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Too Good to be Green
ISSN 1757-2134 August 2011 Volume 04 Issue 05
Palladian Publications Ltd 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the
copyright owner. All views expressed in this journal are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily the opinions of the
publisher, neither do the publishers endorse any of the claims made in the articles or the advertisements. Printed in the UK.
On this month’s cover >>
Oilfield Technology is audited by the Audit Bureau
of Circulations (ABC). An audit certificate is
available on request from our sales department.
Sebastiano Barbarino, OVS Group, USA, explains how asset
performance can be increased through workflow technology utilising
existing information and applications.
Raphael Moscarello and Paul Kleinen, Bredero Shaw, Canada and
USA, and Sean Haberer, ShawCor, Canada, present a new, innovative
modular mobile plant for pipe coatings in this month’s cover story.
Ian Jones and Thom Payne, Douglas-Westwood, UK, take a look at
the world subsea hardware market, 2011 – 2015.
Pierre Boyde, CTC Marine Projects Ltd, UK, discusses the design,
build and trialling of one of the world’s biggest subsea rock
trenching machines.
Eivind Gransaether, Mirmorax, Norway, discusses establishing
subsea engineering principles in subsea sampling and oil-in-water
monitoring operations.
James Broadribb, RBG, UK, points out how decommissioning best
practice can deliver significant benefits.
| 89 | SINK OR SIM
Darren J Morahan, Cougar Offshore LLC, USA, highlights the
possibilities of SIM in the Gulf of Mexico.
Per Lund, NCA AS, Norway, shows how exploration and
abandonment operations can be completed more cost-efficiently
through using new technology and novel approaches.
Steve Nairn, Helix Well Ops, UK, explains how rigless well
abandonment can address some of the funding, safety and
environmental challenges of well decommissioning.
| 104 | AD INDEX
Oliver Sanderson, Douglas-Westwood Ltd, UK, focuses on some
specific European offshore developments.
Oilfield Technology Correspondent Gordon Cope examines the
growing importance of utilising marine seismic methods in identifying
new deposits.
Bob Van Nieuwenhuise, Manuel Perez and Mark Langer, Paradigm,
USA, discuss the task of reprocessing site survey data.
Alexander Grevtsev, Natalya Petrovskaya, Alexander Savitsky,
DMNG JSC, Russia, reveal a new approach to seismic acquisition as
a basis for new geological results.
Gordon Stove, Adrok Ltd, UK, introduces a new scanner for
determining the location of hydrocarbons prior to drilling.
Matthew Kebodeaux and James King, Baker Hughes, USA, discuss
the technology facilitating unconventional reservoir exploitation.
David Coull, Omega Completion Technology Ltd, UK, reveals how
an autonomous valve offers a smart solution to the issue of poor
wellbore clean-up.
Richard McKimmie, Red Spider, UK, reveals the importance of remote
open close technology in allowing operator freedom.
Paul Higginson, Packers Plus Energy Services, UK, demonstrates the
benefits of OHMS systems.
Michael MacDonald Arnskov, Welltec, Denmark, discusses how next
generation well packers pave the way for fast and reliable well
completion by using components that eliminate some of the issues
associated with conventional approaches when isolating and
managing oil and gas bearing layers.
Garth Naldrett, Tendeka, UK and Tor Inge Åsen, Tendeka, Norway,
explore wireless options for monitoring and control.
Brigden™ is ShawCor’s new mobile pipe-coating plant that offers the same quality and
output as the most advanced fixed plants. Fully operational in just six weeks, it can be
located near any project logistical point to reduce costs, mitigate risk and improve safety.
To learn more, please visit www.brederoshaw.com.
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Contact Information >>
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Managing Editor: James Little
Deputy Editor: Anna Scordos
Editorial Assistant: Cecilia Rehn
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Website Editor: Anna Scordos
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Publisher: Nigel Hardy
ost-Fukushima, many governments have found
themselves in a quandary. There is a palpable
sense that the near meltdown of the nuclear
reactor in Japan was a game-changing event that spelt
the end of the fledgling ‘nuclear renaissance’. However,
in real terms, governments are faced with very few
alternatives to low carbon nuclear energy.
Certainly there has been a strong negative reaction
to nuclear power. In Japan, only 19 of the 54 reactors
in service prior to the tsunami and resulting nuclear
disaster are still in service. This is largely due to public
opposition and a widely held fear of further seismic
activity causing further catastrophe. This anti-nuclear
sentiment is not only confined to Japan. Germany’s
chancellor, Angela Merkel, has announced that the
country will close all of its nuclear facilities by 2022, a full
14 years ahead of their planned closure in 2036, starting
with 8.5 GW or 8% of the country’s electricity production
this year alone. Instead, the country has committed
itself to a full scale ‘energy switch’ to alternative and
sustainable energy sources.
Even France, which currently derives 80% of its
electricity from nuclear power, has indicated that
in future it will favour a more balanced energy mix
incorporating wind, solar and other renewable energies.
However, according to consultants Arthur D Little and
recent reports in The Financial Times, despite the
Fukushima disaster, the actual effect on the nuclear
industry has been comparatively small with only 37 of
the 570 nuclear units earmarked globally for construction
prior to the Fukushima disaster being axed. Countries
such as China, South Korea, India and Russia that each
have an urgent need for energy expansion, are marching
ahead with their nuclear programmes. The reality is that
renewable energy cannot compete with nuclear or fossil
fuels as a dependable provider of baseload electricity.
The good news for our industry is that natural gas is
emerging as a clear winner in this new era. For starters, it
is the cleanest fossil fuel, but just as importantly for those
countries wishing to cut back on existing nuclear power
generation, it is a reliable and proven alternative. What is
more is that thanks to the development of an extensive
global LNG infrastructure, which has accelerated over
the course of the last decade and recent developments
in shale gas technology, gas is a resource in considerable
abundance at this key moment.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia,
where LNG development, in anticipation of huge demand
across the Asia-Pacific region, is progressing at breakneck
speed. Gorgon LNG is the largest project currently under
development and is expected to produce first gas in
2014 following an overall investment of US$ 45.5 billion.
However, with the Australian industry planning to increase
production of LNG over the coming years from its current
15 million to 70 million tpy this is by no means the only
project in planning or under construction. But with demand
for natural gas in China expected to increase by over 5%
per year between now and 2035, Australia looks to be in
the enviable position of having both the resource and the
market in which to monetise its vast gas reserves.
Whilst the Fukushima disaster may not prove to be the
final the straw for the nuclear industry that many feared
in its immediate aftermath, it will certainly prove to be a
tremendous opportunity for the natural gas industry, which
looks set to provide the bridge between fossil fuels and
renewable energy for many years to come.

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During the underbalanced drilling of a series of laterals, the system
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the operator cut drilling time by 10 days, saving $1m.
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world news
August 2011
Second quarter 2011 earnings
from Europe’s largest oil company
revealed a near-doubled profit at
US$ 8.0 billion compared with
US$ 4.5 billion the same quarter a
year ago. Group revenues jumped
to US$ 121.26 billion, compared
with US$ 90.57 billion. Basic CCS
earnings (earnings at its current cost of
supplies) per share increased by 74%
versus the second quarter of 2010.
Shell’s total oil and gas production
was 3.04 million bpd, a decline of
2.1% on a year-to-year basis due to
seasonally weak natural gas demand
and the cumulative effect of some
small production asset sales. Analysts
were expecting production to decline
by 0.4%.
Excluding asset sales, production
would have risen 2%, Shell noted,
with 285 000 bpd of oil added from
new fields in Qatar, Nigeria and
The US Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) has proposed new rules for natural
gas explorers, those entities that produce
shale gas, to reduce their smog-related
emissions by 95%. The forced capture of
the gas that would ordinarily
escape will result in an additional
US$ 30 million/yr in sales for the gas
industry according to the EPA – more
than enough to compensate the
The new oil minister, Adama Toungara
has said the country plans to boost
oil drilling by year’s end to become
a major regional producer. “We want
to start drilling in seven wells by the
end of the year to ensure a production
of 300 000 bpd by 2020, up from
40 000 bpd now,” Toungara said.
Following a payment dispute, Iran had
threatened to cut off crude oil exports
to India if a settlement was not reached
by 1 August 2011. US sanctions on Iran
make it difficult to send international bank
payments and Indian companies had
been looking for alternative ways to make
payments. An agreement has now been
made, safeguarding the 12% of India’s
demand that is met by imports from Iran.
Lawmakers in the UK, have called on
the government to devise a policy on
shale gas. This follows research by
exploration companies that found a
potential £70 billion of reserves in rocks
deep under South Wales; a finding that
has resulted in numerous submissions of
planning applications for test drilling to
be carried out. The Welsh government
is reported to be interested in working
with UK ministers to set up a policy
// Eni //
Activity shutdown
// Royal Dutch Shell PLC // Record Q2 profit
The company’s second quarter liquids
and gas production figures averaged
1.49 million bpd, down 15% on the
comparable period for 2010.
The steep fall was caused by the
shutdown of activities at nearly all of
Eni’s producing sites in Libya, (which
includes the giant offshore Bouri field)
and the closure of its GreenStream
pipeline. The sole exception was
the onshore Wafa field, which has
supported local electricity production.
Since March, the company has
evacuated all of its personnel and
suspended ongoing exploration and
development activities.
Eni says it will be technically able
to resume gas output, at a level similar
to pre-crisis flows, as soon as the
political situation is once again stable.
Canada more than offsetting the
impact of field declines.
“We have made important
progress with new production in
2011, and the ramp-up of our new
projects should drive our financial
performance in the coming quarters,”
said Chief Executive Peter Voser in a
Profits at upstream operations
were up 85% to US$ 6.06 billion,
including US$ 641 million in one-off
gains from tax credits, trading gains,
and sales of operations.
The downstream operations,
which include the refining arm, saw
profits drop 7% on a CCS basis to
US$ 1.08 billion, reflecting lower
refinery intakes and worse margins.
The non-CCS results included gains
of US$ 802 million, mostly from the
sale of operations in Chile and the
Dominican Republic.

