
One of the key reasons for well intervention is the lack
of accurate downhole information, information that can
often warn the operator of threats to production and ow
A lack of pressure and temperature information,
for example, can result in the need for well intervention
techniques, such as logging, perforating and plug setting.
Completion components may also have to be replaced and
wellbore access freed up if sand is not detected early in the
well stream. The same goes for corrosion downhole, such
as when unchecked water enters the production ow.
October 2011
Another information gap that can have a major impact
on ow assurance and offshore safety is the pressure and
temperature within the annulus of an oil well.
The annulus is the space between two concentric objects,
such as between the wellbore and casing or between casing and
tubing, where uid can ow. A completed well normally consists
of at least two annuli, with the annulus B often located between
different casing strings.
The annulus B is important because it is the area likely to see
the rst indication of high pressures further down the well if the
cement seals behind the wellbore casing are of poor quality. The
result can be oil or gas migrating vertically towards the surface
along the outside of the casing, leading to uncontrolled gas
escaping at the surface and an inevitable production shutdown
before a serious safety issue escalates.
Real time intelligent monitoring
So how can such dangers be addressed and the need for
intervention reduced? Today the greatest opportunities for
improvement come with real time monitoring of the reservoir
and generation of accurate information on the uids that ow
through it.
This requires taking reservoir monitoring downhole to
monitor wells more closely. This is particularly important with the
growing use of extended designer wells with multiple production
targets and multilaterals with several branches. In such cases,
the contribution from each producing well zone needs to be
closely monitored.
The good news, however, is that today there is much greater
predictive intelligence, automation and integration in reservoir
production monitoring.
Emersons Roxar downhole monitoring systems, for
example, are today deployed in production, injection and
observation wells, as well as in conjunction with the downhole
instrumentation of highly complex multi-zone intelligent wells.
In Statoils North Sea Gullfaks eld, the companys downhole
pressure and temperature gauges have been in continuous
operation since 1991, supplying real time data under various
ow conditions and helping operators to accelerate production
and reduce the risk of unplanned shutdowns.
This real time monitoring has been further developed into a
fully integrated Intelligent Downhole Network (IDN), which allows
operators to install up to 32 instruments on a single cable, all of
which will provide input to manage a whole range of production
wells or separate zones simultaneously.
In this way, the intelligent network acts as a hub for
downhole choke position indicators, for additional third party
sensors, and for the transmission of power and data. The IDN
will communicate to all sensors, so if a failure of one sensor
occurs, all other sensors will still be able to communicate to the
The only way to continuously monitor the production
performance parameters of each individually perforated zone
of a multilayer well is by downhole sensors between each
production zone. To this end, well control by permanently
installed sensors will provide a cost-efcient alternative to
logging operations.
The growth in wireless technologies is also playing a key
role in taking ow assurance downhole and preventing well
Emersons wireless solutions are today being utilised in
thousands of installations around the world, enabling operators
to increase the visibility of their assets. These wireless
capabilities are now being taken downhole in the area of well
Wireless is behind a new sensor system that has been
developed to measure pressure and temperature information
behind the casing in the annulus B of subsea production wells.
The wireless sensor,
which is based on the
previously mentioned
intelligent network, is
attached to the same
cable as the reservoir
monitoring gauges
and directly measures
pressure behind the
casing string. The
system consists of an
IDN to carry signals
from the wellbore to the
customer monitoring
system with a Downhole
Network Controller Card
(DHNC) placed in the
subsea structure and
connected to a 0.25 in.
electrical cable, coupled
to a tubing hanger
Other key
components include
a wireless reader, a
wireless PT transponder
Figure 1. Regular pressure monitoring with downhole gauges is becoming essential in subsea operations.
and antennas to monitor activity in the B annulus, and a
transponder and reader carrier. The system has an accuracy
of 2.5 psi 0.18 F and is qualied to last for a minimum of
20 years at temperatures of up to 302 F and pressures up to
10 000 psi.
The result is a highly effective instrument for protecting well
integrity and ow assurance an instrument that can detect
variations in pressure behind the casing, provide an early
warning of such conditions, and allow intervention or other
remedial actions to be planned and implemented in a timely
Downhole multiphase metering
However, there is one missing element of downhole reservoir
monitoring. For all the importance of pressure and temperature,
probably the single piece of data operators want to know most
about, as part of their downhole reservoir monitoring activities, is
the ow from individual wells and well zones.
This information has become even more difcult to obtain
due to the rise in multilateral wells, with the ability to access ow
rates from different zones and branches off a single wellbore
remaining elusive to many operators. More often than not, one
has to settle on data on total production ow rather than ow
from specic well zones.
The company has developed a new ow sensor system that
can generate multiphase ow measurements from downhole
in the well. The new system, which is based on multiphase
metering technology, provides multiphase measurements of
fractions and ow rates from either single bore or multilateral
well congurations. And in this way, water, oil and gas fractions,
and ow velocity can become as accepted a technology in
permanent downhole applications as temperature and pressure
already are today.
There are a number of operator benets. The system will
allow operators to control multiple production wells, measure
the individual ow zones of oil, gas and water, and establish
optimum ow rate control. Additionally, if there is water
breakthrough or gas encroachment in a particular well, the
problem can be detected early on and only the branch of the
well closed down rather than the complete well.
Other warnings of transient behaviour, such as slugs, will
also be detected earlier and actions such as injecting water
or gas into the reservoir for improved sweep efciency can
be closely monitored with the injection rate in each individual
reservoir layer being closely controlled. In this way, many of the
causes for well intervention can be mitigated.
Multiphase measurements downhole can also be integrated
with data from other instrumentation to provide a more intelligent
downhole reservoir management system.
In this way, threats to production can be detected by the
multiphase meter and then pinpointed by the downhole sensors.
Once unwanted water or gas enters the well bore, for example,
the downhole pressure and temperature gauges can help the
operator locate the problem area for immediate remedial action.
Crucial role
This article demonstrates the crucial role downhole monitoring
plays in ow assurance today, negating the need for well
intervention and ensuring a highly efcient and effective
production process.

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Ian Anderson, Camcon Oil, UK, highlights the growing
influence of digital artificial gas lift in flow assurance.
here are few broader terms in the oil and gas lexicon today than that of ow assurance. A term originally used
by Petrobras in the early 1990s, ow assurance today covers every aspect of oil and gas production that
facilitates the successful ow of hydrocarbons from reservoir to renery.
Traditionally, ow assurance engineers have tended to focus on the multiphase transport of oil, gas, condensates
and water in the pipeline with the most popular ow assurance techniques including multiphase meters and sand,
hydrate and corrosion control.
Artificial gas lift
This author would argue, however, that one of the other elements of ow assurance in the oil and gas sector today, and
one that signicantly improves the ow from reservoir to renery, is that of articial gas lift, the enhanced oil recovery
technique used to lift reservoir uids to the surface when wells are not able to sustain such pressures naturally.
