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JA N UA RY 2 0 1 7 VO LU M E 69, N U M B E R 1



SPE Technical Directors on Surviving the Downturn
The Grand Challenge of Carbon Capture and Sequestration
Transforming the Industry


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Volume 69 Number 1


The oil and gas industry has historically delivered incredible
engineering feats that are impressive in innovation and sheer
physical and budgetary scale. The downturn provides an
opportunity for transformation from an industry that has been
heavily project-focused to one that is geared to delivering
standardized products designed to be flexible for a range of
projects and operating conditions.


Approaches to integrated investigative testing and root cause
identification are discussed to prevent solid emulsions from
stabilizing to impair flowlines and other field infrastructure.



SPEs technical directors offer advice on how to get through the

current bad times, which are not so different than when they got
inthe business.



A number of ongoing industry research projects are developing

nanoparticles that work at the reservoir level and for fluid
treatment. Though they may be a few years away from finalization,
these efforts highlight nanotechnologys increasingly sophisticated
and growing application scope for oil and gas operations.



Authored by the steering committee and at-large members of

the SPE Carbon Dioxide Capture and Utilization and the SPE R&D
technical sections, this article is a summary of the 2016 follow-up
paper on carbon capture and sequestration, one of the five grand
challenges to the industry identified by the SPE R&D Committee



The American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum

Engineers (AIME) is the parent organization of SPE. AIME fulfills its
legacy by supporting member societies programs and awards, and
by documenting the history of the industries and technologies.

An Official Publication of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

An artistic rendition of a
nanoparticle. The development
ofnanotechnologies for oil and gas
has been building momentum for
several years and products that
can be used in a reservoir-wide
application may be just around
thecorner. Source:Getty.


Performance Indices
Regional Update
Presidents Column
Technology Applications
E&P Notes
Professional Services
Advertisers Index
SPE Events

Printed in US. Copyright 2017, Society of Petroleum Engineers.

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Omer Gurpinar, SPE, Technical Director of Enhanced Oil Recovery,

43 Proper Simulation of Chemical-EOR PilotsA Real Case Study

45 Experimental and Numerical Studies of CO2 EOR in Unconventional

48 A Field Trial in a Carbonate Reservoir Using a Solvent-Based

Waterflood Process


Jesse Lee, SPE, Chemistry Technology Manager, Schlumberger

51 Tapping Difficult Oil in a Giant Carbonate Field in Qatar

54 New Technology in a Mature East Malaysian Field
56 Use of Modern Reservoir Characterization in Mature Fields To Unravel
Hidden Reserves


Otto Luiz Alcantara Santos, SPE, Consultant

60 Mitigating Gas in Riser Rapid Unloading for Deepwater Dual-Gradient

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69 Risk-Based Abandonment-Prioritization Strategy for Inactive Subsea Wells

71 A New Recommended Practice for Fit-for-Purpose Well Abandonment
73 Concurrent Decommissioning Method Enables Safer, Lower-Cost Process


The complete SPE technical papers featured in this issue are available
free to SPE members for two months at


000731_Annonse_1216.indd 1

13.12.16 15.40




2017 President
Janeen Judah, Chevron


2016 President
Nathan Meehan, Baker Hughes


2018 President
Darcy Spady, Broadview Energy


Vice President Finance

Roland Moreau, ExxonMobil Annuitant


Anelise Quintao Lara, Petrobras

Matthias Meister, Baker Hughes

Salis Aprilian, PT Badak NGL

Libby Einhorn, Concho Oil & Gas

Adeyemi Akinlawon, Adeb Konsult

Andrei Popa, Chevron

Jeff Moss, ExxonMobil

Cam Matthews, C-FER Technologies





Thank you to all of our 2016

volunteers. Your support in the
League of Volunteers continues to
shape the future of our industry.

Trey Shaffer, ERM

Joe Frantz, Range Resources


J. Roger Hite, Inwood Solutions


Chris Jenkins, Independent Energy Standards



J.C. Cunha

Jennifer Miskimins, Colorado School of Mines



Khalid Zainalabedin, Saudi Aramco

Hisham Saadawi, Ringstone Petroleum Consultants



Karl Ludvig Heskestad, Aker BP

Tom Blasingame, Texas A&M University



Phongsthorn Thavisin, PTTEP

Dan Hill, Texas A&M University


Erin McEvers, Clearbrook Consulting



Khaled Al-Buraik, Saudi Aramco

Anton Ablaev, Schlumberger

Helena Wu, Santos Ltd.


The Journal of Petroleum Technology magazine is a

registered trademark of SPE.

Glenda Smith, Publisher

SPE PUBLICATIONS: SPE is not responsible for any

statement made or opinions expressed in its publications.



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Saudi Arabia1

USD/million Btu


































































































































































Total World







Latin America
Middle East
Asia Pacific























Figures do not include natural gas plant liquids.

Includes approximately one-half of Neutral Zone production.

Includes all current OPEC members.

From the October issue of JPT, the Other line item also includes
Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Equatorial
Guinea, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Oman, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, and
Yemen. Monthly production from these countries was listed individually
in previous JPT issues. Ongoing work on the US Energy Information
Administration (EIA) website is disrupting the regular updating of
these countries production numbers. Additional annual and monthly
international crude oil production statistics are available at:

Source: Baker Hughes.

Source: EIA.
Numbers revised by EIA are given in italics.


















Supply includes crude oil, lease condensates, natural gas plant liquids, biofuels, other liquids,
and refinery processing gains.



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*Mark of Schlumberger. Copyright 2017 Schlumberger. All rights reserved. 16-TS-226371

Z Sound Energys TE-7 well at the Tendrara
license in Morocco has achieved initial flow
rates that the company called significantly
better than its estimates. The well, Sounds
second on the license, was drilled to an
11,348-ft measured depth and an 8,566-ft
vertical depth. An initial, unstimulated
openhole test of the first 28% of a discovered
gross reservoir interval produced gas at
a rate of 8.8 MMcf/D after 24 hours of
continuous flow through a 32/64-in. choke.
Following the stimulation and test of the full
interval, an extended well test was planned.
Z Shell has initiated a two-well drilling
program in blocks 1 and 4 of the Mafia Deep
basin offshore Tanzania. Drilling is taking
place in water depths of up to 7,545 ft, with
the company and its joint-venture partners
Pavilion Energy and Ophir Energy investing
almost USD 80 million in the program.
The two wells will meet the remaining
requirements in the exploration licenses
issued by the Tanzanian Ministry of Energy
and Minerals.

Z Lukoil has produced oil from a third
well at the Vladimir Filanovsky field in
the northern Caspian Sea. The flow rate
is approximately 22,000 B/D of oil with
total field production amounting to almost
66,000 B/D, the company said. Located
about 136 miles from the city of Astrakhan,
the shallow-water field is the second
commissioned by the company in the
Caspians Russian sector.
Z Petronas has begun gas production from
the worlds first floating liquefied natural
gas (FLNG) facility, the PFLNG SATU, at the
Kanowit field offshore Malaysias Sarawak
state. The first-gas milestone marked the
onset of commissioning and startup for
the FLNG facility, preceding commercial
production and initial cargo shipment. The
facility is fitted with an external turret for
operating in water depths of 229 ft to 656 ft.
It will extract gas through a flexible subsea
pipeline for the liquefaction, production,
storage, and offloading of LNG at the field.
Z Oil & Gas Development Company
has discovered gas at the Mithri No.1
exploration well in Pakistans Sindh
Province. The discovery structure has been

delineated, drilled, and tested, with a flow of

6.44MMcf/D achieved from the Lower Goru
formation through a 32/64-in. choke. The
company is the operator with a 95% interest
in the well. Government Holdings owns the
remaining interest.

Z Quadrant Energy has successfully
tested the Roc-2 well in the Bedout Basin
offshore Western Australia. The well flowed
at a maximum (equipment constrained)
rate of 51.2 MMscf/D of gas and 2,943 B/D
of condensate from an 82-ft perforated
interval at 14,435-ft water depth. The results
of this and other recent successful wells
show significant potential in this largely
unexplored, relatively shallow-water area,
the company said. Quadrant is the operator
of Roc-2 with an 80% interest. Carnarvon
Petroleum holds the remaining share.

Z Lundin has made a discovery at the
Neiden 7220/6-2R well in Production
License (PL) 609 of the southern Barents
Sea offshore Norway. The exploratory well
encountered a gross 100-ft hydrocarbon
column, with 68 ft of oil and 32 ft of natural
gas, in a Permian carbonate target. Gross
resource estimate for the discovery is
between 25 million and 60 million BOE. The
company is the operator with a 40% interest
in PL609, with DEA (30%) and Idemitsu
(30%) holding the remainder.
Z EnQuest has achieved first oil from
the Scolty/Crathes project in the United
Kingdom North Sea, approximately 100miles
northeast of Aberdeen. Scolty and Crathes
are light oil fields that collectively hold an
estimated 15 million bbl of technical gross
oil reserves. The development plan consists
of two single horizontal wells tied back by
a subsea pipeline to the EnQuest-operated
Kittiwake Platform. The company and MOL
each hold 50% interests in the Scolty/Crathes
project, which is operated byEnQuest.
Z OMVs Wisting discovery in the Barents
Sea, the northernmost find offshore Norway,
could contain more than 1 billion BOE, the
company said. That could make Wisting the
largest discovery in the Norwegian Arctic.
Preliminary recoverable reserves estimates
range from 200 million to 500million BOE.
The company and its partners Statoil,

Idemitsu, and Petoro continue to explore

the region. If the project is approved,
work could begin in 2019 or 2020, OMV
Senior Vice President David Latin told a
Z Chevron has started production at
the Alder field in the North Sea offshore
Scotland, more than 40 years after the
fields discovery. Alder is a single subsea
well tied back by a 17-mile pipeline to
the ConocoPhillips-operated Britannia
Platform, in which Chevron holds a 32.38%
working interest. With a design capacity of
110 MMcf/D of natural gas and 14,000 B/D
of condensate, Alder is expected to ramp
up production over the coming months.
Chevron is the operator with a 73.684%
interest, with ConocoPhillips holding

Z Wintershall has spudded SH-6 well, the
first offshore well in Abu Dhabis Shuwaihat
sour gas and condensate field. The company
drilled the fields first onshore well, SH-5, in
July 2015. A third well, SH-7, is planned for
offshore development. The field is being
developed in partnership with Abu Dhabi
National Oil Company and OMV, with
Wintershall as the operator.

Z Eni received approval from Mexican oil
and gas regulator La Comisin Nacional de
Hidrocarburos for a USD-177 million work
program to drill on three offshore blocks
for which the company won a productionsharing contract in 2015 bidding. The
program covers activities through 2017
at the shallow-water Amoca, Mizton, and
Tecoalli fields in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
The fields hold an estimated 196 million bbl
in remaining oil resources.

Z Range Resources successfully spudded
the QUN 160 development well in Trinidads
Morne Diablo field during November. Drilled
to a depth of 2,600 ft, QUN 160 is a redrill
of the QUN 158 well and targeted the same
Upper Cruse and Lower Forest sands as the
earlier well. Also in Trinidad, the company
was set to spud the GY218 SE well in the
Beach Marcelle field during December. Range
is the sole interest holder in both fields. JPT


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Disruptive Technology
Janeen Judah, 2017 SPE President

Following my theme for the year on Risk

and Reward, lets think about how disruptive technologies alter the risk/reward
balance. The term disruptive technology is usually attributed to the Harvard
Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his bestselling 1997 book, The
Innovators Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Christensen defined disruptive technology as a new emerging technology that unexpectedly displaces an established one. Disruptive technologies are
usually still unrefined, have performance problems, are not
widely known, and may not have a proven practical or commercial application. Disruptive technologies can significantly
alter the course of our lifestyles, work, businesses, and even the
global economy.
In 2013, McKinsey Global Institute published a list of the 12
most potentially economically disruptive technologies. Think
about how life was before these advances:
1. Mobile Internet
2. Automation of knowledge work
3. Internet of Things
4. Advanced robotics
5. Cloud technology
6. Autonomous or near-autonomous vehicles
(cars, drones, etc.)
7. Next-generation genomics
8. Next-generation storage, including batteries
9. 3D printing
10. Advanced materials
11. Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery
12. Renewable electricity
Weve already seen the impact of some of these new technologies in the oil and gas business: cheaper, more robust sensors
are multiplying; software is getting smarter, and I believe will
mitigate some of the knowledge lost in the Big Crew Change;
and advanced materials continue to improve performance and
resiliency in oilfield applications. McKinseys #11 singles out
advanced oil and gas technologies, and most agree that the
most disruptive oilfield innovation of the past 30 years has been
the application of advanced completion techniques in shales.
Private ownership of minerals in the US enabled rapid commercialization of the countrys shale plays through hydraulic fracturing. This unforeseen innovation shook up the oil markets, as

we are all living through, but also the global gas and LNG markets. Ten years ago, the US was expected to be a gas importer
and companies built LNG import terminals to meet the demand.
Now, LNG export terminals are being built to move US gas out
to world markets. Huge, unanticipated commercial swings
occurred, all due to the application of an existing technology to
new formations. And, no one saw it coming.
The oil industry has a history of technology jumps, usually
triggered by hard times. When times are good, we concentrate
on keeping the rigs busy, staying ahead of the competition, and
making hay while the sun shines. Then oil price cycles down,
as commodities always do. Suddenly, both operators and service companies have urgent new motivations, often of financial
survival, to apply different methods to their businesses. We,
too, often innovate out of desperation.
I love the colorful stories and entrepreneurial spirit of the
early pioneers of the oil industry. Three large service companies
were founded by iconic pioneers: the Schlumberger brothers
who applied mining technology to the new science of oil exploration; Howard Hughes Sr., who commercialized the revolutionary invention of the cone bit; and my personal favorite,
Erle P. Halliburton. I still remember during my first year in the
oil business, working in Midland, Texas, when my Halliburton
sales representative would take us to lunch and tell us brighteyed young engineers: This lunch is on Erle P. Who is Erle P.,
I wondered?
Erle P. remains my favorite story of the early oil entrepreneurs. He didnt invent oil well cementing, but he learned the
trade in California and brought it to the oil fields of Oklahoma
and Texas. He was a tiny, chain-smoking, driven entrepreneur
who didnt mind getting his hands dirty. He invented and tinkered and visited his cementing crews in the field. He looked for
ways to improve tools and processes and improve customer serviceclassic hands-on entrepreneurship. Eventually Halliburton added the innovation of hydraulic fracturing, and 50 years
later it became the new disruptive technology.* Like many
of you, Ill bet, I cringe every time I hear a reporter discuss the
new technology of hydraulic fracturing. Ill admit Ive talked
back to the TVweve been fracturing wells since the 1940s!
*Most histories attribute the first unsuccessful application of
hydraulic fracturing to Stanolind Oil in the Hugoton, Kansas, gas
field in 1947, and the first successful application to Halliburton
near Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1949.

To contact the SPE President, email



Entrepreneur Erle P.
Halliburton with his original
1920 mule-drawn oil well
cementing rig. Source:
Halliburton Company.

I join most others in attributing the disruption of the hydraulic fracturing in shales to George P. Mitchell. The innovation came during hard times because Mitchells company
had significant holdings in the Barnett Shale region of north
Texas, and oil was lingering in the USD 10/bbl range. Solution:
Apply existing technologies, fracturing and horizontal drilling, to zones that were not considered very productive. Next
step: A revolution. Entrepreneurship plus private ownership
of minerals=innovation. When I speak to students, I end my
talk with stories of entrepreneurship. I am amazed at the rich
people I know now, and most of them did not get where they
are by being employees of a big company. The truly financially
successful mostly took risks, started new businesses, and built
their own fortunes.
The 21st century version of the oilfield entrepreneurs of 100
years ago are the tech startups, also with fascinating stories. My
favorite history of the early inventors of the computer and tech
industries is The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson.
He includes chapters on lesser-known pioneers of the computer
industry, such as Grace Hopper and Gordon Moore, but also Bill
Gates and Steve Jobs. Jacobson is also the author of the definitive biography Steve Jobs.
A well-kept secret of the tech industry is how many startups
fail miserably. The most famous motto of Silicon Valley is fail
fast, fail often. They know that failure leads to learnings or
to abandoning bad ideas early and moving on. Most estimate
the failure rate for Silicon Valley startups at over 90%, on par
with other small businesses. Even an elite tech incubator like
Y-Combinator has a 93% failure rate. But hope lives on. We love
the often repeated stories of tech billionaire successes like Facebook, Airbnb, Uber, and Snapchat, and the latest must-have
app, but the 90% failures sink unnoted below the waves.
Most discussions of technology innovations deride the oil
and gas industry as slow to innovate. And Id agree, but not because of lack of interest or need, but because of the high cost of


failure. Why isnt the oil and gas industry quick to innovate? I
attribute it to three factors:
1. High cost of entry. Unlike tech, most oil and gas innovations cant start with a few guys and their laptops. We are in a
highly regulated capital intensive business and joining the club
is hard. Our data are owned by operators or governments and
access is impossible, making it hard for outsiders to innovate in
our industry.
2. Hard to quantify, especially for outsiders. New oil and
gas innovations are hard to quantify. Its easy to quantify the
number of apps that get first round funding, the number of
new drugs that enter Phase 3 trial, and how many patents are
awarded, but its difficult for an outsider to see early technologies within oil and gas companies. Many innovations are joint
developments between service companies and operators and
hard to attribute to any one company.
3. Most importantthe high cost of failure. I think this is
the real barrier to most oil and gas innovation. Failures are costly and hard to fix. Some failures are spectacular with both economic and environmental impacts. Fail fast, fail often is not
an option for us, when the cost can be measured in hundreds of
millions of dollars.
Its hard to plan for disruptive technologies, and Id argue that
it is impossible. Companies create business plans that include
predictions and forecasts of technology innovations. We can
identify the gaps, but the inventions themselves are often more
elusive. The triggering event is usually economic, where low
prices force desperate innovation and high prices make known
inventions economic.
Whats next for disruptive oilfield technology? My list includes many of the items on McKinseys list: learning software,
sensors everywhere leading to an oilfield Internet of Things,
and, finally, real data mining and management. But the real
disruptive technologies are probably still in someones mind.
What technologies are we missing with the high castle walls of
ourindustry? JPT



Bernt Aadny, University of Stavanger
Syed AliChairperson, Consultant
Tayfun Babadagli, University of Alberta

How Big a Threat?

John Donnelly, JPT Editor

William Bailey, Schlumberger

Mike Berry, Mike Berry Consulting
Maria Capello, Kuwait Oil Company
Frank Chang, Saudi Aramco
Simon Chipperfield, Santos

As the oil industry begins to emerge from one of the worst

downturns in decades, some see a new threat on the horizon:
the growing use of electrically powered vehicles, which could
cut seriously into future oil consumption.
Automobile manufacturers and oil companies are trying to
estimate the growth potential of these vehicles, which currently make up only 1% of the global transportation market
but have surprised automakers with a quick uptake in demand
over the past 2 years. There are now more than 1 million electric cars on the road, up
70% from 2014, according to the International Energy Agency. Transportation currently accounts for more than half of oil consumption worldwide. The oil recession
of the past 2 years underscored the critical importance of the balance between global
supply and demand. As oil supplies swamped consumption with US shale output skyrocketing, Saudi Arabia increased production to try to drive high-cost producers out
of business, and demand in places such as China cooled off.
Automakers and many prominent companies in the oil industry apparently see different futures for electric vehicle growth. Both the widely watched ExxonMobil and
BP annual energy outlook surveys have paid little attention to potential disruptions
from electric vehicles, although both have noted the growing efficiency of the traditional combustion engine as a factor in reduced demand. In a survey of top oil executives attending the Oil and Money Conference in London in November, only 12% saw
electric vehicles as a serious threat to the industry, ranking lower than such issues as
a potential looming supply shortage, lack of capital investment, and break-even price
points for production. Electric cars, they can grow, but I dont think that is a problem
for us, ENI Chief Executive Officer Claudio Descalzi said at the conference.
Notably, Statoil and BHP Billiton have a different take. Statoil Chief Executive
Eldar Saetre said at the same event that global oil demand could peak in the 2020s as
the rising use of electric vehicles will shrink the industry. And BHP said in a blog
on its website that 2017 could be the year when the electric car revolution really
Automakers believe that as batteries become cheaper and can support longer driving ranges, consumption of electric vehicles will soar. They are also banking on the
preferences of millennials and the coming prospect of driverless vehicles to enhance
electric transport demand. Executives of Mercedes, BMW, and Ford all recently predicted a strong uptake in electric vehicle use over the next decade.
Oil analysts are just starting to put serious research to the question and predictions
vary widely. Wood Mackenzie believes that electric vehicle use could take 12 millionB/D of oil consumption out of the market within 20 years. IHS Markit is embarking on a major study, predicting that electric vehicles could account for 15% to 35%
of all vehicle sales by 2040, which could bring about the greatest transformation
since the dawn of the automotive age. Others predict that energy efficiency and government regulations pushing a low-carbon future will have the most impact on future
demand, but the rapid uptake of technologies that are disrupting long-term business
models should bring this issue to the surface in the next couple of years. JPT

Alex Crabtree, Hess Corporation

Gunnar DeBruijn, Schlumberger
Mark Egan, Retired
Mark Elkins, Retired
Alexandre Emerick,
Petrobras Research Center
Niall Fleming, Statoil
Ted Frankiewicz, SPEC Services
Stephen Goodyear, Shell
Omer M. Gurpinar, Schlumberger
A.G. Guzman-Garcia, Retired
Greg Horton, Retired
John Hudson, Shell
Morten Iversen, Karachaganak Petroleum
Leonard Kalfayan, Hess Corporation
Thomas Knode, Contek Solutions
Sunil Kokal, Saudi Aramco
Marc Kuck, Eni US Operating
Jesse C. Lee, Schlumberger
Douglas Lehr, Baker Hughes
Silviu Livescu, Baker Hughes
Shouxiang (Mark) Ma, Saudi Aramco
John Macpherson, Baker Hughes
Graham Mensa-Wilmot, Chevron
Stphane Menand, DrillScan
Badrul H. Mohamed Jan, University of Malaya
Zillur Rahim, Saudi Aramco
Eric Ringle, FMC Technologies
Martin Rylance, BP GWO Completions
Robello Samuel, Halliburton
Otto L. Santos, Petrobras
Luigi A. Saputelli, Frontender Corporation
Sally A. Thomas, Retired
Win Thornton, BP plc
Xiuli Wang, Baker Hughes
Mike Weatherl, Well Integrity, LLC
Rodney Wetzel, Chevron ETC
Scott Wilson, Ryder Scott Company
Jonathan Wylde, Clariant Oil Services
Robert Ziegler, Weatherford

To contact JPTs editor, email



New results
without a new stack.

Tested beyond 600% of API

requirements with zero failures.
The new RCX Low-Shock SPM Valve virtually eliminates
hydraulic shock during operations, extending the lifespan of the
entire MUX control circuit. Its patent-protected design simplifies
onsite assembly and installation, lowering the risk of damaging
components during field maintenance. This technology is now
available for retrofit, to increase the reliability of existing 5th and
6th generation MUX systems.

2017 | National Oilwell Varco | All rights reserved

NOV_Lowshock SPM_JPT_2017.indd 1

11/21/2016 4:31:35 PM


Industry Transformation Takes Many Forms

Alex Read, Global Director, Business Development, Industries Group, Siemens PLM Software

Many column inches are filled with discussion of how companies need to operate in the lower-for-longer market that
the upstream oil and gas industry continues to face. Much of what we read
is focused around headline words such
as innovation and disruption. I feel
these are used too often and inappropriately such that we lose focus around
their meaning. However, if asked for one
word that I believe encapsulates what
the oil and gas industry needs, it would
The oil and gas industry has a history of delivering incredible engineering
feats that are impressive in their innovation by any measure in terms of sheer
physical or budgetary scale. Whether we
look back to the early Gulf of Mexico and
North Sea facilities designed to withstand extreme marine environments, the
ultra-deepwater subsea developments
offshore Africa and Brazil, or the megaprojects around floating LNG, the industry has a history of innovation. The rise
of independent oil companies, redefining markets in certain regions, has been
a good example of disruptive practices.
What we need to focus on now is how
we transform the industry. This word
can resonate with all of us working in
the industry at every level within an
organization; all of us can offer ideas

for how we could transform what we do,

whether at a company or personal level
and with a long-term outlook or on a
daily basis.
One of the key transformations occurring now is organizations coming togetherthrough mergers, acquisitions, and
alliancesto combine products and
services from subsurface through subsea and pipelines to topside processing.
The move is clearly toward integration
of products and services, with companies trying to reduce the costs of interfaces of different aspects of field development and production and reducing
the overhead of business operations.
While the impact of the downturn cannot be ignored, it is my hope that these
changes will offer the opportunity for
transformation from an industry that
has been heavily project-focused to one
that is geared more to delivering standardized products designed to be flexible enough to be modified to cope with
the range of projects and operating conditions in which they will deployed. This
is a move toward a more efficient engineering industry in the long term.

The Digital Transformation

of Engineering
Our industry has much to learn from
the transformations made by success-

Alex Read is Global Director, Business Development, Industries

Group at Siemens PLM Software. In 14 years at CD-adapco, he has
worked as a project engineer, led the customer support team for
northern Europe, and helped found CD-adapcos operations in
Houston and So Paulo, where he led both the sales and technical
teams. Read now leads the companys global activities in the oil
and gas industry, focusing on helping oil and gas firms succeed
through simulation. He holds an undergraduate degree in
engineering and a graduate degree in computational fluid dynamics, both from the
University of Leeds, as well as an MBA from Rice University.


ful automotive companies. Whether it

is the global economic turmoil of 2008,
new competitors entering the market, or changes in regulation, the auto
industry has continually had to push to
deliver innovative solutions in reduced
time and cost. From an engineering
perspective, those that have succeeded
have done so by progressively reducing reliance on traditional methods
(expensive and time-consuming physical prototyping) in favor of extensive
As an example, beginning in 2008,
at a time when automotive manufacturers were seeing cataclysmic market
conditions, Jaguar Land Rover undertook a strategic shift. Its goal was not
only to survive the downturn but to significantly expand product offerings and
sales while increasing profit. The business drivers and challenges laid out by
the companys head of simulation, Andy
Richardson, would sound familiar if
delivered by the chief technology officer
of an oilfield service company: Develop new technologies while managing
massively increased system complexity; identify failure modes and establish
countermeasures to achieve right firsttime design; reduce in-service failures;
simulate the full range of use cases; optimized product, design efficiency, and
reduced production costs. The oil and
gas industry shares many of the pains
and challenges felt by the automotive
industry in that post-2008 period.
Jaguar Land Rover is now well on
the way to its goal: robust engineering design ready for sign off before the
first physical prototype is built, and it
is doing so while delivering financially
with 15% or more EBITDA growth in
each of the past 5 years.


Transforming Engineering
and Product Development
As with the automotive example above,
engineering design and product development for oil and gas needs to be led
by computer-based simulation. The aim
is to reduce time, cost, and risk to the
delivery of an operating product or system. The more understanding we gain
from a virtual environment, the less testing and prototyping we require. In this
approach, a digital twin of the product or
system is developed and used to simulate
its behavior to identify and assess initial
concepts, to test and select which option
should be progressed, and then to optimize the product during detailed design.
The use of simulation in the oil and
gas industry is not new; however, the
transformation we need is in how
we use it to lead our engineering and
design rather than to verify or validate a design. This means that engineering simulation needs to move further upstream in the design process and
also, critically, the activity needs to be
more fully integrated into design activities. All too often, engineering analysis
teams are exactly thatseparate teams
from the core design activity. The better
integrated the engineering simulation
activities can be within the engineering
process, the better the chance that the
value of simulation can be gained and
that the understanding acquired from
simulation can lead engineers to make
informed decisions.
Cost has never been so critical to
engineering design and operation, yet
it is often somewhat detached from the
engineering design process with costing being performed-based on design
options developed. This can lead to
complex interactions or numerous iterations in targeting designs that meet the
required performance or constraints
and at the same time meeting cost and
budgetary needs.
However, if you can model or predict
costs in terms of materials and manufacture them from an analysis or simulation perspective, it is simply another
variable or constraint within the design
process. It can be solved in parallel with
the design and performance targets.
This approach can introduce a cost
model to engineering analysis or physi-


cal simulation. A recent case study of

applying this approach to the design of a
riser demonstrated costs being reduced
by more than 10% using an automated design-space exploration approach,
where minimum cost was targeted with
a wide range of design variables and
operational constraints. Here a cost
model was integrated with a dynamic
riser analysis and the findings provided
a very clear trade-off between cost and
performance, enabling informed decisions to be made relating to cost and
performance from the same data set
obtained from within the same analysis.

Transform How We Use

Engineering Time
Increased efficiency has been identified as one of the key targets in decreasing development and operating costs.
Engineering analysis and modeling has
often been seen as labor-intensive with
many engineers spending too much
time building and running models rather than as engineers using the data. The
adverse result of this is that there is
less time available to really analyze and
understand the findings and outputs,
and the real engineering value of analysis and simulation can be lost.
Automated design-space exploration can truly transform this, as can the
increasing access to high-performance
computing facilities or cloud-computing,
which can enable quick turnaround of
larger and more complex models. The
aim of automated design-space exploration is to take control of a number of
engineering simulation technologies so
that they work together, sharing data
and using this data to intelligently search
the available design options. The process
automation aspect is key to reducing the
time engineers need to spend babysitting analysis, making sure we have set
up all of the calculations that are needed
to obtain a full set of data. The second
important aspect is the bringing together of multiple engineering analysis or
simulation tools (which could be flow
and thermal, structural, costs, or many
other predictive approaches or software
tools) and enabling them to interact and
share outputs so that findings do not
have to be manually passed among engineers andteams.