Bermuda-based oilfield services provider
Archer recently made a US$ 742 million
deal to acquire US pressure pumper
Great White Energy Services.
The company, formerly known as
Norway-based Seawell, has said it
believes this acquisition will provide “an
entry point into the rapidly expanding frac
market” by doubling Archer’s coil tubing
and directional drilling capacity in the US.
With revenues of US$ 80.4 million
in Q1 2011, Great White operates
13 service centres in various US
unconventional plays. For its 2011 first
quarter, Archer posted revenues of
US$ 420 million.
The acquisition derails a pending
initial public offering by Great White,
which had planned to trade under the
ticker symbol ‘JAWS’.
// Archer //
A US$ 742 million deal
world news

August 2011
30 August – 1 September
3P Arctic 2011
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
E: 3p@oesallworld.com
6 – 8 September
SPE Offshore Europe
Aberdeen, Scotland
E: oeteam@reedexpo.co.uk
25 – 28 September
MEOS 2011
E: jwebster@oesallworld.com
4 – 6 October
OTC Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
E: info@OTCBrasil.org
30 October – 2 November
Denver, USA
E: service@spe.org
7 – 11 November
World Shale Gas
Houston, USA
E: garanda@thecwcgroup.com
4 – 8 December
World Petroleum Congress
Doha, Qatar
E: info@20wpc.com
// Statoil // Q2 results: record net income
The company has recently admitted
liability for two oil spills that occurred in
Nigeria and faces a compensation
payout in excess of £250 million to 69 000
affected Nigerians.
A spokesman reported that Shell “Has
always acknowledged that the two spills
[...] were operational. As such, [Shell] will
pay compensation in accordance with
Nigerian law. The legal process continues
and could take several months to reach a
A class-action claim was brought in
the High Court by the Bodo community
in April, leaving analysts to comment that
Shell’s admission came relatively early in
the litigation process.
Nigerian respresentatives have noted
that there is an increasing trend towards
bringing compensation claims to London,
The quarterly result was mainly
affected by a 32% increase in the
average prices for liquids, a 28%
increase in average gas prices, a
NOK 8.8 billion gain related to the
40% Peregrino divestment and an
18% decrease in lifted volumes,
when compared to the same period
last year.
“Statoil delivered record net
income in the second quarter of
2011, reflecting an operational
performance in line with
expectations [...] We continued to
make progress within exploration
and project developments in the
quarter, staying on track to deliver
future growth”, says Helge Lund,
Statoil’s CEO.
Net income in the second
quarter of 2011 was NOK 27.1 billion
compared to NOK 3.1 billion in
// Royal Dutch Shell PLC // Compensation lawsuit
the same period last year. This result
reflected higher prices for both liquids
and gas, a gain on sale of asset of
NOK 7.5 billion net of tax, reduced
exploration expenses and higher net
financial income, partly offset by reduced
liftings. The tax rate for the quarter was
Adjusted earnings in the second
quarter of 2011 were NOK 43.6 billion,
compared to NOK 36.5 billion in the
second quarter of 2010. Adjusted
earnings after tax were NOK 12.8 billion
in the second quarter of 2011. Adjusted
earnings after tax exclude the effect of
tax on net financial items, and represent
an effective adjusted tax rate of 71% in
the second quarter of 2011.
Total equity production was
1692 million bpd in the second quarter
of 2011 compared to 1957 million bpd in
the second quarter of 2010.
as opposed to fighting them out in local
courts. A move that possibly stems from
worries over litigation length.
A ruling from the European Court of
Justice in 2005 made it easier for groups
of litigants to initiate legal action in the
defendant’s home country.
This news story followed shortly
after Chevron’s decade-long legal battle
in Ecuador over illegal dumping in the
Amazon reached a new stage.
After a US$ 18.2 billion verdict in
favour of the plaintiffs, the oil giant and
owner of Texaco – the original defendant –
is now pushing for the verdict to be
nullified and for the Ecuadorian court to
be tried in the US for fraud. This is despite
the fact that Chevron itself fought for eight
years to have the trial in Ecuador, in hopes
of a success there.
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world news

August 2011
// International Energy Agency // Future outlook // Petróleo Brasileiro SA //
New oil deposits
The company’s huge new oil deposits,
discovered in recent years as Petrobras explored
deep off Brazil’s southeastern coast, make
Petrobras one of the most promising petroleum
producers anywhere.
A Brazilian oil executive recently stated,
Brazil’s offshore southern Atlantic oilfields are
potentially the “same size as the North Sea.”
Conservative estimates suggest the beds hold
as much as 16 billion bbls of oil; twice Brazil’s
known reserves of a decade ago and a little less
than the current proven reserves of the US.
Nepomuceno Filho, Petrobras London head
of exploration and production, said the company,
which has headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, is
also preparing to test a recent discovery well in
northeastern Brazil’s offshore Sergipe Basin. This
is an area tipped to be a ‘new oil province.’ Filho
also added that this year Petrobras will reach its
2.1 million bpd of oil production target, closing
in on fellow OPEC member Iraq’s 2.7 million bpd
Additionally, the company’s five year
investment plan, now valued at nearly
US$ 225 billion, ranks as the biggest of any
corporation worldwide, according to some
estimates. To finance investments and refinance
existing debt, Petrobras Chief Financial Officer,
Almir Barbassa, said the company is seeking to
borrow around US$ 47 billion by 2014.
Following earlier substantial undersea oil
discoveries off its Atlantic coastline, including the
Tupi oilfield discovered in 2007 (with its estimated
reserves of 33 billion bbls) and the Jupiter oilfield
discovered in 2008 (with its 12 billion bbls),
Brazil’s share of Latin America’s known reserves
has risen to 5%.
Today, Latin American oil production is very
uneven, with 80% of the region’s total production
jointly produced by Venezuela, Mexico and
President Dilma Rousseff has expressed
her optimism, saying that the oil wealth from the
offshore fields could prove to be a “passport to
the future.”
// Dragon Oil //
A rise in production
The company has revealed a 25% rise
in production in the six months ended
30 June 2011, to around 58 000 bpd
of oil.
During this period, seven new
development wells were drilled on the
Cheleken oilfield, offshore Turkmenistan,
in accordance with the group’s plans
to complete 12 development wells this
The company sold 4.9 million bbls
of crude oil, a 32% increase in volumes
from the corresponding period last year.
Higher gross production is cited as the
main reason behind this uplift.
The company’s cash balance, net
of abandonment and decommissioning,
stood at US$ 1.2 billion and the group
remains debt-free. Dragon reportedly
intends to expand its other operations
in the Caspian Sea. It also said it is
actively looking for acquisition targets in
Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
The company’s share price recently
dropped 5% after it announced the
abandonment of one of its wells off the
west coast of Greenland, after failing to
discover oil. However, the company said
it is still confident about discovering oil
in the Arctic region.
Although not alone in exploring
this region, Cairn’s sizeable bet has set
it apart. The company has seemingly
placed all its hopes on finding oil off
Greenland, after selling most of its Indian
assets to Vedanta for US$ 9 billion.
The company has found small
amounts of oil in previous Greenland
wells but not enough to make them
worth developing. In this well, the
discovery was limited to “oil-prone
A total US$ 600 million will be spent
this year drilling in this region. The
company has already started drilling a
second well on the Napariaq block.
// Cairn // Comes
up dry in Greenland
In Q1 2011 oil prices rose to over
US$ 100/bbl. However, after peaking in
the second quarter, these crude prices
fell slightly, in spite of the International
Energy Agency (IEA)’s announced stock
release, as the economic recovery lost
some steam.
The increasing activity in the
Gulf of Mexico since last year’s oil
spill, with the first new production
coming in the second quarter, is
viewed as a bright outlook. While
overall production remains below
pre-2010 levels, the application and
permitting process is substantially
improved. Oil production elsewhere
in the Americas has continued
to increase, notably in the
Upper Midwest, as well as from the
Canadian oil sands and Brazil.
The short term effects of the
IEA’s release of 60 million bbls from
emergency supplies and OPEC
members’ disagreement over supply
increases, form an unknown for oil
producers. The IEA’s release is expected
to fill the void of Libyan supplies and
brought prices down temporarily.
Beyond the short term, over the next
three to five years, pressures on OPEC
to increase capacity and production are
expected to increase substantially.
Spending in oilfield service activity
is expected to continue to grow by
approximately 15 to 20% in 2011,
returning close to the peak 2008 levels.
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Offshore Norway
ydrocarbon production has been a significant feature in Western Europe for several decades and
a critical revenue generator for a number of governments. Driven by offshore opportunities in the
North Sea, Europe became a key region in calming global oil prices in the early 1980s and mitigating
the effectiveness of producer-side cartel OPEC. The present day brings with it a different set of challenges.
Faced with ageing reserves and declining production rates, how much longer can Western Europe remain an
influential part of global oil and gas production and what does this future hold for oil and gas-related business
in Western Europe? If the outlook really is to be a positive one, what is the current and forecast role of new
technologies such as subsea tiebacks and what of government regulation – a hot topic of late in the UK?
August 2011
Despite being a mature region with declining oil reserves,
Western Europe continues to attract investment in exploration
drilling and field development. Figure 1, provided by the
Douglas-Westwood analyst team, shows 190 fields that have
been recently discovered and may come online by 2015. It
is by no means certain that all will become operational, but
it does show that exploration activity is far from over and
hydrocarbon development, supported by high oil prices, can
remain an attractive and lucrative business. UK waters, known
for smaller finds of late, have 95 fields that may become
operational between now and 2015. Norway, dominated by
Statoil and a trend toward unlocking potential in remote areas,
contains 79 fields. There are eight fields in Denmark, three
in the Netherlands and six in Ireland, where the inhospitable
conditions and a deepwater shelf off the West Coast have so far
prohibited large-scale development but may soon be overcome.
Focusing on Norway and the UK, the bulk of this article looks at
key trends in both areas. This includes the response of supply
chain in generating new technology and the potential bonanza of
decommissioning once production ceases.
