NEWS FROM SPE ATCE 2013 Panel: Brazil’s pre-salt presents specific geological, technical challenges
BY MELANIE CRUTHIRDS, News Editor
NEW ORLEANS -- Petrobras and its partners are steadily working to find solutions to the unique challenges presented by pre-salt oil and gas operations offshore Brazil, according to a panel comprised of some of the company’s top technical professionals. During a Special Session on the first day of the 2013 SPE Annual Technical Conference in New Orleans, seven speakers, representing the Brazilian major, spoke about the projects and technologies enabling production and efficiency increases in the pre-salt area. The region’s Santos basin contains an estimated 15.4 billion boe (recoverable), and is producing at approximately 330,000 bopd.
Moderating the panel was Farid Shecaira, the production, reserves and reservoir manager at Petrobras’ International Business Area, who handed the session to keynote speaker Carlos Tadeu da Costa Fraga, the company’s pre-salt executive manager. Da Costa Fraga spoke not only to the history of Brazil’s pre-salt plays, but also to the current state of affairs in the Santos pre-salt cluster, where, at the close of 2012, 37 wells had been drilled, at a 90% success rate. Overall, he said, the pre-salt province has seen 80 wells drilled, at a respectable 80% success rate. Petrobras has, so far, completed four extended well tests in fields like Lula and Sapinhoa, and has five scheduled for completion within the next two years.
Looking ahead, da Costa Fraga said Petrobras, which has produced 250 MMboe from its pre-salt plays to date, has 24 megaprojects slated up to 2020, with some wells already being drilled. Addressing industry newcomers in the audience, he said, “working in pre-salt is a privilege for all of us,” and reiterated that the region offers many opportunities to develop and apply new technology.
Following da Costa Fraga was Paulo Johann, Petrobras’ reservoir geology manager, who discussed how the company is harnessing reservoir engineering, geology and geophysics to eliminate some subsurface uncertainty in the pre-salt. Through the past few years, Johann said, Petrobras has collected more than 2 km of core samples and 20,000 sq km of high-resolution seismic data, from more than 100 wells drilled. In an effort to better understand the microbial characteristics of Brazil’s pre-salt, the company has more than 300 professionals studying geological formations abroad, in locations like Oman, Western Australia, Argentina and Namibia.
Petrobras’ Pre-Salt Development Projects Design Manager, Antonio Carlos Capeleiro Pinto, followed Johann, and spoke about the recovery strategies being employed at Lula field, the largest in the Santos basin. Currently in phased development, Lula is producing 150,000 bopd, and is benefitting from changes made during its pilot well phase, prior to first oil in 2010. With a multidisciplinary approach to production that is all about flexibility, Petrobras has integrated wells, subsea technology, processing plants and flow assurance into one model. These systems can be used on a variety of fields, aiming for long-term, improved oil recovery, through improved stimulation and intelligent completion, Capeleiro said.
To improve the efficiency with which Petrobras drills its wells in the pre-salt, Renato Pinheiro, the company’s production development, well construction and maintenance general manager, said that directional and managed pressure drilling will be key. The first wildcat well in the Santos basin took 469 days to drill, in 2004, but things had improved by the time a second well was drilled, in 2005, at Tupi, which took 173 days. In the pre-salt, Petrobras is aiming to reduce its offshore well completion CAPEX by employing fewer-phase models, higher angles and multi-frac wells, increasing the number of wells drilled per year, and decreasing the duration of drilling and completion operations.
As subsea manager for Petrobras, Cezar Paulo explained that the creation of a standard interface, and the interchangeability of main modules in the subsea environment, is the next stage of production facility design. The operational flexibility of subsea trees and topsides that can be swapped, regardless of manufacturer or supplier, means that the same systems can be effective on fields from development to maturity. The company has eight FPSOs now under construction, all of which will be suited for use on a variety of fields.
In addition to covering subsea innovation in ultra-deepwater conditions, Paulo also filled in for an absent colleague, Marcos Morais, Petrobras’ R&D production general manager, and discussed “the way ahead” for the company’s pre-salt operations. At the center of technological development efforts are Petrobras’ many research centers, scattered across Brazil, including its main campus, CENPES, near Rio de Janeiro. Closing out the “Challenges and Innovative Solutions for the Brazilian Pre-Salt Fields” Special Session was Anelise Quintão Lara, Petrobras’ pre-salt development project manager, who discussed the specific production development strategies planned for the Santos basin.