With gas lift, gas is injected into the production tubing to reduce the impact of the hydrostatic pressure where the
reservoir pressures are not sufcient to force the hydrocarbons to the surface. By reducing the oil viscosity and thus
October 2011
allowing reservoir liquids to enter the well bore at higher ow
rates, elds around the world can subsequently enjoy improved
reservoir performance.
Furthermore, with the increased focus on increasing recovery
rates as new oil becomes harder to nd, gas lift is likely to
be a key element of ow assurance for many years to come.
Spears & Associates estimated that the global articial lift
market was worth US$ 6.9 billion in 2008 and this gure is only
likely to have increased over the last few years.
As has been mentioned in previous articles (including in
Oileld Technology), however, traditional gas lift techniques
come with certain limitations.
These include a lack of information on pressure and
temperatures at the point of gas injection and little control and
exibility in altering injection rates, where wireline interventions
and the changing of the side mandrel units tend to be used to
change the operating valve when injection rate changes are
In addition, the settings of these valves are often based
on experience and informed guesses, as well as an overriding
assumption that the well will operate at a specic reservoir
pressure, ow and water cut.
It is with these limitations in mind that Camcon Oil recently
developed a new digital solution for articial gas lift, APOLLO,
which enables operators to vary injection rates in real time
without production interruption and well intervention. APOLLO,
the rst of a new range of products to support digital intelligent
articial lift (DIAL) solutions, generates pressure and temperature
information throughout the gas injection process all features
that current gas lift solutions cannot provide.
In this way, the new solution eliminates the need for side
mandrel units and wireline intervention processes to initiate
gas injection changes. Settings can be tuned as wellbore
conditions change through the life of the installation, giving
control across the reservoir in balancing gas usage and
preventing instability.
Yet, what are the tangible benets in terms of increased oil
and gas recovery? Can we provide some specics in regard to
increased production as a result of digital articial gas lift?
The rest of this article will examine how the digital articial
lift solution was put to the test through a simulation modelling
test with production technology consultants, Laing Engineering
Training Services (LETS).
Simulation modelling test
LETS developed an example well based on a modern day
subsea well in moderate water depths, drilled to a total depth
of 17 600 ft MD (measured depth) and with a 4.5 in. x 5.5 in.
production tubing string inside a 7 in. liner. The oil was a light
38 API uid with a reservoir temperature of 260 F. The key
variables examined during the testing were the well productivity
index, reservoir pressure and water cut. Each of these
parameters can be expected to change over the life of the well.
While the gas lift unloading operation is a transient
phenomenon, with pressures and temperatures changing over
time, continuous gas lift can be adequately modelled as a steady
state process. To this end, LETS used the analysis software,

, to create production system models. PROSPER,

developed by Petroleum Experts, is popular with many
petroleum engineers.
The focus of the test was to analyse the selection of gas lift
equipment that will balance the desire for optimal oil production
with the requirement for maintaining well integrity and gas lift
equipment functionality over the life of the well.
A number of well life scenarios were developed including
early life, from one day to three months, where there would be
high pressures and no water cuts through to mid-life at one year,
where there would be water injection and low water cuts, and
late life at three years where there would be a higher water cut
(although scenarios with low water cuts were also explored).
Using these range of potential life of well scenarios, the test
compared the performance of a standard, multi-mandrel gas lift
design with Camcons digital articial lift solution to identify the
maximum practically achievable production rates alongside the
maximum practically achievable gas injection rates. A typical
gas lift design technique built in to the PROSPER programme
similar to those used by gas lift service companies was
selected to determine mandrel spacing and valve port size.
The analysis revealed a wide range of possible injection depths
from 3000 17 000 ft MD, and a wide range of optimal gas
injection rates from 1.0 8.0 million ft
/d. In order to make
the comparative modelling exercise practical in multi-variable
scenarios, however, 2.0 million ft
/d was selected as the
allocated gas injection rate for comparison. It should be noted,
however, that this digital solution provides a number of options
to vary the injection rate.
When going through the different well scenarios, the analysis
revealed that the benets of gas lift on day one are relatively
trivial with the well left to ow naturally without any gas lift
The two scenarios that derive most benet from gas lift are
at the early life stage after three months and the mid-life stage
with water injection support. The mid-life stage is considered to
be particularly important where reservoir pressure has fallen to
an extent that it cannot support natural production.
At the late lifecycle stage with water injection support,
however, it was not possible to inject 2.0 million ft
/d with
conventional gas lift design. This was due to the concern that
Figure 1. APOLLO, the rst of a new range of products to support
digital intelligent articial lift (DIAL) solutions.
injecting through the unloading valve may damage the valve.
Subsequently, no injection took place.
Since the well is not capable of natural ow with this high
water cut, the well must remain shut in, until either the reservoir
pressure falls to the point that gas can be injected at the depth
of the orice or, conversely, reservoir pressure rises high enough
to deliver natural ow. There was no such problem with the
digital articial gas lift solution, however, with the 2.0 million ft
being injected.
For each of these life cycle stages, it was clearly seen
that the exibility of the Camcon digital unit to move injection
depth up and down the well in response to the changes in well
production characteristics yields additional production. At times,
this incremental production is worth over 1000 bpd, yielding
signicant extra cash ow, and in one scenario represented up
to 110% more production.
The ability to open and close the DIAL units at will, and
to vary the equivalent port size, meant that even greater
production increments could be delivered in the scenarios
where additional casing pressure or additional gas lift gas
became available, since there was no concern over reopening
unloading valves.
Furthermore, while the 2.0 million ft
/d was set as the gas
injection rate for comparative modelling, this does fully not
appreciate the potential of the digital articial units, which
provide the option of changing the effective port size by
selectively opening a number of valves in an individual unit.
In order to capture this, a scenario was created where
higher casing head pressure becomes available. A casing head
pressure of 2000 psig and a gas injection rate of 3.0 million ft
were therefore modelled for the two mid life life cycle stages.
With this higher casing head pressure and higher gas injection
rates, the DIAL unit delivers even greater incremental production
without any well intervention.
So what can we learn from this analysis? The simulation
modelling demonstrated the signicant increases in oil
production that can result from the deployment of digital articial
gas lift units instead of conventional wireline retrievable valves
and side-pocket mandrels in a gas lifted production well.
It also illustrates the limitations of conventional gas lift
solutions where the implicit design assumption is that the
well will operate within specic reservoir pressures, ow and
water cut parameters and that any changes can easily be
accommodated by simple wireline intervention to change out
gas lift valves.
It is clear that such assumptions cannot be made, where
remote eld locations, growing water cuts, and fast changing
reservoir and well characteristics are increasingly common.
The result was that the digital units were seen to offer much
greater exibility than conventional equipment, as the achievable
depth of injection could change in response to the inevitable
changes in reservoir pressure and water cut over the lifetime of
the well.
Flow assurance is clearly one of the most important focuses
for technology innovation in the oil and gas sector today.
Digital articial gas lift has a vital role to play in this area, giving
operators more exibility and information in their gas lift activities
and, most importantly of all, increased production rates.