Norway, a subsea revolution: bringing remote
Arctic fields onstream
Whereas gas production in the UK has followed a similar,
declining trend to that of oil, this story is not replicated in
Norway. Production of gas in Norwegian waters started later,
has yielded a number of longer lasting plays and now the
prospect of larger, as yet unexploited, bounty. During the
1990s, Norwegian gas production grew by 102%, driven first
by the development of the Åsgard field and later by Kristin,
Snøhvit and Ormen Lange fields. The latter two are in the Arctic
Barents Sea region and represent uncharted waters for the oil
and gas industry and a reserve potential unparalleled elsewhere
in Western Europe. Statoil has initiated a fast track scheme for
many fields, investing heavily in bringing long distance subsea
tie-backs and other technologically challenging concepts to
production within the next five years.
Snøhvit, operated by Statoil, was the first development
completed in the Barents Sea. Harsh, Arctic weather conditions
make it almost impossible to operate a fixed or floating
installation and so other means have
been developed in order to unlock
the region’s vast potential. Snøhvit
was completed without any surface
installations and a 143 km pipeline
transporting unprocessed gas from
the field to a liquefaction terminal
onshore. The field is comprised of
10 producing wells and a single
carbon injection well. The tie-in of
the Albatross field to the pipeline was
also brought onstream in 2007 and
further development at Askeladd is
forecast for first production in 2015.
Keeping the oil or gas
pipelines free of hydrates or wax
and maintaining flow across long
distances is critical to the further
utilisation of subsea developments
in the region. Significant advances
have been made in the development
of specialised thermal coatings for
shorter tiebacks of roughly 15 km or less. Similarly, aerogels
have improved insulation for pipe-in-pipe lines where the carrier
pipe is inside an outer piping in order to protect the product
from corrosion and other flow related issues. Vessel capabilities
have also improved, most notably the ability to reel pipe-in-pipe,
thereby driving down operation times and costs.
The result of these advances is that previously inaccessible
areas can now become production hubs without the need for
costly fixed or floating installations. Smaller fields that would
otherwise have been unworthy of fixed platforms can now be
tied into existing infrastructure and developed accordingly.
Over the next five years the Barents Sea will continue to see
significant development. Arenaria and Ververis fields are likely
to be developed and the giant Goliat field, owned by Eni, lying
southeast of Snøhvit, should be operating by the end of 2013
from a floating platform.
Subsea development is clearly the future of North Sea
hydrocarbon production, potentially extending the viability of
production for decades to come. A leading indicator, expenditure
on subsea hardware, has rebounded strongly in Western Europe
after a substantial decline in 2010. Though spend is unlikely to
match levels seen in the boom years of 2006 – 2009, over the
next five years Douglas-Westwood forecasts expenditure of
US$ 15 billion on subsea hardware in West Europe. This makes
the Western European market larger than that in North America
and the fifth largest globally behind Eastern Europe and FSU,
Asia, Africa and Latin America.
UK: declining reserves and changing operator
The first marked increase in UK oil production came in 1975
when production at the giant Forties field was brought onstream
by BP. Beryl, Brent, Frigg and Piper all began production in 1976
and by 1977 the UK was producing almost 800 000 bpd; roughly
230 times the production rate of 34 000 bpd in 1975. In 1979,
Forties alone was producing an estimated 500 000 bpd. By the
mid-1980s other cornerstones of UK production such as the
Brae, North West Hutton, and Thistle fields had come onstream.
Production surpassed the 2.6 million bpd mark in 1985 as the
Figure 1. New field development in Western Europe. Source: Douglas-Westwood.
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UK accounted for 4.7% of all global production – good for
making it the fifth largest producer behind the Soviet Union, the
USA, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
By today’s standards, the means of production were basic
but should nonetheless be considered as engineering
feats of their time. Large fixed steel platforms and some
concrete-based structures were built onshore and floated out
to site, to be installed in water depths up to 200 m and well
above the water line – dwarfing any buildings found on land. The
construction of these platforms employed thousands of people
in regional hubs such as Tyneside and Aberdeen. Platforms
could weigh as much as 70 000 t; crucial for supporting
hydrocarbon extraction from dozens, if not hundreds, of surface
completed wells and more often, water and gas injection wells,
used to increase pressure in depleting reservoirs.
Low oil prices caused UK production to subside slightly
by the late 1980s, before returning to strong growth under a
new wave of investment in the 1990s. In 1999, oil production
in the UK reached a historic high of 2.9 million bpd, making the
UK the ninth largest producer in the world at the time. Since
that year, production has endured steady decline as available
resources are consumed and the giant fields run dry. Fields that,
at their peak, would have produced hundreds of thousands
of barrels are now churning out only a couple of thousand. By
2009, a decade after reaching peak, the UK produced only
1.4 million bpd; less than half of 1999 production and down to
the 19
largest producer, contributing 1.9% of the global total.
UK gas production tells the same tale. By 2009 the UK
produced 59.6 bcm, a 45% decrease from peak levels and only
2% of total global production. This made the UK the world’s
largest producer of gas.
The changing operator portfolio
The portfolio of operators active in North Sea waters has
undergone significant change over the last 10 years as a
result of declining production. Gone are the days when global
super majors vied for access to suspected giant fields in the
northern North Sea. Only the lucrative West of Shetland has
attracted significant interest. In 2004 BP divested the operation
of the giant Thistle field to Lundin Oil, with the new owners
pinning future production profile
on improving oil recovery rates and
keeping it going over a decade longer
than BP has envisioned. Around
the same time, Shell sold off the
Dunlin field to Fairfield Energy. More
recently, Ithaca has purchased the
Beatrice field from Talisman and Taqa
took over the operating of the Tern
field from Shell. The list is long. In
place of the super majors, there now
exist a number of small and medium
sized operators, originating from all
over the globe.
All of these acquisitions have
two crucial elements in common:
super majors such as BP and Shell
were disinclined to make substantial
investment in stabilising production
rates, instead choosing to focus their
investments on attractive large new
plays in other regions. The smaller scale of North Sea operations
was no longer proportional to the time and effort required.
Operators such as Fairfield, Ithaca and Taqa, on the other
hand, are willing to invest in methods of increased oil recovery,
which often includes using the existing fixed platform as a hub
from which to develop marginal fields in the immediate vicinity
through the use of subsea tiebacks. For these companies, an
extra 25 000 – 50 000 bpd is highly significant and well worth the
investment on assets that clearly still have life left in them. Not
only does this make best use of ageing assets but also means
new high-cost platforms do not need to be built and offshore
man-hours can be reduced.
For the new breed of operator, such assets are pivotal to
their production portfolios and ones that if developed through
leaner, lower cost operating models can be financially rewarding.
The two dynamics have created a trend that will drive a short
term increase in the number of subsea completed wells, stabilise
North Sea production and help generate valuable revenue
for those supply chain companies best capable of driving
technological development forward.
An adaptable tax regime?
Unlike Norway, the UK is wrestling with major challenges
resulting from the global economic downturn, with the Treasury
trying to maximise oil and gas production tax revenues and at
the same time maintain and indeed encourage investment by
E&P companies. However, it was clear that the industry had
been excluded from the 2011 spring budget round of shaping
national hydrocarbon fiscal policy. What impact will the recent
tax changes have on field developments in the UK in the next
five years? It is of course still too early to say how many of
the 95 fields identified by Douglas-Westwood will become
The spring budget raised supplementary tax for oil and gas
production in British waters at oil prices exceeding
US$ 75/bbl from 20% to 32%. Amidst a chorus of protest
from the operators, Statoil voted with its feet and put its
430 million bbls Mariner oilfield development on hold and
Centrica stopped production from its South Morecambe gas
field. Furthermore, the Oil & Gas UK’s 2011 Activity Survey
Source: The UKCS Offshore Decommissioning Report
2010 – 2040, Douglas-Westwood and Deloitte.
Figure 2. Decommissioning expenditure on the UKCS indexed to 2010 (2010 = 1.0).
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The Global 1200
August 2011
suggested that over the next decade £9.6 billion Capex was
at risk as 25 projects were unlikely to go ahead, 20 producing
fields’ lives to be shortened by up to five years, 15 000 jobs
endangered and £50 billion of additional energy imports would
be required.
Then in early July, the Treasury signalled that it would
offer some respite by increasing tax relief on losses from 6%
to 10%. Oil & Gas UK said that it, “Considers HM Treasury’s
announcement of an extension to the ‘Ring Fence Expenditure
Supplement’ to be a constructive move. Whilst the change
to the allowance will not redress the damage caused by the
recent tax increase, it will help new investors to the UKCS who
are otherwise disadvantaged compared to more established
players.” Statoil stated that, “The negative impact from the tax
increase proposed in March has been neutralised for the Mariner
investment and the project is now back on track.” And Centrica
restarted production at the South Morecambe gas field.
Other issues that still require addressing are tax relief for
decommissioning to encourage ‘late life’ investment and in the
words of Oil & Gas UK, “Liberate the transfer of assets to those
companies best suited to maximise investment and lengthen
the lives of mature fields.” The underlying problem is that as
UK production declines and new finds reduce in size, operating
costs rise significantly. The £3/boe 2001 average equates to
£3.60 in 2010 prices (an inflation gain of +20%), but actual UK
Opex in 2010 was approximately £8/boe; a cost inflation of
It is undeniable that over the decades we have seen that the
UK tax regime has proven itself to be adaptable to the realities
of internationally competing for operators’ dollars. However,
the overarching need is for tax regimes to be predictable. If not,
the government will have failed in its long term duty to promote
energy security and local engineering skills.
Decommissioning: preparing for the £25 billion
Despite the positive impact of new technologies, subsea
tie-backs and small, efficient operators, hydrocarbon production
on the UKCS is entering its final decades. The Department
for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) predicts that while
40 billion bbls of oil have already been produced in the UK to
date, there are only 20 billion bbls of recoverable reserves left
to go. As production ceases on large fields, platforms become
redundant and will need to be decommissioned. The Convention
for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East
Atlantic (OSPAR) agreement of 1998, stipulates that fixed steel
platforms must be returned to shore for deconstruction and
recycling, unless alternative uses can be found for them. Aside
from the re-use of smaller platforms in the southern North Sea
such as the Perenco-operated Welland platform, this will invariably
require a complex process of cleaning, cutting and removal to
shore of tens of thousands of tonnes of steel per year.