If we automate more of the setting up

and running of models, engineers will
have more time to work on adding real
value by using data to inform engineering decisions and designs. The digital
twin approach can drive design, provide design teams with greater insight,
and, critically, allow engineers to be
engineers. Rather than replacing the
requirement for an engineer, automation of engineering analysis frees up
time for engineers to analyze and process the data they generate.
Major changes are taking place across
our industry and the concepts discussed
here are not conceptual or blue-sky
thinking. The move toward oil and gas
product development becoming truly
simulation-led is already beginning, but
the rate of change needs to increase.
Change is never easy, but the opportunity and results will make it a worthwhile
transformation for our industry. JPT


Chris Carpenter, JPT Technology Editor

Asset Controller
The Weatherford WellPilot ONE controller/remote terminal unit (RTU) provides
asset control, automation, and optimization for the entire field and enables
seamless transitions throughout all production and lift phases, which reduces
the total cost of ownership (Fig.1). Typically, automating a field requires operators to use an array of different RTUs or
controllers that adjust well operations
while they collect, store, and transfer
near-real-time data. With the WellPilot
ONE controller, operators will be able to
improve wellsite efficiency by controlling multiple application-specific operations precisely. Initially installed to monitor flowing wells and to automate the
full production facility, the controller
can transition to different forms of lift
as well conditions change. The controller can also simultaneously handle multiple tasks for multiple wells, and it is
capable of monitoring and controlling
various forms of artificial lift at once.
Other capabilities include oil, gas, and
water measurement; tank-level monitoring; well testing; hazardous-substance
monitoring; and well control and shutdowns. The controller includes built-in

Fig. 1The Weatherford

WellPilot ONE universal
controller is preloaded with
built-in, advanced logic and is
expandable to provide multiwell
automation and control for the life
of the entire field.


logic for electronic flow measurement,

process control, and every form of artificial lift and offers scalability through
its unlimited capacity for input/output
expansion modules.
For additional information, visit

Tubing Coating
Sucker-rod wear on production tubing
has been an industry issue for decades,
resulting in the need for costly workovers. Grit and sand exacerbate the
problem, along with corrosives such as
hydrogen sulfate, methane, and carbon
dioxide. Diamond Scientific was asked
by United Casing to develop a product
to extend the life of the tubing at wear
points. A 5-year research and development project resulted in the ACR-T16
coating. While the primary concern is
abrasion of the tubing, a variety of tests
were performed by independent laboratories to ensure the corrosion stability of the coating. Autoclave tests for
corrosion in various atmospheres, pressures, and temperature variations were
conducted, resulting in excellent adhesion and no coating loss or blisters in
aqueous, hydrocarbon, or liquid phases.

Wear-resistance tests determined that

the coating demonstrated an increased
resistance of more than an 1,100%
improvement over J55 steel (Fig. 2). Currently, 150,000 ft of production tubing
has been coated at wear points in multiple wells. The coated tubing has been
in service for 21 months without need for
any workover. Before running the coated
tubing, these wells required a workover
every 6 months.
For additional information, visit

Section Milling Technology

The Abrado Medusa section-milling technology, which allows for full stabilization
while milling at extended reach, offers
an additional cost-effective solution for
operators to address the challenge of
permanent abandonment of wells and
isolation of formation hydrocarbons.
Conventional section mills are limited in
sweep diameter, and milling at extended
reach is further complicated by a lack of
effective stabilization. The Abrado Medusa is a fully self-stabilized technology that
enables successful extended-reach milling, including milling through a number of casing strings, whether centric or

Fig. 2A Taber abrasion machine, used to test Diamond Scientifics ACR-T16

tubing coating.



Improve your fracturing operations with automation

for precise control and equipment reliability.
A redesign of the hydraulic fracturing process lets you automate operations, increase efficiency, and minimize HSE riskall while
meeting the industrys growing requirement for proppant delivered per stage, with more stages per day.
The new automated, electrically powered platform

controls fluid mixing and proppant delivery to best match the job design

monitors equipment performance for maximum reliability and uninterrupted operations

minimizes dust and human intervention for reduced HSE risk.

Find out more at
Copyright 2017 Schlumberger. All rights reserved. 16-ST-233265

Experience a virtual tour at HFTC

and online on January 25, 2017.

Fig. 3The ANT from GoWell Petro uses high-sensitivity acoustic sensors for leak-detection applications.

eccentric, without damaging the outer

casing. The ability to create window sections of longer lengths through multiple
cemented casing strings regardless of
depth enables placement of a competent
cement barrier, ensuring formation isolation at or near the reservoir interface
or source of migrating hydrocarbons.
The fully stabilized milling system has
been used to create windows in casings
as small as 7 in. up to 185/8 in. in diameter while cleaning or underreaming casing sizes up to 30in. Successful window
lengths in excess of 240ft, and well deviations above 60, have been achieved.
Operators have been able to place a confirmed cement barrier to block the flow
paths of migrating hydrocarbons in wells
previously unable to be abandoned using
conventional milling equipment.
For additional information, visit

bined with a range of well-integrity or production-logging tools, can provide comprehensive diagnostics of well problems.
For additional information, visit

Neutral-Wettability Proppant
Baker Hughes NeutraProp neutralwettability proppant is a surfacemodified material that enables fluids to
flow freely through the pore spaces in a
proppant pack (Fig. 4). It is neither oilwet nor water-wet, and it can be applied
to various substrates from lightweight
ceramic to high-strength proppant. The
proppant reduces pressure drop in multiphase flow and eliminates the buildup
of fluid residues, letting more hydrocarbons flow out of the reservoir at higher rates for longer periods of time. The
solution also improves cleanup by reduc-

Array-Noise Tool
GOWell Petro introduced its latest generation array-noise tool (ANT) for deployment on electric line or slickline. GOWells
ANT tool is a leak-detection technology
that uses high-sensitivity acoustic sensors packaged within a 111/16-in.-outerdiameter wireline tool (Fig. 3). The combination of a vertical array of differential acoustic measurements when coupled
with advanced processing provides sensitive leak detection while logging. Rejection of unwanted road noise has typically
been a major challenge with noise logging,
which has only been solved by taking stationary measurements. However, the
design features of the ANT overcome this
limitation and provide an enhanced ability
to detect leaks and other downhole noise
sources such as completion anomalies or
reservoir behavior. When the ANT noise
tool is combined with GOWells Magnetic
Thickness Detector (MTD) electromagnetic pipe-inspection tool, a comprehensive
leak evaluation is possible. The MTD identifies the location of pipe connections in
multiple casing strings and other completion items that can be prone to leaking. The
ANT tool can be run alone or, when com-


Fig. 4Baker Hughes NeutraProp

neutral-wettability proppant. Top
image shows unmodified ceramic
proppant; bottom image shows
NeutraProp proppant.

ing capillary pressure and accelerates the

time to first oil while reducing nonproductive time. An operator working in
deepwater Gulf of Mexico needed a frac
pack to complete a new well to enable
production quickly. The well had very low
bottomhole pressure, low reservoir energy, and no gas lift. The NeutraProp was
selected and applied, and all of the flowback fluids were recovered in approximately 14 hours. This represents a 43%
reduction in rig time compared with an
average of 24.5 hours on three previous wells in which conventional proppant was used. The operator eliminated
10 hours of rig time and saved more than
USD 438,000 by using the proppant.
For additional information, visit

Manufacturing Technology
Peak Well Systems IRIS-3D manufacturing technology provides a highexpansion, mechanical support system
that can be applied to a wide range of
possible applications. For downhole
applications in particular, it can be used
to extend the performance of traditional elastomer seals and therefore enables
a new suite of wellbore sealing systems.
With the addition of IRIS-3D components to Peaks existing downhole SIM
plug system, personnel have been able
to extend the performance of the SIM
seal from 150C and 5,000 psi to 200C
and 10,000 psi. IRIS-3D is now focusing on two development paths: the ability of IRIS-3D to develop a new range
of high-performance medium-expansion
plugs and exploring the role of IRIS-3D
in high-expansion seal systems. The latter could potentially deliver an IRIS-3D
enabled, high-performance, throughtubing retrievable plug capable of passing
through a 4.5-in tubing before expanding
over 70% to seal in 7-in. casing. The technology has other potential applications
beyond downhole seals and extrusion
barriers, including drilling tools, connectors, and surface-pipelinetools. JPT
For additional information, visit



Preventing Emulsions by Mitigating Solids

Bob Long, SPE, U.S. Water

There are many oilfield applications to

treat oil emulsions and water (reverse)
emulsions. Root cause determination
with full solutions to emulsion issues
can be more efficient and cost-effective
than bandage-type downstream applications such as acid treatments, demulsifiers, and water clarifiers. Improving
flow assurance or preventing underdeposit corrosion issues are additional benefits of finding and eliminating
problems at their source.

The Impact of Emulsions

The development of an oilfield emulsion requires four key components: oil,
water, an emulsifying agent (solids, surfactants, or chemicals), and agitation
(or shear). Solids, such as scale particles, corrosion byproducts, or waxes,
tie the oil and water together. Agitation
mixes the two, resulting in an emulsion. Removing or preventing any one
of these four components will break or
prevent emulsions.
Stable emulsions can have damaging
effects on lines and result in increased
costs for handling solids (through
mechanical removal), heat energy, and
chemical programs. They can also result
in capital expenses, such as purchasing the filtration equipment needed to
remove solids. In addition to the operating costs associated with emulsions,
operators may experience unexpected
downtime and lost production.
Water that is separated out in production facilities contains residual oil
that is trapped in reverse emulsions
oil droplets dispersed in the water phase
vs. a standard emulsion where water
is trapped in the oil phase. The concentration of this residual oil is usually
too high for permitted discharge to the


environment and may result in operator

fines. Any oil that is not captured and is
lost to disposal is a loss of profit.

Current Industry Practices

A typical industry practice is to use a
demulsifier to treat standard emulsions.
Choosing an effective demulsifier is
often viewed as a black art, frequently
done by conducting a bottle test with
a kit of demulsifiers or blends. There are
three main processes by which demulsifiers unlock emulsions: flocculation,
coalescence, and solids wetting.
Another industry method for treating
solids is to batch treat with acid. Acid
can effectively treat calcium carbonate, the most common carbonate scale,
and iron sulfide, a corrosion byproduct. When acid is added to iron sulfide,
it creates a byproduct of hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas. Acid treatments
are temporary, lasting no more than a
couple of days. Although they successfully put the solids into the solution, as
soon as the water pH rises back during
dilution, the solids typically precipitate
back out from solution.

Identifying the Root Cause

These common industry practices for
treating emulsions act as bandages that
often require additional spending. A different approach has been introduced to
the market that goes deeper than the
customary treatment practices to identify the root cause of the emulsion and
solids. By starting upstream, producers
can proactively focus on preventing solids and emulsions formation.
When analyzing the emulsifying
agents that prevent these emulsions
from separating with standard separation equipment, we typically find

they contain mostly treatable components, outside of formation sands and

clays. These treatable components
include paraffin and asphaltene, mineral scales (i.e., calcite and barite), and
corrosion byproducts (i.e., iron sulfide,
iron carbonate, and iron oxides). Having a detailed process for identifying,
collecting, and analyzing the generating source can allow for more effective
If solids are prevented from forming
upstream, oil and water easily separate
out on their own. With the exception of
formation fines, most of the oilfield solids precipitate out of the gas and liquids
as pressure and temperature changes
occur in a well. These phase changes
continue through the separation and
compression equipment, to midstream
and downstream for finalprocessing.
Using phase monitoring, sampling,
and a variety of investigative testing can
help determine when solids precipitate,
causing an emulsion to form. Sampling
from the wellhead through the entire
process to water disposal allows the
determination of which solids will stay
in solution, precipitate out, stay suspended in the flow, or deposit out on the
piping and vessels.
Further deposit analysis and characterization will determine the breakdown of the solids to help identify the
root cause of the deposits. To determine
total dissolved solids (TDS), water and
oil should be collected from one point in
the system and analyzed. A filter analysis at the same time and location can be
used to identify and measure total suspended solids (TSS).
A deposition coupon can be used to
measure the precipitated solids that
are depositing in the production equip-


Oil in Water (parts per million)

Oil and Grease (ppm)
Control Range (ppm)





Fig. 1Average oil and grease in water (in parts per million [ppm]). An
integrated approach was implemented in 2013, which resulted in an average
of 400 ppm less oil in the disposal water. Source: U.S. Water.

is the proper identification. Any solids

that are collected can be sent to a lab for
testing to further identify the emulsifying agent.
During the analytical testing of noncrystalline (also called amorphous)
deposits, energy dispersion X-ray methods can be used to identify the elemental
breakdown. The ideal deposit analysis
method for crystalline deposits is X-ray
diffraction, as it has the advantage of
producing a molecular determination.
When X-rays interact with a crystalline
substance, a diffraction pattern is created, along with the percentage of each
phase of the sample.
The use of a scanning electron microscope and the determination of particle size distribution, clay content, and
general and pitting corrosion rates are
other helpful tools for determining the
systems problems and the best method

The Integrated Approach


Total Suspended Solids (mg/L)


TSS (mg/L)
Acid Soluble
Acid Insoluble





Fig. 2Annual average total suspended solids (TSS) composition (in mg/L).
The new integrated approach implemented in 2013 resulted in a more than
90% reduction in TSS. Source: U.S. Water.

ment, which would not be present in

the TDS or in the TSS. Solids on the
filter or coupon can then be sent to
a laboratory to identify a component
breakdown and determine if they are
Centrifuging fluids is a way to determine visually if the emulsion will sepa-


rate on its own throughout the system

or if additional treatment, such as heat
or chemicals, will be needed to resolve
the emulsion. Centrifuging the emulsion also indicates how tight the emulsion is and if the solid will separate
on its own. The next step after collecting, cleaning, and preserving the solids

The basic process of developing root

cause solutions begins by mapping the
process flow and measuring temperatures and pressures at each stage to create a monitoring and survey plan. Experienced operators should walk the pipe
and process flow to compile historical
data, such as prior testing, corrosion,
and flow assurance failures.
It is important to follow this by
methodically collecting a baseline of
statistically valid data. After reviewing
the survey and lab data, the integrity
team should be engaged to help develop root cause solutions for trial. These
trials should be implemented, one solution at a time, keeping production and
process changes to a minimum during
evaluation. The baseline data that were
collected should be referenced during
solution evaluation for clear comparison and to evaluate if improvements are
being made.
Finally, if a trial solution is proven to
be more effective, that solution should
be implemented permanently, optimized with continued data collection,
and key performance indicators should
be set.
Using this integrated approach,
alternative root cause solutions can be


applied upstream to prevent scale and

corrosion. For example, if there is carbon dioxide present in a system, high
pitting corrosion rates and a deposit analysis would show iron carbonate
solids. Applying a nonemulsifying corrosion or iron inhibitor upstream of
the reaction or precipitation could be a
more cost-effectivesolution.

Proven Results
In 2013, an offshore field operator used
this integrated approach. The operator was experiencing scale buildup in
flowlines and separators, which resulted in corrosion issues on a handful of
wells. The issues were compounded by
an ineffective biocide program applied
at the water plant, and dissolved oxygen intrusion that further precipitated
iron oxides, which were oil coated and
plugged the disposal wells. No corrosion program was in place, and scale

inhibitors were applied downstream

A multifunctional product containing inhibitors for iron, scale, and corrosion was developed for this field and
was applied upstream of separation.
The operator was able to discontinue
a surfactant program on the injection
wells, the summer emulsion-breaker
program, and winter emulsion-breaker
injection into some producing wells.
This resulted in the oil meeting pipeline
specifications for sales, and an average
400 ppm oil reduction in the disposal
water (Fig. 1).
Ongoing monitoring in 2015 showed
very low corrosion rates and a more
than 90% reduction in TSS from
2013 (Fig. 2). The return on investment included cost savings from fewer
coiled tubing cleanouts, reduced
injection well pump maintenance,
and a USD-100,000 reduction in

Sponsored Content

chemical expenses, compared with the

bandage-type programs used previously. The measures taken also resulted in
additional revenue from 2,920 bbl of
oil that were previously held in a reverseemulsion.
While traditional solids mitigation
methods may provide immediate benefits, they typically result in additional expenditures and treatment measures further down the line. Using
investigative testing enables operators to determine the root cause of
their issues and develop customized,
Once implemented, these solutions
can prevent emulsion stabilization and
result in more efficient operations and
long-term asset integrity. Although
individual systems suffer from particular issues, entire fields can be optimized through the use of a holistic,


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Hot Permian Play Gets Panel Focus

Oil prices, fracturing fleet, staffing, and technology among topics aired.
Joel Parshall, JPT Features Editor

The successes and challenges of producers in the United States most active oil
play received a wide-ranging discussion
by three panelists recently at an SPE
Gulf Coast Section meeting in Houston
on the state of the Permian Basin.
Exclusively following a question-andanswer format, the nearly hour-long
program last month covered oil prices,
the fracturing fleet, staffing, technology, reservoir issues, and other topics related to the basin that covers west
Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
Its exciting to see the Permian come
around and actually be the hottest play
and the hottest area probably in the
world, said Billy Smith, technology
director for North America at Halliburton. The encouraging thing about the
Permian, at least with the operators Ive
spoken with, is that at USD 50[/bbl] oil,
a lot of the play is very valid and very
economic. Some Permian plays are economic for their operators at USD 40/bbl
oil, he said.

Greater Efficiency
Anton Babaniyazov, a senior production
engineer in the Lower 48 Mid-America
Business Unit at ConocoPhillips, pointed to lower drilling and completion
costs and a huge improvement in efficiency in the basin. From the placement standpoint, weve significantly
improved contact with the reservoir,
he said, citing a 17% improvement year
to year in industry production from the
basins unconventional plays.
Interest in Permian involvement is
increasing among smaller operators,
particularly in the western portion,
Babaniyazov said. Further growth is
likely. There will be lots of opportunities, he said.


However, finding additional people

to drive expansion could pose some
difficulty. Right now, the Permian
Basin from an unemployment perspective is very, very low, said Ken Lizak,
director of stimulation design in subsurface technical services and support at Occidental. So as we grow
from today, that means bringing commuter people in. We lived through
that back in 20132014. So getting
back up and running, its going to be
a challenge.

Readiness of Fracturing Fleet

There are also questions about the readiness of the fracturing equipment fleet
to respond to significant expansion, in
light of units that have been stacked
[taken out of operation] in the downturn
and may need repairs or that have been
cannibalized. Smith said that 6.5 million
to 7 million horsepower of fracturing
unit capacity is available across the US
industry, which can service 600 to 700
rigs and would be at 100% utilization if
the rig count hit 800.
The question is whether stacked
horsepower is cold stacked, or is it
repairable, he said. It really depends
on how quick and costly it is to bring
things back.
If oil prices stay below USD 55/bbl,
equipment availability can be relatively smoothly managed in the Permian,
Smith said. But at prices from USD 60/bbl
to 70/bbl all of a sudden all of the other
plays come back, and then for sure we
reach the threshold of equipment not
being available, he said.
While Lizak predicted a slow oil price
recovery, he said, I think prices are
going to come up a lot faster than the
frac fleet.

Pad Drilling Drives

Panelists agreed that pad drilling, in
which multiple wells are drilled from
a single pad, is an increasingly important factor in improving Permian operations. As a result of pad methods, rigs
have gotten much more efficient, Smith
said. If you look across the basin as a
whole, there havent been that many
pad wells drilled. So thats going to be
a big change. Were already starting to
see that.
Pad drilling has enabled Halliburton in the Permian to focus on tracking
pumping time, as opposed to nonpumping time, because we pump for almost
24 straight hours, Smith explained.
Still, the industry faces the difficulty of expanding into more marginal
areas. The wells are good right now
in the Permian because were drilling
in the sweet spot, Lizak said. And the
one big challenge we have is how can
you go to those marginal areas outside of the sweet spot and make those
wells just as good. When you go from
2,000 pounds [of proppant] per foot
in the sweet spot and out on the edge
you take 6,000 pounds per foot to
get the same production, is that economic? We spend a lot of time looking at what we can do to move the
sweet spot.
The economics of operations may
also be increasingly affected by surging
acreage costs, which Lizak described as
becoming ridiculously high.

Technology and Oil Prices

In a downturn, the level of technology applied in the field is often a function of the oil price. At USD 50/bbl,
Permian operators are resuming the


application of custom well chemistry,

such as surfactants and clay controls,
that they had set aside at lower prices,
Smith said.

If per-barrel prices rose to the

USD 70 range, Babaniyazov said that
technologies to mitigate flow assurance issues would see increased use.

And Smith said that higher-end diagnostics and the broader application
of fiber-optics would probably come
into play.

Oklahoma Official: Progress Being Made, but Induced

Seismicity Will Not Stop Anytime Soon
Trent Jacobs, JPT Senior Technology Writer
One of Oklahomas top government
officials announced recently that it
could be many more months before
the full scope of the states regulatory
response plan for induced seismicity is
Oklahoma is a top-five oil and gas
producing state in the US that has also
seen a nearly 4,000% spike in earthquakes since 2009, making it among the
most seismically active regions in the
country. Scientists and industry experts
have concluded that the earthquakes are
instances of induced seismicity brought
about by the injection of produced
wastewater into a fault-connected layer
of rock called the Arbuckle formation.
Michael Teague, secretary of energy and environment for Oklahoma,
explained that even though the state has
ordered hundreds of disposal wells to
cease operations or cut back their injection volumes, the earthquakes are slowing down but growing in strength. He
suggested that it will take quite a bit of
time for the built-up pressures inside
the Arbuckle thought to be triggering
the quakes to dissipate.
The unfortunate answer to the
long-term question is, this could take 2
years, until Oklahomas seismic activity returns to normal, Teague said. And
theres not much more that we could do
that would make it go much faster.
The Secretarys remark was made
during a November SPE meeting in
Houston hosted by the Gulf Coast Sections study group on wastewater management. His keynote presentation
touched on several issues that his office,
which collaborates with state and federal regulators, has faced in figuring
out how to create a framework that promotes the production of oil and gas
and also addresses the need to prevent


the injection of produced water from


Shifting Conversation
Among the earliest challenges Teague
related centered on how the seismicity problem was initially being communicated and described to the general
public. He expressed disappointment
in the misguided attempts by activists to blame hydraulic fracturing for
the earthquakescases of which do
exist, but are very few in numbers
but also in the industry representatives
who publically downplayed the possible
linkage between disposal well activity
Only 2 years ago, Teague noted that
some of those working in the industry
speaking circuit were claiming that a

scientific connection could not be established, an argument he believes was not

helpful. Earlier in his remarks, while
pointing to a chart showing the historical trend line of Oklahomas seismic activity, he said, Look at how that
ramps upthat is not natural.
Times have changed. Teague said
while there remain a few holdouts on the
issue, the overall attitude now shared by
many in the industry is praiseworthy.
This position shift has resulted in the
greater cooperation of oil and gas companies with regulators by way of funding for research and the states new
disposal well reporting system, along
with the donation of seismic information that has greatly expanded the
states knowledge of its subterranean
fault network.

Speaking at a recent SPE meeting, Oklahomas Secretary of Energy and

Environment spoke to industry professionals about the challenges regulators
are facing in solving the problem of induced seismicity.


Earthquakes per Day

M2.8+ Earthquakes

30 Day Mov. Avg.

180 Day Mov. Avg.

Jan-09 Jan-10 Jan-11 Jan-12 Jan-13 Jan-14 Jan-15 Jan-16 Jan-17 Jan-18

The occurrence rate of 2.8-magnitude or greater earthquakes in Oklahoma

began ticking above normally observed levels in 2009 and reached a peak
sometime in 2015. The state is still experiencing multiple felt seismic events a
day compared to two per year on average between 19782008. Source: Office
of the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Energy.

Though there is no doubt amongst

the experts on the causal relationship
between disposal wells and the earthquakes, they are still unsure of the exact
mechanics involved. There are conflicting theories that suggest the problem is
driven by area-specific geology vs. the
idea that the quakes are more related to
select disposal sites with above-average
injection rates.
Teague said this uncertainty underscores the need for continued research
and collaboration between regulators,
industry, and the universities carrying
out much of this seismic investigation
work. The research isnt done, he said,
while acknowledging, That gets really
frustrating if its your baby thats getting
woken up six or seven times a night, but
that is the truth of the matter.

Regulatory Evolution
Though seismicity throughout Oklahoma began rising above historic baseline levels in 2009, it would not be until
4 years later that the problem grew so
bad that it prompted state officials to
shut in the first disposal well linked to
an earthquake.
Since then, dozens more disposal
wells have been ordered to shut in and
about 700 others have been plugged-up
to higher injection intervals or seen their
allowable injection volumes reduced by a
substantial figure. The affected popula-


tion of disposal wells roughly represents

a quarter of the states total number.
A map of the states areas of volume
reduction show that three of the most
regulated areas fall within the borders
of a larger centrally positioned restriction zone that was established earlier.
After a number of recent 4.0-magnitude
or greater earthquakes occurred near

the towns of Luther, Pawnee, and Cushing, the state created even tighter zones
around those quakes epicenters.
Disposal wells located in the bullseyes
of these zones, which have a radius ranging from 3 to 10 miles, have been shut in.
Many more disposal wells located just a
few miles beyond that innermost ring
have been ordered to reduce injection
volumes anywhere from half to a quarter
of their 2014 monthly averages.
Teague said that regulators have settled on partial reductions for the majority of the affected disposal wells due
to the potential risk of trigging earthquakes by reducing the subsurface pressure by too much, too quicklya lesson
that has been learned the hard way.
When disposal well operators were
first faced with mandatory reductions,
rather than inject lower volumes on a
daily basis, some decided to cease injections completely for a few days, and
then would start back up and inject at
the maximum allowed rates for a another few days. Teague said they were
absolutely causing earthquakes by fluctuating the injection activity like this,
and implied that new rules were adopted to end this practice.

Areas of Volume
Reduction 2015 EQ
OK_Central Reduction_2016_03_07
Cushing 3 mile (Shutin)
Cushing 6 mile (Reduce)
Western Regional Reduction 2016_02_10
Luther-Wellston_10 mile (Reduce)
Luther-Wellston_15 mile (Shutin)
Pawnee_10 mile (Shutin)
Pawnee_15 mile (Shutin)
Osage Pawnee
Pawnee_Original_10 mile







Date: 9/20/2016

This map plots the locations of recorded earthquakes in north-central

Oklahoma as they relate to the areas in which regulators have ordered
volume reductions for disposal well injections. Source: Office of the Oklahoma
Secretary of Energy and Energy.


In January, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), the states oil

and gas regulator, issued a statement
expressing similar concerns. The OCC
said that a series of earthquakes that
occurred in a matter of days near the
town of Fairview, including four measuring at least a magnitude 4.0, may
have been connected to the simultaneous startup of a number of oil and gas
wells that had temporarily lost power
during a storm.
The statement read that as those wells
began producing again, a tremendous
volume of produced water was generated and then subsequently injected
into the Arbuckle at the same time. The
statement concluded by asking that in
the future, operators gradually restore
operations in the event of a sudden shutdown due to power failures.

Stronger Magnitudes
While pointing out that the rate of earthquakes is falling, which may be due to
a combination of injection restrictions
and an overall reduction in the states oil
and gas production, Teague highlighted that the magnitudes, or the intensity, of the earthquakes are going the
wrong way and nobody really understands why.
He noted that only days before
his appearance on 6 November, a
5.0-magnitude earthquake rattled the
town of Cushing, Oklahoma, home to
the worlds largest crude oil transpor-

tation and storage hub. No serious injuries or damage to the hubs infrastructure were reported, however, a number
of buildings in the town suffered damage. Including the Cushing earthquake,
three of the states five strongest recorded earthquakes have occurred in 2016.
Due to the aftershocks associated with
some of those events, Teague said the
state would most likely end 2016 with
more than 600 3.0-magnitude events
loosely held as the strength at which
most people can feel ground movement.
Even so, the final tally will fall far short
of 2015s total of 907 3.0-magnitude
earthquakes, marking the states first
decline in seismicity in 5 years.
Teague said these figures reflect that
in some parts of Oklahoma the injection restrictions may be working, but in
other areas under similar restrictions,
the earthquakes are continuing largely
unabated. This has been a particularly
difficult situation for state officials to
grapple with.
On one hand, the science is telling
them that it can take perhaps 18 months
for a volume reduction to have the
desired effect. But on the other hand,
their responsibility to the public dictates that corrective measures be implemented in a shorter timeframe.
This has led to a creeping expansion of the restriction zones when
the initial mitigation strategies fail to
immediately calm the seismic shifting. Teague explained that although

more action is warranted when sizeable earthquakes strike within an area

already under restriction, officials have
grown wary of simply lumping on more
and more restrictions, which he compared to Band-Aids, because then
you cant figure out which Band-Aid
is working.
Nevertheless, Oklahomas regulators
have announced that their next step
in response to the ongoing earthquake
activity in Cushing will be the creation
of an even larger restriction zone that
will affect more disposal wells.

For Further Reading

SPE 180365 Dynamic Considerations
for Induced Seismicity by Robert
Walker and Fred Aminzadeh,
University of Southern California.
SPE 173383 On Liability Issues
Concerning Induced Seismicity in
Hydraulic Fracturing Treatments
and at Injection Disposal Wells:
What Petroleum Engineers Should
Know by Keith Hall, Louisiana
State University et al. http://dx.doi.
SPE 180461 The Effects of Faults on
Induced Seismicity Potential During
Water Disposal and Hydraulic
Fracturing by Nick Umholtz and
Ahmed Ouenes, FracGeo. http://

Beware of Bottlenecks
Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor
Oil companies that have slashed the
break-even cost of producing oil from
shale plays now must figure out how to
hold on to those hard-won gains.
US producers can profitably produce
oil from these difficult formations at
prices that are 50% lower than they
were during the boom, according to
Rystad Energy. But roughly half of those
gains are at risk as drilling activity rises.
Lower unit prices of service companies are a major reason for the drop,
said Jon Duesund, senior project man-


ager for Rystad, during a recent briefing

in Houston.
Discounts squeezed out of suppliers are considered nonsustainable
because prices will rise as demand
rises, allowing service companies to
An early example of that is the sand
used to prop open fractures. Prices have
risen this year by 25% as companies use
significantly more proppant per well,
according to a Bloomberg story quoting IHS.

We can potentially surpass the

amount of proppant used in 2014 already
in 2017, when more than 100 billion
pounds were pumped, he said.
Rystads analysis roughly breaks down
the savings that have reduced the breakeven price for unconventional producers into three categories:
Efficiency and productivity gains
represent about 40% of the gains
seen since 2014, and those will last.
Discounts gained due to the
downturn represent another 40%,


and those will shrink as conditions

The remaining 20% falls in
between. For example, some of
the biggest gains have come from
high-grading, such as evaluation
methods used to select the most
productive drilling targets. Those
savings will last as long as the
exploration team can keep finding
the sweet spots.
Rising demand will test how durable
those cost reductions really will be.
Some of the efficiencies we see disappearing, Duesund said. We will not
see the [break-even cost] level in 2014,
but it will be higher than current levels.
Costs will rise because future efficiency and productivity gains are not
expected to counter the cost inflation,
he said. For example, the drilling rigs
still working can drill far more feet
per day than the average rig working
before the downturn. But the cost per
day will rise as the demand goes up;
and as many more rigs go into service,
less efficient equipment and crews will
be working.
In the next 2 or 3 years a significant increase in demand will allow price

increases, and we will run into some

bottlenecks, Duesund said.
The severity of the problem will
depend on the level of activity in the
shale business. Rystads optimistic
price outlook, with the price of oil rising USD10/bbl per year over the next 4
years, makes it more of an issue. While
the onshore conventional business is
expected to produce more, global production will be affected by deep spending cuts in high-cost areas such as
Increased demand for services and
supplies will result in shortages of
equipment, supplies, and labor in some
areas, and these bottlenecks will not be
evenly distributed.
More efficient drilling rigs drilling
longer horizontal wells in fewer days
mean the available equipment should be
able to keep up with the demand.
About 1,000 horizontal rigs could
be enough to get back to same number of horizontal well spuds as seen in
2014, Duesund said. Three years ago,
the Baker Hughes rig counts showed
more than 1,500 rigs drilling horizontal or directional wells, which is about
three times the current level.