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echnology is de-rigueur in todays process world. The
average computer today is over 2000 times faster and
has 500 000 times more data storage capacity than the
Apollo Guidance Computer. Indeed, an ordinary iPhone (weighing
in at less than 5 oz.) has more processing power than the computer
(at 70 lbs) that enabled the astronauts of Apollo 11 to land on
the moon.
With grand visions of digital oilelds, e-Fields and i-Fields as
the future, technology must be applied to the upstream industry.
Historically, there has been a reluctance to accept technology in
the online production space. It is now over 12 years since the rst
online Advanced Control application was implemented offshore
(Norway) and yet there are still very few global roll outs. This is an
interesting juxtaposition technology is absolutely necessary to full
the corporate vision, yet this technology is not exactly embraced by
those who need to adopt it in order to achieve that vision.
The upstream challenge
Upstream production operations experience some unique
operational problems that have historically negatively impacted
on production rates. The use of modern technology (subsea
tiebacks and exible risers) and the practice of producing from
non-associated elds have introduced new challenges such as
increased slugging, instability, and changes in the gas/oil ratio.
All of these contribute to deferment through more regular trips
and through equipment operating further away from its designed
One platform in the North Sea experienced full process trips
daily, lowering availability by approximately 5% per year. On a
platform producing ~70 000 bbls/d, this equates to a huge loss in
oil production and therefore revenue and earnings.
A shifting mindset
You used to hear people claim that the upstream process is
too simple to need optimisation or advanced control and that
would be the end of the conversation. However, over time, people
from downstream operations (where technology is widely used
to stabilise and drive processes) have moved into the upstream
production arena and have brought with them the awareness
that technology can make a difference. This has resulted in some
incredible benets and, thus, more interest and openness to
applying technology.
Challenge 1: gas lift optimisation
Fields and reservoirs age as time progresses, making enhanced oil
production techniques necessary for the continued viability of the
asset. Techniques such as gas lift optimisation can have a huge
impact on the production rate of mature assets and can in some
cases increase production up to 70 80%.
Gas lift optimisation is a complex subject because of the
recycle nature of the gas injected into the mandrels in the riser.
With gas lift, whatever gas is injected from the platform will
return to the processing equipment with additional gas through
increased production, and this impacts the gas lift compression
circuit. Additionally, the amount of gas used to lift the well can
reach an optimum point for the riser long before it reaches a
physical constraint so the optimisation of gas lift is essentially
an unconstrained nonlinear optimum and is a dynamic point. This
depends upon the bottom hole owing pressure (BHFP) of the well,
the boarding pressure of the well and the capacity of the gas lift
compressor as well as factors such as ambient temperature, the
state of the gas turbine or drive mechanism, the overall pressure
balance and the composition of the gas being used (molecular
Optimisation must consider two factors, which in this case are
very different from each other:
x The settling time and dynamics of the reservoir, measured in
weeks or months.
x The settling time and dynamics of the processing equipment
(separators, compressors and flow lines).
Production optimisation
October 2011
It can be argued that making short-term changes to things
such as the gas lift rate to a single well will not have a signicant
long-term effect on the overall reservoir production, provided that
constraints such as the BHFP are honoured. The inertia of the
reservoir and the overall passage of well uids through the reservoir
structure all support this argument
When the gas lift rate is examined more closely, it can be seen
that changes to the gas lift rate can increase or decrease the overall
well production by 1 2%. When this effect is then multiplied
across the entirety of the gas lifted wells, it can have a marked
effect on the overall production rate for an asset.
Unconstrained nonlinear optimum has a signicant impact on
optimising gas lift rates. The graph in Figure 1 illustrates how an
increase in gas lift rate does not always increase the production
rate. In fact, it can have a detrimental effect causing choking. This
lowers the well production rate and means that a limited resource
has been utilised for no overall gain in production.
The challenge is to determine the true shape of the curve in
order to gure out the ideal allocation of incremental gas. Which
well has the steepest gradient for the allocation of a xed volume
of gas? Once this has been determined, the next question is
how much gas is available to be allocated?
This problem becomes incredibly complex when the number of
wells are considered if an asset has 20 wells with gas lift, how to
allocate available gas to increase production, and conversely, how
to reduce the gas lift with the least consequence when the gas lift
compressor is constrained (during the day, for example, when the
ambient temperature is higher and poses restrictions on the gas
turbine exhaust gas temperature)?
The traditional approach has been to run reservoir and ow
line simulation software to determine the optimal gas lift allocation.
This is a time consuming activity. Given the dynamic nature of the
process, when one well is taken ofine for interventions or well
testing, or when the temperature or operating conditions change,
the whole scenario needs to be re-optimised again.
Technology in the form of Multivariable Predictive Control or
Model Based Predictive Control (MPC) has been applied across the
hydrocarbon processing industry for approximately 30 years.
MPC is well known for solving linear constrained control
problems. For example, where the characteristics of the process
do not change over the operating range and the optimal operating
point is somewhere in the corner of that range, MPC pushes
the process to the optimal corner and thereby maximises prot.
However, gas lift optimisation does not have these characteristics
and the challenge is to nd the optimal operating point in an
unconstrained optimum.
Although not as common, MPC can also solve highly
interactive, complex control problems where there is typically
an over-specied problem. For example, where there are more
constraints than degrees of freedom or handles on the process.
This is the case in solving the gas lift optimisation challenge, so
MPC may be able to help. Being a dynamic online technology that
can write set points to multiple control loops simultaneously, MPC
eliminates the arduous task of reallocating gas lift to wells whenever
conditions change, providing that it can solve the issue of the
nonlinear unconstrained optimum.
Honeywell recently modelled a Floating Production Storage
and Ofoading (FPSO) asset using dynamic simulation. The
simulation accurately reected the operating heat and mass
Figure 2. The relationship of gas lift rate change and production are
closely coupled. Optimising gas lift is an iterative process where the
recycle effect has to be considered.
Figure 3. These graphs represent the model for gas lift rate, bottomhole owing pressure and oil production.
Figure 1. Increasing lift gas injection rate can lead to a decrease in
balance to 2 3% of actual. This
provided a virtual asset to work on from
the operating companies ofce with
access to the remote operating data. The
reservoir, ow line and gas lift models
were run and then regressed to enable
them to be tted into the simulation as
spreadsheets, linking to the dynamic
simulation at the gas lift location. This
then provided a complete asset model
everything from reservoir to tankage and
enabled the operation to be perturbed
(step tested) with no risk to operations.
Changing the gas lift rate changed
the well performance and production
rate, which then had an impact on the
processing equipment and the loading of
the compressors and therefore the gas lift
volumes that were available for allocation
(Figure 2).
