September 2004 ///

Special Focus

Interest surges in seafloor node seismic systems

Four component cabled seafloor seismic systems have been around for about a decade. They will continue to provide cost-effective data acquisition, especially when multicomponent data is essential. However, increasingly, operators and contractors are asking, “Why not eliminate the cable?” But, with little or no field experience, judgment, logic, and just plain faith become the tools to choose the best seafloor system for a given application, as well as the right level of R&D investment. Will operators see enough value in autonomous node systems to foster their development, even to the point of overlapping existing ocean bottom cable systems? Numerous tradeoffs in efficiency and cost immediately become evident. The raw technical tools have been around for several years, but ingenious designs and bold commitments by management will be needed to bring them to full commerciality. And what happens if, after much investment and development, operators just don't feel the value is there? Developing new seismic systems is not for the timid, but it sure is interesting.

Using satellite imagery aids seismic surveys in planning, acquisition and processing

Earth Observation (EO) provides continuous high-resolution information about the earth's surface. As part of the European Space Agency's Earth Observation Market Development (EOMD) program, WesternGeco and Infoterra performed pilot studies to evaluate the potential of satellite Earth observation data to help understand near-surface effects on seismic data. EO-derived information can benefit the survey design by providing data quality estimates and avoiding poor data quality areas. It can impact cost and time by assisting in logistical and accessibility planning, allowing more efficient data acquisition. Near-surface lithological characterization using EO data may assist seismic data processing in building a more accurate surface model.


BG Tunisia's Advanced Process Control improves condensate product stability

BG Tunisia, the leading gas producer in Tunisia, has implemented Connoisseur* Advanced Process Control (APC) from the SimSci-Esscor* unit of Invensys on its gas condensate production system at the Hannibal plant in Sfax, Tunisia, Fig. 1. Project goals were to maximize condensate yields, improve stability of the condensate stabilization process and ensure that product quality limits are adhered to at all times.

Hydrate management: Its importance to deepwater gas development success

Challenges still exist for dealing with hydrate prevention and remediation in deepwater subsea gas tieback systems.

International Outlook: World Trends - Prices boost global numbers

The global E&P market remains highly unpredictable, albeit very profitable in the current price and demand environment. By all indications, the world economy has recovered significantly from the prolonged weak period that followed the events of 9/11/2001. This recovery is reflected in very strong demand growth for crude oil and natural gas. To meet last year's increased demand, global oil output grew an unusually robust 3.9%, to 69.6 million bpd. Accordingly, world oil and gas reserves also increased. All these factors are good news for operators, who stand to realize impressive revenue on existing output.

Petroleum Technology Digest: Air hammers cut Barnett Shale drilling time in half

To reduce drilling time and costs on Barnett Shale wells, Hallwood Energy used air hammers with diamond insert bits. For vertical wells, time from spud to total depth dropped from 12 – 14 days to 6 – 8 days, representing about $72,000 per well savings. In horizontal wells, time from spud to kick-off point has dropped from 10 – 12 days to 5 – 6 days. Costs associated with the air-hammer/ diamond-insert bit drilling approach (air compressor, fuel, hammer, hammer bit, supervision) are offset by saving on mud and fewer roller cone bits, stabilization, and/or mud-motor costs. In 6 of 12 wells drilled through June 2004, half were drilled with a single bit/trip. The drilling team expects that its goal of drilling 80%, or 8 of 10 wells, with a single trip, can be reached during 2004.

Wireless Ethernet integrates gas field automation

How do you automate a natural gas field that is roughly 28-mi square to operate as if it were a single plant covering just a few acres? This was the question faced by Repsol-YPF engineers in a project to modernize control of the company's Loma La Lata gas field. The field is vital to Argentina's economy. Its capacity of 1.413 Bcfd of gas and 84,760 cfd of gas liquids represents 30% of the country's output. Scattered across the field's 768 sq mi are about 200 wells, of which 74 are tied to a SCADA system. There are also 14 primary separation units, a main gas processing plant, a smaller gas plant (including an amine production facility), a field production office and a maintenance facility.

Special Report

World Oil's 2004 Drill Bit Classifier Tables

Featuring comprehensive listings of major manufacturers' products, this valuable guide helps drilling professionals speed their bit selections.


Drilling advances

Offshore jackup rig action. Jackups have been in the news lately. On the down side, Global Santa Fe reported the sinking of its GSF Adriatic IV,some 25 mi offshore Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea on August 10. The rig was severely damaged during a fire following a well control incident and sank. The rig was located over a production platform owned by Petrobel, an Eni/Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. JIV, and had been on location for 58 days. There were no injuries and all 70 persons aboard were safely evacuated. Offshore Indonesia, Atwood Oceanics jackup Atwood Beacon, which suffered two leg punch-throughs while positioning for an offshore Indonesia well, had not been moved off location in early August. The rig was to be removed from the location and towed to a shipyard in Singapore for inspection and repair. The rig was moving onto a well for ConocoPhillips at the time of the incident.

Editorial Comment

A legend passes on. It would be unlikely for you not to have heard of the recent death of legendary oil well blowout specialist Paul N. “Red” Adair. But I know from traveling that what is widely reported in Houston may not be in the rest of the world. I met the man briefly in the early 1980s on an offshore job, where the wellhead had come out of the ground about six feet and rotated 90°. A quick-thinking driller saved the day by managing to get a chain on it while all hands scattered. I was a well-logger at the time. As it turned out, we never needed Red's services: the blowout stayed well into the subsurface at the parted casing. (But I did get a handful of his company stickers, which were better than money when needing help on a drill floor.) He seemed like a fine fellow.

International Politics

High oil prices, but how much North Sea action? Even if the oil price rise in the North Sea has been somewhat mitigated by the appreciation of the euro and other relevant currencies (Britain's pound and Norway's krone), industry's response to prices seems surprisingly modest. By historical standards, oil prices above $30/bbl should have triggered a surge in exploratory wells, plus extra development projects that might have been marginal at lower prices. Little of this has materialized, particularly in Norway. According to World Oil , the number of active mobile rigs in Europe and the Mediterranean has declined over the past year. In UK waters, data indicate a slight increase in offshore exploration and appraisal work, but a significant decline in development drilling. Danish and Dutch drilling remains modest.

What's new in production

A 50/50 oil market. Consumers around the world are now facing a “50/50 oil market,” according to Daniel Yergin, Chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA). “There is now a 50/50 probability that the price of oil will reach $50/bbl within the next 50 days,” he said. A price spike to $50 would be likely to occur if one or more supply disruptions removes 500,000 to 750,000 bopd from the market for several weeks. This is possible because, “The world has one of the smallest cushions ever for absorbing a loss of supply, while demand growth is the strongest in a generation. These conditions mean the world oil market is even tighter now than it was during the 1973 oil crisis.

What's new in exploration

Truly Passive 3D. On rare occasion, a technology catches my eye that is sufficiently different that it should be brought to everybody's attention. Such is the case with QinetiQ's new passive 3D. By truly passive 3D, I mean glasses-free, and in a well-lit room to boot. Most so-called passive 3D systems still require glasses, it's just that the left and right sides do not flip, or oscillate: they are polarized and fixed. Active systems require glasses that are a bit more bulky, have batteries or wires, and actively switch left and right frame polarity.

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