The BP-operated North West Hutton is the largest platform
to be removed to date on the UKCS – a project that required
216 days of heavy lift vessel time and almost 80 separate lifts to
remove the topsides and jacket in two phases over a 17 month
period. Removal of the various platforms on the Shell-operated
Inde field began this year after years of meticulous planning and
field preparation. This is the tip of the iceberg. Over the next
three decades more than 270 fields will be abandoned and over
250 fixed steel installations deconstructed.
In the UK alone, the market for decommissioning activity
is expected to be in excess of US$ 33 billion with the busiest
period coming at the end of the current decade. Once Norwegian
demand is added to this, it is clear to see why the looming
prospect of decommissioning is widely viewed as a bonanza for
the supply chain and with some caution by operators saddled
with the largest platforms and ominous liabilities. A number of
technological and logistical issues will need to be overcome in
order for the process to run smoothly. New vessels, capable
of executing single lift operations in excess of 10 000 t, will be
required by the middle of this decade. The vast Pieter Schelte is
currently under construction for Allseas in South Korea. With a
lift capacity as high as 48 000 t, it is likely to be at the forefront
of the largest projects. Other technologies such as an innovative
twin-vessel pincer system envisaged by SeaMetric of Norway are
being developed despite lacking funds for final construction. New
onshore yards are also likely to be developed, or at least former
construction yards will need to be revived as the most iconic
platforms in UK waters return to shore for final deconstruction.
The good news is that the supply chain is rapidly catching onto
these requirements, potentially driving down costs – which may
have a positive impact across society as a whole if the taxpayer is
indirectly called upon to provide tax relief to operators undertaking
such operations. New methods of rigless well intervention, for
example, are being developed with the hope that lower cost plugging
and abandonment operations commonplace in the Gulf of Mexico
can be imported to UK waters. The Pieter Schelte should reduce
offshore operation times for lift vessels. Cutting technology is also
improving rapidly as the likes of Cutting Underwater Technologies
(CUT) develop diamond wire cutting tools capable of slicing through
increasingly large diameter steel.
This year has seen the acquisition of Norse Cutting by subsea
specialist Oceaneering, and RBG by Dutch engineering firm Stork.
Decommissioning opportunities are likely to provide significant
upside for both Oceaneering and Stork as they seek to upgrade
their services in line with the significant increase in overall activity
expected in the next five to 10 years.
The future
Hydrocarbon production in Western Europe will be increasingly
dominated by subsea developments. Whether this is in the
vast unknown of Norway’s Arctic region or on the UKCS to tie
marginal fields to existing infrastructure, subsea technology is the
key behind bringing previously uncommercial fields onstream.
By and large, the new fields are large gas plays with West of
Shetland providing some potential for oil. Across the continent
it is oil that is disappearing the fastest, with peak production
at least a decade past. This will, ultimately, drive demand for a
decommissioning boom which is already drawing acquisition
attention and large-scale technological development.
In 40 years, offshore Europe has changed dramatically and is
now a very different place where even the names of many of the
field operators would have been unrecognised only a decade ago.
The changes will continue as the region’s governments increasingly
recognise the need to attract new players and put in place better
deals for existing ones in order to suck the North Sea dry.
1. The World Subsea Hardware Market Report 2011 – 2015.
2. The UKCS Offshore Decommissioning Report 2010 – 2040.
3. BP Statistical Review 2010.
Big game hunting
n the international oilpatch, immense deposits of crude are
called elephants. And every day, they get more difficult to find.
Most basins around the world are restricted to exploration by
National Oil Companies (NOCs), and many potentially prolific
offshore areas, such as the East and West Coast of the US, are
kept off limits for political and environmental reasons. The few
remaining hunting grounds, such as the Gulf of Mexico, offshore
Brazil and the West Coast of Africa, present daunting challenges.
Marine seismic is one of the most potent weapons in an
explorer’s arsenal. The ability to search vast areas of ocean and
Oilfield Technology Correspondent Gordon Cope
examines the growing importance of utilising marine
seismic methods in identifying new deposits.
identify promising structures and stratigraphic traps has led to a
booming offshore industry that employs hundreds of thousands
of professionals and spends billions worldwide. Even the BP
tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that led to a drilling
moratorium has failed to dampen the enthusiasm and optimism
within the sector. As one long-time exhibitor attending this year’s
Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston noted; “I’ve
never seen that many people in attendance. The place was
buzzing with energy.”
But good intentions only go so far; in order to bag
increasingly elusive elephants, oil companies need ever more
powerful seismic technologies. Fortunately, the sector has risen
to the challenge. Innovations and advances fall into three main
categories; acquisition, processing and interpretation.
The old computer adage; garbage in, garbage out (GIGO), has
great relevance in geophysics. When a single exploration well can
cost US$ 150 million, poor data quality that leads to erroneous
targets can waste a fortune. This has led service companies to
invest millions in R&D to ensure that acquisition of seismic data is
of the highest caliber. “We’ve seen improvements in the last few
years regarding the ability to position cables and boats to within
10 m of where you want them,” says Stewart Levin, a Halliburton
Fellow (a senior, multidisciplinary advisor with the US-based
service firm). “It makes for better quality.”
Over the last several years, acquisition companies have
been purchasing a new type of vessel, the X-BOW line designed
by Norwegian firm Ulstein Design & Solutions. Rather than
having a sharp, V-shaped bow that cuts through the water, the
Introducing the faster, safer, more dependable
Advantage Bending Machine.
X-BOW bow is shaped more like a tyre’s inflated inner tube,
bulbous and receding. The unique design lets the vessel
cut through rough seas cleanly, efficiently and smoothly,
allowing greater positioning and towing of streamers.
The Oceanic Vega (Figure 2) can conduct 3D and 4D seismic
surveys and high resolution projects using up to 16, 9 km
streamers. Eidesvik Seismic Vessels (a joint venture between
shipowner Eidesvik Offshore and geophysical company
CGGVeritas), WesternGeco and Polarcus are a few of the
seismic acquisition companies that have added the X-BOW
vessel to their fleets.
Streamer cables have also advanced technologically.
A streamer is a buoyant line of hydrophones (also known
as jugs) that record reflected vibrations returning from the
layers of rock beneath the seafloor. A seismic vessel typically
pulls over a dozen, 8 – 10 km long lines of streamers set
100 m apart. The streamers are guided by ‘birds’, motor and
wing equipped modules that can be programmed to keep
the cable at the same angle and azimuth behind the vessel.
Schlumberger’s WesternGeco offers the Q-marine system, and
CGGVeritas markets the Sentinel solid streamer and Nautilus
control device. PGS’s GeoStreamer can tow streamers at
deeper depths, and record in harsher weather conditions.
Operators have been promoting complex acquisition
patterns to increase coverage of data. “Wide azimuth (WAZ)
and full azimuth (FAZ) have been a dominant theme in
marine seismic over the last two to three years,” says Levin.
“You record along many different directions and get a lot of
coverage. This permits optimal illumination of deep reservoirs
below complex overburden geometries, such as salt bodies.
These huge volumes of data also help cut down noise and
improve target definition and resolution.”
WAZ and FAZ are very expensive, however. “The industry has
been experimenting with circular, or coil shooting, which is a way
to get full azimuth, but cut down costs,” says Christof Stork, a
research scientist with Halliburton Landmark. “Two boats circle
the target area, gathering data. There may be issues relating to
how to deal with the noise from the cables turning, but it can be
10 times less expensive than FAZ.”
Companies are also opting for multi-client surveys. For
instance, TGS Nopec Geophysical and WesternGeco recently
shot 27 000 km
of WAZ 3D in the Gulf of Mexico, and have
several other surveys planned.
An alternative to towing cable is to put ocean bottom
cable (OBC) and nodes (OBN) permanently on the bottom.
“It’s costly to cover a wide area, but it’s a leapfrog over
traditional acquisition,” says Levin. “Because you are coupling
to the seafloor, you can directly record elastic waves, which
gives you an extra handle on anisotropic effects (in which the
velocity of waves travelling through a given formation changes
with direction). If you’re doing something on the seafloor, like
attaching cables or laying pipe, it also gives you a good idea of
possible shallow hazards, like unstable sediments.”
Ocean bottom acquisition has also allowed geophysicists to
use multiples for subsurface imaging (multiples are generated
when the initial reflected wave bounces off the seafloor layer
and re-reflects back through geological layers). “When a
primary wave traverses the ocean bottom surface, it can be
chopped up,” says Levin. “The OBC can measure multiples
moving at different angles and getting a look underneath
structures. You can actually get better imaging results from
multiples than primaries. It’s an area that people are getting
really excited about.”
After the data is acquired, but before it can be interpreted, it
must be processed. This intermediate procedure is necessary in
order to separate out the valuable signal (which may represent
less than 2% of recorded data), from background noise.
Corrections are also made for near surface layers that can cause
time/depth correlation distortions. The use of WAZ and FAZ
acquisition, which generates extremely large amounts of data,
allows increasingly complex algorithms and computing power to
sort the wheat from the chaff.
The successful exploitation of the subsalt play in the
Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil is an example of processing’s
advanced power. Salt is an evaporite sediment composed
of sodium chloride, gypsum, calcite and anhydrite. It is lain
down in restricted circulation basins (such as the ancient Gulf
of Mexico), or in arid regions that receive periodic influxes
of saltwater. During the Cretaceous, for instance, the mega
continent of Gondwana broke apart. Large deposits of salt in
excess of 10 000 ft were laid down in the ocean channels that
opened as South America slowly began to drift apart from Africa,
approximately 120 million years ago.