When it comes to completing those

wells, though, the risk of bottlenecks
rises due to the growing demand for
horsepower to pump fracturing jobs.
The size of the current active fracture fleet is not big enough to meet the
growing demand from more wells and
We saw in 20102011 that pressure pumpers margins went up about
10 percentage points when the industry ran into bottlenecks, which probably equates to somewhere around a 20%
price increase for the operators, he said.
Three years from now, finding the
skilled labor needed to gear up operations could also be a problem, Duesund said. Low unemployment rates are
allowing laid off workers to find jobs in
other sectors. When demand rebounds,
the job market may look different from
the last drilling boom that began in
2009, when unemployment rates were
high as a result of the Great Recession.
The bottleneck can also be overcome, but at a cost. He said that workers who have been out of the oil business
for years during the slowdown may
be reluctant to return unless they get

UK Geomechanical Firm Targeting US Shale;

Addressing Frac Hits
Trent Jacobs, JPT Senior Technology Writer
One of the oldest names in geomechanical modeling has learned some new
tricks, and like so many recent advances
in the oil and gas industry, it has everything to do with the North American
shale revolution.
Founded nearly 30 years ago, UKbased Rockfield was among the first
to develop a hydraulic fracture model
for conventional reservoirs, and remained one of the few names in specializing in this field for much of
that time.
But the market opportunity presented
by the complex geomechanics involved
with fracturing tight rock and shale
reservoirs has spurred more competition and forced legacy modeling companies such as Rockfield to revamp


their existing codes and develop new

The company spent 2 years working
on this front to create a set of mod-

Modeling hydraulic fracture designs in

naturally fractured formations offers
shale operators a way not only to
judge their completion strategy, but it
may also help them avoid generating
fractures that intersect with another
well. Source: Rockfield.

ulesbasically, pieces of its flagship

modeling software named Elfenthat
can be imbedded into the commercial
software platforms that many operators
and service companies routinely use.
In addition to hydraulic fracturing simulation, the modules were also
designed to predict near-wellbore
effects that apply to drilling, completions, and production. Another set
of new modules focuses on static and
dynamic reservoir modeling as well as
forward modeling of a reservoirs geologic evolution.

A Guiding Tool
Although these latest modeling products
are the beneficiaries of modern computing power and programming prowess


essentially making them much smarter than previous generationsthey are

not being touted as one-to-one replicators of the subsurface.
Adam Bere, the chief technology officer and head of the consultancy department at Rockfield, explained
that todays unconventional modeling
technology should instead be viewed
as a tool for reducing uncertainty. He
also said that modeling can serve as
a guide for engineers regarding what
they should look for in the subsurface
data as they plan how to stimulate a
shale well.
We cant put our hand on our hearts
and say that everything were modeling here is exactly what you would see
4,000 m under the ground. I dont think
it would be wise to ever say that, he said.
However, what we can do with modeling is run through many different scenarios and then you can understand the
sensitivities to differentparameters.
Bere added that through this iterative process, engineers can get a better
grasp of how the reservoirs stress state
and even the bedding of very thin layers
of rock may impact their key concerns
such as fracture length, stimulated volume, and proppant placement.
To bring it closer to many of the
industrys largest shale producers, the
company opened its Houston office in
2015. Bere said the firm is optimistic
about gaining market share in this sector based on the understanding that the
margin for error in shale fields is lower
today than ever before.

The shale business appears generally to be embracing this type of software technology, partly evidenced by
the rising number of SPE papers covering the subject from an operators point
of view. Though they are certainly aware
that this area of modeling still needs
time to mature, our lower-for-longer
era is driving them to find out if it can
offer lasting improvements to their rate
of return.

Frac Hit Protection

Among the opportunities that Rockfield sees for its modeling products is
helping operators avoid the cross-well
communication problem known as frac
hits. This issue is common, and happens
when a new well is being hydraulically fractured and the pressure from that
operation sends fluids, and even proppant, through extensive natural fracture
networks that are connected to older
producing wells.
In the worst cases, a frac hit will harm
the performance of adjacent wells, or it
can knock them offline completely. It is
an important issue to resolve considering that many shale producers are in
the infill drilling mode and their wells
are getting closer and closer together. Over the past few years, these companies have crafted a mix of mitigation
techniques, but the problem persists.
An accepted practice to block frac hits
involves loading up potentially affected producing wells with fluids, usually water. Some believe doing this will
impede approaching fractures, but there

are some who shy away from this method, believing instead that it may actually do more harm than good. Others
will switch up their tactics depending
on the field.
Uno Mutlu, chief operating officer of
Rockfields Americas business, emphasized that when choosing which strategy to use, many operators overlook the
importance of the primary forces at play
in a shale reservoir, including physics,
flow and pressure regimes, geomechanics, or local stress states.
In certain cases, fluid loading could
divert approaching fractures away from
a champion producer and prove to be an
effective shield to minimize undesired
interference between wells. In other
cases, the same approach might reverse
this effect and attract infill-well fractures toward an existing producer well,
he explained.
To estimate if fluid loading will work
or not, one of the things that the companys models take into account is
whether a field is naturally fractured.
In each scenario, the flow regimes and
rock deformation mechanisms that dictate a formations response to fracturing
are different and need to be simulated to
remove some of the guesswork.
These parameters also change over
time as a reservoir becomes depleted of
hydrocarbons and reservoir pressure,
meaning what worked once in a particular area may fail the next time it is tried.
So to sum it up, Mutlu said, you wont
be able to use rules of thumb when it
comes to frac hit protection.

Prescriptive-Analytics Modeling Technology Captures

Reservoir Physics
Chris Carpenter, JPT Technology Editor
Producers face a number of decisionmaking challenges. Specifically, they
must optimize field development and
operational decisions in light of the
complex interplay of fiscal, market, and
reservoir variables.
Data analytics is enabling new and
better solutions for handling these
problems. Tachyus Data Physics technology combines machine learning and


reservoir physics to rapidly integrate

relevant data sources in real time. The
prescriptive analytics of the new technology enables operators to efficiently compare possible decision scenarios
to balance short- and long-term tradeoffs, such as ultimate oil recovery vs.
production targets. This methodology, combined with a scalable cloudbased computational platform, enables

closed-loop reservoir optimization,

in which reservoir and surface models are frequently updated and continuously identify new optimal operational decisions.
The work flow is not intended for geological characterization of a subsurface
reservoir. Ideally, the models would be
used to explore the possibility space
of millions of potential field develop-



Monthly BOPD





Actual field results over the pilot period of 12 months. The orange curve is
the actual field-wide production, and the gray line is the expected baseline if
cyclic candidates were chosen the same way they were before the application
of Data Physics technology. The results in the figure are actual field results
over the pilot period and not model output.

ment scenarios and to identify a few

candidate scenarios that are optimal
against one or more objectives.
The models use a novel approach to
integrate machine-learning techniques
with the underlying reservoir-physics
equations and limit the solutions to
those that are consistent with the underlying reservoir physics. The models produce accurate predictions of the key
output variables, even when field conditions change dramatically between
training data and prediction period.
Data Physics models leverage the
inherent continuity of reservoir behavior. Spatially accurate models can be

built with orders-of-magnitude speedup, allowing local well-level optimization both for injection redistribution
and infill-drilling purposes. The models are generated using a well-defined,
automated algorithmic process
The core modeling and optimization work flow begins with an extracttransform-load process of surface and
subsurface data. Actual field data are
divided into two sets: training data,
which are used to identify model parameters, and validation data, which are
intentionally withheld from the training
process and used to validate predictive
power and statistical accuracy.

Next, the data assimilation step

assigns and fits the parameters of the
model, inferring from the history of
each well an ensemble of fit parameters
that satisfy both past data and physical laws. Once training data are fit and
an ensemble is produced, the predictive
accuracy of each member of the ensemble can be measured against the validation data set.
An example application was a deployment with a mid-sized independent
that operates 150,000 B/D of production. This project was implemented on
a 13,000 B/D steamflood field to optimize cyclic-steam candidate selection.
The field, located in the San Joaquin Valley of California, covers approximately
10 sq miles. As is typical for the region,
the oil in the field is heavy, with a gravity of 14 API, a viscosity of approximately 4,000 cp at 100F, and a gas/oil ratio
of less than 50 scf/STB. The field has
approximately 1,150 producers and 150
steam injectors injecting approximately
100,000 B/D of steam.
The technology identified the wells
with the highest incremental production potential to cycle steam at any point
in time given current oil price and steam
cost. Engineers increased field-wide
production by 1,000 B/D by optimizing
10% (cyclic-only portion of production)
of the fields production over 12 months.
The results in the figure are actual field
results over the pilot period and not
model output.

Total Wins Award for Project Integration

John Donnelly, JPT Editor
Totals Laggan Tormore project claimed
the International Petroleum Technology
Conference (IPTC) Excellence in Project
Integration Award at the 10th IPTC in
Bangkok, Thailand.
The IPTC Excellence in Project Integration Award highlights projects that
have demonstrated distinction throughout the entire value chain, and are equivalent in value to at least USD 500 million. Past winners have included both
international and national oil companies. Taken into account are projects that


exemplify strong teamwork, solid geoscience knowledge, reservoir and production engineering expertise, outstanding
facilities engineering practices, a strong
commitment to health, safety, and the
environment, and advocate innovative
and people-oriented human resource
policies and community programs. Previous award winners include the Qatargas Debottling project by Qatargas, the
Independence Hub project by Anadarko
Petroleum, Sakhalin-1 by Exxon Neftegas, Qatargas 2 by Qatargas, Parque das

Conchas by Shell, Pazflor by Total, Perdido by Shell, RGX2 by RasGas, and CLOV
by Total.
The pioneering GBP 3.5-billion Laggan
Tormore development, offshore West
of Shetland, unlocks the harsh Atlantic Margin play and opens up a new gas
province for the United Kingdom. The
project was executed using new technologies to overcome a harsh environment. Interesting innovations saw new
methods of environmental protection
deployed on a huge scale.


The Laggan and Tormore fields lie

140 km north-west of Shetland in water
depths that descend rapidly from 120 m to
more than 600 m. To address these challenging conditions, Total implemented the
longest subsea-to-shore development ever
seen in UK waters. The project now meets
8% of the UKs daily gasrequirements.
The project won against China National Petroleum Corporations (CNPC) Keshen development project. The Keshen
gas field is characterized by fractured
tight sandstone reservoirs, with the buried depth of 65008000 m and reservoir pressure of 116128 MPa. Adopting
an integrated exploration and development mode, CNPC has built an annual gas
capacity of 5 BCM by the year 2015, with
a total investment of RMB 11.8billion.
A series of technologies applicable to
gas development in complex mountain
fronts were developed, covering reservoir description, well placing, fast drilling, well completion, and reservoir stimulation. The project opens up a new
frontier for gas reservoir development,
provides clean energy and more than

Totals Laggan-Tormore project uses subsea-to-shore technology.

400 long-term job opportunities for the

local residents, and creates significant
economic and social benefits.
The 10th IPTC was held 1416 November 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand. The
event, which was hosted by PTT Exploration and Production Public Company
Limited (PTTEP), attracted more than
3,700 industry professionals from more
than 50 countries.

The IPTC is a collaborative effort

among four industry societies: the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), the European Association
of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE),
the Society of Exploration Geophysicists
(SEG), and SPE. IPTC is a platform to promote knowledge sharing and scientific
and technology dissemination on a global scale. JPT

Survival of the Simplest

A new species of toe valve

>> OmniFrac Pro Toe

For decades, engineers have had to trust the future of their wells to the lesser of
two evils: exceptionally expensive TCP or unreliable first generation toe valves.
Superior Completion Services has advanced toe valve technology with the new
OmniFrac Pro Toe, a mechanically simple design that simply works.


Engineers Need To Learn From History

Because the Industry Tends To Repeat It
Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

In the 2 years since oil prices plunged, job

cuts and retirements have changed the
face of petroleum engineering. SPEs membership mix has shifted to younger, with
the biggest numbers in their 20sand 30s.
We have seen most of the older generation wiped out. It is pretty scary seeing the people being asked to leave who
have so much knowledge, said Tom Blasingame, the technical director for reservoir description and dynamics.
There are still Baby Boomers left in
the ranks, and they want to pass on what
they have learned from experience. The
seven SPE directors interviewed for this
story began their careers during the longlasting funk that began in the early 1980s
and lingered through the 1990s. At last
years SPE Annual Technical Conference
and Exhibition (ATCE) in Dubai, they
offered their perspectives in a discussion
titled The Way to Move Forward is to
While the oil market seems to have settled into a narrow range and the pace of
layoffs slowed later in the year, these are
still hard times.
Unfortunately a lot of people are
losing their jobs; that is happening

across the world and across the industry, even in national oil companies,
said Hisham Saadawi, technical director for production and facilities. The
perception is prices will remain like
this now.
The pressure to cut costs remains
intense, including personnel budgets.
Even some top students from Texas A&M
University are hearing from companies
that we do not have the budget to hire
now, said Blasingame, a petroleum engineering professor at Texas A&M, adding
that for many, the anxiety meter is off
the scale.
Fewer students are enrolling in petroleum engineering programs in the US and
elsewhere because it no longer ensures
a good-paying job, with some schools
seeing declines of 50% or more in their
incoming classes.
There is no panic. I am sensing the
biggest concern is the job situation for
graduates. That is pretty tough in many
places, said Dan Hill, director for academia. For the faculty in many programs,
there is a positive side to the declines in
enrollment: the lowering of class sizes to
more desirable levels.

Professional Members by Age (as Percentage of Membership)



<20 2024 2529 3034 3539 4044 4549 5054 5559 6064 65++

The largest group of SPE members is in its 30s, while older membership is


A hiring drought also has its costs.

In previous downturns, there were
companies that spent years without
any significant hiring or training strategy, said J.C. Cunha, technical director for management and information.
Without injecting new ideas, new people, and new blood, organizations tend
While the working professionals have
to plan for oil to linger around USD50/bbl,
experience shows bad times are not forever. Oil companies are in a world where
demand is growing, older fields produce
less every year, and the remaining oil is
in formations that are harder to develop and produce. All point to the need for
more and better petroleumengineers.
The big thing now with undergraduates is we really need to make sure
they believe in the future of petroleum
engineering, Blasingame said. Faith
is required because becoming a petroleum engineer requires a large investment of time and money to prepare
for a job in an industry where hiring
Long-term thinking matters, but saying no to cost-cutting is not an option.
Cunha covered lower-cost ways of sustaining hiring, training, and mentoring,
while Jeff Moss, technical director for
drilling, is pushing for seeking out sustainable cost reductions.
While companies are reporting lower
costs per barrel to investors, a significant
part of those gains was the product of
deep discounts squeezed out of suppliers,
who will claw back those losses when the
market allows. Finding a way to use drill
bits longer will offer a lasting saving that
discounts cannot.
Hard times also force buyers to distinguish between wants and needs, and


eliminate things that do not clearly add

value, such as highly customized equipment specifications.
They are looking at the specifications used during the era of high oil
prices, Saadawi said. There is talk
about going back to the day when the
industry kept costs down by ordering
industry-standard equipment and simplified designs. But with more fields
in harsh environments and more regulations, sometimes simple is not
an option.
Cost-cutting has also added responsibilities for those managing operations
while reducing the number of corporate support specialists in areas such
as health, safety, and the environment
(HSE). Now we are increasingly seeing
operational leaders moving into the top
spot for HSE, said Trey Shaffer, technical director for health, safety, security,
environment, and social responsibility.
He has been looking for ways to ensure
those multitasking professionals can get
the range of information they need to
cover all that ground.
Many of the students graduating this
year are looking at jobs that take them in
unexpected directions, which is a familiar experience for those who graduated
during the 1980s.
During his career, Blasingame said he
has met a lot of people who came in the
back door, taking jobs they didnt want
and working into mainstream engineering. He added, If you find your niche,
someone will find value in it.
And what seems like a small job today
may become an essential skill 20 years
from now. When Jennifer Miskimins,
technical director for completions,
started out in that area, it was an offshoot of production engineering. Now,
fracturing during completion is the factor making production from unconventional playspossible.
Her career choice was guided
by what she enjoyed doing, and that
needs to be a motivation for those
choosing an oil industry major when
the rewards are uncertain. The associate professor at the Colorado School
of Mines said she has noticed that
with the young students, I am seeing a
passion again.


Tom Blasingame
Reservoir Description and Dynamics

In a brutal job market,

petroleum engineering students seeking
jobs are looking for an
edge. Most are hunkered down. The only
way to get noticed is
to get the best grades plus involvement
in internships and strong projects, said
Blasingame, who has been considering
what else they could do.
I agonized over that. I really tried
to think of what a student could do to
make them more valuable in this environment, he said.
But based on his experience and those
he has known who got into the business
during bad times, those who are persistent and flexible are likely to find a
roundabout journey to a career.
Blasingames path began with a detour
at the start of his senior year as the oil
boom was sliding into a bust in 1983. I
thought I would get a job with Amoco. I
had a fantastic internship. But like many
others, I ended up getting the wrong
envelope, he said. The letter said the
company had no job to offer.
While considering what do I do now?,
he addressed a pressing problem
finding a topic for his senior research
paperby asking Professor John Lee,
who returned in the past year to teach at
Texas A&M University.
He didnt say anything. He walked
over to his bookshelf, pulled out a book,
stuck a Post-it into it to mark the pages
and told me to make a copy, he said. That
section laid out a method for calculations
related to a pressure buildup test. Lee
seemed to have doubts about those equations and instructed the undergraduate
to figure out everything aboutthis.
When Blasingame returned around
Christmas time, with his analysis using
math he had learned in an effort to impress,
the discussion took an unexpected turn.
He asked, Have you ever thought of
grad school?, Blasingame said, adding,
I said no. He said you ought to think
about grad school.
That was not in the plan, which was to
work in the oil fields like his father who

had owned a drilling company when he

was a child. But he followed that advice,
even though graduate school looked like
a wrong turn to some of his peers.
I was willing to do things others were
not willing to do. People were laughing
about it, who would be stupid enough to
do that, he said. But in his case, he had
stumbled onto the right path after all.
Jennifer Miskimins, Completions

In the space of a career, Miskimins has

seen how a little-noticed specialty can
evolve into a critical skill.
When she started doing completions
in the late 1980s, it was a well construction job handled by a production engineer. They were in charge from when
they finished up [drilling] to perforation
and stimulation to putting in the right
producing equipment, she said. Some
fracturing was required, but there
would be one stimulation or fracturing
stage on a well vs. 40,
50, or 100 now.
helps explain why
completions now play
a critical role in well
performance, expanding the universe of rock that can be
developed. This big change was recognized in the past year when Miskimins
became the first SPE director for completions, with a goal of creating completions engineers capable of pushing this
trend further.
The associate professor at the Colorado School of Mines is just beginning to
see universities offering advanced classes in completions, as well as more attention being paid to it in related courses
such as drilling and stimulation design.
It is mind-boggling to me, especially
in the US and Canada, how important
fracturing is, and there is not a [specific]
course on stimulation, at some schools,
Miskimins said, adding, It is so much
more important. A lot more people specialize in it and work in it.
What has been a North American
obsession is growing globally. We have
a couple of PhD students from Saudi
Aramco in fracturing and we havent
seen that in the past, she said. These


students are coming to the US at a time

when the Saudi Arabia national oil company is recruiting fracturing talent to
aid in its effort to tap tight and unconventional gas fields, and has presented
papers on using it to maximize conventional production.
Currently she sees companies with
teams of completions engineers in the
field relying on a few experts multidisciplinary skills that draw from reservoir modeling to rock mechanics. In
the future she sees more skilled completions engineers using the growing array
of diagnostic tools to maximize fracturing results.
We do not have people specializing in
it, in school, she said. We do not have a
lot of people that can get down into the
detail and that are experts in it.
Jeff Moss, Drilling

The average cost of drilling is down a lot

since oil prices crashed, but that could
quickly change. There
needs to be more
focus on sustainable cost reduction,
said Moss. Experience shows that the
downside of savings
squeezed out of a supplier or service supplier is that they will raise prices as soon
as the marketallows.
Even now with the price breaks, many
onshore producers are struggling to
turn a profit and those considering offshore development are even further from
You need to be lopping decimal points
off the costs, Moss said. They will have
to compete with unconventionals, and
that means they cannot drill a well producing 10,000 B/D for USD 200 million
and expect to make money.
Many little savings are not likely to be
enough. In deepwater, a lot of opportunities will require some serious mindset
changes, said Moss. While R&D budgets
are squeezed, history shows that during
periods when cost pressures are extreme,
some operators will try new things rather
than abandon projects.
In the 1980s Moss worked on early
uses of horizontal drilling. It was an


emerging technology, but it proved to

be a better alternative than vertical wells
and fracturing tight gas formations in the
North Sea.
It was desperation as much as anything else. It paid its way, Moss said.
Over time, he said they were able to
define niches to apply it appropriately
to more effect, and later learned how to
fracture those horizontals.
Obvious targets for deepwater cost
reductions now are the many casing
strings required to stabilize wellbores
in challenging wells where drillers are
working in a narrow window between
the pressure required to control the pore
pressure in the well and the level that
could damage the reservoir.
There are tools available aimed at the
problems that lead to costly, complex
well designsmore accurate pressure
predictions, managed pressure drilling
(MPD), and wellbore strengthening.
It we can do managed pressure drilling and eliminate casing string, things
start getting really attractive, Moss said.
The available tools include established
methodsMPD has been widely used
offshorebut accepted workflows must
be developed to increase the comfort
level for users and regulators.
Lowering the cost of offshore to
make it a sustainable option long-term,
requires answering the question: Can
you eliminate significant chunks of cost
without incurring added risk?
Trey Shaffer
Health, Safety, Security, Environment,
and Social Responsibility

The booms and busts of Texas oil-driven

economy have redirected the career of
Shaffer in environmental consulting.
It includes three
busts over 3 decades,
starting with graduating from Texas A&M
with a degree in architecture in 1989 during
one slump, to running
a group of 250 workers doing oilfield
cleanup and hazardous materials emergency response at Boots and Coots until
the 2003 downturn pushed him out of
that job to ERM Group, where he rode a

boom in oilfield environmental planning

from 2009 to the latestslump.
His position as a partner at ERM has
not changed, but as the health, safety, security, environment, and social
responsibility director, he is seeing how
deep staff cuts since 2014 have altered
the discipline. My estimate of what has
happened is 3040% of the professionals in the HSE [health, safety, and environment] discipline were repurposed,
he said. Some have gone into other roles,
been laid off or retired, he said, adding,
It has been a dramatic shift.
The focus on safety and the environment needs to remain constant, but after
the job cuts, the responsibility is increasingly added to the job descriptions of
those in other roles.
On the plus side, the change recognizes that decision makers need to consider both the operational and environmental criteria when making decisions
on problems, such as handling produced
water, managing emissions, or improving safetyperformance.
The days when the HSE professionals
were there to identify the problem for an
operations person to solve has passed.
Now, if you identify a problem, you have
to marry it with a solution.
Those all-purpose professionals are
feeling pressure to produce more with
less, leaving them little time to learn
more about the HSE aspects of their job
at a time when spending on training and
conferences is down.
Younger professionals are in leadership roles, he said. They are rising into
leadership roles much more rapidly with
amazing responsibilities for big parts of
the business.
Shaffer said SPE needs to figure out
how to find these people and bring
them into programs to expand their
knowledge of the HSE issues they face on
the job.
One obstacle is their primary professional focus is often in another discipline, making them less likely to attend
an SPE HSE event. The HSE content
needs to be better integrated into SPE
conference programs, with topics tied
to the areas of the most interest. He
said, We need to make the HSE content


J.C. Cunha

Hisham Saadawi

Management and Information

Production and Facilities

Companies have an obligation to their

shareholders to control costs, and to do
so in a way that does not reduce their
long-term performance. It is an especially difficult balancing act when the pressure to cut costs is far greater than preparing for the day when this industry
finally rebounds.
Companies that
are not hiring anybody, that have let tens
of thousands of workers go, have reduced
their ability to bounce
back, Cunha said. In a
recovering market good hires are costly,
as companies compete for candidates in
a pool reduced by retirements and people
leaving the business.
Continued hiring of younger workers
will add lower-wage talent and avoid a
future workforce that is again dominated
by key people about to retire.
The downturn speeded that generational change and increased the workload of those managing complex, multimillion projects. Those new hires need
mentors and training at a time when
many experienced workers are leaving
and training budgets have been slashed.
Experienced managers are not likely to argue with the importance of hiring, but in this market, it is clearly not
a priority, Cunha said. His presentation at the ATCE in Dubai offered advice
on hiring and training on a shoestring,
beginning with keeping a sensible
hiring policy is better than no hiring
at all.
Cunha said companies need to find
ways of holding on to experienced workers to fill those gaps and provide continuity on long-term projects. Lowcost options could include looking for
people willing to work limited hours
with jobs that would include mentoring
With young engineers coming into
industry, you use them to pass on the
culture and pass on experience to help
form teams for the future, Cunha said.
It is a better way to prepare for the


Todays oil prices

take Saadawi back to
2004. Back then, the
price of a barrel of oil
was roughly what is
now, and oil companies were making
profits. Everybody was happy, if you can
use that term.
The consultant from Abu Dhabi is
thinking there are lessons to be learned
from how things were done back when
the specifications for a crude oil export
pump may simply refer to the data sheet
in the API Standard 610. During the boom
years, specifications became increasingly
complex and costly to deliver.
I had discussions with many people at
ATCE thinking about trimming out specifications, he said. They need to simplify
the process to reduce the hours, manpower, and cost, while ensuring what is
ordered is fit-for-purpose.
Over time, there have been more
complex developments requiring special attention, such as sour reservoirs
and deep offshore fields, where special
orders are required. But when possible,
the industry should use functional specifications based on API standards.
The need to simplify is changing the
look of the offshore projects that are still
on the books, with simpler shallow-water
production platforms designed for Middle East and Asia developments.
To keep developments alive, others are
looking to advance the day when production begins by tying back the early wells
to nearby facilities until a production
platform is completed.
The position Saadawi occupies on the
board represents some rethinking as well.
The post combines areas once covered by
two directors: production and operations
with project, facilities, and construction.
The change is in keeping with the times
when many within those disciplines are
seeing their responsibilities expand.
I think for those that survive, they
end up doing more multitasking, said
Saadawi. Even at larger companies,
you get production and facilities

Dan Hill, Academia

There has been a sharp decline in the

number of students enrolling in petroleum engineering programs as they see
that graduates are now having trouble
finding jobs.
It is reminiscent of the plunge in
the early 1980s, when enrollment
dropped by 90% in 4 years said Hill,
the Texas A&M petroleum engineering
But he does not see
things getting as bad
as they were when he
was starting his academic career at the
University of Texas
at Austin in 1982, the
year oil prices had peaked and enrollment there totaled 1,100 students. Five
years later oil, prices had plunged and
there were 100 students.
Hill said that if the slump lasts long
enough, it could be a pretty dramatic
drop in enrollment. But adds, I am optimistic it is going to pick up beforelong.
This is a global problem. As a director,
Hill has learned through his contacts that
programs in Europe and China are also
feeling the downturn. Those in the Middle East are steadied by hiring commitments made by national oilcompanies.
In the US, the declines in incoming
students range from a few percent at
programs that limited their enrollments
during the boom to more than 50%.
Texas A&M is seeing only a small drop. It
capped its enrollment in 2010 after seeing it triple from 2003.
US graduation rates are expected to
decline, from about 2,100 petroleum
engineers for the 20152016 academic
year to 1,400 for the 20182019 year,
according to a study by Lloyd Heinze,
a petroleum engineering professor
at Texas Tech University, who surveys
Enrolling in petroleum engineering
when hiring is down looks like a risky
bet. But many of the small number of
Generation X engineers hired during the
last bust are now in senior positions.
Those folks that came out of those
small classes, a lot of them are now leaders in our industry, Hill said. JPT





he nanotechnologies enjoying commercial success in the oil field today

are small in number, and for the most
part, can be categorized as single-well
applications. Examples include the dissolvable ball-drop systems used in horizontal well completions and the specialty additives operators are using to
enhance drilling fluids.
The next big leap for this area of
emerging technology will be the development of nanoparticles that work on
larger scales, either in production operations or for fluid treatment.
Counted among the industrys nanopioneers, Saudi Aramco is getting closer to the deployment of nanoparticles
for a number of reservoir-wide applications. Others are working on creating
nanoparticles that will improve the performance of waterflooding, and university researchers in Texas are developing a magnetic nanoparticle that aims
to make offshore water treatment more
efficient, and possibly more economic.
These concepts were presented at
SPEs Annual Technology Conference and
Exhibition held last year in Dubai. Taken
together, they offer a small, yet compelling, sample of the ideas still working
their way through the pipeline.
Kirk Rainey, the vice president of
A&I Ventures in Houston and a former

chemical-enhanced oil recovery expert

at Shell, has been involved with nanotechnology consortiums for more than
7years. Speaking generally, he explained
that the oil and gas industry is interested in nanoparticles partly because of
the potential efficiencies they offer. It
helps to think of nanoparticles from a
chemical perspective; their collectively high-surface-areatypically where
chemical reactions take placemeans
even relatively small volumes can make
a bigimpact.
The negatives include the fact that in
many cases engineering these nanoparticles, or nanostructures, can be very costly, said Rainey. And while it may be easy
to do on a small scale, learning how to
scale something up to the oil field is going
to take a lot of effort, and the ability to do
that is sometimes unknown.
That point about scale is very important, especially when discussing reservoir applications. Rainey emphasized
that if large doses of nanoparticles are
needed, then their cost must be relatively
low to justify their use. He said the ability to strike such a balance will separate
laboratory curiosities from viable commercial products.
The following projects highlighted at
ATCE address some of these challenges
and other industry concerns that include


whether nanoparticles will remain stable

under reservoir conditions, precipitate
out of the fluids they are infused into, or
simply do what they were designed for.