Using the model shown in
Figure 3, gas lift curves for each well
could be developed and coded into
polynomial equations, which were run
online in conjunction with the MPC
Quadratic Program. By creating this
dynamic map, the online application
could solve the linear relationships
between the compression and xed
equipment on the vessel, the overall gas
lift pressure balance and the individual
optimum gas lift rates versus the total
production rate. This provided a means
to solve the unconstrained nonlinear
optimum dynamically and therefore
allocate the gas lift to achieve the
optimum on a minute-by-minute basis.
The results revealed that running
the MPC application inside the dynamic
simulation demonstrated a 2 3%
increase in oil production through smarter
gas lift optimisation.
Challenge 2: slugging
Slugging ow regimes are a constant
challenge to most upstream operators
since they create periods where,
equipment that is designed for a
continuous three-phase ow (oil, gas
and water), experience either all liquid or
all gas ow. This results in compressors
rapidly transitioning between stonewall
and surge modes of operation, as well
as the separators, which are expecting
continuous ow, tripping high and then
The slugging regime can be caused
by the terrain, where subsea tiebacks
are used for production, or as a result of
the reservoir production prole changing
over time, creating the specic conditions
for the aggregating ow, which causes
Two proven methods of preventing
slugging are:
x To control the pressure pulses
from the riser to prevent the fluid
x To intelligently control a riser choke
valve to shave the gas or liquid
slugs and prevent them from arriving
so rapidly in the separator.
There is also a third option: dealing with
the produced material in a smarter manner.
In any normal upstream production
site, hydrocarbon material moves through
the sequential stages of the three-phase
separation, each separator feeding the
next, and each operating at a lower
pressure and evolving more gas and
removing water from the reservoir uids.
Subsequent separators are typically
smaller than the preceding one, which
results in level control problems. Level
control algorithms on the separators are
typically tuned for tight level control and
so they try and maintain level stability
at the expense of the outow of liquid,
especially when the inow of liquid is
highly variable, such as in a slugging
situation. This results in rapid level
uctuations and regular trips in the last
stage of separation.
An added complexity is where there
are two or three rst stage separators
feeding common second and third stage
separators this type of arrangement is
shown in Figure 4.
When slugs are inbound, they can be
detected using densitometers on the inlet
manifolds. These measure changes to
the density of the reservoir uids: a clear
precursor to the arrival of a slug to the
separator. The graph in Figure 5 illustrates
this correlation. This is real data from an
FPSO that was experiencing regular trips
because of the slugging issues previously
A feed forward signal warns of the
arrival of either more liquid or more
gas, and thus proactive action can be
taken to negate the impact of changing
gas-to-oil ratio on the process. Using
MPC technology, the inventories across
the separators can be balanced by
controlling the level control valve position
and modelling the relationships between
the separators.
When the control loops are
opened and the level control valves are
manipulated directly, the levels in the
separators become a set of consecutive
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October 2011
integrators. That is, if the rst stage vessel increases, the opening
of the level control valve will cause that level to drop, but the level in
the next separator to increase. Similarly, the relationship between the
second and third stage separators can be modelled and controlled.
This means that, when coupled with the feed forward information
from the densitometers, the inventory across the process can be
managed more smoothly. In advance of a slug of material arriving
in the separator, the MPC algorithm can reduce the level in the
separators, to allow the surge in volume to be handled without
approaching any of the trip limits. This approach is clearly shown in
the graph in Figure 6, which highlights the stability of the process
both with the technology turned on and also when it is turned off.
What does this stability provide in terms of increased production?
Approximately 2% increased production through reductions in
deferment which on a 60 000 bbls/d facility is a healthy increase in
revenue and a substantial decrease in lifting costs!
Sustaining the benefit
MPC is like mechanical equipment in that it needs support and
maintenance to continue to operate as designed. With applications
sitting in remote oil production sites, this can be a challenge. Again,
technology provides a solution: internet-based remote support to
bring experts onsite. This not only solves the problem of getting
experts to the remote sites, but also enables those experts to serve
more sites especially important given the rarity of these experts in
MPC technology simplies remote access because performance
data is automatically archived and stored with the application.
Making the data (including application status, performance, online
time, degradation) available to the appropriate, qualied people is
therefore relatively simple, even if the expert is physically located on
the other side of the globe. This enables the expert to analyse the
information and provide guidance to the local resources to rectify
problems, or more importantly, improve performance over time.
So how do you incentivise to ensure ongoing maintenance and
performance of this type of application? Simple you structure
maintenance payments based on clear metrics including online
time, time at constraints and overall performance. That way, both
the vendor and the customer achieve benets one from improving
the performance of their delivered applications, the other from the
improved performance.
Critics may say that this technology is too complex and that all
that is needed is a really competent, diligent operator. The graph in
Figure 7 argues the point better than any technological argument
could. It shows the result of implementing a simple MPC application
using gas turbine capacity to increase overall production. The
net effect on the platform was an increase in production of over
3500 bbls/d a very clear, tangible and sustainable benet, with a
substantial business case behind it.
More and more rapidly, the gadgets and technologies once
considered science ction become the norm. Consider
a GPS-enabled Blackberry and compare it to the GPS in
James Bonds Aston Martin in Goldnger.
Technology is now solving problems that were once thought to be
unsolvable and with dramatic results. With declining oil production,
increasing demand and limited resources (especially in the skilled
workforce), a technology solution that can increase production by
2 3%, while at the same time reducing equipment wear and tear
makes a whole lot of sense, wouldnt you agree?

Figure 6. MPC increases process stability.
Figure 7. Implementing MPC demonstrates a clear increase in
Figure 4. Typical arrangement of three-phase separation, where
slugging may cause rapid level uctuations and regular trips in the last
Figure 5. Correlation between the increase in density and level
controller output.
xtraordinary considerations must be taken when using electronics in oileld
environments, as they often require explosion protected equipment. The term
explosion protected, refers to an electronic device that, after being properly installed
in a combustible atmosphere, will not cause an explosion even under fault conditions.
The need for certied explosion protected electronic equipment started in the early
mining days in 1913, when 439 miners perished in a disastrous explosion. It was the
worst disaster in British coal mining history, and its cause was found to be the low voltage
signalling bells, which in tragic irony, were brought in to improve communication and promote
October 2011
safety. It was then surprising to learn that these communication
devices could ignite the methane gas that would typically
permeate a coal mine.
Now, in the present day, there is a growing need to install
various types of electronic equipment at industrial sites,
including oilelds, and the equipment must be explosion
protected. International standards have been put in place and
are enforced by law to ensure industrial sites are using explosion
protected equipment in areas that are deemed necessary.
There is also a growing need to have high quality and
certied explosion protected surveillance equipment in a
nations primary and secondary industrial facilities. In the UK,
oil reneries, chemical plants and gas plants have long been
monitored with video solutions for protection against terrorist
attacks and crime. Globally, we have only begun to protect our
facilities with video surveillance.