Under geologic pressure, salt behaves like a plastic and
forms diapirs, which generate prolific adjacent reservoirs in
sediments above. But the distorted nature of the salt, and its
high seismic velocity contrast, leads to a lot of ray bending
and wave refraction, creating immense difficulty imaging
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August 2011
potential traps beneath. Over the last decade, increases in
computing power have allowed geoscientists to perform
Reverse Time Depth Migration (RTM), in which reflected
energy is moved into the subsurface in order to correctly
place it where it was reflected. The result has been a recent
wave of subsalt discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil,
including the Tupi (now Lula) block that may contain as much
as 5 – 8 billion bbls of oil.
Interpretation has benefited from improvements in three
areas; the increased potential for collaboration among the
various geosciences, the ability to visualise the data, and the
increased amount of information that can be plucked from
the seismic data. “You need an integrated team; geologists,
geophysicists, engineers, to take full advantage of the data,”
Figure 1. Geophysicists are researching complex new simulation tools in order to customise seismic
surveys. Images courtesy of SEAM.
says Levin. “Landmark’s Decision
Space Desktop is designed for
cross-disciplinary interpretation
by a single interpreter or a
collaborating group. You can
combine different data types very
efficiently, make more intelligent
analyses, and, ultimately make
better decisions.”
Complex visual software
creates optical illusions that
allow geoscientists to immerse
themselves directly into the data.
Collaborative visualisation centres,
in which professionals wore 3D
goggles, have now given way to
systems that allow geoscientists
to work in a similar immersive
environment right at their
desktops, even when separated by
thousands of kilometres.
The sheer amount of
quality data generated allows
geoscientists to tease out much
more valuable information. “The
traditional interpretation has been
to pick horizons, but that is now
being extended to a full geological
model where you can combine
potentially complex horizons into
complex structure with properties,”
says Stork. “Full geologic models
have many uses, such as velocity
for depth migration, reservoir
properties, anisotropy and salt
Today, 4D seismic continues
to grow in value. This 4D seismic
is a refinement based upon data
collected in 3D seismic surveys.
A 3D survey uses the same
technique as a traditional 2D
survey (in which sound waves from
a point source travel through the
ground and are reflected off the
interface between two geologic formations back to acoustic
receivers), but the seismic lines are laid out much closer
together. The greater density of coverage allows processors
to fill in information between the lines, creating a 3D picture of
the sub-surface with much greater accuracy and detail. A 4D
seismic survey is simply a 3D survey repeated over the same
area in order to show changes that have occurred in the sub-
surface over time.
4D seismic is most valuable when used to show how an
offshore field is being produced. Several fields, including BP’s
Atlantis field in the Gulf of Mexico, and Chevron’s Agbami
field in Nigeria, use a 4D seismic system equipped with
ocean bottom cable. Seismic data collected over time allows
geoscientists to high-grade areas that require infill drilling.
Because OBC can degrade from saltwater invasion over time,
some operators are experimenting with more robust fibre optic

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cable; ConocoPhillips recently installed a CGGVeritas
fibre-optic system in Ekofisk off Norway.
In the near future, geophysicists will be exploring better
ways of planning seismic surveys to suit the geology of the
play, rather than the depths of client pockets. “Acquisition
design is becoming far more complex,” says Stork. “Before,
you used a kind of one-size-fits-all approach in your choice
of cables and acquisition patterns. Now, we are seeing the
value of customising.”
For the last several years, a consortium has been
working on an advanced modelling initiative called SEAM
(Society of Exploration Geophysicists Advanced Modeling).
“The idea is to use computers to generate a realistic
simulation of various marine seismic surveys and compare
the results with what we know is true in the model,” says
Stork. “We had to run large computer clusters for a year
to do it. The results will be publicly released in May, 2013.
It is a big step toward improving processing and imaging
technology and testing designs for large seismic surveys.”
Figure 1 illustrates complex new simulation tools that
geophysicists are researching.
In the more distant future, entirely new processing
programs will open up far greater imaging powers.
“Seismic imaging has taken 30 years to get to the near
ultimate approach of reverse time depth migration with
anisotropy,” says Stork. “To get future improvements, we
need to take a significantly different path, which is the new
technology of full waveform inversion (FWI). The potential of
this technology is huge, but it is a big challenge. Once we
work out the computing and algorithm problems, we’ll see
some great results. It will be like a high resolution CAT scan
of the underground. But, it’s going to be difficult because
we’ll need 10 – 1000 times the computing power currently
In the meantime, demand for crude will continue to rise.
According to the US Energy Information Administration
(EIA), world consumption of crude is expected to climb from
current levels of 88 million bpd to 104 million bpd by 2030.
To reach that number, oil companies will have to discover
several dozen giant oilfields. But if the spirit of the seismic
sector is anything to go by, service companies, scientists
and oil firms will continue to refine seismic exploration and
carry it into new regions (such as the China Sea and
under-explored patches of the West Coast of Africa),
searching for the next elephant.
Marine seismic interviews
1. Stewart Levin is a Halliburton Fellow, a senior, multidisciplinary advisor
with the US-based service firm.
2. Christof Stork is a research scientist with Halliburton Landmark.
3. Larry Lines is a professor of geophysics at the University of Calgary.
Photo courtesy of
Ulstein Group/Tony Hall.
Figure 2. The Oceanic Vega is a state-of-the-art seismic research vessel of the SX120 type designed and built by Ulstein Group of Norway for
Eidesvik Seismic Vessels.
he acquisition of site survey data has always
been a necessary precursor to stationing oil
drilling platforms or vessels into a deepwater
environment. Due to recent drilling concerns, these
site surveys will likely be held to an even higher
standard than they have been in the past. Sparker
sources have been around for many years, and the
more modern chirp sources have become popular
in the last 10 years because of their ease of use
and low cost of deployment.
Acquiring site survey
data and properly interpreting it has always been
a crucial part in drilling exploration or production
Site surveys can include multi-beam or
side-scan sonar, magnetometer surveys, and sparker
or chirp surveys. In the past, these data have been
interpreted in analog form to provide engineers
the information they need to perform site surveys.

There are also GI or gas-injection guns, designed
to remove the effects of bubble cavitation from the
source signal. While computers have tremendously
improved the ability of the site survey engineer/
geophysicist to interpret and present these data
in a useable digital display form over the last
20 years, very rarely have these data been loaded
into and integrated with modern 3D seismic data.
By integrating these two unique datasets (high
frequency: 22.5 KHz sparker and normal frequency:
8 – 250 Hz 3D seismic data), one can realise a more
complete interpretation of the shallow horizons.

, U


August 2011
This integration will enable one to see the deeper features
in the shallow portions of the normal frequency 3D seismic
data tied together with the shallow high frequency features,
just below the water bottom (say: first 60 m). This is crucial
in detailing gas chimney and over-pressured shallow ground
water problems that cannot be clearly defined with just one
seismic data set. In this example, the data being used to
determine sea-bottom stability due to higher than normal sea
floor relief is shown.
Paradigm continues to develop innovative software
tools to improve the usefulness of its clients’ 2D and 3D
seismic data generally collected in the frequency range
of 12 – 250 Hz. While these data are excellent for deep
geological investigations, the low frequency data does not
Figure 1. Study location showing the mini-sparker lines in red and
enclosed within the green lines.
Figure 2. Actual lines tested.
always provide the best resolution at the ocean bottom.
With recent concerns related to geological hazards in
deepwater environments, Paradigm has been adapting its
software to have the ability to process and display high
frequency sparker seismic data using its seismic processing
and interpretation tools. Paradigm’s Echos processing
software is utilised to improve the S/N ratio of the mini-
sparker data and the 3D viewer; Paradigm SeisEarth is used
to display those results. Public domain mini-sparker data
were obtained from the USGS. These data were acquired in
off the California coast at Port Hueneme, California.
The purpose of this article is to present the results of
reprocessing those data sets.
Geologic setting
These data span the Hueneme Submarine Canyon through
which the sediments from the lower Santa Clara River flow
into the Santa Monica Basin. The data have been acquired
to determine the tsunamigenic potential of the sediments
at the mouth of the Hueneme Canyon because of the high
relief features present in the sea floor. The Hueneme Canyon
has near-vertical outcrops that are composed of young
sedimentary sequences. This indicates that massive erosion
occurred during the latest Holocene. Because the canyon’s
side walls are over-steepened and contain unconsolidated
deposits that were rapidly accumulated, the potential to
cause an earthquake-induced tsunami is considered to be
elevated. Also, since the canyon is near the highly populated
Los Angeles metropolitan area, this risk due to local faulting
needs to be fully assessed.
This is the primary reason these
data were acquired. The reprocessing of these data using
Echos 1.0 software can help delineate some on-lap and
off-lap sequences. It clearly is not the purpose of this article
to make any assessment of the tsunamigenic potential of the
Hueneme Submarine Canyon; rather to show how these data
can be reprocessed to better delineate the geologic features
present in the canyon area.
Data acquisition and initial processing
The USGS acquired these data using a SIG 2 Mille
mini-sparker with a 500 joule high voltage electrical discharge
that creates a seismic source with more power and lower
frequency than a typical chirp system (21 KHz). Depending on
the water depth, the source was fired at intervals of one to four
times per second. At the survey speed of around 4 knots, data
traces are created every 2 m to every ½ m along the
ship-track. These data were recorded with a sampling rate
of one sample every 62 μsec, using a 15 m long hydrophone
streamer. The data processed had variable record lengths
ranging from 290 to 990 ms, depending on water depth. The
sparker source was towed at roughly 2.5 m beneath the water
surface. This caused considerable bubble effects that translate
into seismic noise, which were muted out in the re-processing
sequence. Differential GPS fixes were recorded in the SEG-Y
trace headers in arc seconds. The data were digitally recorded
in standard SEG-Y 32-bit format using a Triton SBL system
that merged the GPS and seismic data together. For this study,
the data are positioned using relative locations only.
The data were collected either parallel or perpendicular
to the coastline on a roughly 1.2 km grid. The line locations
acquired by the USGS are shown in Figure 1 in red.