Nano Tracer Test a Success

Saudi Aramcos continued research
efforts have resulted in what the national oil company is reporting as the first
successful inter-well field test of fluorescent nanoparticle tracers (SPE 181551).
The long-range experiment is one of the
latest examples of the companys efforts
to illuminate reservoir behavior with
nanoparticles and help it maximize
recoveries. Though the test began in mid2014, detectable amounts of the original
300-kg batch of nanoparticles were still
being recovered from a producer well
throughout last year.
Ten years ago, trying to suggest that
maybe nanoparticles could be used in
the reservoir was a completely mad idea
and everyone laughed, said Erika Ellis,
a physicist at Saudi Aramco who works
on the companys nanoparticle projects.
But now weve pushed nanoparticles as
a tracer material through a reservoir and
have successful resultsand this is the
first time that its ever been done.
The test built upon years of research
and development of the companys own
brand of carbogenic nanoparticles called

Arab-dots, or simply A-dots. They are
named for the Arab D formation, a major
carbonate reservoir in the supergiant
Ghawar oil field. Contained within the
A-dots are even smaller bits of fluorescent material that are easily detectable
using an instrument called a fluorometer.
And though it was planned to be
executed using an injector and a producer well with a reservoir distance of
between 150200 m, the test was carried

Trent Jacobs, JPT Senior Technology Writer

out in wells with a respective distance

of 475 m. Instead of jeopardizing the
test, the increased distance only underscored the reservoir-transit capabilities
of theA-dots.
Another unplanned factor involved
a number of injector well shutdowns,
which also ended up being a good thing
because it proved that the A-dots moved
right along with the erratic water front.
The strong correlation also allowed the

research team to figure out that it takes

10 months for the A-dots to move from
the injector to the producera parameter that will help measure their performance in the future.
According to Ellis, the project has
given Saudi Aramco data that suggest its
nanoparticle tracer may be more effective than the commercial chemical tracers it uses. One of the problems with
chemical tracers is that they are prone

An image taken with a

transmission electron microscope
shows Saudi Aramcos Arab-dots
as small black specs. Though
they have proven to be very
robust in the reservoir, these
images are about as close as
the companys researchers can
get to physically describing this
particular nanoparticle whose
chemical structure remains
unknown. Source: Saudi Aramco.

to spread out in a wide scope, sometimes

missing the flow stream of a producer
well, she said.
This may happen because the molecules of chemical tracers are in fact
smaller than some nanoparticles, including A-dots, which measure about 10 nm
in circumference, or about 1/1000th the
width of a human hair.
The result is that the chemical tracers will follow many pathways, some that
flow with the oil and water and some
that do not. Ellis said the data show
that the larger A-dot particles move in a
much more direct line toward the producer, which is why the responses of
produced fluids and the nanoparticles
were so similar during and after the
The other big benefit of using A-dots as
a tracer is that at USD 3 per/kg, they will
be highly competitive with other tracer
technologies once the company begins
manufacturing them at an industrial
scale. Their low cost comes thanks to
the simple bucket reaction used to make
them, which involves mixing citric acid
and ethanol, plus heat.
One of the mysteries of the A-dots is
that Saudi Aramcos researchers say they
do not know why they are so resilient to
the challenges that other nanoparticles
are more susceptible to such as flocculation (clumping), precipitation out of hot
brine, and absorption to carbonate rocks.
Though they know their chemical compositiona mix of carbon, hydrogen,
nitrogen, and oxygenEllis said that the
reason for the uncertainty is because the
A-dots chemical structure is too heterogeneous to be properlydescribed.

Nanomapping, Mass-Tagging,
and Seawater Fracturing
But even if they are unsure of how they
work, the researchers now have evidence
that the A-dots are capable of holding
up to reservoir conditions for long periods of time and over long distances. Ellis
said this has left the door wide open for
a much wider application suite for the
A-dots and other nanoparticles that the
company is researching.
The company is already using nanoparticles in drilling fluids, presumably for
wellbore strengthening, but it is looking


toward even more emerging concepts

such as magnetic reservoir mapping and
hydraulic fracturing mapping. The idea
behind these nanomappers is that they
will slow down an electromagnetic wave
as it is pulsed from an injector to a producer well.
The difference between the waves
travel time through the fluids before and
after they have been infused with magnetic nanoparticles may allow engineers
to visualize a water drive front, or in a
monobore scenario, what a wells fracture network looks like.
The company is also working with
research partners to develop a new set
of nanoparticles, some that are fluorescent and some that will be used for masstaggingan innovation that intends to
offer tracer resolution measured on the
atomic scale. The plan for mass-tagging
involves using a common nanoparticle
that is proven to be reservoir-tolerant
and then we can pick any molecule out of
an infinite range of possibilities, attach it
to the nanoparticle and boom, you have a
specific barcoded tracer, Ellis explained.
Another future step is to finish the
development of a line of chameleon
A-dots that will alter their fluorescence
spectrum when they come into contact
with crude. A different variety, called
nanocore shells, are to be used to encapsulate droplets of acid and release them
at a specific point inside the reservoir
to etch out wider pore paths that will
improve hydrocarbon flow.
In yet another nano-project, Saudi
Aramco is trying to enable the use of
untreated seawater for hydraulic fracturing in sandstones (SPE 181283). The company has gone to great lengths to protect
its freshwater resources by using seawater for its enhanced oil recovery projects and is seeking a similar strategy for
its burgeoning unconventional program
that is focused on tight gas production
to replace the oil Saudi Arabia currently
burns for power generation.
This project has not yet left the laboratory, but the initial data points are positive. In presenting the paper, Ghaithan
Al Muntasheri, the chief technologist for
the production technology team at Saudi
Aramco, described the nanoparticles as
nano-crosslinkers that increase peak

fluid viscosityan important factor for

proppant transportationby 23% to
116%. Such levels of viscosity should significantly reduce the need for synthetic
polymers or guar.
With the nanoparticles, the fracturing fluids tested remained stable at temperatures up to 300F and were effective even with a very high salt content
of 56,000ppm. Al Muntasheri said current technologies do not work at such
extreme temperatures and can only tolerate 35,0000 ppm of salt.
Core flood and proppant pack testing also showed that the regained permeability was more than 90% with
the nanoparticles. And critically, the
nanoparticle fluid system is compatible
with scale inhibitors that would be needed to offset the obvious formation damage associated with introducing seawater
to a reservoir.
Al Muntasheri said in a fracturing
treatment the nanoparticles would represent about 0.02% of the total volume
of fluids used, which he estimated would
be 500-700 kg in weight, for a cost of
USD 100,000 or less.
The paper goes on to report that this
approach does not require any modification to the pumping equipment used
for the fracturing job, and because of its
delayed reaction to temperature, which
helps the fluids maintain a high viscosity,
less horsepower is required for pumping.
This operational benefit may result in a
longer lifetime for pumpingunits.

Nanocapsules for
Waterflooding Conformance
Low-cost polymer gels are among the
most popular tools used in waterflooding
treatments to selectively shut off highpermeability channels that are generating excess water production. Though
polymer gels are widely used because
they are effective, their big drawback is
that the gelation process tends to begin
quickly in the near-wellbore area, leaving
the bulk of the reservoir unaffected.
Chemists at the Research Triangle
Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, think
they can improve the conformance capabilities for one of the most widely used
gel systems, partially hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM), by placing its main


600 nm

200 nm

Two images produced by transmission electron microscopy show nanocapsules containing chromium (III) after 48 hours
of exposure to synthetic seawater held at 50C. Source: Research Triangle Institute.

reactant, chromium (III), inside timereleased nanocapsules (SPE181547).

This concept has received a great deal
of fanfare in the medical industry for its
potential to deliver cancer-killing drugs
and other medicines to specific parts of
the human body.
In the case of waterflooding, the nanocapsules would be used to delay the exposure of chromium to HPAM, allowing the
two constituents to travel deeper inside
the reservoir before forming into a gel.

Computer modeling suggests that this

could result in oil production improvements of single-digit percentages.
The papers authors note that a company called Brightwater has developed
another nanoparticle-based technology
that also seeks to block off water channels. However, Leah Johnson, a chemist with RTI International, said her team
believes its work represents the first time
that anyone has sought to encapsulate
chromium for a conformanceapplication.

The nanocapsules are formed through a

complex inverse miniemulsion technique
that involves multiple steps of combining
hydrophobic elements and surfactants
with a water-based solution containing
the chromium. In one phase, as the solution is stirred, nanodroplets of chromium
are formed and in the next step a reaction
takes place that encapsulates them.
In addition to establishing an effective
encapsulation process, the researchers
also found that the early formulations

This graphic compares the conformance of a gel system for waterflooding with and without the use of nanocapsules to
delay chromium (III) from crosslinking, or turning into a gel. If the idea works, it would allow operators a greater ability
to improve conformance deeper into a mature oil reservoir. Source: Research Triangle Institute.



50 m
100 m

50 m

1 minute

5 minutes

60 minutes

A microscopic observation of magnetic nanoparticles, light brown, shows them attaching to a much larger droplet
of oil, dark brown. This coagulation process takes place within minutes as is shown in this time sequence. Source:
University of Texas at Austin.

of their nanocapsules effectively delayed

the gelation process for up to 17 days.
They also observed that the nanocapsules
will remain intact for at least 48 hours
when exposed to 122F (50C) synthetic
seawater, suggesting that the long-term
delivery of chromium is quitepossible.
Theres a variety of different degradable chemistries were looking at to
incorporate into the shell, Johnson said,
explaining that some of those chemistries are water sensitive while another
is more reactive to temperature. So we
can really tune the concentration of the
degradable chemistries within the shell
to release at different time points.
Further work is being done with the
University of Texas at Austin (UT) and
Tufts University in Massachusetts to
understand the mobility of the nanocapsules through sandpacks. The early
results from this work show that the
nanocapsules remain about the same size
when exiting a sandpack, which Johnson
said is very promising.

Magnetic Oil Separation

In another project, researchers at UT
are working on a magnetic nanoparticle
technology to remove the micron-sized
oil droplets left dispersed in produced
water after it has been treated by conventional separation technologies, e.g., gravity and membranes (SPE 181893).
In testing, the experimental system
removed 99% of the oil droplets and may
eventually lead to the development of a
compact and highly efficient separation
system for offshore installations that are
challenged by space constraints and the
high cost of water treatment.


When the magnetic nanoparticles

are introduced to produced water,
they surround the oil droplets in a
way that is reminiscent of how white
blood cells attack a foreign bacteria
or virus. In most cases, it takes about
5 minutes for all the nanoparticles to
find an oil droplet, and in a rapid-mix
chamber that time can be reduced to just
3minutes or less.
The nanoparticles are attracted to
the oil droplets through electrostatic
forces. This is achieved by coating the
nanoparticles with a positively charged
polymer since most oil droplets have a
negative charge. And the weaker that
negative charge is, the quicker the reaction takesplace.
Saebom Ko, a research associate at UT
who is helping to lead this research project, explained, After attaching to the
oil droplets, the small nanoparticles get
bigger, and so whenever you have a magnetic field, the particles will move very
quickly to where the magnet is placed.
In a real-world scenario, the mix of
nanoparticles and oil would be pulled
to the side of a treatment tank where
the next trick is to recover them while
letting the treated water flow out. That
part of the process is to be addressed
with a small continuous flow system
that the UT researchers hope to have
ready for testing next year.
The UT researchers also found that
crude types with a higher acidity need
more magnetic nanoparticles to be
effectively separated. And so far, the
upper limit for oil content in the test
fluids has been 0.25% by weight, but
the plan is to step that up in future work.

Pending the results of the continuous flow system and further funding, Ko
said the last item on the agenda would
be to build a pilot system. Because the
nanoparticles are costly, she added that a
critical requirement of a field-system will
be a way to separate them from the oil
droplets at the end of the process so they
can be reused.
That will be the hardest part, Ko
said. But if you can reuse the nanoparticles many times, then cost-wise, you
have some competition with conventional separation technologies. JPT

For Further Reading

SPE 181547 Nanocapsules for
Controlled Release of Waterflood
Agents for Improved Conformance
by Leah Johnson et al., RTI
International. http://dx.doi.
SPE 181283 Nanomaterials-Enhanced
High-Temperature Fracturing Fluids
Prepared with Untreated Seawater
by Leiming Li and Ghaithan A.
Al-Muntasheri, Saudi Aramco. http://
SPE 181893 Oil Droplet Removal From
Produced Water Using Nanoparticles
and Their Magnetic Separation
by Saebom Ko et al., University
of Texas at Austin. http://dx.doi.
SPE 181551 Oil Industry First Interwell
Trial of Reservoir Nanoagent Tracers
by Dmitry Kosynkin and Mohammed
Alaskar, Saudi Aramco. http://dx.doi.


The Grand Challenge of Carbon

Capture and Sequestration
George J. Koperna Jr., Neeraj Gupta, Michael Godec, Owain Tucker, David Riestenberg, and Lydia Cumming

Fig. 1The Kemper County

Energy Facility. Courtesy of
Mississippi Power Company.

arbon capture and sequestration

(CCS) is designed to reduce atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases
(GHGs). The CCS process captures carbon dioxide (CO2) generated at largescale industrial sources (power plants,
refineries, gasification facilities, etc.)
and transports it to an injection site
to be permanently stored in the subsurface. With extensive research linking GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to observed changes in global
temperature patterns, CCS technology
could play an important role in policy efforts to limit the global average
Even with the wealth of experience
already in place within the oil and gas
industry, the obstacles to advancing CCS
to the forefront of GHG mitigation technologies remain significant. Large-scale
CO2 injection projects remain primarily in the realm of commercial CO2-EOR
(enhanced oil recovery) projects. The
key challenges to enabling CCS include
cost-effective capture and transport


of industrial CO2, clear access to pore

space for CO2 storage in geologic formations, proven methodologies for demonstrating storage integrity, and dissemination of best practices. SPE members
can play a significant role in addressing

Cost-Effective Capture of
Power Sector and Industrial CO2
A major technical challenge facing capture at electric generating facilities is
that the CO2 concentration in largevolume flue streams is quite low. Current
removal technologies include techniques
that apply amines, chilled ammonia,

membranes, and ionic liquids to strip

the CO2 from the flue stream. However,
these technologies were developed to
handle smaller-scale operations and
higher-CO2-purity streams. When applied to large electric generating plants,
process efficiency is reduced, and the
energy penalty associated with the capture process drives up costs, increasing the levelized cost of electricity by
50% or more, depending on local factors. Also,to accommodate the substantial volumes of the CO2 and flue gas at
full-scale industrial sources, the removal
technologies require significant scale up
and footprint for deployment.

Editors Note: In 2011, the SPE R&D Committee identified five grand challenges facing
the oil and gas industry. A series of articles focusing on each of these challenges was
published in JPT in 2011 and 2012. This is a condensed version of a 2016 follow-up
paper examining the current status of one of the grand challenges: carbon capture
and sequestration. The full paper can be found here: This collaborative paper is authored by steering
committee and at-large members of the SPE Carbon Dioxide Capture and Utilization
and the SPE R&D technical sections.


While early movers are developing

large-scale capture demonstrations
such as SaskPowers Boundary Dam
Project, Southern Companys Kemper
Energy Facility (Fig. 1), and NRGs Petro
Nova Facility, we are still very early on
the learning curve. Support for more
development of next-generation capture
technologies and large demonstrations
is required to push us down the cost
curve. This involves reducing the cost
of materials and construction, parasitic
costs related to energy for operations,
compression, and operation and maintenance costs.

Government Oversight
Many of the aspects of a CO2 storage
project mirror those of CO2-EOR projects. The land department is in charge
of securing the acreage position, geoscientists describe the reservoir and seal,
and engineers design the surface and
subsurface equipment as well as provide a plan to maximize the value proposition offered across the acreage. In
addition, some type of unitization may
be required of disparate mineral and
pore space owners. Finally, there is typically a state or federal permitting or
oversight agency to ensure the project
complies with established environmental requirements.
However, CO2 storage is currently
viewed as a waste management activity, with perhaps little public buy-in
or perceived economic benefit to the
local population, particularly in areas
with little to no hydrocarbon extraction industry presence. In the US, this
is further exacerbated by the fact that
ownership of pore space in which storage would occur is generally retained
by the surface owner and the hydrocarbons are maintained by the mineral
owner/lessee, and multiple owners/lessees may be involved. A well-conceived
outreach strategy combined with mechanisms for ensuring both local benefits
and trustworthy environmental stewardship are required to obtain local public and stakeholder acceptance of the
storage projects.
Because of this disparate ownership, an alternative option to amelio-


rate pore-space access issues is to consider offshore storage using existing

or new platforms. While the offshore
drilling and operations cost is considerably higher, the government commonly holds the pore and mineral rights,
diminishing the number of stakeholders
potentially involved.

Safe, Secure, Large-Scale

CO2 Storage
A major difference between CO2 injection and hydrocarbon production is the
fact that injected CO2 has to be accommodated in the subsurface by compression into the formation and pore water,
increasing reservoir pressure. Determining the reservoir continuity at distance
without drilling many costly appraisal
wells and the resultant pressure accommodated storage capacity is a saline formation challenge. In addition, CO2 has
a much higher mobility than water, and
with a lower density shows strong gravity segregation. Plume modeling strategies, coupled with advanced geophysical
techniques for calibration, are an area
of continuing focus, particularly where
laterally extensive CO2 plumes develop.
Once the primary pressure accommodation space has been used, the challenge may be to develop reservoir engineering strategies to use the remaining
pore space more efficiently for storage.
Extraction of brine could increase storage efficiency and reduce the area affected by a pressure plume.

Depleted Fields and

Existing Infrastructure
Depleted oil and gas fields offer proven secure storagethe capacity is well
understood and the storage security is
proven. However, they introduce some
challenges. When a gas field is highly depleted, the CO2 will initially be
in the gas phase, yet it is transported
in the dense phase. There are a number of potential solutions that include
heating, starting in gas phase, or introducing methane or nitrogen. Management of the movement of the fluid
through the phase envelope is therefore key, and requires the exploitation
of CO2-EOR expertise coupled with
potentially novel petroleum engineer-

ing solutions. The assessment, monitoring, and repair of legacy wells is

also important when dealing with depleted fields.

Demonstrating Secure Storage

Scaling up CO2 storage technology to
address climate change, while demonstrating to stakeholders that the process is safe and secure, is a significant challenge. The 40-plus years of
experience gained in the design and
operation of CO2-EOR projects provides
the primary foundation for establishing a comparable understanding for
the issues associated with CO2 storage. CCS-specific monitoring, permitting, and long-term care programs must
be established and applied to develop
commercial sites. Risk assessment is an
essential activity during the selection
and qualification of sites for long-term
storage of CO2, for the development of a
risk management strategy, and in establishing guidelines for safe and effective
operations. While geologic uncertainties/risks are highly site-specific, the
main perceived risks are of potential
CO2 or brine leakage from wells and
geologic pathways, and induced seismicity and ground displacement.
Worldwide, a considerable amount
of CCS regulatory framework development has occurred. In most cases,
these efforts build upon existing frameworks for regulating oil and gas activities. For example, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has
published underground injection control well requirements for the geologic storage of CO2, based on protection of underground drinking water
sources, and has established reporting
requirements under its Greenhouse Gas
Reporting Program for facilities that
inject CO2 underground for both CO2EOR and geologic storage. Importantly,
EPA guidance confirms that CO2-EOR
can result in stored CO2. Nonetheless,
substantial legal and regulatory concernsremain.

Dealing With Abundant CO2

Should CO2 capture become cost-effective, the volume of CO2 available for
transportation and injection would


require significant expansion of the current infrastructure. Today, 50 individual CO2 pipelines with a combined length
of more than 7,250 km (4,500 miles)
exist in the United States. Should 10%
of total emissions be captured, it would
far exceed the transport ability of this
infrastructure. To bridge this gap, considerable infrastructure development is
needed. Early delivery targets for CO2
would include areas where well infrastructure is already in place, such as
large oil fields, while areas with minimal
oil and gas development would be developed later for CO2 storage. While the
capabilities exist to build the infrastructure, the task will require a tremendous

influx of capital and personnel, and regulatory cooperation.

Large volumes of low-cost, readily
available CO2 could allow for the development of new EOR strategies, using
CO2 in excess of traditional practice.
These techniques could include vertical or gravity-stable flooding protocols
that may effectively recover the bulk of
the remaining oil, while also using less
water. Also, larger hydrocarbon pore
volume injections in traditional horizontal floods, and possibly earlier application of CO2-EOR, might be adopted in
lieu of waterflooding. New best practices
for these cases would need to be developed and shared within theindustry.

George Koperna is vice president and reservoir engineering

manager with Advanced Resources International, specializing
in unconventional resources, enhanced recovery applications,
and carbon storage. He is chairperson of SPEs Carbon Capture,
Utilization, and Storage Technical Section and a former member
of the SPE International Board of Directors. He holds MSc and
BSc degrees in petroleum and natural gas engineering from
West Virginia University.
Michael L. Godec, a vice president with Advanced Resources
International, has prepared numerous assessments of the
potential sequestration capacity and economic potential
associated with geologic storage in oil and gas fields, deep
saline aquifers, gas shales, and unmineable coal seams. He has
examined CO2 storage and possible CO2-EOR opportunities for
numerous proposed power plants and other industrial facilities,
both in the US and internationally. For 20092010, Godec was
an SPE Distinguished Lecturer on the subject of Environmental
Performance of the Exploration and Production Industry: Past,
Present, and Future. He holds an MS degree in technology
and human affairs from Washington University in St. Louis,
Missouri, and a BS degree in chemical engineering from the
University of Colorado, Boulder.
Neeraj Gupta, a senior research leader/Battelle Fellow at
Battelle Institute, provides technical and program development
leadership for Battelles subsurface resources work. He has
more than 25 years of domestic and international experience in
CO2 storage, CO2-EOR, and other subsurface projects. He has
led several field programs and research projects on CO2 storage
technology. He holds a PhD in geological sciences from Ohio
State University, an MS degree in geochemistry from George
Washington University, and MS and BSc degrees in geology
from Panjab University, India.


Development and
Dissemination of Best Practices
The need for timely dissemination of
CO2 storage projects best practices is
key to the widespread deployment of the
technology. While CO2-EOR serves as
an analogue for CO2 storage, and many
best practices are transferable, notable
differences exist. These include regulations and regulatory entities, ownership issues, short- and long-term liability, public outreach and pressure/plume
management. We believe that SPE has a
role to play in the documentation and
dissemination of CO2 storage best practices through support of publications
and conferences/forums. JPT

David E. Riestenberg is a project manager with Advanced

Resources International. He has more than 15 years of experience
in the energy sector, with emphasis on the geologic aspects of
unconventional resources and the use of carbon dioxide for
both enhanced recovery and sequestration. He is the project
manager and monitoring lead for the SECARB RCSP Phase
III Anthropogenic Test CO2 storage demonstration in Mobile
County, Alabama. Riestenberg holds a BS degree in biology from
the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, and an MS degree in
geology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Owain Tucker is Shells global deployment lead for carbon
storage. He leads storage projects and is responsible for
technical assurance, integration, and informing the CCS
research agenda, along with the development of capability
within Shell. He cochairs the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative work
group on CO2 storage capacity and the Zero Emissions Platform
task force on transport and storage business models, and is a
board member of the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research
Centre. He studied physics and geophysics at the University of
Witwatersrand and holds a DPhil in experimental physics from
the University of Oxford.
Lydia Cumming is a principal research scientist at Battelle,
the worlds largest independent research and development
organization. She has been engaged in a number of government
and industry projects focused on investigating technical,
policy, and public acceptance issues associated with geologic
storage of carbon dioxide. She is currently performing technical
and outreach activities for the Midwest Regional Carbon
Sequestration Partnership. She also is the project manager for
the Mid-Atlantic US Offshore Carbon Resource Assessment
Project. Cumming earned a bachelors degree in geology from
Ohio State University.



EOR Performance and Modeling

Omer Gurpinar, SPE, Technical Director of Enhanced Oil Recovery, Schlumberger

Since the last time I wrote for this feature, enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) activities around the world have been steadily increasing, meaning that the unusual crises our industry has been going
through did not kill EOR. Instead, activities have expanded. For sure, current
conditions have had some effect on how
we see EOR, and, amazingly, with few
exceptions, it has been positive. Current conditions have made most companies decide to optimize performance
of their existing assets, and EOR is a key
part of that. After all, optimizing is an
ordinary ingredient of cost control. It is
also worth adding that unconventional
oil, which, for many, was the reason for
the current crisis, is a big reason for the
expansion of EOR. The unconventional producers are very keen on increasing recovery from their assets. Therefore, while enhancements on drilling
and hydraulic fracturing will continue,

Current conditions have

made most companies
decide to optimize
performance of their
existing assets, and EOR
is a key part of that.
it is expected that the next big wave will
start when EOR becomes an integral part
of unconventional development.
The EOR papers I have had the privilege
to review this year truly support these
observations regarding the state of the
industry. Novel EOR schemes, advancements in reservoir characterization leading to better insights into the recovery
processes, and new physics and modeling techniques all demonstrate the high
level of interest in EOR among operators,
academia, and research organizations.

Omer Gurpinar, SPE, is the technical director of enhanced oil

recovery for Schlumberger. He leads Schlumberger in development of technologies and services to help improve recovery
factors in oil fields. Gurpinar has more than 35 years of industry
experience in various aspects of numerical reservoir modeling,
with specific focus on naturally fractured reservoirs, reservoir
optimization, and EOR. He has contributed to recovery optimization for numerous oil and gas fields globally. Since joining
Schlumberger in 1998, Gurpinar has served as the vice president or technical director in various segments. He holds BS and MS degrees in petroleum engineering.
Gurpinar is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and can be reached at


In closing, I have to remind myself that

we have been waterflooding since the
1930s and the fundamental EOR schemes
(i.e., chemicals and CO2) have been with
us since the late 1960s. Low-salinity and
hybrid schemes have been growing during the past 10 years, and we are getting
better at establishing conformance controls such as foams and thermally activated polymers. If we also add the inclusion
of completions and EOR-specific monitoring technologies to the enablers, it is
easy to anticipate that more and more
EOR will be considered a normal part of
field optimization.JPT

Recommended additional reading

at OnePetro:
SPE 181156 Viscosity vs. AccuracyFlowControl-Feasibility Work Flow in Polymer
Flooding by Kousha Gohari, Baker Hughes,
et al.
SPE 184086 Simulation of Chemical EOR
Processes for the Ratqa Lower Fars HeavyOil Field in Kuwait: Multiscenario Results
and Discussions by M.T. Al-Murayri, Kuwait
Oil Company, et al.
SPE 180208 Effects of Multicomponent
Adsorption and Enhanced Shale Reservoir
Recovery by CO2 Injection Coupled With
Reservoir Geomechanics by S. Yang,
University of Calgary, et al.
SPE 180875 Effectiveness of Low-Salinityand CO2-Flooding Hybrid Approaches in
Low-Permeability Sandstone Reservoirs
by H.T. Kumar, Texas A&M University, et al.


Proper Simulation of Chemical-EOR Pilots

A Real Case Study

critical step in proper design and

optimization of any chemicalenhanced-oil-recovery (CEOR) process
is appropriate and precise numerical
simulations. Addition of chemical
species to the material-balance
equations, along with finer resolution
requirements for CEOR simulations
compared with waterfloods, often
makes it impractical to run full-field
CEOR simulations to the required
accuracy. Sector models, by their
definition, are naturally suited for
modeling of pilots. This paper presents
a case study for appropriate simulation
of a CEOR pilot.


Chemical flooding (polymer flooding,

surfactant/polymer flooding, and alkali/
surfactant/polymer flooding) has improved significantly over the past decade because of vast research efforts to
find practical solutions to specific field
applications, improvements in the manufacturing and synthesis of new chemicals, field trials, and implementations by
Because of the complexity of CEOR and
the inherent uncertainties regarding success of a particular CEOR process, extensive evaluations are required before decisions about full-field implementation can
be made.
Numerical simulations are critical in
CEOR evaluation and provide a realistic
performance estimate, assuming that the
underlying Earth model is reliable and appropriately calibrated. Usually, chemical
floods are performed on candidate fields
with a successful waterflood history, but

CEOR simulations are more complex and

challenging compared with waterflood
modeling and historymatching.

Sector-Model Generation

For the subject asset, which is a brownfield, the primary requirement in CEOR
modeling is a representative, qualitycontrolled waterflood-history-matched
full-field (or sector) model. Such a model
should replicate the field performance
(pressures and flow rates), at least on
an overall basis and, preferentially, on a
well-by-well basis. The model used for
this study had high well density, was sufficiently reliable, and was used routinely
for field development and performance
prediction. The paper demonstrates the
preparation and use of a sector model
from this readily available waterflood fullfield model for a polymer-flood pilot area.
The area of interest (AOI) for the
pilot should be selected during an
alternatives-analysis phase by a multifunctional team of field engineers and
scientists and CEOR subject-matter experts after a project-framing exercise. In
this case, this area is a seven-spot pattern containing a central injector and
six surrounding producers. This is a
small area compared with the full-field
model. A local-grid-refinement (LGR)
option was considered to create a sufficiently fine grid for CEOR simulation,
but the resulting model was still deemed
It was then decided to use a sector
model containing the AOI in the middle
to evaluate the CEOR project. In order to
minimize the effect of boundary on the
AOI, one seven-spot pattern was added

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights
of paper SPE 179659, Proper Simulation of Chemical-EOR PilotsA Real Case
Study, by Nariman Fathi Najafabadi, SPE, and Adwait Chawathe, SPE, Chevron,
prepared for the 2016 SPE Improved Oil Recovery Conference, Tulsa, 1113 April. The
paper has not been peer reviewed.

in each direction surrounding the sector model to be studied. Generally, when

choosing the extent of the sector model,
one can leverage the presence of sealing faults or other no-flow boundaries
to minimize the required sector-model
area. Unfortunately, in this case, there
were no sealing faults or no-flow boundaries in the immediate vicinity of the AOI.
Flow-diagnostics tools that use streamline simulations were used to ensure that
all the streamlines connecting to the
AOI are contained in the selected sector
model. This is an important step in ensuring that all areas of the field in communication with the AOI are included in
the sector model, which is critical for obtaining a representative CEOR forecast
with this model.