Moreover, the use of video solutions is an important tool
in maintaining safe operation. For example, oileld managers
can monitor people, processes and equipment to ensure
good operation and safety practices. Video solutions (instead
of people) can be located where there are hazardous or
unhealthy conditions. Automated areas can utilise smart video
technologies to verify or trigger alarms if a process has gone
Methods used for explosion protected devices include
ameproof and explosion proof (used respectively in Europe
and the Americas) or intrinsically safe. Certied explosion
protected equipment using the explosion proof method is able
to withstand an internal explosion in order to not let any ames
escape the housing and ignite the surrounding areas. The
external enclosure of this type of equipment would include ame
paths, which are small gaps that extinguish the ames and cool
hot gases, allowing the gases to escape the enclosure so that
they are unable to ignite the outer atmosphere. Devices typically
include switches, control systems, motors, transformers,
lights and, of course, surveillance equipment. Intrinsically safe
equipment use circuits, which are energy limited and incapable
of producing a spark or any volatile thermal effects under
normal or fault conditions. Devices typically include radios,
measurement and control, actuators and sensors.
Industry standards
There are various industry standards that are available for
explosion protected surveillance equipment. In North America,
standards are based on the Class, Division system for
hazardous locations. In Europe and other parts of the world,
standards are based upon the Zone System for potentially
explosive atmospheres.
Classes, divisions and hazardous locations
In North America, hazardous locations are identied by Class,
Division, and Group as dened in the National Electrical Code
(NEC) and Canadian Electrical Code (CEC). The system provides
three Classes based on the type of hazard and explosive
characteristics of the material, two Divisions based on the
operating conditions and seven Groups based on ammability
properties. Environments are further dened by 14 temperature
codes for Auto-Ignition Temperatures of the ammable gases
that might be encountered.
Table 1 shows a list of NEC/CEC codes in terms of types
of ammable atmospheres, operating conditions, ammability
properties, and temperature codes with detailed descriptions
of what they mean. Oilelds are typically a Class I, Division 1
The Temperature Code shown in Table 2 denes the
maximum surface temperature of the equipment, which must
not exceed the auto-ignition temperature of the gases present
in the explosive environment. Acetylene gas, for example, has
an auto-ignition temperature of 299 C. Therefore, an explosion
protected device installed where there is a potential air/acetylene
mix must have a T-rating of T2A to T6, whereas a device
installed in an area where crude oil is present must have a rating
of T2C.
For Class I, Division 1 locations, the permissible protection
methods include: explosion proof, intrinsic safety (2 fault)
and purged/pressurised (type X or Y) methods. For Division 2
locations, the allowable methods are: hermetically sealed,
Table 1. NEC/CEC codes
I Locations with flammable gas or vapour
II Locations with flammable dust
III Locations with flammable fibres or flyings
Explosive conditions exist under normal operating
Explosive conditions exist under abnormal operating
A Acetylene
B Hydrogen
C Ethylene, ethyl ether, cyclopropane, butadiene
Propane, ethane, butane, benzene, pentane,
heptane, acetone, methyl ethyl, ketone, methyl
alcohol, ethyl alcohol
Electrically conductive dusts: aluminium, magnesium,
titanium, zinc, tin + others
Carbonaceous dusts: carbon black, charcoal, coal,
coke dusts
Agricultural dusts: grain, flour, sugars, spices and
certain polymers
Table 2. Maximum surface temperature of equipment installed in
explosive environments
Temperature code C
T1 450
T2 300
T2A 280
T2B 260
T2C 230
T2D 215
T3 200
T3A 180
T3B 165
T3C 160
T4 135
T5 100
T6 85
October 2011
nonincendive, non-sparking, purged/pressurised (type Z) and
any Class I, Division 1 method. This implies that any device
made for Division 1 locations is suitable for use in a Division 2
The zone system
In Europe and many other regions of the world, potentially
explosive atmospheres are handled by using a zone system
based off International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and
European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation
(CENELEC) standards. The EU adopted Directive 94/9/EC also
known as the ATEX Directive to facilitate free trade in the EU by
aligning legal and technical requirements across Member States.
Table 3 shows the list of ATEX codes in terms of device groups,
categories, temperature class, explosion group, and types of
ignition protection with detailed descriptions of what they mean.
Oilelds fall under the Zone 0 category.
Images in explosion protected environments
Minimising the possibilities of accidental damage to equipment
and ensuring security and safety of workers have become more
prevalent concerns at oilelds over the years. Having reliable
video verication of events allows operators to be in control of
a potential crisis around-the-clock, even in the most difcult
lighting conditions. In particular, surveillance equipment that
provides the right level of detail can enhance the accuracy of
tough judgment calls operators are forced to make during a
crisis. Often a simple judgment call of whether one should send
his fellow colleagues to investigate a site of concern can turn
into a life and death situation in a matter of minutes in explosion
protected environments.
Oilelds today are often controlled and monitored by a process
system, more commonly referred to as a Supervisory Control and
Data Acquisition/Distributed Control System (SCADA/DCS) process.
Using real time video
verication in a SCADA/DCS
process can not only help
analyse system efciency
but assist in scenarios
where a proactive approach
can be taken in potentially
dangerous situations.
An increasing amount
of camera installations
are found on drill oors
of offshore oilrigs, around
critical processes at
reneries, and near critical
equipment, such as
petroleum storage tanks.
Generally, these locations
have a range of difcult
natural lighting conditions
such as a bright ocean
background over a dark
foreground typically found
on the deck of an offshore
rig, shadows or uneven
illumination. When problems
occur in locations where it
is challenging to capture
a good image, operators are unable to inspect visually what is
going on and lose valuable time that might be needed to prevent
a minor problem from becoming a major one. Different types of
imaging and illumination technologies are available to handle the
imaging challenges that are typically faced in explosion protected
Modern imaging technologies, such as 20-bit digital signal
processing, can expose details not visible to the naked eye in
both day and night times. This 20-bit digital signal processing
generates two images to produce the clearest picture for every
scene: one long exposure resolves details in the scenes darkest
areas, while one short exposure captures the brightest areas.
The processing then mixes the pixels from each image to
produce the most detailed picture possible. The 20-bit digital
Table 3. List of ATEX codes with descriptions
0 1
A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with
air of flammable substances in the form of gas, vapour or mist is present
continuously or for long periods or frequently.
1 G
1 1
A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with
air of flammable substances in the form of gas, vapour or mist is likely to
occur in normal operation occasionally.
2 2
A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with air
of flammable substances in the form of gas, vapour or mist is not likely
to occur in normal operation, but if it does occur, will persist for a short
period only.
20 1
A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of
combustible dust in air is present continuously or for long periods or
1 D
21 1
A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of
combustible dust in air is likely to occur in normal operation occasionally.
22 2
A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of
combustible dust in air is not likely to occur in normal operation, but if it
does occur, will persist for a short period only.
* Per 1999/92/EC directive (ATEX 137).
Figure 1. This graph compares image quality at different processing
rates; 20-bit digital signal processing delivers a virtually continuous
variation of gray levels for exceptionally accurate image reproduction.
signal processing also uses state-of-the-art software to analyse
and enhance each pixel (Figure 1).