August 2011
Data enhancement
Fundamental data processing was performed on the
mini-sparker data in order to appreciate its inherent data
resolution of approximately +/- 0.5 to 2 m. This need is
apparent when one views the data before and after the
processing that was performed in Figure 3 to improve the S/N
ratio. The noise trains seen initially in the data make these
data almost impossible to utilise for interpretation. The simple
processing that was performed using Echos 1.0 processing
software used the following basic work flow:
x DSIN: data load.
x DBMUTE: simple mute of the first arrivals of the water
x FILTER: band pass filter suppressing high bias seen as
vertical line noise in the record.
x AGC: automatic gain control with a varying 200 – 440 ms
window, depending on data length.
x RUNMIX: 1-7-1 weighted boxcar filter.
x FXDECON: FX domain Spectral Deconvolution using a
128 ms lag gap operator over the 32 – 1856 Hz range.
x FKPOWER: FK sample power 1.1 over 200 ms to enhance
the S/N ratio.
x Final DBMUTE: reinstate initial mute.
x DSOUT: output the final data set.
As you can see, all the inherent noise and chatter that is
typically recorded with mini-sparker data has been reduced
considerably in Figure 3. The time scale shown indicates
resolution of
/5 of 0.01 sec TWT or +/- 0.002 sec TWT. At a
velocity of 2000 m/s, this equates to +/- 1 m one-way time so
the required resolution of +/- 2 m using this basic and rapid
workflow in Echos 1.0 is satisfied. Conclusions from these
results in Figure 3 suggest that these data have been acquired
extremely well and will be useful in the hazard survey for which
they have been acquired. The noise train seen above the water
bottom is almost entirely due the sparker source’s bubble
effect. This was removed by using a non-ramped mute at the
water bottom. The data had a rich band of frequencies ranging
between 32 – 1856 Hz. A de-spiking filter was also applied at
670 Hz to remove a prevalent noise train seen in some of the
Paradigm’s whole purpose for reprocessing the sparker
data was to determine if it could delineate the geological
features more clearly. While Figure 3 certainly shows that,
Figure 4 shows that the reprocessing effort images the
geological layers and features well enough to clearly show
several, otherwise hard to distinguish features. The nearly
slumping offset beds and the local faults are better delineated.
One of the several faults is annotated. Hence, as a result of
reprocessing Line HC-12 using this workflow, a more useful
display for the geologists has been produced.
Loading data into 3D canvas
The processed mini-sparker seismic lines were loaded into
3D Canvas with a data sample rate of 62 μsec, rather than
the typical 2 or 4 ms for 2D and 3D seismic data. Lines
HC-12 and HC-14 are shown as the Line HC-14 intersects
Line HC-12 in the canyon where previous slump features off
the shelf can be observed in Figure 4. These two lines intersect
within +/- 0.5 ms. This demonstrates how well the data were
acquired. Figure 5 shows all four lines displayed in 3D Canvas.
Take particular note of the line intersections with Line HC-12.
Figure 3. The left panel shows the data before processing. Right
panel shows the improvement in the S/N ratio. Time increment on
both panels is 0.01 sec.
Figure 4. The left panel shows the data before processing. Right
panel shows the improvement in the Sparker image as a result of the
reprocessing effort. Time increment on both panels is 0.01 sec.
Figure 5. Lines HC-12 and 14 (from left to right) shown intersecting.
The intersection is annotated with an arrow and it has only a < 0.5 ms
If one zooms in on the intersection between line HC-12
and HC-14 shown in Figure 5, an old slump surface is easily
observed in Figure 6. This surface intersects with the water
bottom multiple but is still interpretable.
This slump and toe thrust feature can now be further
observed in Figure 7 where the other side of line HC-14 is in
view. While Paradigm’s software allows for opacity, it becomes
too confusing in a 2D picture, rather than in a 3D visualisation
Figure 6. We can observe the toe of the gravity slump in HC-14 and
see the old slump face on HC-12.
Figure 7. In this 3D Canvas display we can see the slump toe on line
HC-14 and see how the toe thrust has moved up the adjacent canyon
wall on line HC-12.
tool such as 3D Canvas. Hence, opacity was not used here. The
slump toe is visible again on line HC-14 and, additionally, a leading
toe shooting up the opposite side of the canyon can be seen on
line HC-12, over what appears to be a thrust surface.
Conclusion and future work
After performing a basic processing flow on these data and loading
them into 3D Canvas, the company was able to easily view these
62 μsec data in a standard 3D seismic data package designed
for viewing 2 – 4 ms data. The added advantage of this is that
both data sets can be viewed together in 3D and effectively carry
out hazards surveys utilising both types of seismic data. While
multiples observed in these data do interfere in the interpretation
process, as long as the interpreter follows them closely, he can
see the additional primary signal brought out by the processing.
It is Paradigm’s intent to further design filtering and/or muting
methods that will enable the removal of these types of noise trains
in the future to further improve the data utility. One major problem
in doing this with Chirp or mini-sparker data is that gathers with
multiple offsets are not acquired; data are simply acquired one
trace per record. Because of this, it is not possible to apply any
surface consistent methodology to remove the multiple. Hence,
the removal of multiples in these data will require a creative
application of selectively removing multiples.
Another item noticed and commented upon relates to misties.
Even though they were small (< 0.5 ms), these can be removed
since the data is loaded at 62 μsec. In Echos 1.0, the module
HDRMATH can be used to remove the misties line-by-line at any
intersecting point.
This article has shown that 62 μsec data can be quickly and
easily reprocessed and imaged more clearly to define subtle
and shallow geological features which can be hazardous to the
placement of drilling rigs. These data can also be loaded into a
3D interpretation environment and co-rendered along with regular
8 – 250 Hz 2D and 3D seismic data. As such, the purpose of this
small test has been accomplished.
1. Duchesne, M. J., Bellefleur, G., Galbraith, M., Kolesar, R. and Kusmeski, R.,
‘Strategies for waveform processing in sparker data’, Mar. Geophys. Res., v. 27
(Springer, 2007).
2. Fish, J. P. and Arnold Carr, H., ‘Sound Underwater Images: a guide to
the interpretation of side-scan sonar data’, L. Cape Pub., Cataumut
(1990), p. 189.
3. Normark, W.R., Piper, D.J.W. and Sliter, R., ‘Sea-level and tectonic control
of middle to late Pleistocene turbidite systems in Santa Monica Basin,
offshore California’, Sedimentology, v. 53 (2006), pp. 867 – 897.
4. Sliter, R.W., Triezenberg, P.J., Hart, P.E., Draut, A.E., Normark, W.R. and
Conrad, J.E., ‘High-Resolution Chirp and Mini-Sparker Seismic-Reflection
Data From the Southern California Continental Shelf – Gaviota to Mugu
Canyon’, USGS Open File Report (2008-1246), p. 4.
Available free of charge to registered readers:
Sedimentary basins
in the Siberian Arctic
Alexander Grevtsev, Natalya Petrovskaya,
Alexander Savitsky, DMNG JSC, Russia,
reveal a new approach to seismic acquisition
as a basis for new geological results.
he Arctic continental shelf constitutes the largest
unexplored prospective area for hydrocarbons
remaining on Earth. Ever-increasing interest
from both the state and the oil companies in the Arctic
seas is explained by their high resource potential. The
discovery of large and unique offshore oil and gas fields
(Shtokmanovskoye, Rusanovskoye, Prirazlomnoye)
in the west Arctic, as well as existing prerequisites
for finding new hydrocarbon accumulations there,
determine the necessity for extensive exploration of
these offshore areas.
The sedimentary basins of the east Siberian and
Chukchi Seas, which occupy wide offshore areas in
the Siberian Arctic, overlap the structures of the
Verkhoyano-Kolymskaya and Chukchi fold systems in
the continental part of the Chukotka Peninsular.
August 2011
In the north, shelf platform pitches in the continental slope
direction. In the northwest, the New Siberian Islands form a
natural border to the Vilkitsky and Novosibirsky basins located in
the East Siberian Sea.
The western Chukchi Sea shelf comprises the central
part of the North-Chukchi and the northwest part of the
South-Chukchi sedimentary basins, as well as the extensive
Wrangel-Herald High of the inversion type, which separates
the basins. Structures of the Chukchi riftogenic depression
and uplift system separate the North-Chukchi basin
from sedimentary basins located in the US sector of the
Chukchi Sea (Figure 1).
Sedimentary basins differ in stratigraphic range, lithological
composition and thickness of their rocks. Age characteristics of
the recognised units are justified by both the well data from north
Alaska and the American sector of the Chukchi Sea, as well
as through the time of main geological events in the adjacent
onshore and offshore areas.
The acoustic basement and sedimentary covers were
identified in the top of the East Arctic Region’s crustal sequence
Figure 1. Structural-tectonic elements of the Siberian Arctic.
based on seismic-stratigraphic analysis.
Five structural-stratigraphic sequences are
recognised in the sedimentary cover of the
basins: Lower Ellesmerian (Upper Paleozoic
– Lower Permian), Upper Ellesmerian
(Upper Permian – Middle Jurassic), Rift
(Upper Jurassic – Lower Cretaceous),
Lower Brookian (Lower – Upper Cretaceous)
and Upper Brookian (Cenozoic), separated
by unconformities (Figure 2).
Geological results
Last year, DMNG acquired an integrated
geophysical survey in the Siberian Arctic
using a long streamer (8000 m), a high
capacity airgun source (5000 in.
) and a
record length of up to 12 sec. This allowed
for recording consistent reflections at depths
of up to 30 km. A number of new geological
phenomena, which are of great importance
for understanding the regional geology
and tectonics, as well as for hydrocarbon
resource evaluation in Novosibirsky and
North Chukchi basins, were identified.
Novosibirsky basin
Sedimentary cover of significant (more
than 20 km) thickness was distinguished
in the south part of the East Siberian Sea
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Figure 2. Correlation chart for the Cenozoic deposits of Bunge land, New-Siberian and
Ayon islands and Alaskan Selavik trough.
Figure 3. East Siberian Sea: seismic line fragment of Survey 1990.