Although an attempt was made to minimize the effect of the sector boundary
on the AOI by choosing a substantially larger sector model compared with
the AOI, it is still critical to recreate
the full-field model fluxes at the sectormodel boundary and evaluate the effect
of boundary conditions on the wells in
the AOI. There are many ways to reproduce the full-field model fluxes at the
boundary of the sector model:
Adjust the contribution of the
wells on the boundary to the
sectormodel on the basis of a
corrected AOI of the boundary
If the preceding technique is
notsufficient to reproduce the
fluxes, one can use materialbalance regions in the full-field
model to extract the fluxes at
thecells on the boundary of the
sector model. This information
can be used to tune injection/
production rate or bottomhole
pressure of pseudowells placed at

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


the boundary of the sector model

to reproduce the full-field model
Pore-volume multipliers at the
boundary of the sector model are
another way of adding pressure
support and mitigating the
boundary effects.
Using these techniques can help establish the appropriate boundary condition
that results in backward boundarycondition optimization, meaning that,
if the boundary conditions of the sector
model are close enough to those of the
full-field model, initializing the sector
model to initial conditions (of the fullfield model) and simulating the history
of the field should result in saturation
and pressure distributions and injection/

The list below includes SImetric
conversion factors for common
engineering units.
acre 4.046 873
E+03 =m2
acre 4.046 873
E01 =ha
acre-ft 1.233 489
E+03 =m3
ampere-hr 3.6*
E+03 =C
E01 =nm
API 141.5/(131.5+API) =g/cm3
atm 1.013 250*
E+05 =Pa
bar 1.0*
E+05 =Pa
bbl 1.589 873
E01 =m3
Btu 1.055 056
Ci 3.7*
E+10 =Bq
cp 1.0*
E03 =Pa s
cycles/sec 1.0*
dyne 1.0*
E02 =mN
eV 1.602 19
E19 =J
ft 3.048*
E01 =m
ft2 9.290 304* E02 =m2
ft3 2.831 685
E02 =m3
F (F32)/1.8
F (F+459.67)/1.8
gal (U.S. liq) 3.785 412
E03 =m3
hp 7.460 43
E01 =kW
hp-hr 2.684 520
in. 2.54*
in.2 6.451 6*
in.3 1.638 706
E+01 =cm3
kip 4.448 222
E+03 =N
knot 5.144 444
E01 =m/s
ksi 6.894 757
E+03 =kPa
kW-hr 3.6*
E+06 =J
lbf 4.448 222
lbm 4.535 924
E01 =kg
mL 1.0*
mho 1.0*
mile 1.609 344*
oz (U.S. fl) 2.957 353
E+01 =cm3
psi 6.894 757
psi2 4.753 8
E+01 =kPa2
sq mile 2.589 988
stokes 1.0*
E04 =m2/s
ton 9.071 847
E01 =Mg
ton (metric) 1.0*
tonf 8.896 444
E+03 =N
tonne 1.0*
*Conversion factor is exact.


production histories that are very similar to those of the same area/wells in the
full-field model.

sweep efficiency), polymer-concentration

sensitivities were conducted using
appropriate injection-pressure and
production-rate constraints.

Grid-Size Optimization
To mitigate the numerical-dispersion
problem, it is recommended to have
approximately 15 cells between wells
for numerical simulation of CEOR using
single-point upstream fully implicit numerical reservoir simulators. To keep
the artificial mixing in check, it is recommended to use cell sizes on the order
of 30 ft or smaller. These are simply
rules of thumb and should be tested for
every reservoir and process. Choosing
a practical cell size for a given problem
requires balancing the level of accuracy required and the simulation runtime
that can be afforded, given the number
of simulations needed to optimize the
slug design and perform required sensitivity simulations.
A detailed study was performed to
evaluate various process and reservoir
parameters affecting the optimal grid
size for polymer and surfactant/polymer
processes. A tool was then developed
that could provide an educated initial
guess for the appropriate grid size for
the process of choice. After the gridoptimization exercise for the problem at
hand was performed, it was concluded
that a 55 grid refinement (in the x- and
y-direction) is required for appropriate
simulation of this polymer flood. The
performed level of refinement puts the
cell size count of the sector model close
to 400,000 cells.

Polymer-Flood Study
The two important design parameters
for a polymer flood are processing rate
and (endpoint) mobility ratio. The higher
the polymer viscosity, the lower the endpoint mobility ratio and, thus, the better
the sweep efficiency. On the other hand,
processing rate (defined as the fraction
of the reservoir pore volume that can be
flooded on an annual basis) may also be
proportional to the endpoint mobility
ratio. Processing rate is a very important
parameter for project economics, and the
higher the processing rate, the higher the
net present value of the CEOR project.
To find the polymer concentration
that optimizes both processing rate and
endpoint mobility ratio (best achievable

CEOR simulations are more complex
and tend to be more computationally expensive compared with waterflood simulations. The complexity in
CEOR simulations is because of additional material-balance equations (for
the chemicals) that need to be solved,
while the computational burden is the
result of the finer grid resolution that
is required to mitigate numerical dispersion and artificial chemical dilution,
plus smaller timestep requirements of
CEOR models because of highly nonlinear phase behavior and rheology of
the chemicals. Thus, CEOR simulations
are a trade-off between numerical accuracy and computational expediency.
Massively parallel computing, dynamic
LGR, and sector modeling are potential
options to achieve the trade-off successfully. This paper focused on sector modeling and explained its challenges and
its analysis and resolution options. For
successful CEOR modeling,
Ensure that the sector-model
boundary conditions (fluxes and
pressure) adequately mimic fullfield performance.
Get the grid resolution right, a
critical step that ensures that
o The reservoir sweep is honored.
o The chemicals perform per
laboratory expectations in the
o There is a reasonable trade-off
between simulation accuracy
and expediency.
Set aside repopulating the finegrid properties by running Earthmodeling work flows on the finegrid models.
Even if the fine-grid properties are inherited from the coarse grid, the flowfield heterogeneity of the fine-grid models could be very different from that of
the coarse-grid models. The effect of
this difference on the recovery efficiency predicted by the models is a function of how displacement and sweep efficiencies are affected by the numerical
dispersion/artificial mixing and flowfield heterogeneity, respectively. JPT


Experimental and Numerical Studies

of CO2 EOR in Unconventional Reservoirs

his study investigates oil-production

mechanisms from the matrix into
the fracture by simulating two laboratory
experiments as well as several field-scale
studies and evaluates the potential of
using carbon dioxide (CO2) huff n puff to
enhance oil recovery in unconventional
liquid reservoirs (ULRs) with nanodarcyrange matrix permeability and complex
natural-fracture networks. This study
explores the mechanisms contributing
to oil recovery with numerical modeling
of experimental work and investigates
the effects of various parameters on

CO2 injection has been recognized as one
of the more important and successfully applied enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR)
processes in the US since the start of the
first commercial CO2-injection project in
1972. Statistics show that, out of the 153
active CO2 EOR projects worldwide, 139
of them are in the US. CO2 flooding is the
only EOR method in the US that has been
consistent and economical since the drop
in oil prices in the 1980s. One of the main
advantages of CO2 injection is that CO2
can achieve miscibility with the resident
hydrocarbon when minimum miscibility
pressure (MMP) is attained.
Although CO2 flooding has demonstrated the potential of increasing oil production in conventional reservoirs, if this
EOR process were to be applied to ULRs,
the oil-recovery mechanism could not
be considered the same as that during
a conventional CO2 flooding because of
the differences in reservoir petrophysical

properties, fluid-phase behavior, and the

fundamental mass-transfer mechanisms.
In general, diffusion during gas injection has been recognized as a critical
mechanism that affects the oil recovery
in fractured reservoirs. If the diffusive
flow in the matrix is being neglected during simulation, the calculated result will
underestimate productivity.
Furthermore, complex fracture geometry has been proposed for hydraulic
fracturing because of the intersection between hydraulic fractures and in-situ natural fractures. Numerous simulation and
experimental studies have evaluated production performance of complex fracture
networks. However, there is no extensive
work regarding the potential of CO2 huff
n puff in complex fracture geometries.

Laboratory Experiment
Two experiments were performed using
two sets of preserved sidewall core from
the same well in a ULR. The petrophysical
properties and the saturations of the cores
were not measured before the experiments, to preserve the core original conditions. However, because the cores are not
stored in a pressurized environment, the
fluids saturating the cores can be assumed
to be dead oil and water. To simulate the
presence of a highly permeable fracture
around the core, glass beads were packed
outside the cores to allow CO2 to have direct contact with the cores. Two Berea
sandstone disks were placed on each end
of the setup to block the glass beads from
entering the production tube. The core
holder was then placed inside a water bath

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains

highlights of paper SPE 179634, Experimental and Numerical Studies of CO2 EOR in
Unconventional Liquid Reservoirs With Complex Fracture Networks, by Jianlei Sun,
SPE, Amy Zou, and David Schechter, SPE, Texas A&M University, prepared for the
2016 SPE Improved Oil Recovery Conference, Tulsa, 1113 April. The paper has not
been peer reviewed.

that circulated hot water to simulate the

reservoir temperature. The assembly was
mounted in a computed-tomography (CT)
scanner, and the cores were kept horizontal during the experiment.
The experiments were performed under
constant-pressure conditions where viscous displacement was absent. The first
experiment (i.e., Experiment 1 as seen in
Fig. 1) was performed at 3,000 psi at 150F,
and the second experiment (i.e., Experiment 2 as seen in Fig. 2) was performed
at 1,600 psi and 150F. Periodic scanning
of the cores with the CT scanner was performed throughout the experiment. The
experiments typically last for 2 to 3 days,
and production was allowed twice a day
on average. The CT images of the core
revealed constant density/saturation/
composition changes of the resident fluid
during both experiments, which indicated
that CO2 was constantly penetrating into
the core throughout the process. Final oilproduction volumes of 0.4 mL were recorded for both experiments. On the basis
of the estimated original oil in place, the
experiments yielded high oil recovery.

Core-Scale Numerical Modeling

The core-sale modeling followed the
experimental work described in the preceding section. The petrophysical properties of the cores and the fluid properties of the dead oil were evaluated after
Core-Scale Experiment Simulation. To
save computational time, a horizontal
slice of the Cartesian core model was
taken for investigation.
For the base case, the conditions
are 3,000 psi and 150F, which are the
same as for Experiment 1. Injectors were
placed in the fracture region for pressurizing and pressure maintenance. Producers were not introduced at this point.
The recovery factor is not sensitive
to the matrix and fracture permeabil-

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


CT Images: Shale Sidewall Core 1

First Experiment Test Conditions: 3,000 psi, 150F


Slice 20


Slice 30


2.5 hr

4.3 hr

30.1 hr

50.7 hr

58.4 hr

72.5 hr

78.1 hr

95.1 hr

99.1 hr

Fig. 1Saturation variation of two CT images with time for Experiment 1.

CT Images: Shale Sidewall Core 1

Second Experiment Test Conditions: 1,600 psi, 150F


Slice 20


Slice 30

5.1 hr

25.4 hr

occurring between the matrix and fracture is considered to be diffusion. For a

diffusion case, higher pressure would result in better CO2 solubility in oil, which
contributes to the increase in recovery.
Furthermore, for the capillary pressure,
the base case is under miscible conditions with zero capillary pressure. Water
saturation slightly affects the recovery
factor, which might be because of differences in the compressibility of water and
oil and CO2 being soluble in water.

34.9 hr

43.8 hr

55.4 hr

67.5 hr

Fig. 2Saturation variation of two CT images with time for Experiment 2.

ity. The higher the fracture and matrix

porosity, the larger the diffusion coefficient and the better the recovery factor.
In addition, because the MMP of the fluid
system was determined to be 1,727 psi,

three system pressures were considered3,000 psi (miscible as Experiment 1), 1,600 psi (immiscible as Experiment 2), and 1,800 psi (near miscible).
The main mechanism for mass transfer

Field-Scale Numerical Modeling

A synthetic field case was developed to

study oil-recovery mechanisms on a larger scale. To save computational time, a
single stage with one fracture on a horizontal well was modeled. The main focus
of the field study was to use the properties
from the core model to predict and optimize the performance of CO2 injection in
various cases. In this study, the field-scale
input parameters were obtained from the
previous core-scale simulation.
The fluid model for the experimental simulation was built on the basis of
the dead-oil data from the reservoir. To
model the fluid in the reservoir with lit-

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tle knowledge of the live-oil properties,

methane was combined with the deadoil components to create a live-oil model.
Base cases with different production
pressures were considered for primary
depletion and for huff n puff. The bottomhole flowing pressures for the different cases are 2,000 psi; 1,550 psi, which
is slightly above the MMP; 1,300 psi,
which is below the MMP but above bubblepoint pressure; and 1,000 psi, which
is below the bubblepoint pressure. After
30 days of injection and 15 days of soaking, production took place at the same
pressure as the corresponding primarydepletion bottomhole pressure.
The oil incremental percentage for the
cases is modest, as is expected for huff
n puff. In reality, natural fractures may
exist in these reservoirs so that production should be higher than the calculated value in this model, depending on the
intensity of the natural fractures.

sensitive to matrix porosity, fracture

porosity, saturation, and diffusion
coefficient, and it is not sensitive
to matrix permeability, fracture
permeability, relative permeability,
or capillary pressure. Improved oil
recovery was observed by changing
the porosity and the diffusion
From field-scale simulation, it was
observed that gas expansion is
an important mechanism during

depletion; thus, huff n puff is most

effective below bubblepoint pressure.
Field-scale simulation shows that
the incremental oil is sensitive to
matrix porosity, matrix permeability,
fracture porosity, fracture
permeability, time of first injection,
cycling length, injection rate, injection
pressure, and number of cycles, and it
is not sensitive to capillary pressure,
diffusion coefficient, or length of
soaking time.JPT

Summary of Sensitivity Parameters.

The effect of several parameters was investigated on both cumulative oil production
and oil incremental percentage. Among all
the parameters, the matrix/fracture porosity and permeability are the most significant, and the higher the matrix/fracture porosity and permeability, the higher
the incremental oil. On the other hand,
diffusion, capillary pressure, and soaking time have almost no effect on the field
model. For the field model, convection
from pressure drawdown can be considered to be the dominating mechanism instead of diffusion, which is different from
the previous core-scale simulations where
diffusion is the dominant mechanism for
oil recovery. Furthermore, regarding injection operating parameters, the later the
initial injection time is, the larger the injection rate is, the higher the injection
pressure is, and the longer the injection
length is; the more cycles there are, the
more chances there are to repressurize the
reservoir and provide gas drive to assist
production under immiscible conditions.


Core-scale experiments show that

CO2 huff n puff recovers oil from
Core-scale simulations show that
diffusion plays a key role in oil
recovery. The recovery factor is



A Field Trial in a Carbonate Reservoir

Using a Solvent-Based Waterflood Process

imethyl-ether (DME) -enhanced

waterflood (DEW) is a process in
which DME is added to injection water
and, upon injection, preferentially
partitions into the remaining oil. As a
result, it swells the oil and reduces the
oil viscosity, significantly improving oil
mobility. Several coreflood experiments
conducted in tight-carbonate plugs
have shown incremental recoveries
of up to 20% post-waterflood. A field
trial has been designed to derisk this
technology, which, if successful, would
add significant reserves.

Enhancing oil recovery from lowpermeability formations has been challenging. DEW presents the advantages of a
miscible flood without the negative effects
of density differences. DME is a slightly
polar hydrocarbon that is miscible with
most known crude oils. As a result, upon
contact with crude oil, the DME will swell
the oil and reduce its viscosity, after which
the oil will be effectively displaced. DME
is soluble in water and, therefore, can be
injected with any existing waterflood. Because the molecule is small, there are no
limitations on formation type or permeability. Its water solubility enables efficient recovery of the DME with a cleanbrine chase. Because it does not interact
with the formation, recovery efficiencies
of DME are found to be close to 100% in
laboratory core experiments. Depending
on the injected-slug size and the crudeoil composition, oil recovery could be enhanced by 10 to 25% in field application.

In a DEW, DME is dissolved in the injection brine and injected into the formation. The DME solubility is dependent
on salinity and temperature but can be
up to 38 wt% for fresh water. Upon contact with the oil in the reservoir, the DME
will partition to the oleic phase, where it
will swell the oil, reduce its viscosity, and
mobilize the oil to the producer wells.
The process is schematically presented
in Fig. 1.
In light-oil reservoirs, additional oil is
primarily produced by oil swelling. After
injection of the DME-containing brine
slug, a chase phase will be used to displace the mobilized oil further and recover the DME from the remaining oleic
phase. During this chase, DME will partition back into the initially DME-free
water phase. Recovery efficiencies are
found to be very high. There is no residual DME because of its solubility in the
mobile phase. DME does not adsorb to
the rock/fluid interface, and DME recovery occurs microscopically in a shock.
DEW was thoroughly examined and
experimentally tested for a carbonate
field in Oman. The field consists of a lowpermeability and sparsely naturally fractured limestone reservoir. Typical permeability is in the range of 1 to 10 md.
The reservoir contains light oil with a
viscosity of 1 cp at reservoir conditions
with a highly saline aquifer. First production started in the mid-1970s, and the
field has a lengthy and complex development history. It has had a well-managed
line-drive waterflood for several decades.
Injection water consists of a mix of pro-

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights
of paper SPE 179838, Persistence in EORDesign of a Field Trial in a Carbonate
Reservoir Using a Solvent-Based Waterflood Process, by Abdullah Alkindi, SPE,
Nasser al-Azri, Dhiya Said, and Khalid AlShuaili, Petroleum Development Oman,
and Paul te Riele, SPE, Shell Development Oman, prepared for the 2016 SPE Enhanced
Oil Recovery Conference at Oil and Gas West Asia, Muscat, Oman, 2123 March. The
paper has not been peer reviewed.

duced water and shallow-aquifer water,

resulting in an intermediate salinity of
approximately 130,000 ppm.

Success Criteria for Full-Field

DEW Implementation
A notional full-field DEW development
in the light-oil carbonate field was used
to define the success criteria, key performance indicators, and objectives for
the pilot. Given the value of DME as the
enhanced-oil-recovery agent, it is critical
that the DME be recovered and recycled
efficiently, in order to make the project
economically attractive. Efficient recovery and recycling consist of
A high DME-recovery factor,
achieved by controlling subsurface
pattern dispersion and optimization
of chase-slug size
Minimized DME subsurface residence
time, achieved by minimizing porevolume-injection time

The pilot is intended to derisk the fullfield implementation of this new technology through the assessment of
Solvent usage and effect of geology
Wettability change from DME
injection and its effect on arrival of
oil bank and injectivity
Building in-house expertise for
handling and operating the process

Pilot Boundary Conditions

and Conceptual Design
Because the field is currently undergoing
a waterflood, the pilot needs to be operated within the surface and subsurface
operating envelopes. Produced fluids
will have to be routed through the existing central processing facilities, which
are not specifically designed to handle
DME. Even though DME is not corrosive,
a material-compatibility study of all nonmetallic elements in the central processing facility imposes a maximum DME

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Pore Scale
Reservoir Scale

Pore Scale
Reservoir Scale
Virgin Reservoir


Injection of DME/Water

Life Cycle of a Reservoir (Time)

Oil Swells/
Mobilization of Oil/
Chase Water
Viscosity Drops
DME Mixture
Life Cycle of a Reservoir (Time)

Fig. 1Schematic of the DEW process at the pore and development scale. DME is represented by the red color.

concentration in the produced streams of

500 ppm by weight.
Because DME is diluting the crude oil
as a light solvent, asphaltene precipitation can be expected. Asphaltenes deposited in the near-wellbore region of the injectors could result in reduced injectivity
and conformance-control issues. A detailed experimental asphaltene-stability
program was designed and executed.
This confirmed a low asphaltene content
of the reservoir crude (less than 1 wt%)
and a high DME concentration above
which asphaltene precipitation would
occur (greater than 70 mol%). These
high concentrations are expected only
in the near-wellbore region of the injectors where, because of the long waterinjection preflooding phase and the low
asphaltene content of the crude oil, no
significant effect is expected. In the nearwellbore region of the producers, where
the oil saturations are higher and flowassurance concerns would be expected,
the DME concentration will not reach the
critical concentration that will lead to the
precipitation of asphaltenes.
The solubility of DME depends on the
salinity of the brine. Conversely, the presence of DME will have an effect on the
solvency power of the water for certain
ions. Divalent ions especially will be affected, which can result in scaling when
mixing DME with the injection brine. A
scaling study was designed and conducted that indicated a risk of scale precipitation upon mixing the selected brine with
DME. To mitigate this and reduce the
reservoir-souring risk, a sulfate-removal
unit was selected for the water-treatment
lineup. Additionally, various scale inhibitors were tested for their effectiveness
and were added to the injection water to
reduce the risk further.


Surveillance Plan
An extensive surveillance and datagathering plan was designed for the
pilot. Surveillance focuses on four main
areasinjector well, producer wells, observation well, and production metering.
Injector. The injector well is based on
a recompletion of an existing producer well. During injection, vertical conformance and containment will be
monitored by distributed-temperature
sensing. Shut-ins required for thermal
tracer analysis are aligned with pressurefalloff surveys to determine the presence
and extent of induced fracturing in the
Producers. The producers are drilled
30 m from the injector and completed
with a dual completion string. Artificial
lift is provided by DME-compatible electrical submersible pumps. The second
string provides access for a productionlogging tool (PLT) with flowing bottomhole sampling capability. The PLT will
provide data on vertical flood conformance, and flowing bottomhole samples
taken at various depths will provide information on DME vertical conformance.
Observation Well. The observation well
will be cored over the reservoir section
to provide a baseline for observation-well
saturation. During the pilot, reservoir saturation will be determined through casing
by a reservoir-saturation tool operated in
carbon/oxygen (C/O) mode. The C/O ratio
can be determined quantitatively only
when the fluids are free of DME. Petrophysical modeling indicated that it can
be used qualitatively for determining the
arrival of the DME-rich front. Therefore,
the observation well gives information on

Degree of desaturation between the

end of the preflood and the end of
the water chase
Arrival and conformance of DME at
the observation well
The timing of the arrival provides information on areal conformance, and the vertical profile will provide information on the
vertical conformance and containment.

Metering. Given the large volume of

water being injected throughout the different phases of the pilot, the facilities
and metering will have to operate at high
base sediment and water. Therefore, a
dedicated test separator is used to give
accurate readings of oil, water, and gas
rates. Additional sampling and analysis of
the oil and water stream will provide data
on the composition of the liquid streams.
In order to obtain the DME mass balance,
DME will be metered primarily in the gas
phase through a gas chromatograph.
Tracer Testing. Three tracer slugs are
planned for various stages of the pilot. At
the start of the waterflood phase (baseline), the first tracer slug is injected to confirm injector and producer connectivity.
It will provide information on the degree
of fracturing and assist in balancing the
intake and offtake of each well in the pattern. The second tracer slug is injected before the start of injection of the DME slug.
This slug will confirm the injector/producer connectivity at the start of DME injection and provide information on the average saturation when compared with the
DME production response. The last tracer
slug is injected after the chase-water injection to confirm whether DME-induced
changes have occurred in the areal conformance when compared with the tracer
slugs injected before DME injection. JPT



Mature Fields and Well Revitalization

Jesse Lee, SPE, Chemistry Technology Manager, Schlumberger

In last years Technology Focus concerning mature fields, I highlighted the topics
of refracturing, efficiency, and environmental responsibility. Evidently, these
three topics remain as the critical aspects
of mature-field development. However,
for 2017, I would like to steer readers
attention to new technology, advanced
modeling, and the interesting topic of
fracture hits.
Advanced modeling, the ability to capture reservoir information in high definition and translate the knowledge
into mathematical expressions, has
always been a key enabler that allows
our industry to maximize well performance. For instance, advanced modeling allows much more thorough derisking of enhanced-oil-recovery investment
and leads to the maximization of financial returns.
Concerning new technology that
improves mature-field development,
the advanced geosteering and reservoir-

It has been a challenge for

our industry to implement
new technology for the
past 2 years because
of market depression.
However, 2017 is certainly
the year to revisit the topic
of new technology and
prepare ourselves for the
scale mapping tool not only enhances oil
production from the target reservoir but
also can help the asset team in proper
reservoir characterization and redevelopment planning. It has been a challenge
for our industry to implement new technology for the past 2 years because of
market depression. However, 2017 is certainly the year to revisit the topic of new

Jesse Lee, SPE, is chemistry technology manager at

Schlumberger. He holds a PhD degree in chemistry from Yale
University and conducted post-doctoral-degree research at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lee joined Schlumberger
in 1997 in Tulsa as a development engineer, focused on the development of polymer-based fracturing fluids. During 20002010,
he managed new-product development at Schlumberger product centers in Sugar Land, Texas, and Clamart, France. At
Schlumberger, Lee is responsible for developing technical collaborations and managing relationships with external chemical companies. He is a member of the JPT
Editorial Committee.


technology and prepare ourselves for the

activity uptick.
In this feature, I would like to bring up
the topic of fracture hits. While in-field
drilling is becoming more common, this
crosswell communication initiated while
pumping a hydraulic-fracturing treatment seems to be inevitable. It is not
entirely clear how to prevent or control
this phenomenon. However, there are
several years of data and publications
regarding this matter, plus some new
technology to minimize fracture hits.
I believe this will open up new opportunities for further maximization of
In this editorial, I talked about
advanced modeling, new technology, and
fracture hits. Therefore, I have selected
several papers on these topics to share
with you. Enjoy your reading.JPT

Recommended additional reading

at OnePetro:
SPE 177148 State of the Art in 3D
Reservoir Characterization: Palo Azul Field,
Ecuador by J. Sandoval, Halliburton, et al.
SPE 179177 Advanced Modeling of
Interwell Fracturing Interference: An Eagle
Ford Shale Oil StudyRefracturing
by Adrian Morales, Schlumberger, et al.
SPE 177060 Geomodeling Work Flow
Adapted to a Mature Extraheavy-Oil Field
Case Study: Modelization of Petrocedeo
Deltaic Reservoir for the EOR Polymer
Project by R. Mulder, Statoil, et al.


Tapping Difficult Oil

in a Giant Carbonate Field in Qatar

fter 70 years of production,

morethan 30% of the Arab C
reservoir stock-tank original oil in
place has been recovered through
various mechanisms including natural
depletion, waterflooding, gas lift
implementation, and horizontal-well
development. Extending production
into future years requires a strategic
approach focusing on innovative
development to target the remaining
oil saturation. Integration of a recently
acquired, high-resolution 3D-seismic
survey complements the data
available for subsurface description
and characterization, positively
affecting reservoir-model historymatchingmetrics.

The large, mature Dukhan field is located onshore Qatar, approximately 80km
west of Doha. The Arab C reservoir interval is a carbonate anticlinal structure
lying 5,500 to 7,000 ft below the surface. Areally, the Arab C reservoir has
been divided into four structural elements from north to south (i.e., Khatiyah, Fahahil, Jaleha, and Diyab). The
first three sectors comprise the continuous oil-bearing extent of the reservoir, while Diyab is water-bearing on
the basis of results from wells drilled to
date (Fig. 1).
Arab C is an undersaturated-oil reservoir. The original oil column ranged
from 1,400-ft thickness in the Khati-

Dukhan, Arab C Reservoir

Top Arab C Depth
Structure TVDss (ft)




Ras Laffan

Contour Interval
200 m




State of

0 10 20 30 40




Fig. 1Dukhan Arab C reservoir. TVDss=true vertical depth subsea;

OOWC=original oil/water contact.

yah sector to 400 ft in the Jaleha sector. It has a weak to moderate connected aquifer lying below the oil column.
Arab C development started with vertical wells, initially completed openhole.
Increase in water production led to a
well-completion-scheme change; vertical wells were then completed casedhole and perforated selectively. Horizontal drilling commenced in 1992 to

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of
paper IPTC 18296, Tapping the Difficult Oil and Enhancing Reservoir-Development
Strategy To Maximize Recovery From a Mature Waterflood Giant Carbonate Field in
the Middle East: Arab C Reservoir, Dukhan Field, State of Qatar, by Mohamed Naguib
Bin Ab Majid, Carlos Troconiz, Mohammed Nedham Al-Shafei, Gheorghe Luca,
and Ariel Cachi, Qatar Petroleum, prepared for the 2015 International Petroleum
Technology Conference, Doha, Qatar, 79 December. The paper has not been peer
reviewed. Copyright 2015 International Petroleum Technology Conference. Reproduced
by permission.

improve recovery and enhance production. As the water front from injection
progressed, gas lifting in Arab C was initiated in 2003 to continue producing the
high-water-cut wells. Currently, 60% of
the Arab C producers are flowing under
gas liftassistance.

Reservoir Description
Arab C is a heterogeneous organization of limestone and dolomite lithologies deposited on a shallow-water Jurassic ramp system. Hydraulically, the
80-ft-thick interval represents a network of grainstone conductors compartmentalized by muddy carbonate
baffles resulting in layer-constrained
dynamic behavior. Lateral ranges of 1
to 4 km for baffling thin beds support
a localized layer-constrained dynamic
behavior and a high degree of vertical

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


heterogeneity, though communication

pathways are impacted by sporadic occurrences of cross-cutting conductive
and resistive faults. Reservoir porosity is 15 to 20%, and the average permeability is approximately 150 md, but
this varies widely on the basis of reservoir zone.
Arab C is divided into upper and
lower units. The Lower Arab C is the
better-quality reservoir package and
also has a more consistent vertical permeability, whereas the Upper Arab C
is an overall poorer interval with more
vertical-flow barriers. Arab C can be divided into 12 reservoir zones, distributed between the Upper Arab C (Zones
1 through 6) and the Lower Arab C
(Zones 7 through 12). The Lower ArabC
development is more mature and has
been water-swept quite effectively in
most parts of the reservoir, whereas the
Upper Arab C, which contains most of
the reserves, is currently being pursued
more rigorously.
Both units have specific reservoir
challenges. In the Upper Arab C, high
vertical and lateral heterogeneities
cause uneven flood fronts; low-pressure

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areas are caused by poor lateral connectivity between injectors and producers and poor reservoir quality. In the
Lower Arab C, it is difficult to identify
and access economic remaining oil in

Seismic Data
A new full-field 3D-seismic survey over
Dukhan was acquired between 2009
and 2011. The results show an improved structural definition of all reservoirs. This enables identification and
mapping of undrilled and unexploited
hydrocarbon-bearing zones across the
field. The data also provide distinct fault
definition that allows for more-accurate
identification and mapping of faults with
displacements as small as 12 ft, which
will lead to better infill-well planning
while maximizing recovery and allowing

Geological/Dynamic Modeling
The most-recent Arab C static and dynamic models completed in 2013 have
been used to enhance the development
plan for the reservoir, which includes
adding line-drive-pattern waterflood
to the existing peripheral waterflood
scheme. This scheme is expected to
improve sweep and maintain pressure
better. These models are being maintained by continuous updates of well
activities and pressure and production data.