Boosting camera performance
Vast dark spaces in oileld environments will challenge surveillance
cameras and hamper threat detection. CCD and CMOS image
sensors are designed to see light producing pictures or videos in
the process. If there is no light, there can be no picture, and what
is lurking in the shadows can leave oilelds vulnerable to sabotage,
property losses, and public health and safety hazards. While many
surveillance cameras have very low lux ratings, which suggest
effective operation under low light, active infrared illumination helps
to improve their performance in the dark.
Active infrared illumination technology can help operators
detect, classify, recognise, and identify targets not visible to the
naked eye at night time. Infrared illumination is light that lays
in the wavelength region of 700 to 1000 nm invisible to the
human eye yet an excellent light source for an infrared sensitive
day/night camera. Combining an infrared sensitive camera with an
infrared illuminator produces video that more closely resembles
crisp, monochrome images captured during daylight hours. It is
considered an inexpensive method of obtaining high quality images
in low light conditions.
As an added benet, infrared illuminators consume less power
and eliminate the light pollution that can occur with visible lighting.
Typical outdoor lighting consumes between 200 and 1000 W per
xture. Compare those gures to LED-based infrared xtures for
video surveillance, which consume between 25 and 95 W, making
explosion protected equipment with modern LED lighting more
energy efcient.
Advanced infrared illumination technology
Advanced active infrared illumination technologies
supplementing explosion protected cameras ensure security
and operational professionals high quality images in any
lighting conditions, even in difcult night time and low light
environments. These technologies are able to provide three key
benets. First, they can effectively illuminate the foreground
and background providing light where the camera needs it.
Second, they can eliminate hot spots and underexposures,
ensuring consistent lighting across any scene and enabling
video analytics to immediately detect security and safety
threats. Third, they can minimise LED degradation, ensuring
quality data throughout the life of explosion protected
surveillance equipment and across the operation temperature
range of the product.
Surveillance related issues have been increasingly
challenging, especially for explosion protected environments,
and having high quality and certied explosion protected
surveillance equipment in a nations primary and secondary
industries has been progressively more vital to the health of
a nations infrastructure. It has not been easy for security and
operational professionals to nd the right surveillance cameras
for these environments, and it has been increasingly important
for these professionals to have explosion protected cameras
that perform awlessly in natural and articial light.

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s a result of the changes in the taxation regime
earlier this year there will actually be fewer assets
to be decommissioned during the period from now
until 2040. It follows that the increased decommissioning
expenditure is due to cost increases, and not more elds
ceasing production.
DNS commissioned Professor Alex Kemp at the
University of Aberdeen to prepare a decommissioning
report with the latest market projections and an analysis of
the implications of individual decommissioning projects on
major infrastructure hubs.
Initial ndings released ahead of report publication,
reveal decommissioning expenditure in the UKCS is now
forecast to increase to 30 35 billion between now and
2040. This is an increase on initial projections, which put the
cost of decommissioning North Sea oil and gas facilities at
between 24 30 billion within the same period to 2040.
This increase in the cost of decommissioning, alongside
the fact that between 400 and 700 elds in the UKCS are to
be decommissioned from now until 2040, further enhances
DNSs mission to assist the industry in co-operating and
collaborating in order to improve efciency, encourage
innovation and contain costs.
Expenditures on decommissioning have averaged
approximately 300 400 million/yr in recent years and
are now forecast to rise to over the 1 billion/yr mark
within a few years. Industry analysts agree that the main
decommissioning programme is no longer being deferred
and that a steady increase in the number of projects can be
expected over the coming years.
Potential decommissioning expenditure in
the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) will be
higher than initially forecast. Brian Nixon,
Decom North Sea, UK, explains.
Figure 1. Perenco UK setting a standard for SNS Platforms Heavy Lift Removal.
October 2011
Since its inception in 2010, DNS has grown to include
approximately 160 members drawn from a wide spectrum of
operators, major contractors, service specialists and technology
developers. It was set up to tackle the main areas of weakness
and the bottlenecks that are inhibiting decommissioning
supply-chain capability.
With only 7% of projects completed to date in the
UK North Sea, DNS is stepping up its work to help the supply
chain win signicant levels of the remaining work and has
endorsed research to ensure the appropriately skilled people are
available to carry out the work.
To establish the extent of the potential skills gap, DNS
endorsed a PHD student at Robert Gordon University
to research Potential Skills Shortages in the UKCS
Decommissioning Phase.
Overall, the ndings indicate a signicant shortage of skilled
and professional personnel over the next 20 years, if action is
not taken immediately. The projects ndings also show a 32%
shortage of skilled onsite personnel while results for offsite
professional personnel differ greatly, indicating an initial 14%
shortage rapidly tapering off over ve years.
In addition, the study nds that skills shortages are not
being caused by an ageing oil and gas industry workforce
but by the increase in numbers of skilled people needed and
greater competition between different industries, such as power
infrastructure and nuclear, for trained personnel.
Recommendations from the study include:
x Additional data being provided on the schedule of UKCS
x Continued investment in attracting school leavers into
careers in engineering.
x Encouraging the oil and gas industry to sponsor students
and apprentices.
x Examining tax breaks for skilled and professional
engineering personnel.
A skills steering group established by DNS has also
commissioned in-depth research among its 160+ members
into the skills and competencies they will require to enable
decommissioning activity to take place.
Findings will be shared with the Engineering Construction
Industry Training Board (ECITB) and OPITO, the Oil and Gas
Academy, to assist them in considering what may be needed in
the design of decommissioning technician training modules and
accreditation standards etc.
There has been huge concern regarding the potential
engineering and technology skills shortages in the offshore
energy sector and DNS is regularly asked if this will also impact
offshore decommissioning. The outlook for the UK oil and gas
decommissioning supply chain is promising. Over the coming
decade, industry forecasts suggest that the level of activity
in the North Sea will lead to capacity restraints in all areas.
Many North Sea supply chain companies could therefore nd
themselves with a choice of business opportunities, ranging
from support for ongoing oil and gas development and
production, to the growing programme of decommissioning, and
emerging offshore wind developments.
This in turn has created serious and exciting career
opportunities for those with the right skills. DNS is working with
its members to develop an assessment of the quality and quantity
of skills that will be needed, from technicians to engineers and
project managers, and look at that against the bigger picture of
how the needs of decommissioning will t with other offshore
work and the renewables sector as these industries grow.
There are over 600 offshore oil and gas installations in
the North Sea, 470 of which are in UK waters. These include
subsea equipment xed to the ocean oor, as well as platforms
ranging from the smaller structures in the southern North Sea
to the larger and heavier concrete or steel structures in the
central and northern North Sea. Offshore, there are more than
10 000 km of pipelines, around 5000 wells and accumulations
of drill cuttings. Associated with these operations are also
15 onshore terminals.
Many of these structures have been producing oil and gas
for up to 40 years and are now coming to the end of the lifespan
for which they were designed. A growing number of redundant
oil and gas installations will be taken out of service and
decommissioned over the next couple of decades or so.