August 2011
for the first time. Maximum depth of the acoustic basement is
9 – 9.2 sec. Previously the basement surface was marked by
the dynamically apparent boundary traced at the top of the
sedimentary cover at 0.5 – 2.0 sec. (Figures 3 and 4).
The acquired data allows for the reconsideration of the
current opinions on the Cretaceous-Cenozoic age of the
Novosibirsky basin’s sedimentary cover, which very likely
Figure 5. North Chukchi trough: seismic line fragment of Survey 2010.
Figure 4. East Siberian Sea: seismic line fragment of Survey 2010.
Figure 6. Geophysical indicators of North Chukchi trough section productivity.
contains deposits from Paleozoic to Upper Jurassic-age
equivalents of the Ellesmerian, and possibly the upper part of
the Franklinian sequences.
Presence of diapirs in the sedimentary cover was confirmed;
in the middle part of the section the diapirs form diapiric folds
with crests recorded at depths of 4 – 6 sec.
In terms of tectonics, the location of the southeast
centroclinal closure of the Novosibirsky trough
was identified. Geophysical indicators of the
section productivity were distinguished. They were
most pronounced in the Dreamhead Rift area.
North Chukchi basin
Figure 5 shows the line of sub-meridional
orientation, which was acquired in 2010 to the
west of Wrangel Island. It clearly shows the
south flank and low of the north Chukchi trough.
The depth of acoustic basement within the line
increases northward from 1.5 to 9 sec., which
was not seen before. On the seismic section
SC-90-01, which lies to the east, the basement
surface is bounded by an 8 sec. seismic record.
The section is well stratified, and oblique (inclined
bedding) seismic facies are distinguished in
its middle part. A number of anomalies, which
evidence the presence of hydrocarbons in
sedimentary cover, were identified within several
major structures (Figure 6).
To date it is established that continental
margins, both recent and old, represent the main
oil and gas generation and accumulation regions,
which is confirmed by the results of exploration
works in the Arctic shelves of the Norwegian,
Barents, Kara and Beaufort Seas. Established
commercial oil and gas content in the Alaskan
North Slope and the US portion of the Chukchi Sea
confirms high potential of Eurasia’s east Arctic
Available geophysical data also bears evidence
to the high petroleum potential of sedimentary
basins. Such composition, thickness of sediments,
size and structure of sedimentary cover create
favourable conditions for generation, migration and
accumulation of hydrocarbons.
Preliminary marine data acquired in 2010 reveals the
importance and necessity for further continuation of
such research, and the obtained results indicate new
opportunities in studying the deep crustal structure.
One cannot expect that a new geological
concept will now evolve on the basis of this new
data, but the acquired information will contribute
greatly to the study of the structure of a number
of certain tectonic elements of the region and to
learning the trends of its structure and development.
In-depth and comprehensive interpretation of the
acquired data is yet to be made. The data will
be most helpful for better understanding of both
the Siberian Arctic’s geological history and its
hydrocarbon potential.

BOOTHS 5D70 & 5D80
technology firm based in Scotland, has
developed the atomic dielectric resonance
(ADR) scanner; imaging technology capable
of determining the location of hydrocarbons
prior to costly drilling programmes, which has
already proved successful for various oil and gas
The scanner, to which Adrok Ltd owns the
exclusive rights, identifies oil, gas and minerals from
surface level to a depth of up to 4 km. ADR, a recently
patented investigative technique, quantifies oil and
gas reserves, giving an accurate indication of the mix
of sand and water. It also maps geological structures
to a very high resolution and carries out scans of large
remote areas. After the system has been trained, it
provides the reassurance of absolute answers, which
are not subject to interpretation by geologists. The
output data from the scanner also provides results
that are easy to understand.
The technology works by sending a narrow
beam of energy into the ground using micro and
radio waves. The beam is then reflected back by
the various rock layers and the energy changed
by the materials it has passed through on the way.
Adrok, founded by father and son Dr Colin Stove
and Gordon Stove, commercially launched ADR in
2007. The system and technology was named atomic
dielectric resonance after the process whereby the
laser-like beam sets up resonance at the sub-atomic
level and can thereby penetrate any material.
Next generation
Gordon Stove, Adrok Ltd, UK, introduces
a new scanner for determining the location
of hydrocarbons prior to drilling.
Figure 1. A desert survey in Oman.
August 2011
For the oil industry, Adrok uses ADR to generate a virtual well
log, for example, information equivalent to that derived from a
drilled and logged well. At present, the output takes the form of:
x Spectrometric material classification of subsurface layers;
virtual log providing material classification.
x Dielectric log – showing dielectric permittivity curves to
distinguish different rock layering.
x Image of the subsurface – e.g. profile scan (two-dimensional
Adrok can provide the outputs of its dielectric log and the
virtual logs to the client in ASCII format, to allowing the client to
input these measurements into their own software models of the
survey site(s).
Major advance
With a renewed interest in onshore production, the technology
is generating much interest, and is already being used by oil and
gas companies including BG Group, Oman-based International
Business Development Company LLC (IBD Group) and
international mining companies. Exploration activity has been
carried out in a range of environments from deserts in Oman, to
the Canadian Arctic circle and offshore sites.
The equipment comprises a transmitting antenna, a receiving
antenna, a signal generator to produce and modulate the laser
beam, timing equipment and a computer to record the returned
signal. All of the necessary instruments required to carry out a
survey can be driven to the site in a vehicle and a strip of land
about 100 m long is needed for the full investigation. Individual
site surveys typically last two hours, which means up to five
can be carried out in a day. The results of the survey can
usually be determined within three days. Another key feature
of this advanced approach is that the power levels transmitted
are very small; some 3000 times less than that from a mobile
phone. As a result, users can be reassured that no current signal
transmission regulations will be breached.
Case study: onshore basin, Morocco
Caithness Petroleum contracted Adrok to carry out ADR
surveys in 2007 at certain locations in an onshore basin in
Morocco. This project was the first use of ADR technology
for commercial hydrocarbon exploration anywhere in the
world. Caithness’ principal objective in engaging Adrok was
to determine whether or not ADR could be used as a reliable
direct hydrocarbon indicator in subsurface rock formations,
and in particular to identify significant gas accumulations
Figure 2. Adrok system.
and the depths at which they could be located at an undrilled
The onshore Moroccan basin was selected as a suitable
trial area because of its relatively uncomplicated stratigraphy,
in which discrete gas accumulations are to be found in porous
sandstones within thick marl sequences. The methodology was
first to train the equipment to identify by energy, frequency and
phase the electromagnetic radiation associated with specific
downhole components such as gas and sand at existing
control wells. Then, where the same sets of electromagnetic
data would be encountered in a test well, the presence of the
corresponding components could be inferred; this is called
Adrok then conducted a series of surveys at pre-existing
well locations in the onshore basin. Surveys were also made in
the vicinity of one exploration prospect, which was to be drilled
later in spring 2008. The existing wells were used as training
sites for Adrok to accumulate a databank of spectral signatures
of the main subsurface rock horizons and hydrocarbon
Following this, Adrok generated virtual well profiles for the
well locations where the ADR surveys had been conducted
earlier. Caithness provided Adrok with limited amounts of data
from existing wells so that the ADR system could be trained to
recognise discrete electromagnetic responses associated with
gas, water and sand at these control wells. Three frequencies
were found by Adrok to be associated with gas, four with water
and two with sand. When these frequencies occur in the test
well, the corresponding downhole components are inferred to
be present. A virtual well is then generated with the frequency
data displayed in log format alongside previously computed
electronic borehole records – depths, lithology, horizon
thickness, dielectric constants, etc.
The Moroccan exploration prospect was drilled in
February 2008. Adrok had produced virtual well profiles in
advance of drilling for each of the wells. To guarantee the
scientific integrity of the ADR work, Adrok received no data
concerning these prospects prior to the commencement of
drilling. The geological prognosis for this well made by Caithness
had been based on the interpretation of seismic AVO signals
(Equipoise Solutions Ltd, 2007). The Caithness geological
prognosis had indicated potential gas sands within two sections –
at 495 and 520 m (+/- 10 m) and in deeper sands at 665, 690, 715
and 775 m (+/- 25 m). On completion of the drilling, mudlogging
and wireline logging, Adrok’s technology had successfully
predicted that there would be two sections of the well containing
gassy sands.
Case study: Cousland, Scotland
Following this work, Caithness contracted Adrok in 2009 to
conduct further surveys at various onshore sites in Midlothian,
Scotland. One site of greater interest for hydrocarbon
exploration was at Cousland, near Dalkeith. The rocks at
Cousland are carboniferous in age, ranging from the coal
measures down into the Lower Carboniferous. A wide range of
well-documented lithologies are present including sandstone,
shale, limestone, dolomite, coal and volcanics. The geology of
this area has been published for many years, so the ADR tests
were not blind but were, nevertheless, important in confirming
the validity of Adrok’s technology. In these surveys, no cores
or cuttings were available for typecasting. Adrok made use of
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Vallourec Group
August 2011
the dielectric constant determined by ADR to find the depth
to particular horizons and also to identify gas, oil shows and
The survey was carried out within the mapped area of the
gas field, which had been abandoned in the 1960s. Adrok had
previously been provided with the summary log and other data from
the field obtained in the past from BP, including the stratigraphic
positions of five gas-bearing sandstones and several oil-bearing
sandstones. The survey took place along a north-south traverse on
the road leading south from Cousland village over the gas field area,
and approximately 50 – 100 m from the position of the Cousland-1
gas well.
At Cousland, Adrok had the benefit of data from the Cousland-1
well. Nevertheless, the results of the ADR survey at Cousland
were impressive. Depths to the gas sands and oil sands were very
accurate, comparable to the depths found by drilling.
The determination of accurate depths to subsurface rock
formations by dielectric permitivities (DCs) would, therefore, seem
to be a very useful application for ADR technology.
ADR found the DCs of hydrocarbon gas-bearing sandstones to
be significantly lower than those without gas at Cousland – values
being in the range of 2.25 – 3.84. Oil-bearing sandstones also
had reduced values for DCs: 4.05 – 5.31. Both of these findings
may have practical application in hydrocarbon exploration and
production. For example, gas and oil-water contacts may be
determinable by ADR. The technology may also be potentially
useful for mapping the lateral extent of hydrocarbons in a
sandstone reservoir.