Reservoir Surveillance
The Production Engineering and Geoscience Integration (PEGI) tool was intended to integrate engineering data
with geology, allowing development
of reservoir-surveillance maps at appropriate layering and timesteps. PEGI
links structural and stratigraphic reservoir models to production/
injection data, well- completion history, and pressure and logging surveys within a date, depth, and geolayer database.
For the Arab C reservoir, eight floodfront mapping units (FFMUs) were
defined from the 12 zones; 12, 34,
5, 6, 78, 9, 10, and 1112. The first
four correspond to the Upper C and
the last four to the Lower C. The definition took into account fieldwide
baffles and reservoir-quality varia-

tion. Similarly, pressure maps can also

be generated with PEGI for comparison and evaluation, showing pressure for the same FFMU at different
timesteps. This methodology facilitates
the identification of areas of overandunderinjection.
Flood-front analysis for Arab C from
PEGI revealed a notable trend of lagging water movement in the Upper C.
This is explained by the better-quality
(higher-permeability) reservoir rock in
the Lower C coupled with preferential
water injection in the Lower C intervals.
Streamline simulation is used to ensure effectiveness of the waterflood
scheme in Arab C. This method provides
a more-convenient and -flexible way to
adjust production and injection rates
periodically in the reservoir. For new or
workover wells, streamline simulation
provides a rate-target-setting guideline
to produce unswept areas better. It allows optimizing production and injection rates.

Tapping the Difficult Oil

The integration of the production data,
surveillance flood-front maps, and calibrated models has allowed identification of additional opportunities that can
be implemented to maximize Arab C recovery. The following are the opportunities resulting from this integration.
Cellar-Oil Opportunity. Analyses of
reservoir-simulation results revealed
undrained cellar oil in the northern area
of the field, which is downdip from the
current line of injectors. The model has
shown a significant economic amount of
cellar oil that can be drained by the drilling of additional infill wells.
Oil Below Secondary Gas Cap. The
secondary gas cap in the Khatiyah
dome formed during the early naturaldepletion period and overlies a thick,
economical oil column that is undrained
by existing wells, as demonstrated by
simulation results. Infill wells will be
drilled lower in the column to drain
this oil. The production and pressure
in these wells will be strictly monitored
and controlled by a maximum gas/oil
ratio (GOR) and oil rate. Wells are expected to start production with alleviated GOR and water cut.


Infill Drilling Targeting Lower C. Production and surveillance data have shown a tendency for an uneven waterflood movement in Arab C, which is mainly driven by the
high vertical heterogeneity that includes the presence of
tight zones (baffles) and high permeability contrast between geolayers. Because the Lower Arab C has been mostly flooded, locating wells in this section is becoming more
challenging, but opportunities still exist to produce the remaining oil.
Optimal Well Placement Assisted by Seismic Data. The
new 3D-seismic data have better resolution for imaging
small faults and fracture zones in order to predict reservoir properties away from well control reliably and to image






Enhancing Low-Pressure Wells. Because the goodpermeability Lower C layers have been mostly swept, most
new wells target the low-permeability Upper C layers located at the top of the reservoir. Pressure maintenance in these
layers is challenging because of the poor communication between the producers and injectors. The interbed layers act as
barriers to bottom pressure drive in most of the areas. Lowering production and boosting injection rates in some wells
typify the actions taken. When these approaches proved insufficient, new Upper C dedicated injectors were added to the
pattern. As a result, in recent years, pressure restoration has
been successful and production deferment caused by shut-in
has been greatlyreduced.
Gas Lift Strategy. Increasing water cut can cause lowproductivity-index wells to cease flowing, and the number
of wells showing this issue increases as the waterflood front
progresses. Lifting the well by continuous gas injection was selected as an inexpensive and convenient solution to this problem. On the basis of simulation forecasts, it is expected that
more than 15% of the current Arab C reserves will be produced
by gas lift.
Workovers. A significant number of workovers is required to
recover the remaining oil in the reservoir. In most cases, the
workover objective is to shut off the zones with high water
production that lead to high water cut in the well. During the
workover, the flooded Lower C interval is typically sealed by
a cement squeeze job, and then the well is recompleted in the
upper layers. Although the productivity of the well decreases
because the Upper C has poorer reservoir quality, a substantial
increase in the oil rate and a reduction in the water production
are achieved.
Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in Waterflood-Swept Areas.
EOR has been identified as a different recovery mechanism to
reduce the remaining oil in the waterflood-swept areas in the
Arab C reservoir. A pilot carbon dioxide water-alternating-gas
scheme has been devised to confirm the viability of the EOR
concept and the expected benefit. If the pilot is successful, implementation on a sectorwide basis is envisaged. The pilot is
planned for a 2- to 5-yearperiod. JPT

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New Technology in a Mature

East Malaysian Field

he T Field, located offshore east

Malaysia, is a mature oil field that
began its development in the 1970s.
Conceptual geological models generally
illustrated this field as a retrogradational
turbidite setting. It is commonly known
that the turbidite channel has enormous
geological complexity and, therefore,
presents great challenges for successful
horizontal-well placement. This paper
describes the first job in southeast Asia
in developing horizontal-well placement
in a turbidite environment.

As of 15 years ago, T Fields remaining
oil deposits were present in the relatively thin turbidite channel complex on the
steep-sloping flank of the field. Vertical
and slanted wells were drilled to produce
the targeted reserves, but post-drilling
findings always showed inconsistency in
sand existence and distribution because
of lateral sand discontinuity.
Because of the limited infill reservoirs,
high reservoir dip angle, and less-prolific
productivity, drilling a highly deviated
oil producer along the reservoir dip and
steering along its productive layer in the
oil leg are found to be the optimal drilling
approach. However, high well-placement
risks were assessed owing to uncertainties in lateral sand distribution, variable
formation dip, and fluid contacts.

Evaluating Infill/
Redevelopment Potential
Some reservoirs located within the western area were believed to carry more re-


Long spacing
100-ft depth
of investigation


Short spacing
50-ft depth of investigation

Rich measurement set

Modular multispacing
Broad frequency spectrum
Automatic real-time multilayer inversion

Fig. 1Performance features of the new-generation deep-reservoir-mapper tool.

serves; production data indicated that

downdip oil remains untapped by existing
producers. An average dipping angle of 13
to 20 and gas-cap-dominant drive suggested that remaining-oil potential could
be unlocked only through the addition
of the drainage point. Material-balance
analysis was conducted, which further
verified the earlier deduction by showing
that the targeted reservoir contains more
oil in place compared with existing book
figures and has reserves at approximately
twice the amount of previous estimates
made from decline-curve analysis.
A reservoir model was subsequently
constructed. Two types of reservoir models were built in this exercise: a simple
grid homogeneous model and a heterogeneous model that was created by referring
to a geological depositional concept and to
reservoir distribution based on a geostatistical method. Reservoir-modeling and
-simulation results are consistent with
those obtained from material balance. As
expected, the secondary-recovery meth-

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights
of paper SPE 176120, Success Story: A New Development Concept Utilizing New
Advanced Technology in a Very Old Complex Mature Field, by K.F. Ng, T. Afandi,
D. Saadon, J. Jaafar, M.A. Omar, and N.A. Latiff, Petronas, and G.I. Santoso,
K. Alang, I.D. Roberts, N. Murad, D. Permanasari, and F. Kutty, Schlumberger,
prepared for the 2015 SPE Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition, Bali,
Indonesia, 2022 October. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

od will result in an incremental recovery

because of the pressure maintenance and
better sweep efficiency. However, this recovery is not ideal; the reservoir pressure
was halved because of historical production, and lateral discontinuity still exists.
Infill drilling was recommended as the
best way forward.

Well-Concept and -Execution

The feasibility of executing the drilling
campaign during the early stage of the
study was also considered. In past development campaigns, deviated wells were
drilled to penetrate and produce from
multistacked reservoirs. The replication
of such practices may result in missing
the reservoir target because of the high
potential of reservoir discontinuity.
Because the reservoir dipping angle is
approximately 15, and to achieve data
gathering on the latest fluid contacts,
the project team decided to land the well
inside the gas zone, close to the existing drainage point, followed by drilling
along the reservoir dip to penetrate gas/
oil contacts (GOCs), oil columns, and the
oil/water contacts.

Technology Approach
A new concept of deep-reservoir-mapper
measurement that is sensitive to multilayer boundaries provides early warning

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


signs to geosteering operations in evaluating the borehole position and also

proactively proposes the required steering adjustment. This measurement concept, using multiple receivers spaced at
specific distances, was able to delineate
reservoir structure in larger scale within 30 m true vertical depth (TVD) perpendicular to the tool axis. Because of
the large depth of investigation, the tool
also provides high assurance in optimizing the landing section. The tools raw
measurements will be converted to advanced interpretation with an interpretation software that enables fast automatic
real-time inversion methods. Fig. 1 shows
the new generation of deep-reservoirmapper tool introduced in this project.

T-Field prejob modeling was performed
and simulations were conducted on the
basis of the properties of the offset wells.
All nearby offset wells were squared and
forward modeled to evaluate the selected measurement response. The original
logs were properly squared and represent good formation properties. Forward
models were run to generate modeledlog data from entered squared logs. In
the prejob stage, the forward model was
run along the planned trajectory in the
structure populated with Well A and
Well B offset-well properties, including
gamma ray, resistivity, and neutron density. Synthetic logs were generated after
the forward-modeling step was completed. These were used to populate the
curtain-section structure properties.
Inversion modeling was carried out
along the planned trajectory, focusing on
the production interval from the planned
9-in.-casing-shoe point to the landing
point inside the target reservoir. In general, good resistivity contrast between shale
and sand observed from the offset logs
gave a high resolution of inversion, which
enabled clear multiple-bed-boundary
mapping. The purpose of the modeling
was to identify the detection distance of
the reservoir roof from the tool, in order
for the necessary well-placement work
flow to be planned. The top of the reservoir was mapped within 5 m true vertical
thickness (TVT), and the base of the reservoir was detected within 35 m TVT from
the planned trajectory, with the approach
angle of 63. The model also confirmed


the GOC can be detected 26 m TVT after

the trajectory has penetrated approximately 80-m measured depth (MD) into
the reservoir from the shoe. The expectation of a thinning reservoir was observed
in the simulation model after the inversion mapped the conductive zone within
10 m TVT from the trajectory and delineated a thinning or pinching-out feature.
It was observed that the dip of the top
reservoir increased and became steeper
upon entering the thinning layer.
Close to the toe section, the inversion
was able to map a flat conductive feature
considered to be the expected oil/water
contacts at 10 m TVT from the trajectory.
The TVD resistivity profile was plotted to
quantify the accuracy of the multiple percentiles of inversion.
To anticipate the geological challenge
encountered during the execution phase,
a geological scenario was created to highlight the possibilities of the turbiditechannel setting. By creating this scenario, the appropriate decision would be
taken to follow the allowable dogleg and
estimated MD length to pursue the underneath sand in case of encountering
the pinchout sand.

Drilling Strategy
Before drilling the production zone in the
8-in. section, the 9-in. casing shoe
must be set at a certain TVD at the top of
reservoir, which requires a specific wellplacement work flow for landing in the
12-in. section. The primary objective of
having this work flow (described in detail
in the complete paper) was to ensure the
execution of smooth decision making during the landing operation in order for the
total depth for the casing point to be 5 m
TVT above the target reservoir. This work
flow is followed step by step until the first
key marker is encountered during drilling.
The 8-in.-section-landing work flow
was designed to capture the necessary
work action through tool detection during real-time execution to form a conclusive and determinative (yes-or-no) observation. The main objective was to ensure
that the well is landed on the basis of
the MD length required to meet the gas
column, for production using autogas
lift. For the 8-in. landing, the first step
began after the drilling commenced out of
the casing shoe, followed by the tool identification of the reservoir. The criteria for

detecting the reservoir were set and referenced to the detection of the top sand and
its dip. The trajectory adjustment would
be made with the necessary dogleg and
approach angle depending on the actual
detection criteria. To achieve the minimum gas-column length, a forward projection was established once the tool was
able to detect these criteria.
Implementing the systematic work flow
was the key element in ensuring that the
9-in.-casing point was successfully set
at 6 to 7 m TVT above the reservoir roof.

Reservoir-Mapping Application
Exposed New Unexpected
Steering at the first sand lobe led to a penetration of 73-m MD into the gas cap and
a 170-m-MD interval in the oil-bearing
sand, which already achieved the minimum well objective. After encountering
pinchout sand, the trajectory penetrated
the shale layer. The tool was able to detect
a high-resistivity layer below the trajectory, which led to the discovery of a new
reservoir pool 8 m underneath the trajectory. A sidetrack well was then planned
to penetrate the new reservoir pool. The
sidetrack well drilled a 600-m-MD interval of oil column and successfully doubled
the initial production target of T Field.

Well Performance
The well was completed open hole with
an approximately 150-m-MD standalone
sand screen in the second oil-sand lobes,
and blank pipe was installed near the
upper sand lobes. A swellable packer is
used to provide isolation between the two
zones. The initial production of this well
achieved 1,750 BOPD, a gas/oil ratio of
1,050 scf/STB, and a zero water cut. The
application of the new reservoir-mapper
tool enabled the penetration of two sand
lobes, doubled the targeted initial production rate, and added reserves.

The success of this well revitalization
was attributable to the holistic approach
taken in the planning stage, successful
execution of the work flow, and the application of a new deep-mapper technology that suited the turbidite challenge.
These concepts were formalized in systematic work flows and incorporated
real-timedata. JPT


Use of Modern Reservoir Characterization

in Mature Fields To Unravel Hidden Reserves

his paper discusses the successful,

fully integrated, 3D Earth modeling
(EM) and dynamic reservoir simulation
of the Hollin Formation in the Lago
Agrio Field within an operators first
producer field in Ecuador. Early
feedback of reservoir heterogeneity
helped in understanding key reservoir
issues and developing the methods
undertaken to solve various problems.
The implementation of cuttingedge reservoir-modeling techniques
contributed to improving production
rates and enhancingrecovery.

Available Data
Lago Agrio has features of a mature
field: more than 43 years of production
history, 75% of extracted official reserves P1 and P2 (quantified by the operating company), and a declination from
plateau production of 31%, along with
a steady decline of the field. New drilling and the workover of existing wells
during the reservoir productive life have
not been able to increase production.
Abundant data exist from a number of
wells in the Lago Agrio Field, such as
from conventional-log-suite core analysis, pressure/volume/temperature fluid
tests, pressure buildup, and a broad production history.

Discussion and Results

Sedimentological Model. Several authors define three depositional environments for the sediments of
the Hollin Formation: fluvial, tidaldominated, and shallow marine. However, the thickness and lithofacies of

these intervals vary from field to field. A

sedimentological study was performed
with core data, core descriptions, borehole well logs, and general knowledge of
the OrienteBasin.
Petrophysical-Properties Modeling.
Diagenetic Analysis. X-ray diffraction and scanning-electron-microscope
(SEM) data allow analysis of the mineralogical features in the fluvial, tidal, and
marine intervals of the Hollin formation. In the fluvial/tidal Hollin interval,
it is observed that quartz is the predominant mineral, followed by clay minerals;
calcite and illite minerals were observed
toward the top. The most common clay
mineral is vermicular kaolinite. Siliceous cement was observed in patches.
Toward the top, evidence of calcareous
cement is shown. Meanwhile, in the marine Hollin interval, the predominance
of glauconite and a significant percentage of ankerite are observed.
The existing differential diagenesis between the fluvial/tidal and marine units markedly affects the textural
characteristics of the rock and the relationship of flow/storage capacity; therefore, it becomes extremely important
to model permeability and rock types
(RTs) separately for these units.
Porosity Correction. Porosity measurements on core plugs were conducted by various methods and at various
pressure confinements. This generated
the need to standardize the information
before it was used to compare with logs
and create models of RTs. In the first instance, net confinement pressures were

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights
of paper SPE 177195, Application of Modern Reservoir Characterization in Mature
Fields To Unravel Hidden Reserves, by M. Rodriguez, F. Abad, L. Rodriguez, and
J. Gaibor, Halliburton, and M. Moran and A. Verdezoto, Petroamazonas, prepared
for the 2015 SPE Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference,
Quito, Ecuador, 1820 November. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

calculated for each reservoir. Then, with

the help of the rock-compressibility
analysis from a neighboring analog
field, the pore volumes were normalized, obtaining porosity changes per
each confining-pressure increase.
Once core porosity was corrected,
the log-core calibration was achieved.
The best porosity estimation is given
by density neutron because it evidences clay content and calcareous
Permeability and Rock-Typing
Models. In the fluvial/tidal Hollin, the
integration of capillary pressure and
a Winland R35 plot suggests the existence of five RTs that influence fluid
flow (four reservoir rocks and one
caprock). By use of statistical analysis, porosity windows were established,
which define the boundaries for each
In the marine Hollin, scarce core
permeability/porosity and no capillary pressure limit the rock-typing approach. A straightforward permeability/
porosity relationship represents the
absolute-permeability model. However,
the effective-porosity distribution and
pore diameter from the SEM were analyzed to obtain thresholds to discretize
flow units. Using this approach, three
RTs were identified (two reservoir rocks
and one caprock).
Permeability and rock-typing models
for fluvial/tidal and marine Hollin intervals honor the diagenesis differences analyzed from mineralogicalinformation.
3D Geocellular Model. 3D Petrofacies Modeling. In facies modeling, it
is important to consider as inputs RTs,
vertical proportional maps, facies variogram parameters, and depositional
environments, out of a total of 33 sedimentological environments. The grid
was oriented from east to west. However, a new vision of the depositional-

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Hollin ReservoirLago Agrio Field


Initial oil-production rate (BOPD)













Cumulative oil for new well:

1.2 million bbl

History Data
















Fig. 1Vintage analysis: (a) initial-rate estimation; (b) cumulative oil production per well.

pathway direction governed the geobodies orientation.

3D Porosity Modeling. The porosity
model is linked to a petrofacies model
(RT) because each has a different range
of estimated porosity that is populated in the grid. EM allows for each
RT and for each grid interval, to allow
choosing the corresponding variogram

Upscaling Challenge. Ideally, a finelayering model would represent the entire reservoir-heterogeneity spectrum
for a geocellular model. However, in
practice, such an approach is not valid
because of simulation time constraints.
It is strategic for properties propagation
to keep the x, y grid size of 100100m
while varying the vertical resolution.
This grid size honors the lateral strati-

graphical changes from sedimentological interpretation.

The variation of vertical resolution
is always approached by a fine-layering
condition (1 ft). Nevertheless, the simulation time consumption constrains such
an attempt; therefore, an upscaling approach is pursued. During the upscaling
process, only two reservoir heterogeneities were visualized, gigascopic scale

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and macroscopic scale. The production

performance indirectly implies all of the
reservoir-heterogeneity contributions,
and then honoring such performance by
layering definition ensures a successful
upscaling process.
Uncertainty Analysis. To quantify
the risk during variable prediction, an
uncertainty analysis is applied. EM provides advantages for calculating statistical uncertainty maps.
For discrete variables, such as RT, the
software provides the most-probable
facies grid. In this project, the mostprobable 3D facies grid for the Hollin
reservoir was determined using a total of
30 facies realizations.
P1, P2, and P3 Reserves Map. With
the scope of reducing uncertainty associated with the upscaled model, a new
fine-layering grid (1-ft thickness) for all
intervals of the Hollin reservoir was created. A new volumetric quantification of
the original oil in place was performed
without including the net-to-gross ratio
and considering three different areas for
the calculation: P1 as proven, P2 as probable, and P3 as possible.
Blind Test With LGA-60. Because all
geocellular models have uncertainty, it

Technical Papers
The complete SPE technical
papers synopsized in this
issue are available free to
SPE members for 2 months

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is necessary to demonstrate their effectiveness for prediction. Therefore, in

this project, a blind test with Well
LGA-60 was performed for porosity.
To achieve such a comparison, porosity from the log was compared with that
modeled on an xy plot at the same interval depth. For each interval, marine,
tidal, and fluvial Hollin are discriminated. The results showed a correlation coefficient of 52, 55, and 72%, respectively.
The correlation coefficients for marine
and tidal Hollin indicate an important
stratigraphic component to be improved
in this model. Nevertheless, it is considered to be acceptable.
Reservoir and Dynamic Model. The
complete paper represents a work flow
for identifying the remaining reservoir opportunities for enhancing efficiency and increasing the hydrocarbonproduction rate.
Initialization. The initialization of
the Hollin reservoir model began by
analyzing grid construction, fluid/rock
properties, and water/oil contact.
History Matching. The reservoirintegrated outcomes showed common solutions and good practice that
allowed fully representing the poremedium heterogeneities and optimizing
The time was constrained up to October of 2014. The pressure and fullfield production had an excellent adjustment of 98%, as well as the water- and
oil-production rates. The dynamic
model replicated the pressure performance and water breakthrough for the
Vintage Analysis. The initial oil-rate
estimation was taken from historical data
in which initial oil-production rate was
declined to the current date. For different
scenarios (P10, P50, and P90), the initial
oil rate declined from the beginning at
almost 90%. This might be related to a
skin formation, such as fines migration
blocking the pore throats and causing the
accelerated oil rate to decline with an increase in water cut. This scenario could
be optimal for applying new technology
to mitigate such effects (Fig. 1a).
The vintage analysis estimates the cumulative oil production (Np) for a new
well. Using the Np and remaining oil reserves (active producer wells), the data

then were gathered by a drilling campaign. Such analysis showed an average

Np of approximately 1.2 million STB for
a new well (Fig. 1b).
Recognizing the Volumetric Potential. On the basis of remaining oil reserves, this stage defined the potential
targets to be drilled. According to the
Np, the current recovery factor per interval was defined under the current
production scheme (100% pumping).
Even though the primary drive mechanism is a bottom-water drive with a
strong aquifer, the recovery factor for
Hollin was low (17% average).
For choosing potential areas surrounded by drained zones, the
opportunity-index (OI) approach was
implemented, which is composed of
static and dynamic variables. This technique allows the generation of OI maps
discretized for the tidal and fluvial intervals. These maps clearly highlight the
low- and high-potential areas caused by
rock heterogeneity and dynamic parameters. The white and green colors indicate a high OI associated with good rock
properties and a highly moveable oil volume, which helps ensure maximum production andrecovery.
Analyzing the main intervals, it is noticeable that tidal Hollin displayed two
target zones (one to the north and one
to the south). On the other hand, the
fluvial interval of Hollin does not spotlight potential targets because of early
Once the main targets were identified
by OI maps, each prospective well was
evaluated in the simulation model considering a minimum drainage radius of
500 m, based on regulations.
For ranking well prospects, it is important to analyze the cumulative oil by well
in addition to the probabilistic reserves
types. Under this scope, a 66% probability existed for volumetricsuccess.
The synergy of an appropriate interpretation for the Lago Agrio Field by
use of innovative reservoir characterization allowed foreseeing new opportunities for production increases in a
mature field. These characterizations
included geological knowledge investment, remaining-oil-zone detection, increase of new outside area for drilling to
the west, and the possibility of enhancing oil recovery.JPT



Well Integrity and Well Control

Otto Luiz Alcantara Santos, SPE, Consultant

One of the more important aspects of

well integrity during drilling operations
is early kick detection. When an unintentional flow of the formation fluid into
the wellbore occurs during conventional
drilling operations, it must be detected
promptly and the flow must be stopped,
normally by closing the well. The early
detection is crucial in minimizing the
influx size. When the amount of formation fluid inside the well is large, especially if it is gas, the pressure inside the
well will be higher during the subsequent
well-control operations. This can lead to
an increase in time to control the well
or even to a worse situation: the loss of
control. Another concern may be the
amount of formation fluid to be handled
at surface. Deepwater, high-pressure/
high-temperature, and slimhole drilling
are situations where early kick detection

Recently, new technologies

and research have been
applied or developed to
improve the kick-detection
systems and to overcome
some of the difficulties.
The early kick detection is accomplished with a rig equipped with the
appropriate kick-detection sensors and
alarms and with a rig crew trained in
quickly recognizing a kick and in the
shut-in procedures. However, there are
situations where early kick detection
becomes more problematicfor example, when operating on a floating rig
because of its motions, when using nonaqueous drilling fluids because of gas solubility, or during connections.

Otto Luiz Alcantara Santos, SPE, is an independent consultant

and instructor of well-control and advanced well-construction
technologies. During almost 40 years, he worked as a Petrobras
well-construction engineer. Santos holds a BS degree in civil
engineering and an MS degree in petroleum engineering from
the Colorado School of Mines and a PhD degree in petroleum
engineering from Louisiana State University. He was also a faculty member at the University of Tulsa in 1994. Santos has written several technical papers in well-construction technology, especially on well
integrity and directional and horizontal drilling. He is the author of the book Well
Control in Drilling Operations and coauthored the book Directional Drilling. Santos is
editor of the SPE book Drilling and Production Operations in HPHT Wells. He was an
SPE Distinguished Lecturer for 20092010. Santos is the current program chairperson of the SPE Bahia/Sergipe Section and has served or is currently serving on several SPE committees. He is also a member of the JPT Editorial Committee. In 2010,
Santos received the International Association of Drilling Contractors Exemplary
Service Award. He can be reached at


Recently, new technologies and research have been applied or developed to

improve the kick-detection systems and
to overcome some of the difficulties. To
cite just a few examples,
Development of automated kickdetection systems (one of the papers
summarized here addresses kick
detection during connections)
Kick detection just above the
bit using logging-while-drilling
Kick detection using wired
Research on the effect on kick
detection of gas solubility in
nonaqueous drilling fluids
(mineraloil, paraffin, ester, and
The use of managed-pressuredrilling systems (one of the papers
recommended for additional
reading comments on the advantage
of this technology in reducing the
kick size)JPT

Recommended additional reading

at OnePetro:
SPE/IADC 173153 A Barrier-Analysis
Approach to Well-Control Techniques
by D. Fraser, Argonne National Laboratory,
et al.
SPE 180047 Impact of New and
Ultrahigh-Density Kill Fluids on Challenging
Well-Kill Operations by T. Rinde, Acona Flow
Technology, et al.
SPE 180053 A Numerical Study of GasKick Migration Velocities and Uncertainty
by K.K. Fjelde, University of Stavanger, et al.


Mitigating Gas in Riser Rapid Unloading

for Deepwater Dual-Gradient Well Control

n deepwater dual-gradient wells,

if gas comes into the riser, a rapid
unloading event may occur if removal
of the gas is not carried out properly.
Oil-based muds (OBMs) present an
evengreater challenge when compared
with water-based muds (WBMs) to
avoid gas in riser events. A study using
a dynamic multiphase-flow software
simulated a rapid-unloading event
and determined the gas fraction in the
riser annulus and the effect on riser

Case Description
and Model Verification
Several researchers have run field tests
to study rapid unloading of gas in deepwater risers. These tests used WBMs;
there are no comparable data from tests
using OBMs.
Previous papers described the results from field tests of procedures
for handling various well-control scenarios in a dual-gradient drilling application. The test well is a vertical well
located in 1,214 ft of water. The dualgradient drilling system being tested
is a controlled-mud-level-type system,
so the level of mud in the riser is used
to achieve the dual-gradient effect. The
riser mud level was lowered 328 ft below
the Kelly bushing. Mud used during the
test was 8.91-lbm/gal WBM, with a plastic viscosity of 9.0cp and a yield point of
21lbf/100ft2. The drillstring mud-pump
rate was 660gal/min, and a top-fill pump
flowing at 158 gal/min injected mud at the
top of the riser.

Several different procedures were

tested; however, Test 5 produced a rapid
unloading of the riser. 550 lbm of nitrogen gas was injected through the drillstring and circulated into the riser. This
gas bubble was then pumped up the riser
with an open blowout preventer (BOP).
This study uses a dynamic multiphaseflow software to reproduce the standpipe pressure and surface liquid rate
in this test. The simulated standpipepressure trend matches the recorded
data very well. The first field observation was of a small spray of mud,
which most likely came from the top-fill
pump as the air in the riser was pushed
out by the mud and gas injected into the
riser. The next field observation noted a
fountain of mud with a height of approximately 33 ft. Calculations show a maximum fluid velocity of 46 ft/sec, while
the simulation results show a 49-ft/sec
maximum mud velocity. At the moment
of rapid unloading, there are some fractions of free gas coming out with the
drilling fluid.
The field test shows that gas migration
and rapid unloading occur at 35 minutes,
while the simulation shows the event to
be over by 48 minutes. The software was
not able to fully match the exact timing of
the event. However, the simulation was
able to match all the trends in pressure
and velocity involving gas migration and
rapid unloading.
If the riser were shut in to help control
fluid unloading caused by gas in the riser,
water hammer needs to be investigated
to determine if it presents a danger and

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights
of paper OTC 27242, Mitigating Gas in Riser Rapid Unloading for Deepwater DualGradient Well Control, Zhaoguang Yuan and Dan Morrell, Schlumberger; Paul
Sonnemann, Safekick; and Colin Leach, Mulberry Well Systems, prepared for
the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, 25 May. The paper has not
been peer reviewed. Copyright 2016 Offshore Technology Conference. Reproduced

may damage equipment. A discussion of

water-hammer-effect calculation is provided in the complete paper.

Riser Gas-Risk-Mitigation
If the gas comes into the riser with uncontrolled flow, there is a potential for
severe slugging flow that can cause damage to equipment and threaten drilling
crews. The proposed procedure is to constantly apply 250 psi on the top of the
riser during drillpipe connections and
drilling operations. Systems that are able
to provide some top pressure on a marine riser include, but are not limited
to, gas-handler systems and managedpressure-drilling (MPD) systems. Pressures of 600 to 700psi can be applied to
The common thread between the gashandler and MPD systems is the ability to
impose a limited amount of backpressure
upon the riser and to be able to circulate
the content of the riser through a surface
choke. For the case where zero or small
backpressure is applied, there is the potential for rapid unloading of the riser
when gas approaches the surface.
It is not possible to impose a pressure greater than 2,000 psi on a marine
riser system because the riser is a largediameter, low-pressure vessel. In addition, if there is a weighted mud within
the riser providing a significant portion
of this riser rated pressure in the form
of a differential pressure to the outside
seawater, the pressure that can be imposed at the top of a marine riser without causing damage may be reduced to
approximately 600 to 700 psi. There is
no significant benefit in applying surface
backpressure greater than 250 psi for
small influx. The mitigation approaches
are, thus, usually limited to the use of approximately 200 to 300 psi of backpressure at the top of a riser. One proposed
practice is to maintain this backpres-

The complete paper is available for purchase at OnePetro:



gas separator and then back to the rig

The procedure that was simulated involved closing the BOP once the gas was
circulated into the riser. Drilling fluid
was pumped into the riser annulus at
a rate of 160 or 250 gal/min through a
booster line for WBM. A different pump
rate was needed for OBM as the gas top
approached the surface and started to
break out. The pump rate was stepped
down further to 42 gal/min to safely circulate the gas out.