Decommissioning expenditure varies considerably by
region. The central and northern North Sea have considerably
higher costs per installation due to the size and weight of large
platforms with substantial sub-structures, compared to the
southern North Sea, which has shallower water and generally
calmer conditions.
In the remainder of this decade, the greatest number of
elds to be decommissioned will be in the southern North Sea
some 10 to 15 elds/yr through to 2020, whereas the greatest
expenditures will be made in the northern North Sea.
In the next decade alone it is forecast that approximately
120 installations could be decommissioned in the southern
North Sea, compared to 80 in the central and northern
North Sea, as well as 65 subsea and pipeline installations.
No two platforms are the same and all were designed
for specic tasks so there is no one size ts all approach to
decommissioning. Identifying major platform components for
possible reuse on other platforms is a challenge, as much of this
equipment was designed decades ago and the specications
and performance will often be deemed inappropriate for modern
However, some research is underway to review alternative
uses of smaller jacket structures, with one possible concept being
barriers intended to reduce coastal erosion. Alternatively, one or two
platforms could conceivably be reused as electricity substations for
offshore wind farms or for carbon capture and storage.
Figure 2. Perenco UK safely executed the heavy lift removal of the
Welland gas production platform in the southern North Sea.
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October 2011
Overall, the re-use of equipment or whole/partial
installations are expected to be the exception rather than the
rule. We live in a society that quite rightly encourages us all to
progressively reduce, recycle and re-use. With regard to reduce,
the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency has recently
announced a 36% reduction in landll waste from businesses
and households between 2005 and 2009. The oil and gas
industry has also contributed to the reduce concept with some
innovative designs for lighter platform structures, which have
resulted in marginally smaller carbon footprints. When it comes
to recycling, early decommissioning projects in the North Sea
have recorded an encouraging focus, with some impressive
percentages being quoted. However on the UK Continental
Shelf, re-use has not yet featured strongly. DNS believes this
could be about to change.
To date, re-use has primarily been recorded in the
Gulf of Mexico plus some examples in the Dutch Continental Shelf,
but there are signs that some operators are considering this option
in other locations, such as West Africa, Southeast Asia and in the
UK and Norwegian Continental Shelves. At a Decom North Sea
members event in June, companies heard about Perencos
success in refurbishing the topsides of their Welland platform prior to
re-deploying it on a new development in West Africa. Marathon Oil
is also known to be seriously investigating the opportunities for
re-use globally.
There would appear to be numerous possibilities to
re-use all or part of redundant oil and gas production
facilities if economic, environmental and social factors can be
satisfactorily balanced. The accommodation modules from BPs
Northwest Hutton platform were refurbished and redeployed
as ofce accommodation units at the onshore disposal yard.
Clad vessels (perhaps designed for sour service) are likely to
remain in good condition and be potentially suitable for re-use
on new developments. Drilling derricks could be upgraded
and modernised. Gas turbines and power generation sets are
capable of being overhauled and put back into service.
It is clear that the industry must move to reduce its energy
footprint, improve its environmental performance and help to
reduce the overall costs of the decommissioning programme
over the next 20 to 30 years. Surely, re-use must have a growing
contribution to play in this ambition?
The body is ensuring the industry is prepared for the level of
decommissioning activity ahead such as developing solutions to
decommission these structures, taking into account the impact
on the environment, the health and safety of workers involved,
costs and technology required.
Earlier this year, in-depth consultation was carried out with its board,
members, partner organisations and industry generally to identify
priorities for DNS action and set a course of strategic direction
towards addressing these requirements in the years ahead.
Among the list of initiatives, a strong emphasis was put on
the need to research and understand capabilities and skills gaps
in the decommissioning market relating to people, processes
and technologies, and then put in place mechanisms to address
the issues and opportunities.
The outlook for the UK oil and gas decommissioning supply
chain is indeed promising. Over the coming decade, industry
forecasts suggest that the level of activity in the North Sea will
lead to capacity restraints in all areas.
The recent consultation showed compelling support for
DNS to look at increasing current activities, namely networking
events which provide value to its members; regional and topical
focus groups; industry communication and knowledge sharing;
mapping the supply chain strengths and capabilities; further
development of appropriate contracting models, and facilitating
introductions across the industry.
In addition, a range of more strategic initiatives and
opportunities have been identied and prioritised including the
x Provision of detailed and reliable market intelligence drawn
from existing industry sources and filtered to be easily
accessible by members.
x Facilitate groups of members to share information, form
alliances, address technologies etc.
x Research decommissioning in other sectors including
nuclear and salvage, to study how they deal with timing
uncertainty, identify areas for transfer of experience, cross
business opportunities etc.
x Be active with governments, regulators and operators on
behalf of its membership.
x Understand capabilities and gaps relating to people,
processes and technologies, and then put in place
mechanisms to address the issues and opportunities.
x Promote existing capability, new capacity, case studies etc.
x Engage with the financial investment community to
understand their drivers promote awareness of members
capabilities and needs, facilitate introductions.
x Look overseas to identify market opportunities and to
promote member capabilities.
These initiatives are listed in line with the priorities
established recently by board members. The next step is to
scope out and assess the level and type of resource that will be
required to progress and deliver them.
In accordance with the priorities identied, DNS has
organised a programme of events, seminars and share fairs
in collaboration with other energy development organisations
and government agencies, with activity covering the northeast,
Highlands and Central Belt in Scotland, and the northeast and
southeast in England, where most of the potential supply chain
for the decommissioning market is based.
Future outlook
One of the principle reasons for setting up Decom North Sea was
to provide a mechanism for sharing noncommercial information
and to establish a platform that would allow companies from
across the industry to obtain consistent and clear information.
This years strategy consultation, which involved all the new
directors recently voted onto the board, has fully supported this.
The body reports real drive and enthusiasm from the board in
delivering these strategic objectives.
Additionally, its inception has been ideal in bringing
decommissioning activities to the forefront and removing
much of the uncertainty as to when projects are likely to
take place, which in turn assists companies with planning
and investment for new innovative technologies required. It
brings together companies of all sizes who share the same
ambitions and the networking is very benecial to all involved.
The forum successfully amalgamates the supply chain to bring
new innovations and ideas to prospective decommissioning
aturation diving is a key task in the offshore subsea industry. Engineers are continually
developing systems to improve the working and living conditions for the divers, as well as
reducing the health and safety demands.
Extensive advances have been made in many essential areas such as breathing gases,
liveaboard comfort and medical monitoring, with many of these innovations focusing on the
hyperbaric liveaboard chambers on the support vessel deck.
New insulation technology developments are also making a contribution to improve operational
and working conditions at the business end of the saturation diving system; the diving bell itself.
Figure 1. Initial submersion of diving bell with Trident

insulation during SIT qualication testing.

October 2011
Reaching new depths
The diving bell is, of course, operating under the most extreme
conditions. It must offer the best possible combination of both
protection and operational effectiveness when it is remotely
deployed from the support ship.
Insulation is primarily required to provide thermal protection
for the interior of the bell. However, the inherent buoyancy of
foam means that it can affect the subsea weight of the module
and the effective use of lifting and lowering systems. Accurate
data for the buoyancy can assist the deployment operation of
the bell.
Traditional standard resin insulation foams can be crushed
by the depths at which the diving bells operate, changing and
even destroying buoyancy; the extremes of saturation diving can
be at 1000 ft (300 m). To resist the pressure and offer buoyancy,
the offshore industry has developed syntactic materials, in which
high strength glass microspheres are contained in a rigid matrix.
In addition to providing buoyancy, these small bubbles also
enhance insulation properties.
Properly specied, syntactic systems have been developed
and veried to offer buoyancy down to 23 000 ft (7000 m).
High performance under pressure
Considering the integrity of the foam is vital. Water ingress must
be eliminated at all costs, otherwise the buoyancy can degrade
and the thermal insulation performance will worsen over time.
Reduced insulation performance can mean an expensive diving
bell is less suitable for extreme depth use.
For improvements in insulation for a new generation of diving
bells, specically protecting divers from the cold while in the bell,
manufacturers Unique LLC consulted with Trelleborg Offshore
for the development of an innovative syntactic foam insulation
The engineered Trelleborg syntactic foam insulation, and
the companys 3D modelling design capabilities, provides
Unique System LLC with high accuracy thermal and buoyancy
properties. This means it is possible to predict the thermal
insulation thickness required and the uplift of the bell for
accurate system buoyancy control.
The performance of previous insulation systems used was
more difcult to predict. It was also susceptible to damage and
water ingress, which could affect the thermal and buoyancy
properties. In contrast, the Trelleborg polyurethane-based
material has a high impact resistance and is impervious to
water ingress under pressure. It is designed to eliminate any
requirement for maintenance, so that life cycle costs are
In-depth requirements
The Unique System diving bell is designed as a submersible
decompression chamber for a three-man saturation diving team.
It transports them from a ships live-in hyperbaric chamber down
Figure 2. Diving bell undergoing additional submersion tests.
October 2011
to working depths with typical sea temperatures of between 9 C
and 20 C (45 F and 65 F). Typical subsea tasks include pipeline
repair, maintenance and inspection, cable maintenance, platform
installation and removal.
The diving bell, which has a total volume of 194 ft
(5.5 m
is congured to include a bottom man way, measuring 31.5 in.
(800 mm), as well as an external bottom man way hatch, also
measuring 31.5 in. The bell features strategically positioned
view ports to provide maximum natural light to the interior. The
ports are protected with a perspex cover plate to the interior and
exterior of the bell, providing impact resistance.
The interior of the diving bell includes stainless fold-up seats
for each of the diving team members. The seats are designed
to support a fully dressed diver and to provide optimal comfort
and support for the diving team during all phases of the bell
run. Small storage shelves and hooks are also provided within
the bell and stainless steel standoffs are welded around the
circumference of the shell, these can
also be used for additional shelving.
The Heliox (helium/oxygen)
breathing mixture, for the diving
bell atmosphere is supplied via
an umbilical from the support
ship. Heliox has a higher thermal
conductivity than air, so good
thermal insulation is essential for
the divers comfort. As dive times in
the bell are often 10 to 12 hrs, and
the divers remain under saturation
conditions for up to 30 days, their
wellbeing is critical to mission
An environmentally safer
Trelleborg used its new Trident

Insulation system, which is based

glass syntactic
polyurethane foam technology.
Trident has been developed in
a strategic alliance with BASF
Polyurethane Solutions as the
next generation of glass syntactic
polyurethane for subsea structure
A principle concern with
standard marine grade polyurethane
is the use of mercury containing
catalysts. Reduction of the
accumulation of mercury in the
marine environment and food chain
has been a priority for several
decades, and Trident with ZEROHg
is a major step forward.
In addition, this new insulation
system offers superior temperature
resistance when compared to
standard marine grade elastomers.
This ensures it can be used in a wide
number of applications, as well as
helping to maintain its performance
over time, when subjected to temperature stress.
The insulation has a depth rating of 9842 ft (3000 m) with a
hydrostatic crush pressure rating of 330 bar (4800 psi), offering
an excellent depth capability for todays offshore operations. The
thermal conductivity of 0.161 W/mK (0.093 Btu/fthF) provides
excellent insulation, the hardness of 93 Shore A ensures good
impact protection and the density of 53 lbs/ft
(850 kg/m
) is
suitable for a wide range of insulation applications.
Successful technique
Key to the successful use of Trident insulation for the diving bell
was its application to the metal shell of the bell. Despite the size,
shape and construction technique of the bell, with openings
and protrusions, it was essential that the material pour was
completed in a single operation.
The single pour technique was necessary to eliminate
the possibility of any discontinuities or interface joints in the
Figure 3. Three person Unique Systems diving bell equipped with Heliox.



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insulation structure, to ensure consistency and to prevent water
ingress into the material when under pressure at depth. Water
ingress could affect the systems thermal properties and integrity
of the exterior coating of the diving bell.
Trelleborg engineers developed an innovative new pour
method for an application of this size and complexity. The
capability for achieving this size of mix, pour and application
was achieved through a combination of considerable investment
in systems and equipment and 30 years experience in offshore
buoyancy and protection manufacture.
The BASF polyurethane base was supplied to Trelleborg
with a long gel time so that the large surface area of the bell
could be thoroughly coated. In addition, the polymer mix had
been formulated specifcally to reduce water absorption into the
polyurethane during use.
One concern in the insulation application procedure was
maintaining the integrity of the glass microspheres in the mix.
The engineers therefore designed special mixing and dispensing
nozzles to avoid crush damage to the microspheres, ensuring
the material retained its integrity and performance.
Durable construction
The underlying construction of the bell provides its core strength,
which allows the safe transport of divers, equipment and
breathing apparatus while offering protection from the changes
in pressure, temperature and the effects of currents and even
The diving bell shell is constructed of ABS approved
carbon steel, welded in carefully designed sections; the total
weight of the insulation poured around the shell was 1300 lbs
(600 kg). This project marks the frst time Trident Insulation with
BASF ZEROHg polymer technology has been used in a custom
coating operation. It is also the frst diving bell to be insulated
using glass syntactic polyurethane foam and represents a
signifcant advance in diver safety and reduced operating
Multiple successes
In this project, several needs were combined: improved diving
bell insulation for Unique System LLC, more environmentally
friendly syntactic polyurethane insulation systems from
BASF and better process techniques for one lift/one pour
insulation applications on a very large and complex object from
Trelleborg Offshore.
As a result, the development of improved diving bells has
gone hand-in-hand with advances in insulation technology,
benefting a far greater spectrum of offshore and subsea
applications. Collaborative development successes of this kind
are a clear demonstration of the benefts of cross-fertilisation of
ideas and disciplines.

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