Surface Maximum Liquid Rate (gal/min)



160 gal/min, WBM


250 gal/min, WBM

160 gal/min, OBM

Dual-Gradient Drilling-Riser
Gas-Handling Study

42 gal/min, OBM






Influx Volumes (bbl)

Fig. 1Maximum liquid rate.

sure constant from the start of circulation through the booster line. Without
proactive use of backpressure, events can
occur very rapidly when gas approaches surface, making proper intervention
more difficult.

The goal of such mitigation is to control and handle limited volumes of hydrocarbon within the marine riser.
These generally small volumes are handled by circulating through a choke, with
returns then being routed to a mud-


We Can.
your challenges are unique and
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dedicated to focusing on 
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With the previously described riser-gas

risk-mitigation technique, a simulation
was conducted to determine the effectiveness for different influx volumes.
This typical Gulf of Mexico well has a seawater depth of 8,000 ft. The total depth
is 31,000 ft. The reduced mud level is
660 ft. The subsea pump is positioned at
a depth of 1,300 ft. In a normal drilling
process, the pump rate is 600 gal/min.
In the simulation, the influx volumes
at the bottom of the hole are 1, 5, 10,

20, and 30 bbl of dry gas. The gas entered the wellbore at the hole bottom in
5 minutes when the circulation rate was
600 gal/min. A pressure of 250 psi was
constantly applied at the top of the riser
throughout the simulation. When the
tail of gas entered the riser, the pump
rate was reduced to 250 or 160gal/min
and kept constant until the gas was completely circulated out. To safely handle riser gas when using OBM in the
simulation, the flow rate is reduced to
42 gal/min when gas starts to break
out as it approaches the surface. Fig. 1
shows the results of the simulation. The
blue line represents when the gas entered the riser; the pump rate was reduced to 160 gal/min and kept constant
until the gas was completely circulated
out. The dark red line represents the
same methodology as the blue line except that the pump rate was reduced to
250 gal/min. The green line represents
the same methodology as the blue line
except that the drilling fluid was OBM.
The purple line represents when the gas
entered the riser; the pump rate was reduced to 160 gal/min. At the moment
gas started to break out, the pump rate

was further stepped down to 42 gal/min

and kept constant until the gas was completely circulated out.
For WBM, the pump rates of 160 and
250 gal/min are both safe to handle the
gas inside the riser. However, for OBM,
it is very challenging to handle gas in
the riser at a pump rate of 160 gal/min. A
liquid rate of 9,019 gal/min is seen at the
surface. When the pump rate was slowed
down to 42 gal/min, the maximum liquid rate was 1,374 gal/min for a 30-bbl
influx. The peak surface liquid rate and
gas rate last only 2 minutes, which is
safe for a gas separator to handle.
To investigate the effect of surface
backpressure on peak liquid rate and
gas rate during riser gas handling, pressures of 0 to 600 psi were applied on
the top of the riser for a 10-bbl influx with a pump rate of 160 gal/min.
The maximum liquid rate and gas rate
are extremely high if there is no backpressure applied. With 250-psi surface
backpressure, the liquid rate and gas
rate can be handled safely. With surface
backpressure higher than 250 psi, there
is no significant benefit for riser-gas

SPE Canada Unconventional

Resources Conference

The results of a conventional drillingriser gas-handling study are described in

the complete paper.


A multiphase model is verified with

field data and is able to reproduce
observed trends for riser-gas
migration in deepwater applications.
The results are particularly useful for
deepwater-well OBM scenarios.
The water-hammer effect does
not contribute significantly high
pressure when closing the riser
during rapid unloading.
For deepwater riser-gas risk
mitigation, WBM is easier to handle
than OBM when using constant
pump rate.
Conventional deepwater drilling
and dual-gradient drilling show the
same trend and magnitude of gas
rate and liquid rate on surface when
handling gas in the riser.
The proposed procedure to apply
surface backpressure proactively
can be useful in safely handling
riser gas when using either WBM

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Next-Generation Kick Detection

During Connections

t least 25% of all influx events

on deepwater wells occur while
making connections, but few deepwaterrig contractors use kick-detection
alarms to alert the driller during a
connection. Because of the transientflow characteristics associated with
connections, kick detection during
connections is the most challenging
to automate effectively. An influxdetection-at-pumps-stop (IDAPS)
software was developed to provide
early warning of abnormal flowback
conditions during connections.

IDAPS-Software-Development Process.
The software-development program included the following six steps.
1. Definition of functional requirements
and performance objectives and establishment of performance metrics. The
influx-detection requirements for IDAPS
software as defined by the operator as follows are detailed in the complete paper.
Provide reliable influx alarms for all
historical connection events.
Estimate influx volume for all highconfidence influx alarms.
Provide clear, brief explanations for
data indicating influx alarms.
Detect and provide alarm messages
for possible sensor problems.
2. Collection of data and labeling
ground truth. The historical data sets
consisted of time-tagged values (at 1or 5-second sampling rate) of bit depth,
hole depth, flow in, flow out, and pit volume for approximately 30 wells drilled
over a large range of depth intervals and
drilling conditions. Later in the IDAPS
development process, a few blind data
sets were also provided to validate the
performance derived from the historical data sets. The provided data included
recorded examples for more than 3,000
pumps-off events. However, only 10 of
these pumps-off events included a detected influx. Therefore, the most important limitation of the historical data in
the software-development program was
the limited number of verified connection kicks detected after pumps off.

3. Development of an algorithm approach to meet objectives. IDAPS software was required to process data in a
fully automated mode of operation. The
operators stringent performance objectives therefore required a processing design that was robust against often highly
erratic or confounding data. Elements
of the software-design approach that
directly addressed these important requirements included the following.
A suite of more than 30 patternrecognition algorithms to
detect data-validity issues and
automatically reject and archive
egregious data issues detected in
real time
Separate analysis of segmented
temporal patterns in both pit
volume and flow out
Optimal trend-detection processing
based on cumulative comparison to
temporally dependent limits derived
for each of the segmented features
Statistical analysis of data for each
pumps-off event and recent previous
pumps-off events to calculate
temporal dependent-pattern limits
that have well-understood statistical
relevance for influx detection
Feature fusion techniques that
permit detection on the basis of
single-sensor behavior as well as
joint-sensor characteristics
4. Development of early prototypes
and performance assessment.
5. Conversion of prototypes to an
RTOC application and beyond.
6. Modification on the basis of software user feedback.

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights
of paper SPE 178821, Next-Generation Kick Detection During Connections: InfluxDetection-at-Pumps-Stop Software, by B.A. Tarr, SPE, D.W. Ladendorf, SPE, and
D. Sanchez, Shell, and G.M. Milner, SPE, CoVar Applied Technologies, prepared
for the 2016 IADC/SPE Drilling Conference and Exhibition, Fort Worth, Texas, USA,
13March. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

IDAPS-Software Processing Description. The general processing approach

is as follows:
Data for pumps-off occurrences are
detected, aligned, and saved over a
user-specified maximum monitoring
interval as unique events.

On the basis of an internal review of
kick-detection technology, an operator
determined that three different wellconstruction activities must be included
in any automated, smart kick-detection
system: drilling, making connections,
A multiyear effort was initiated in 2012
to develop an automated kick-detection
system specific to connections. This effort resulted in the development of the
IDAPS software that is now in daily use
in the operators real-time operations
centers (RTOCs), where it is part of the
routine suite of monitoring programs
used during the well-construction phase
of offshore wells. Most existing influxor kick-detection systems designed for
RTOC users require frequent interaction
with a knowledgeable user, but the IDAPS
application was designed to require only
minimal interaction to automatically detect connection-related possible influxes, with an associated influx probability

from low to confirmed, and to alert RTOC

users in real time.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Fig. 1IDAPS Monitoring display.

Recent valid data patterns are used

to calculate acceptable limits for
normal events.
Pattern-recognition algorithms are
applied to detect data-validity issues
and report these to users as well as

remove invalid data as templates in

setting thresholds.
Statistically meaningful and
sustained deviations from normal
threshold limits result in warning

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Advanced signal processing and

four-feature fusion are designed not
only to minimize false alarms and
maximize detection performance
but also to allow influx detection for
larger single-feature excursions.
The final decision variable is
compared with four different
thresholds generally corresponding
to an increasing level of confidence.
Using these confidence thresholds
also results in decreasing the
false-alarm rates for the higherconfidence-level influx alarms.
The IDAPS event-comparison display
is shown automatically at each detected
connection event, while the IDAPS monitoring display always remains accessible.
The monitoring display shows key data
in real time and provides users with an
interface to visually examine and compare data for previous pumps-off events.
As shown in Fig. 1, flow in (top plot),
flow out (middle plot), and pit volume
(bottom plot) are plotted in units selected during setup, and they scroll right to
left with current time. The current date
and time, hole depth, and bit depth are
shown in the top text box. There are four
list boxes on the right of the monitoring
display. The bottom list, containing messages regarding data sample indexing
and event times, is used primarily for development purposes, and may generally
be ignored by the software users. The top


three list boxes contain lists of pumpsoff events with time/depth information.
The top list contains all pumps-off events
detected since the start of IDAPS software, the second-from-top list contains
only those pumps-off events detected
to have some type of data-validity flag,
and the third-from-top list contains only
those pumps-off events with an IDAPSsoftware possible influx detection. Users
may click any event in the three lists to
view the relevant event-comparison display, with the selected event shown as the
most-recent event.
In all three lists, some events may have
color backgrounds corresponding to the
software-determined level of confidence
that the data indicate a possible influx
(light green, low; yellow, medium; orange,
high; and red, confirmed). Also, some
events may have a line through the text.
If a line is drawn through an event in the
list, the data for that event have not been
used to derive normal values or threshold
limits. This indicates that the data for that
event had an auto archive, but do not
use data-validity flag or that the user has
manually removed the data from the list.
At each influx confidence level, a
colored pop-up banner appears at the
front of the event display and, in case
no screen is visible because of computer
sleep mode, the computer begins to beep.
These alarm banners will remain visible
and the audible beeping will continue
until the user clicks OK to acknowledge
the confidence-level banner. Banners are
color coded to convey the level of confidence or influx probability.
If a lower-level alert has been acknowledged and is no longer visible, and the influx confidence increases to a higher level,
a new banner is issued and the computer
resumes beeping until the new banner is
acknowledged. The two highest-level banners, high and confirmed, include an estimate of the influx volume.
System Statistical Performance Based
on Historical Data. A portion of the historical data provided by the operator was
used routinely to assess the effects of
software design changes and to ensure
that the key performance metrics of concern remained at values that were in close
agreement with the operators requirements. A standard IDAPS test set was obtained from 17 wells, and these data in-


cluded pumps-off events with verified or

strongly suspected influx events during
connections, as well as more than 1,300
pumps-off events that had no influx patterns. A discussion of the software statistical performance based on historical
data is detailed in the complete paper.
RTOC Testing and Rollout of Software.
The operators RTOC functional goals
Proactively improving project
delivery; performance; drilling
costs; health, safety, and
environmental factors; and
operational excellence
Enabling collaboration between the
Capitalizing on new
communications technology
To ensure alignment with these goals,
the RTOC testing included both functional and nonfunctional testing elements.
Functional Testing. The functional
testing was broken down into four components: unit testing, integration testing,
system testing, and acceptance testing,
executed in that order.
During this functional-testing phase,
the software was used to monitor multiple offshore rigs, including floaters and
tension-leg platforms. Testing was validated by the real-time monitoring engineers assigned to each of the rigs and by
the real-time pore-pressure-prediction
team. The software is now in daily use
monitoring multiple offshore wells.
Nonfunctional Testing. The nonfunctional testing involved testing the IDAPS
application against the business requirements and involved measuring/testing
the application against defined technical
qualities. The three main components of
the nonfunctional testing were
Performance, load, and stress
End-user usability testing
Operating-system compatibility

Simply look deeper.
BOHRIS offers:
> Comprehensive well data management
> Standardized visualization of schematics
including well barrier schematics
> Precise calculation of safe well operating
pressures for specific well completion
> Options to consider casing pressure
derating through specified wall thickness

Realized Benefits of Using the Application. The software now provides a tool
for RTOC engineers to monitor connections and other pumps-off events consistently for any sign of an influx (in some
cases, before the rig team will see any
deviation large enough to trigger a response on the rig). JPT

Methodology and Array Technology for

Finding and Describing Leaks in a Well

his paper presents a new technology

and methods that can detect leak
locations in a well and illustrate the flow
profile of the leak. A substantial amount
of time and effort can be expended
in repairing leaks in wells, and these
methods can reduce that time. The
paper shows results and compares them
to those of other techniques for a well
that had been shut in as a result of a
small leak.

Leak Source (x,y)

Noise tools have been used to detect
the sound of leak flow to provide an
estimated description on the basis of
the magnitude of the noise and the frequency properties. Typically, these tools
consisted of one hydrophone or receiver that was limited to frequency and
information recorded. The majority of
these tools provided stationary measurements that can reduce the optimum
intercept of leak or leaks. Many new calculations have been performed that have
improved these results; nonetheless,
they can still be hampered by physical
properties of sound conveyance through
layers of hardware or changes in the
structure of the well.
During the last few decades, advancements in passive acoustic devices have
included broadening measurements, improving quality, and increasing the observed aspects of the measurements.
Meanwhile, minimal advancements have
been realized in the oil industry for leak/
flow detection or characterization. The
oil industry needed a device that could
accurately locate and characterize leaks













Fig. 1Illustration of a leak source and how a seven-sensor linear array would
measure the differences in the timing (t) or phase shift of the waveforms.

and flow behind pipe to reduce risks

and nonproductive time. To improve the
multiplicity of the sound measurement
originating from fluid and gas movement, an array of hydrophone sensors
was researched and tested to develop
new relationships and characterization
possibilities. The acoustic linear array
with distributed hydrophone sensors
could be synchronized to obtain information emanating from a flow source
and fused together to obtain new insight
into leaks and flow characterization.

Localization by Use of an Array

One aspect of this new approach is based
on a theory of beam forming in which

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Chris Carpenter, contains highlights of
paper SPE 181497, Methodology and Array Technology for Finding and Describing
Leaks in a Well, by Freeman Hill, Halliburton; Andy Bond, Caelus Energy Alaska;
and Michael Biery, Srinivasan Jagannathan, Darren Walters, and Yinghui Lu,
Halliburton, prepared for the 2016 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition,
Dubai, 2628 September. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

multiple measurements or waveforms

are used to localize the leak or flow
in radial distance and vertical depth
in the wellbore or surrounding region.
Through beam forming, simultaneous
estimates of vertical and radial location
can be made of the sound source. This is
achieved by calculating the time delay or
phase shift between the sensors using a
cross-correlation technique. Fig. 1 illustrates an acoustic source and array and
shows how a basic beam-forming process
functions under free-space conditions.
Array processing and beam forming
are performed using the frequency domain in part based on spatial filtering
algorithms. Beam-forming calculations
create a 2D energy-distribution map over
the area of interest. For the localization
estimate, the radial and vertical components focus on the highest energy assessment. This method is used to determine
real-time radial and vertical location
while logging and in post-processing by
use of high-definitiondata.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Without an array, determining the leak

location with frequency and magnitude
alone can sometimes be misleading. In
experiments, it was found that sound
traveling through a wellbore structure
can be dispersed and shows greater magnitude and frequency in a region different from the actual source.
Data fusion using beam-forming methodology provides additional details about
the leak. With the 2D energy-distribution
map of the data created by beam forming, the shape and flow profile of the
sound sources can be illustrated.
Beam forming also offers another benefit because it provides phase-shift information on each sensor with respect to the
source. The signals from the array can
be phase corrected to be fused together
to represent the acoustic source, significantly increasing quality by boosting the
signal/noise ratio.

Field Application
A well at the Oooguruk field on the Alaskan North Slope had just initiated gas lift
after flowing naturally for approximately
1 year. In monitoring the well, it was observed that a leak had formed between
Annulus A (IA) and Annulus B (OA). Gas
lifting operations ceased, and the task
of finding the problem was initiated. Gas
lift operations could not continue with
elevated pressure on OA. The deviated
15,636-ft (measured depth) well presented 4-in. tubing, 7-in. casing, 9-in. intermediate casing, 11-in. surface casing, and 16-in. conductor. IA consisted
of a pressure of 940 psi, whereas OA was
bled off to 370 psi, creating a pressure
difference of 570 psi. Six days were required for OA to build back up to 940psi,
demonstrating a 95-psi/D leak on average. There was no means to estimate or
measure the volume exchanged; however, the recharging had relatively little
effect on the pressure in IA, indicating a
small gas leak.
Field operations began gathering information to ascertain the location of
the leak. Several different pressure tests
were completed on the various annuli and tubing. The tubing and OA were
confirmed to have integrity. IA was confirmed to leak to OA only. On the basis of
the speed of the leak, it was speculated
that the leak was quite shallow. Additional information confirming the leak from


IA to OA was the buildup of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas in OA. Because the lift gas
used contains as much as 100 ppm H2S, it
can actually act as a tracer for gas leaks.
A better logging tool was needed to attempt to further confirm the leak and to
identify, as closely as possible, the depth
at which the leak was occurring.
An array acoustic-measuring device
was used to gather information about
the well in an attempt to locate the leak.
First, planning had to be performed to
ensure optimal probabilities of detecting the leak during the logging process.
The leak would be stimulated with pressure and flow being applied from surface. The maximum pressure to be applied at the surface was approximately
1,900 psi in IA. Gas was to be applied,
and then the steps would be repeated
with diesel.
The operation included setting a temporary tubing plug at 11,363 ft, along
with filling the tubing with diesel. Gas
was pumped into IA, and OA was bled off
and allowed to flow into a gas-recovery
system, thus stimulating the leak. A temperature log was run down, which is always beneficial to help verify what other
data are showing. The well was logged
up at 20 ft/min from 10,202 ft, maintaining a pressure of approximately
1,900 psi on IA through pumping efforts.
From the logging information, areas
of interest were marked for follow-up
From the initial runs, areas were identified for further investigation for stationary readings and additional analysis. These areas were 11,287 ft; 4,700 to
5,500 ft; 3,200 ft; 2,000 ft; and near the
surface at 32 ft. The location at 11,287ft
was quickly identified as a gas lift mandrel (GLM), and, with slickline, the
dummy valve was replaced. On relogging this area, the small leak into the tubing from the GLM was repaired. In addition, the areas of interest at 3,200 ft and
2,000 ft became quiet with this repair,
confirming that they were related to the
flow to and through the GLM.
The gas was replaced with diesel as
the stimulating fluid for the leak. The
areas of interest were revisited under
these new conditions to gather information. Stationary measurements were
also made, with an extended stop at
32 ft. Heightened activity was observed

repeatedly at 32 ft, but, being so near

to the surface and with elevated background noise, the dynamic-logging
pass could not triangulate on a reliable
radial pick in this area. However, the
extended real-time stationary measurement showed a more reliable radial pick,
indicating flow in OA.
The area between 4,700 and 5,500 ft
proved to be nonrelenting. It exhibited very small noise traces over a long
interval in all passes. A 2D flow map
was created to help with the interpretation. This was a leak from IA into the
inner tubing. On closer examination, the
source appears to be tubing-thread leaks
because the length of interval is indicative of a crew-shift change. In this well,
this is not an issue because the leak flow
was extremely low. In adjacent wells,
tubing-thread leaks have been an issue.
The area of interest at 32 ft showed
the most promise for the 95-psi leak. The
2D-flow-map modeling algorithms were
used and indicated an active leak. The
process can reduce outside influences
from noise not associated with the leak
itself. A 2D flow map was created, which
obtained a good representation of the
leak flow path from IA to OA. An audio
record from processed frequency information of the raw leak noise alone with
no other background noise was created
that provided another confirmation of
the leak.
The leak was concluded to be a potential thread leak near the casing hanger
in the well. Options to repair the well include attempting to place a gas-sealing
liquid that can penetrate the threads,
and the more-expensive option of completing an extensive rig workover. The
current plan is to attempt to use the lessexpensive liquid material.

The hydrophone array provides new
aspects to the measurement and better characterization of the leak or flow
behind pipe. Through research and experimental data, new relationships and
correlations have been developed to determine the location of the leak accurately in real time. Fusing data by use of
beam-forming techniques improves data
quality and provides a means for creating a 2D energy-distribution map of the
sound being monitored. JPT



Decommissioning and Abandonment

Win Thornton, SPE, Vice President of Decommissioning, Global Projects Organization, BP

Is there a value proposition for

Our industry is governed by rules that
require cleanup and closure of oil and
gas facilities after they cease to produce.
Unlike a capital project, decommissioning is not something that you can choose
to do or not to do. The choices for a
decommissioning project are really when
and how, with a resulting how much?
The when typically defaults to not
now, representing a belief that deferral results in the lowest cost outcome. Is
not now really the value proposition
for decommissioning?
I assert that the value proposition
for decommissioning is really one of

Unlike a capital project,

decommissioning is not
something that you can
choose to do or not to do.
value retention through proactive latelife planning. Perhaps a suitable time
frame to invoke a value metric is when
the remaining hydrocarbon value equals
the estimated decommissioning costs.
Good planning decisions would then balance capturing the remaining hydrocarbons with delivering a cost-effective
decommissioning project. The goal then
becomes maintaining this value equilib-

Win Thornton, SPE, is vice president of decommissioning, global

projects organization, at BP. He has more than 35 years of experience in offshore construction and decommissioning projects
working as an operator for BP, Chevron, and Oxy; as a contractor
from Brown & Root and WorleyParsons; and as a consultant for
Winmar and TST. Thornton holds a BS degree from the Georgia
Institute of Technology and an MS degree from the University of
Houston. His recent work includes offshore decommissioning
and reuse projects in the Gulf of Mexico, West Africa, California, Alaska, Southeast
Asia, and South America. Thornton has championed the environmentally sound and
cost-effective disposal of obsolete platforms through placement in state-sanctioned
Rigs to Reefs programs. He is a member of the JPT Editorial Committee and can be
reached at


rium; far too often, it is only the remaining hydrocarbons or a deferral that
receives attention. Governance for latelife asset and project planning decisions
could then be tested against maintaining this value equilibrium. For example,
the foresight to select a cessation-ofproduction date to capture a downcycle
decommissioning market could capture
value that would have been lost in a blind
drive to deferral. Like a capital project,
there are a number of early planning
decommissioning activities that can be
deployed to maintain that value equilibrium. Let us consider this value metric
and approach for future decommissioning projects.JPT

Recommended additional reading

at OnePetro:
SPE 180040 Plug-and-Abandonment
Solution for Oilfield Decommissioning in the
North Sea by P. Aguilar, Schlumberger, et al.
OTC 27152 Integrated Decommissioning
Increasing Efficiency by William R. Price,
Oceaneering International, et al.
OTC 27128 Practical Applications
of Structural-Analysis Support to
Decommissioning by Ahmed M.A. Abdelaah,
Atkins Energy, et al.


Risk-Based Abandonment-Prioritization
Strategy for Inactive Subsea Wells

his paper describes how an

company successfully developed
and applied a qualitative risk-based
abandonment-prioritization strategy
for an inventory of inactive subsea wells.
The exercise entailed a qualitativeassessment methodology using 25 wellintegrity-related criteria. An aggregate
of weighted scores was subsequently
applied to the companys corporate
risk-assessment matrix on the basis
of the escalation potential in the event
of a loss of containment. The results
clearly highlighted the wells with the

In-House Well

Collate and


25 Metrics

Summing and

Common Data
Oil and Gas UK
Spud Date
Design Life

Subcategory Data

Subcategory Scores

Well History
The inactive subsea wells relevant to the
exercise are distributed across the central
North Sea in water depths ranging from
244 to 474 ft. These normal-pressure/
normal-temperature subsea wells are all
located in the mature UK Central North
Sea offshore basin and were completed in
relatively benign reservoirs with comparatively low corrosionsusceptibility.
Each inactive subsea well evaluated
had functioned earlier in its life as an
oil producer (with gas lift capability),
water injector, or aquifer well. The majority of these subsea wells were shut
in and disconnected from their flowlines and hydraulic-control and dataacquisition systems. However, the wells
physical isolation from the flowlines and
great distance from the host installation meant that they presented negligible safety risks to personnel onboard

of Submetrics

as Proxy for

Mapping Into P&A


as Proxy for

Fig. 1Flow chart illustrating risk-based abandonment-prioritization

methodology. P&A=plug and abandonment.

Because degradation is not driven solely by age, and having recognized that
each well behaves differently, the methodology (Fig. 1) required each well to
be assessed on the basis of evidential
information presented and in accordance with how closely the well followed
the corporate standard ideal integrity
model of its well type. A specific set of
scoring guidelines was developed and

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights
of paper SPE 181020, Risk-Based Abandonment-Prioritization Strategy for Inactive
Subsea Wells, by Abimbola Oladipo, Maersk Oil North Sea UK, and Adrian
Houlbrook, DNV GL, prepared for the 2016 SPE Intelligent Energy International
Conference and Exhibition, Aberdeen, 68 September. The paper has not been

reflected corporate risk-management

protocols to achieve a consistent, fair,
and accurate risk ranking. These guidelines were based on a number of factors, including but not limited to the
technical integrity of key elements, evidential documentation, field service history, incident records, and well-integrity
An initial classification was applied on
the basis of the available design life of
key surface equipment (in this case, subsea horizontal spool trees and wellheads)
and well functionality, thus enabling each
well to be classified broadly into one of
three preliminary-risk-assessment categories: high, medium, or low.
A qualitative approach was adopted
for assigning well-integrity scores by

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


defining five indicative metrics commonly known to affect and be closely

related to the general integrity and reliability of inactive wells: technical, barriers, operational history, cement, and
casing/tubing. To account for the different well functions and the varying levels of criticality of the categories of information, a series of weightings drawn
from internal experience and industry
statistics and based on risk distribution
was devised and grouped under each
A series of design- and conditionbased well-integrity metrics was subsequently defined for each predetermined
indicative metric, after which a qualitative assessment was conducted.
The well-integrity metrics required
that a score between 1 and 10 (where 1 is
the worst score and 10 is the best score)
be assigned to each metric on the basis of
the information available, adequacy for
service, well-integrity history, and fitness
to continue in a shut-in state.

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The product of these metric categoryweighting factors and scores was then
summed to provide a holistic and indicative value representing well integrity and a prioritization category. The
well-integrity scores were incorporated into the companys corporate
risk-assessment process to provide
an indication of the likelihood of loss
of containment.

The assessment presented the affected
wells as having a risk distribution across
the low-to-medium categories in the corporate risk matrix.
Well 18, for instance, was seen to have
a high well-integrity score but was assigned a risk category of medium because of its ability to flow unassisted,
presenting the potential for a major environmental effect in the event of a loss
Well 24 was considered to have the lowest well-integrity score; the age of the well
and the length of time it had remained
shut in were major factors contributing
to the comparatively lowerscore.
Wells with limited information concerning flow potentials were assigned
a more-conservative environmentalconsequence score of 5. Wells in this category that also had low well-integrity
scores were prioritized for plug and
abandonment. Wells 22 through 34
(with the exception of water injectors)
are examples of wells that comparatively
showed the lowest well-integrity scores.
In addition, the majority of the inactive
subsea wells within this group had significant tree-design-life use and varying
extensive well depths with difficult trajectories, causing the scoring system to
consider them by logical assumption to
be more susceptible to length- and wearrelated leak occurrence.
Well 5, a production well that has never
been produced and thus is not an abandonment candidate in the short to medium term, was included in the assessment
in order to establish its risk category
because of its inactive and disconnected status. Its high flow energy meant it
was categorized in the massive environmental consequence cell of the riskassessment matrix.
On the basis of the operational environment, the risk assessment focused

primarily on environmental consequences; however, this could be extended further to include business, assets,
equipment, reputation, and economic consequences. In addition, external
hazards such as diver safety, trawler issues, proximity of neighboring assets,
wellhead fatigue, and their consequential effect, which would determine a
more-absolute rather than relative
risk position, could be considered in
future assessments. In addition, postabandonment data and findings could
be used to revalidate and recalibrate the
model accordingly in the future.

The exercise benefited from both local
and foreign cross-disciplinary input
within the assets and functions teams,
and from corporate contribution,
thus leveraging on the companys cumulative diverse subsea-well experience and jointly serving as a beneficial
knowledge-sharing and management
opportunity. The successful juxtaposition of internal subsea-well experience
with external risk-management expertise increased overall credibility of the
process for stakeholders.
The output from the exercise provided senior management and stakeholders with more confidence and assurance that the inactive-well stock was
being managed within the corporate risk
parameters, local regulations, and prevailing industry standards. In addition,
the validated risk ranking and evaluated
risk exposure that the inactive-well stock
presented to the company became more
visible to stakeholders.
Most importantly, the information
gained proved valuable as one of the
inputs for planning future subsea-well
assurance and abandonment programs
and fed into the long-term plans, enhancing the companys economic management of the inactive-well stock. More
so, the company has now revisited the
strategy for managing subsea wells that
are approaching the end of their economic life in a bid to minimize additional risk. In the long term, the company
can now more effectively and efficiently
target well remedial actions up to and
including plug and abandonment on
the basis of risk, as recommended by


A New Recommended Practice

for Fit-for-Purpose Well Abandonment

NV GL is introducing a new,
risk-based recommended practice
for performing and qualifying well
abandonments titled DNVGL-RP-E103,
Risk-Based Abandonment of Offshore
Wells. Most of the current regulations
use prescriptive requirements for
well-abandonment design and the
necessary plugging operations. As
an alternative to the established onesize-fits-all approaches, the DNV GL
recommended practice analyzes the
abandonment requirements for each
well and field using a quantitative
method that takes into account
subsurface uncertainties.


failure modes
Well-specific input

Geology input

Flow potential

Reservoir, Overburden

Natural resources

Valued ecosystem

Metocean data


There is an ongoing paradigm
shift toward differentiating plug-andabandonment requirements on a wellby-well basis instead of having prescriptive requirements, which not only will
provide the appropriate focus for complex
wells and facilitate development of new
technology but also will potentially reduce
plug-and-abandonment expenditures.
The recommended practice is intended to provide an alternative approach
based on functional requirements and
risk-acceptance criteria to assess abandonment designs. This is consistent with
offshore engineering practice and is intended to facilitate cost-efficient solutions, including the development of new
technology. By calculating the risk levels for the proposed solutions and cross
checking them with the risk-acceptance
criteria, more-cost-effective solutions
can be identified and implemented.

Impact analysis
Risk analysis

Risk evaluation
Risk assessment

Risk context

Qualified wellabandonment

Fig. 1Elements in well-abandonment risk assessment.

Advantages of this approach are that

it has
Explicit criteria for environmental
Plug-and-abandonment spending
focused on higher-risk wells
The ability to optimize wellabandonment design

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights
of paper OTC 27084, Introducing a New Recommended Practice for Fit-for-Purpose
Well Abandonment, by David Buchmiller, SPE, Per Jahre-Nilsen, Stian Stre, and
Eric Allen, SPE, DNV GL, prepared for the 2016 Offshore Technology Conference,
Houston, 25 May. The paper has not been peer reviewed. Copyright 2016 Offshore
Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.

The flexibility to make use of

newplugging technology in the
Site-specific considerations

Methodology, Data,
and Results
The methodology for performing riskbased assessments of well-abandonment
designs is composed of five steps. The
steps are
1. Establishing the risk context
2. Identifying well-barrier-failure
3. Performing a risk analysis
4. Performing a risk evaluation

The complete paper is available for purchase at OnePetro:



5. Conducting qualification for wellabandonment design

Fig. 1 depicts the elements in a wellabandonment risk assessment. Establishing the risk context is the first step
in the process and applies to the entire assessment. The second, third,
and fourth steps are part of the riskassessment process, where the wellabandonment risks are identified, analyzed, and evaluated. At the conclusion
of the risk-assessment process, a qualification of the well-abandonment design
is performed.

Step 1Establishing
the Risk Context
The main input elements that are suggested to be evaluated in the new recommended practice can be grouped within
the following four main categories:
Well-specific data (well design,
wellhistory, and current status)
Geology data (reservoir and
overburden condition)
Environmental data (environmental
Metocean data (ocean
currents,including salinity
andtemperature profiles)
An important part of establishing
the risk context is inspecting the flowpotential sources. An assessment of the
flow potential of individual formations
penetrated by the well is a key to wellabandonment design. A flow potential,
in this context, is defined in the recommended practice as a hydrocarbonbearing formation containing moveable
hydrocarbons sufficient to have a potential environmental or safety effect.
The flow potential for hydrocarbonbearing formations should be categorized on the basis of the maximum anticipated flow potential for the identified
hydrocarbon-bearing formations.
The recommended practice provides
guidance on a secondary aspect when
establishing the risk context: the design
and implementation of permanent well
barriers. The recommended practice
states that the permanent-well-barrier
design should be fit for purpose and take
into account the effects of any reasonably foreseeable chemical and geological
process. A permanent well barrier may
consist of any material or combination


of well-barrier elements as long as it provides the following functionalities:

Withstand the maximum anticipated
combined loads to which it can be
Function as intended in the
environments (pressures,
temperatures, fluids, and
mechanical stresses) that can
beencountered throughout its
Prevent unacceptable
hydrocarbonflow to the external
The permanent-well-barrier design
should be an application of the wellspecific requirements for each flowpotential formation. For hydrocarbonbearing formations with moderate or
significant flow potential, two independent barriers should be included in the
well-abandonment design to increase the
designs reliability. For cases with multiple hydrocarbon-bearing formations, alternative permanent-well-barrier designs
could be established that could fulfill the
abandonment design requirements and
have an acceptable level of risk.

Step 2Identifying the

Failure Modes
Evaluating potential weaknesses in
the well-abandonment design is the
main objective of Step 2. This should
be accomplished by performing a
permanent-well-barrier failure-mode
identification and assessment. In this
process, the well-barrier failure mode
should be identified for the specific permanent well-abandonment design. The
failure-mode identification process
should include
Identification of failure and
degradation mechanisms and
categorization of threats according
to established consequence
Identification of additional threats
related to unique aspects of the wellabandonment design; for example,
o Unique features of the subsurface
under consideration
o Technical or organizational
aspects that are outside the well
operators experience
o Well-completion design and

Identification of interdependencies
between different failure modes
related to failure, including
potential for cascading
Identification of effects that may
increase likelihood of occurrence or
severity of consequences

Step 3Performing
Risk Analysis
Following the well-barrier failure-mode
identification, the recommended practice spells out the method in which the
risk analysis should be performed. The
risk analysis should focus not only on
the permanent well integrity of the abandoned well but also on the associated
health, safety, and environment risks.
The risk-analysis process in the new recommended practice is composed of four
main substeps.
Step 3.1Assessing the Downhole Flow Potential of the WellAbandonment Design. In order to assess the magnitude of the consequence
of potential hydrocarbon flow, detailed
downhole-flow-potential analysis should
be performed to determine the maximum flow potential and hydrocarbon
content and composition in the hydrocarbon-bearing formations penetrated
by the well. The assessment should be
performed using the maximum anticipated flow potential from the identified
Step 3.2Establishing Site-Specific
Environmental and Safety Criteria.
The site-specific environmental criteria
can be established by mapping the valued
ecosystem components around a given
well. The result could be a list and map of
valued ecosystem components and a categorization of theirimportance.
Step 3.3Modeling Dispersion. Dispersion modeling is performed in order
to forecast the transportation and destination of the identified hydrocarbonflow potentials. Such models can calculate and record the distribution (as mass
and concentrations) of hydrocarbons on
the sea surface, in the water column, and
in the sediments, and the results from
the dispersion modeling are used in the
risk analysis.
(Continued on page 76)


Concurrent Decommissioning Method

Enables Safer, Lower-Cost Process

ith regulatory pressure and

the cost of decommissioning
increasing, many operators are seeking
new and better decommissioning
methods that could get more work
done safely and at a lower cost. New
technologies have made possible a
new, optimized decommissioning
methodology. The size and capabilities
ofa newly designed and constructed
liftboat allowed a departure from the
traditional method of performing
decommissioning work steps sequentially
to a new method of performing the
majority of work stepsconcurrently.

A government study and subsequent safety alert following the severe hurricanes
of 2004 and 2005 that toppled 123 structures and 800 wells in the US Gulf of
Mexico outer continental shelf prompted the US Minerals Management Service
to recommend that operators review
and evaluate their inventory of nonproducing wells and facilities to determine
the future utility of these structures and
the level of threat posed to the environment and human safety should a facility experience a catastrophic loss. Following another severe hurricane season
in 2008, when another 200 wells and
54 structures were damaged or toppled,
the US Department of the Interiors Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement issued Notice to
Lessees (NTL) No. 2010-G05, commonly
referred to as the Idle-Iron NTL. This
NTL, for the first time, provided decommissioning guidance for wells and structures on active leases reaching far beyond

the decommissioning requirements codified into law that only required decommissioning within 1 year of lease expiration or lease relinquishment.
The newly issued guidelines specified the maximum number of years that
wells and structures were allowed to remain idle before they had to be decommissioned and removed. Lease operators
now had to decommission and remove
wells and structures no longer useful for
oil and gas production as soon as possible
but no later than 5 years after cessation
Offshore oil-and-gas-facility decommissioning activities are inherently hazardous because they often involve workers performing various tasks in, on, and
around oil and gas wells, platforms, and
production facilities that have no future
utility for hydrocarbon production. Some
of these facilities may have been idle for
many years and could be in various stages of decomposition, depending on their
age and the level of maintenance performed over their life time.
A new, optimized decommissioning
methodology was made possible through
the use of a newly designed and constructed 335-ft-class self-elevating, self-propelled
liftboat. The size and working capabilities
of this new vessel allowed a departure from
the traditional method of performing decommissioning work steps sequentially to
a new method of performing the majority
of work steps concurrently.
Traditional methods for decommissioning offshore facilities at their end
of life typically require multiple (four
to nine) mobilizations of different personnel and equipment spreads, spanning

This article, written by Special Publications Editor Adam Wilson, contains highlights
of paper OTC 26867, Decommissioning-Process Optimization Methodology, by G.L.
Siems, SPE, Petroleum Asset Retirement Specialists, prepared for the 2016 Offshore
Technology Conference, Houston, 25 May. The paper has not been peer reviewed.
Copyright 2016 Offshore Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.

several months or years, to execute all

phases of the decommissioning process.

Traditional Decommissioning
The traditional decommissioning process is composed of multiple phases of
work executed in discrete, sequential
steps performed with as few as two and
as many as nine mobilizations of different, specialized personnel and equipment. Decommissioning programs using
this process often require many weeks or
months to complete the decommissioning of a single structure.
Traditionally, the steps in decommissioning are performed sequentially because most steps require separate, specialized workers or equipment. The
process of conducting the decommissioning steps in this manner consumes operator resources to plan, permit, select
contractors, mobilize to the field, and
then manage each work-scope execution.
Depending on the quantity and experience of an operators internal engineering
and project-management resources along
with contractor availability, the entire decommissioning of a single structure could
take several months to complete.
The costs to perform the many steps of
the decommissioning process using traditional, sequential methods have been
estimated to be as much as USD 4 million
to USD 10 million per structure.

Optimized Decommissioning
The optimized decommissioning model
seeks to eliminate as much of the intangible management time and associated
costs as possible and to reduce the tangible direct costs associated with performing multiple mobilizations of different
equipment and personnel spreads over
potentially long periods of time. By combining as many services as possible into a
single mobilization to the work site, then

The complete paper is available for purchase at OnePetro:



Application and Results

Fig. 1335-ft-class liftboat.


Million USD


Traditional Method
PA Wells245
PA Structures93
USD 409 million

New Method
PA Wells360 (+47%)
PA Structures109 (+17%)
USD 278 million (32%)

Gross USD




Gross Spend (Projected)



Gross Spend (Actual)

Fig. 2Traditional-decommissioning projected cost vs. concurrent-model

actual cost. PA=plugged and abandoned.

reducing project work time by performing many of the decommissioning work

steps concurrently, more work can be accomplished in less time, resulting in less
money being spent. It has been projected that, by eliminating multiple spread
mobilizations and performing concurrent
operations over a continuous campaign of
decommissioning work, the work scope
could be completed in half the time, with
total costs reduced by one-third.

New Technology
Implementation of the optimized decommissioning model requires the ability to
stage and conduct multiple decommissioning services at the same or nearly the same
time. New technology was needed that had
adequate deck space for equipment and
could provide marine transport and a stable work deck, lodge 50 to 80 service workers, and provide heavy-lift capability.


A newly constructed, self-elevating

liftboat with 335-ft leg length (Fig. 1)
was used to revolutionize the process of
decommissioning offshore facilities that
exist in 280-ft water depths or less. This
self-propelled, dynamically positioned
liftboat, with its 500-ton-lift-capacity
crane, 15,400 ft2 of available deck space,
and accommodations for up to 152 crew
and service workers, allows all equipment and personnel needed to complete
the decommissioning process to mobilize to a single work location at one time.
Because this heavy-lift vessel does not
require tugboats to maneuver it or anchors
to secure it in place, it can arrive at one location, preload, and jack up in approximately 68 hours; then it performs the
work scope, jacks down, and moves to the
next work site. This mobility allows work
to be performed at multiple locations in a
comparatively short period of time.

It has been demonstrated in practice

that the cost to decommission a toppled
structure is more than 10 times greater
than the cost to decommission one that is
still standing. One operator recognized,
after having 14 structures and their associated 63 wells toppled in the hurricane
seasons of 2005 and 2008, that the companys financial success, in part, meant
dealing with their idle-iron issues sooner rather than later. At year-end 2008,
the company had an inventory of 285
nonproducing, idle wells, with 60% of
them on aging, multiwell structures with
a high susceptibility of being toppled by
After 2 years of well plugging-andabandonment operations designed to
mitigate as much of the potential risk
from hurricane toppling as possible, the
company saw that the cost to perform
decommissioning-related work was consuming greater than acceptable percentages of its annual capital budgets.
The new method of decommissioning
assets concurrently was introduced to
company management in March 2011. It
was quickly realized that the concept of
multiple service operations being conducted simultaneously could allow more
work to be done in less time, reduce overall decommissioning costs, and allow the
work to be conducted well within budgetary limits. The new concept would allow
the predicted volume of work to be completed within the time constraints of both
the law and the idle-iron notice to lessees,
with only a relatively small decommissioning team to execute the campaign.
A post-work analysis of the decommissioning campaign shows that both the
quantity of work and the cost-performance
goals predicted were attained. The
blue bars in Fig. 2 show the predicted
gross annual cost using the traditional,
sequential-steps decommissioning process. The actual gross annual cost to complete the work using the new concurrent
method is shown by the green bars.
The final, and perhaps most significant,
achievement of implementing the concurrent, optimized decommissioning process was the demonstrated improvement
in worker safety. More than 580,000
man-hours were worked by the 60- to
80-person marine and service crew members, with no lost-time incidents. JPT



AIME Legacy Continues To Benefit SPE

and Other Member Societies
Roland Moreau, Vice President Finance, SPE Board of Directors, and Kate Baker, President, SPE Foundation

For those not familiar with AIME, it

stands for the American Institute of
Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum
Engineers. AIME, founded in 1871 in
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was one
of the first national engineering societies established in the United States. In
subsequent years, AIME was joined by
four other engineering founder societiesthe American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Institute of
Electrical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American
Institute of Chemical Engineersand
formed the United Engineering Foundation. An interesting side note is that
US President Herbert Hoover, a mining
engineer, served as the AIME president in
1920. More detailed information on the
history of AIME can be found in the JPT
articles referenced below.
As AIME itself continued to grow, it
decentralized and formed four independently operated member societies:
SME (Society for Mining,
Metallurgy, and Exploration)
TMS (The Minerals, Metals, and
Materials Society)
AIST (Association for Iron & Steel
SPE (Society of Petroleum
The overarching mission of AIME
remains to support its member societies,
with an accompanying vision to honor
its legacy as a valued partner with the
member societies. The purpose of this
article is to report to our members how
AIME is fulfilling its mission of preserving ourlegacy.
AIMEs History and Heritage Committee is charged with providing oversight to activities related to preserving
and enhancing this legacy. Some of the


key focus areas include archiving historical materials, documenting key initiatives and activities of the institute
prior to the formation of the independent member societies, capturing oral
histories from members on their experiences in the early days of their respective industries, maintaining the AIME
awards and recognition program, and
highlighting specific activities such as
commemoration of AIMEs 145th anniversary in 2016 and planning for the
150th milestonein2021.
Examples of the these items include
development of a multisociety Engineering and Technology History Wiki that
includes a chronological record of important achievements in the history of engineering and technology and firsthand
experiences recorded in the oral histories
as described earlier. We encourage members, especially students, to visit this premier and unique site at
Most of SPEs content is under the Energy button, while most of the content
for the other three member societies is
under the Materials button. Also, all
of the AIME oral histories can be found
AIME annually honors its legacy by
presenting awards among its member
societies. In SPE, these include the Honorary Membership, one technical, and
three professional awards. Honorary
Membership is the highest honor that
SPE presents to an individual and is limited to 0.1% of the SPE total membership. This elite group of 71 extant members also holds Honorary Membership
in AIME.
The Anthony F. Lucas Technical
Leadership Gold Medal, established

in 1936 by AIME, honors distinguished

achievement in the identification and
development of new technology and concepts and demonstrating distinguished
achievement in improving the technique
and practice of finding and producing
petroleum. It is SPEs major technical
award. Lucas was a mining engineer,
often referred to as the father of petroleum engineering. His theory of the association of salt domes with oil and his successful drilling of the famous Spindletop
field near Beaumont, Texas, was one of
the most important developments in the
history of the petroleum industry.
The Charles F. Rand Memorial Gold
Medal was established by AIME in 1932
and is awarded for distinguished administrative achievement in mining, metallurgical, or petroleum industry administration marked by leadership, ethical
conduct, and support of innovation or
administrative changes at senior management levels resulting in positive outcomes. Rand was AIME president in 1913.
The DeGolyer Distinguished Service
Medal recognizes outstanding service to
SPE, the profession of engineering and
geology, and to the petroleum industry.
Everette Lee DeGolyer was a storied wildcatter. He did early work in the field of
geophysics as it applied to the petroleum
industry, introducing the torsion balance
as an oil exploration tool and the use of
both refraction and reflection seismographs for oil exploration. He organized
Amerada Petroleum Corporation in 1919
and also organized Geophysical Research
Corporation as an Amerada subsidiary.
He became the first petroleum president
of AIME in 1927.
The Robert Earll McConnell Award,
established in 1968, recognizes beneficial service to mankind by engineers


through significant contributions that

advance a nations standard of living or
replenish its natural resources. Robert
Earll McConnell was a member of AIME
and a prominent mining engineer.
Finally, SPE also gives AIMEs Rossiter W. Raymond Memorial Award once
every 4 years to the best paper by a member under 35. It will be given next at SPEs
2019 Annual Technical Conference and
Exhibition banquet.
Looking forward, and casting a wider
net externally, AIMEs External Affairs
Committee is conducting a review of
AIMEs participation in external awards
programs with a view toward more effectively promoting member society candidates for such recognition. The members
of the task force held two meetings, and a
preliminary auditing and inventory of all
the external awards AIME might reasonably influence have been completed.
One of the most exciting activities of
the External Affairs Committee is the
AIME Council of Excellence, a member
societies collaborative work focused on
identifying technologies (mature, and/
or leading edge) that might have inno-

A New Recommended
Practice for Fit-for-Purpose
Well Abandonment
(Continued from page 72)

Step 3.4Combining Flow-Potential

Analysis and Dispersion Modeling.
Following the completion of the dispersion modeling of the hydrocarbons, a
combined result of the flow-potential
analysis and the dispersion modeling can
be acquired. This provides a total risk
picture in the form of an impact analysis, where the consequence and the likelihood of hydrocarbon flow are quantified. The new recommended practice
explains that the resulting risk pictures
are well-specific.

Step 4Performing
Risk Evaluation
The outputs from the risk-analysis step
are used to conduct the risk evaluation
and assessment, which will assist in decision making and comparison of the well-


vative application within AIME-member

industries. Proposed applications or case
histories of technology transfer applications may be shared through joint technical articles in all of the four societies
technical journals, applied technology
workshops, and conference panel sessions. If you have an idea for new and
innovative utilization of longstanding oil
and gas technologies in other extractive industries, or about the feasibility
of application of crossover technology
in the oil and gas industry, contact your
SPE Council representatives, Behrooz
Fattahi (chair) or members Ford Brett
and KhalidAziz.
Finally, we wanted to update you on
another multisociety sustainability event
that AIME is helping to facilitate. In February 2017, AIME and its partner societies will hold the third in the series of
symposia for Engineering Solutions for
Sustainability: Materials and Resources.
This installment has a theme of Toward
a Circular Economy and will explore
the interdependent roles each sector of
the various industries play in bringing
about a sustainable future. The outcome

of the event will be a vision for and roadmap to a sustainable world where affordable and reliable resources support the
social, economic, and environmental
needs of a growing population. The symposium will take place in Denver, Colorado, immediately preceding the SME
annual meeting and will include speakers from a wide cross-section of industries, as well as representatives from government, academia, consultancies, and
professional societies. Further information on this symposium can be found at JPT

abandonment design relative to the riskacceptance criteria.

In order to determine whether the outcomes of the risk evaluation are acceptable or not, environmental- and safetyrisk-acceptance criteria areestablished.
In the recommended practice, the
environmental-risk-acceptance criteria should be based on the hydrocarbon
exposure of the identified valued ecosystem components.
Environmental-risk-acceptance criteria for different compartments of the ecosystem (sea surface, water column, sediments) should be based on thefollowing:
Proportion of identified valued
ecosystem components exposed
to a defined threshold value for
Probability that the proportion of
valued ecosystem components is
exposed to a concentration above
the defined threshold value
The new recommended practice suggests that safety-risk acceptance be

established on the basis of the potential for adverse safety consequences for
the wells to be abandoned permanently.
Site-specific safety-risk-acceptance criteria can be used, or generic industrywide
recommendations can be applied.

Donnelly, J. 2007. SPEs Parent Achieved Its
Own Lasting Legacy. J Pet Tech 59 (10):
Fattahi, B. and Lawrie-Munro, M. 2013.
AIME, SPEs Parent Organization. J Pet
Tech 65 (6): 135.
The authors of this article currently serve
on the AIME Board of Trustees. If you have
any questions or have feedback related
to any of the activities described herein,
please contact either Kate Hadley Baker
orRoland Moreau.

Step 5Conducting
Qualification for
Well-Abandonment Design
In order to qualify whether the proposed
design complies with the risk-acceptance
criteria, a well-abandonment-design
qualification is urged in the new recommended practice. This is the final step in
the risk-assessment framework illustrated in Fig. 1. The qualification will quantify whether the risk associated with a
given abandonment design is found to
be acceptable. If the design is unacceptable, a revised design should be proposed
and assessed until an acceptable design is
found and qualified. Through this method, the result is a qualified well-abandonmentdesign. JPT



ROBERT J. BANKS, SPE, was appointed as

interim chief executive officer (CEO) of

Swift Energy, following Terry E. Swifts,
SPE, retirement in October. Banks will continue to serve as executive vice president
and chief operating officer, a position he
has held since 2008. Previously he was vice
president of international operations and strategic ventures at
the company. He has more than 40 years of experience in the
oil and gas industry, both domestically and internationally,
and has held senior-level positions at Santa Fe International,
Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Company, Mosbacher Energy Company, and Vanco Energy Company.
JAN DELL, SPE, was appointed vice presi-

dent of clean energy at Wood Group. She

will lead the companys existing renewables technical services, consulting, and
advisory capabilities and expand these services to other regions. She will also broaden the services to include water and climate. Dell has more than 2 decades of experience in the
energy, industrial, water, and climate sectors. Before joining
Wood Group, she held senior strategy and management positions with AECOM, CH2M Hill, and ConocoPhillips, where she
led global energy and industrial project developments incorporating sustainable designs. Dell is the vice chair of the US
Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment and was the convening lead author of the
Energy Supply and Use chapter of the US National Climate
Assessment report published in 2014.

appointed chairman emeritus by the Board

of Directors of Weatherford. He founded
the company 30 years ago and grew it into
a leading oilfield service provider. In this
honorary and advisory role to the Board,
he will not receive any remuneration and
will remain an external advisor. Duroc-Danners current appointment follows his departure from being chairman of the
board, president, and CEO of Weatherford. ROBERT RAYNE,
vice chairman of the board, was appointed chairman of the
board. KRISHNA SHIVRAM, Weatherfords chief financial officer (CFO), was appointed interim CEO, and will continue as
CFO until a new CFO is named.


GREGORY RACHAL, SPE, was appointed

president at Oilfield Helping Hands (OHH).
OHH is a nonprofit charitable organization
comprising volunteers devoted to providing financial assistance to oilfield workers
in financial crisis. Since it was founded
in 2003, OHH has raised more than
USD 3.3 million for more than 300 families through donations, corporate memberships, and fundraising events. Rachal
has extensive experience in drilling fluids, and held positions
with M-I SWACO and Halliburton in sales, product line and account management, and operations and project management.
He holds a BS degree in industrial art from Northwestern State
University and postgraduate qualifications in management
and computer science from Tulane University.
JONATHAN VERLANDER, SPE, was appointed principal of the E&P advisory and
professional learning and development
practice areas of Houston-based energy
search firm and management consultancy
The Energists. He has more than 20 years
of experience in domestic and international geoscience, portfolio analysis, and energy finance gained at
Enterprise Oil, Shell, RBS, Socit Gnrale, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Before joining The Energists, he led
the oil and gas teams for Commonwealth Bank in London
and Houston. Verlander holds a BSc and PhD from the
University of Oxford, and is a fellow of the Geological Society

In Memoriam
This section lists with regret SPE members who recently
passedaway. If you would like to report the passing of a
family member who was an SPE member, please write to
Robert M. Caruthers, Brentwood, Tennessee, USA
Hamdi A. El Banbi, Cairo, Egypt
Gregory B. Hueni, Lakewood, Colorado, USA
Fraser T. Innes, Aberdeen, UK
Sean Parker, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Luther W. Randerson, Midland, Texas, USA
Gregory J. Reep, Wayzata, Minnesota, USA
Clarence R. Schmalhausen, Houston, Texas, USA
Werner Toelcke, Barsinghausen, Germany




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Fractured Reservoir Characterization/Modeling
Gas Storage Unconventional EOR CO2 CCS Black
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International Petroleum Consultants
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Petrotechnical Resources of Alaska, LLC

Alaskas Oil and Gas Consultants

Geology, Geophysics, and Engineering
3601 C Street
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(907) 272-1232 voice

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903-593-9660 903-593-5527 (FAX) 800-587-9660
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Page 53

Rock Flow Dynamics

Cover 2

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Pages 7, 17

Page 65

SNF Floerger
Page 47

Interwell AS
Page 4

Superior Energy Services, Inc.

Page 29

Page 15

TAM International
Page 2

National Oilwell Varco

Page 13

U.S. Water Services

Page 61

NCS Multistage, LLC

Cover 3

Page 3

OneSubsea, a Schlumberger company

Cover 4

Page 21

Pennsylvania State University

Page 64

Wellbarrier AS
Page 9

Tarek Ahmed & Associates Ltd.

Taking Petroleum Engineering Training
to a New Level
For dates & descriptions
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Waterflood & EOR Studies
Geological & Petrophysical Analysis
Reservoir Simulation
Unconventional Resource Evaluation
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Gas Storage & CO2 Sequestration Analysis
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12770 Coit Road, Suite 907, Dallas, TX 75251
Phone (972) 385-0354
FAX (972) 788-5165


Providing technical document development, business process support and printing/binding services
to the oil & gas industry since 2000.
DOCUMENTATION Drilling & Completion,
Rig Operations, QA/HSE, Equipment, Reports,
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BUSINESS PROCESS Technical Contracts,
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Customizable, Quick Turnaround The Woodlands, Texas


Dana Griffin
Advertising Sales Manager
(Americas, Asia Pacific, and South Asia)
Tel: +1.713.457.6857
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Tel: +44 (0) 1227.266.605
Craig W. Moritz
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ADDRESS CHANGE: Contact Customer Services at

1.972.952.9393 to notify of address change or make
changes online at Subscriptions are
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TX 75080 USA. Periodicals postage paid at
Richardson, TX, and additional offices.
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to JPT, P.O.
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2122 March Rio de JaneiroSPE

Offshore Fields Life Extension

67 February MuscatSPE Advanced

Field DevelopmentSustainability and

2122 March San DiegoSPE/GRC HighTemperature and Corrosion in Drilling and

ProductionExploring Geothermal and Oil
and Gas Synergies

67 February Abu DhabiSPE Global

Integrated Series: Managing Well Integrity
in a Low-Cost Oil Environment
67 February Abu DhabiSPE Asset
Integrity ManagementHow to Improve
Profitability, Performance, Efficiency and
1314 February Kuala LumpurSPE
Mature Field RedevelopmentsHow to
Stay Relevant For the Foreseeable Future
2021 February AberdeenSPE
Brownfields RedevelopmentA Meeting of
Minds To Meet the Challenges
2021 February Kuala LumpurSPE
Improve Well Control and Drilling
Performance with the Advances in
Managed Pressure Drilling Technology
21 February The WoodlandsSPE Can
Technology Save Deepwater?
28 February1 March Abu DhabiSPE
Better Well ControlStaying Focused in a
Changing Environment
28 February2 March DubaiSPE
Well TestingTechnology, Operations,
Sampling, and Reservoir Characterisation
in the Current Price Environment

2223 March DubaiSPE Multiphase

Metering and Fiber Optics Monitoring
Recent Developments and Challenges
2728 March Abu DhabiSPE New
Approach in Horizontal Wells Drilling
Cost Efficiency, Higher Productivity, and
Unconventional Solutions
2729 March MuscatSPE/AAPG E&P
Data Management and AnalyticsEnabling
Capital Efficiency
34 April San AntonioSPE High Density
Drilling and Completions

2426 January The Woodlands
SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology
Conference and Exhibition
1516 February CalgarySPE Canada
Heavy Oil Technical Conference

1516 March SalvadorSPE Latin
American and Caribbean Mature Fields
1516 March AmmanSPE IraqThe
Petroleum Potentiality and Future
2427 April DammamSPE-KSA Annual
Technical Symposium & Exhibition
2428 April The WoodlandsSPE
Electric Submersible Pumps

1416 February RotterdamSPE:
Emerging Technologies for Enhancing
Reservoir Contact

1516 February CalgarySPE Canada

Unconventional Resources Conference
2022 February MontgomerySPE
Reservoir Simulation Conference


69 March ManamaSPE Middle East Oil

and Gas Show and Conference (MEOS)

67 March Abu DhabiSPE Optimising

Flow Assurance in a Challenging Cost

1416 March The HagueSPE/IADC

Drilling Conference and Exhibition

2021 March Kuala LumpurSPE

Floating LNGWeathering the Challenges

46 April Kuala LumpurSPE Asia Pacific

Health, Safety, Security, Environment and
Social Responsibility Conference

59 November San AntonioSPE:

Waterless FracturingReducing Fresh
Water Use for Reservoir Stimulation in a
Future WaterConstrained World

6 March ManamaSPE Women in

LeadershipInvest, Initiate, Innovate

1314 March Kuala LumpurSPE

Maximising Well Performance Through
Drilling Fluids, Cementing, and Waste
Management Optimisation

35 April MontgomerySPE
International Conference on Oilfield

2122 March HoustonSPE/ICoTA Coiled

Tubing and Well Intervention Conference
and Exhibition
2829 March Rio de JaneiroIADC/
SPE Managed Pressure Drilling and
Underbalanced Operations Conference
and Exhibition

SPE Offshore Europe Aberdeen

Deadline: 13 January
SPE Annual Technical Conference and
Exhibition San Antonio
Deadline: 31 January
OTC Brasil Rio de Janeiro
Deadline: 8 March
SPE 3rd Kuwait Oil & Gas Show and
Conference Kuwait City
Deadline: 13 March

Find complete listings of upcoming SPE workshops, conferences, symposiums, and forums at




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