Case study: northern Oklahoma, USA
Last year saw Adrok undertake surveys at the Butler field in northern
Oklahoma, USA, which, again, saw successful ADR predictions.
Following the surveys, one well was drilled at a prospect site at
which Adrok had previously conducted ADR measurements.
Surveys were completed at the Butler-1 production well and at two
undrilled prospects: Prospect-1 and Prospect-2. The tests were
blind with no well data being provided before the surveys.
The ADR virtual well for the Butler-1 well had 12 dielectric log
hydrocarbon indications at depths between 5000 and 73 000 ft – DC
less than six. There were nine wireline well log shows in the same
interval. Raising the depths of the virtual shows, including that for
the Wilcox Sandstone, by 50 – 70 ft gives reasonably good depth
convergence between seven of the shows from the two data sets,
the depth discrepancy then being approximately 1%.
The Prospect-2 well was drilled following this activity, with
dielectrics predicting hydrocarbons at 7008.5 – 7030.4 ft.
Significant accumulations of gas were found at 7030 – 7080 ft and
7080 – 7106 ft. The 21.5 ft difference in depth to top Wilcox
represents a divergence of some 0.3%. This provides further
proof that ADR can predict the presence of hydrocarbons and at
accurate depths. The initial well has now been completed and is
producing 1.4 million ft
/d of gas and 22 bpd of oil.
The virtual wells for Morocco and Oklahoma provide clear proof
that the technology can successfully predict the presence of
hydrocarbons at accurate depths in the subsurface in advance
of drilling. Meanwhile, a variety of lithologies from the Scottish
sites, including sandstones, shales, limestones, dolomite and coal
were successfully identified in the subsurface. Accurate depth
measurements to particular geological horizons were made at all
the Scottish sites and in Morocco and Oklahoma, all supporting
ADR as a new technology for hydrocarbon exploration.
There are major opportunities for Adrok to support exploration
activity throughout the globe. It is continuing to expand its
onshore activity in regions including the US, Middle East and
Asia Pacific. The company has already signed a deal with
Oman-based IBD Group, allowing the company to expand its
reach to the Middle East. This is a key market that will enable
Adrok to grasp increased marketing opportunities and the region’s
resources, as well as lower operational costs. The technology is
also ideally suited to the terrain there.
The offshore oil and gas industry is another key area for the
company to focus on, both in shallow and deep water. Trials
have proven its effectiveness with water depths of between
30 and 75 m. Elsewhere, the Adrok scanner is attracting
significant attention in other industries such as mining.
Figure 4. Oklahoma ADR DC (with interp).
Figure 3. Cousland site location.
Figure 1. The FracPoint™
openhole fracture completion
system uses short-radius
openhole packers and frac
sleeves, and targeted fracture
treatment placement to allow
greater control along the entire
lateral for increased production.
roduction and reserves in the USA have grown substantially
in recent years due to the availability of new technologies for
exploiting unconventional reservoirs. Starting about 10 years ago,
the combination of horizontal drilling and multistage slickwater fracturing
unlocked the potential of the Barnett Shale and then other gas shales
around North America. The adoption of horizontal drilling was such
that in March 2009, the USA horizontal rig count overtook the vertical
rig count for the first time. Additionally, as a result of the effectiveness
of these drilling and completion techniques, gas prices have fallen and
appear to have stabilised for an extended period. However, the activity
in the USA has not declined; it has just shifted to unconventional oil
reservoirs such as the Bakken formation in the Williston Basin. In fact,
for the first time in many years the number of rigs drilling for oil in the
USA now exceeds the number of rigs drilling for gas.
August 2011
The extensive infrastructure and business friendly climate of the
USA enabled this drilling boom to occur. This wave of activity has
induced a technology race in the development of downhole tools
for unconventional fracturing and well completion. To that point,
these developments have been changing at a much faster pace
than conventional downhole equipment due to:
x The willingness of operators to field trial new equipment.
x The lower cost environment and limited time required to drill a
new well.
x The highly competitive nature of the unconventional market
with the universal desire to increase initial production and
estimated ultimate recovery of wells renowned for steep
decline curves.
While there has been slightly slower adoption within the
international oil and gas market, this is expected to change as the
technologies developed in the unconventional reservoirs of the USA
are exported to other parts of the world.
FracPoint technology
The Baker Hughes FracPoint

EX-C system represents one
of many technologies for unconventional fracturing. This
particular system has been continually improved through various
generations of the product since 2006 when the original openhole
fracture completion system was launched. The primary feature of
this latest version is the ability to facture up to 40 stages in series
with continuous pumping operations using 0.0625 in. increments
in ball and seat sizes.
This technology was first applied for Whiting Petroleum Corp.
in the Williston Basin and sets the record for the most stages
Figure 2. The FracPoint system, deployed as a one-trip installation, is
set in place by the application of hydraulic pressure.
Figure 3. Average number of stages per FracPoint job by year.
ever performed in a one trip, single lateral, frac sleeve/packer
completion system. This technology is particularly suitable for
the long laterals of this basin, some of which exceed 9000 ft.
The Bakken play in the Williston Basin is home to some
of the longest laterals in unconventional plays and is a natural
fit for the FracPoint EX-C technology. Baker Hughes expects
to deploy this technology in every basin where high quantity
openhole multistage completions are used. Even though every
shale formation is different, there is a growing consensus in the
industry that more stages equal more production, so clients
are continually requesting increasing numbers of stages per
well to shorten the frac spacing interval, improve fracture
efficiency, and increase production on a per well basis.
One of the main drivers for continuous frac/ball drop
operations is efficiency. Considerable time savings can
be realised through continuous operations. Furthermore,
considerable expense and damage to the formation can
be avoided by not pumping copious volumes of fluid
unnecessarily into the formation when conveying plugs and
guns into the well. While there are risks associated with
running long strings of high quantity packer and sleeve
completions, these risks can be mitigated through the use of
good drilling and completion practices.
The key to running multicomponent systems to
bottom is to ensure a smooth and straight openhole
section with minimal doglegs. The system detailed in this
article consisted of 40 sleeves and 39 packers, as well
as the shoe components and associated pup joints. In
other Bakken wells, Baker Hughes has deployed up to
42 openhole packers in one lateral. When installing these
long, complicated completions, the company typically runs
them with a hydraulic release running equipment to permit
rotation of the liner while running in hole to assist if needed in
getting the liner to the bottom of the well.
Evolution of downhole tools
Downhole tools for unconventional fracturing are continually
evolving to be more efficient and effective. One good
example of this evolution is the fact that the average number
of FracPoint stages per well in the USA has increased from
five in 2006 to the current average of 19, and this number is
expected to approach 24 by year-end.
The additional stages offered by the latest FracPoint EX-C
system have allowed several clients, who were adding
plug and perf operations uphole of their fracpoint systems,
to achieve their desired number of stages with openhole
multistage fracturing alone, which is more cost-effective due
to rig time and fluid loss savings. In addition, the system
achieves more than just increasing the number of available
stages, it also allows the use of larger ball seats on wells
that do not require a full 40-stage system. This allows for
increased pump rates during the frac and reduced pressure
losses during production.
At some point, and in some reservoirs, more may not
necessarily be better so Baker Hughes is continuing to
work with its pressure pumping and reservoir development
services (RDS) groups to better understand the stress that is
created within the reservoir along the wellbore and between
the frac stages in an effort to not just increase the lateral
length, but rather optimise the length,
placement of the stages, and type of
completion performed.
FracPoint features
The FracPoint EX-C system uses a
combination of proprietary features
developed in 2009, which include
patent pending double barrel seats
and patented collapsible ring ball
seats. The double barrel seat has two
parallel bores that permit a substantial
increase in flow rate over a single ball
seat when deploying smaller size balls.
The collapsible ring ball seat allows
the contact area of the seat to change
once the ball lands, which in turns
increases the load carrying capacity of
the seat and allows the system to meet
the pressure ratings required. After the
frac treatment, the collapsible ring ball
seat returns to its run-in-hole diameter,
allowing the smaller balls to pass back
through and be produced out of the
wellbore. Furthermore, the large contact
area of these seats minimises the roll off
pressure, ensuring that the ball comes
off seat following the frac job.
The success of the system though,
goes beyond these patented features
and includes a proprietary material
for the balls, which is engineered to
match the strength of the ball seat
while maintaining the desired specific
gravity. The challenge of increasing the
system to 40 stages using smaller ball
size increments was met by ensuring
the tolerance between ball sizes and
seats allowed for the balls to pass
through the upper seats to land on the
corresponding seat for the frac and
then flow back through the seats above
during production.
A focused cross-functional
effort over a very short period of
time brought this system to market.
Baker Hughes is a recognised leader in
completions technology and reliability
and this system maintains these high
standards. The company has been
deploying 24-stage systems since
September 2009, meaning the concept
and functional performance of the tool is
proven. Increasing the number of stages
to 40 involved design modifications
with the real challenge being in the
reliability review and operational
testing. Baker Hughes uses a product
development and management
stage gate process for new product
development, so these changes had to
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August 2011
undergo a thorough conceptual design review, prototype testing,
and a final detailed design review before the system was ever
run in a client’s well.
The results of the first completions performed with the 40-stage
FracPoint EX-C system have been very favourable. In particular,
there were clear indications at surface to confirm the shifting of
all 40 sleeves on each job. The pressure plot in Figure 4 shows a
condensed view of the first job performed for Whiting Petroleum
and as a result of the operational success of the system; the full
40-stage system is already being deployed in other parts of the
Bakken play.
Forward outlook
Baker Hughes has been serving the industry with
completions equipment for more than 100 years and aims
Figure 4. Pressure plot of first 40-stage job showing clear indication of sleeves opening.
Figure 5. Baker Hughes’ equipment covers a multiwell pad in Lycoming County, PA, USA, where 32 frac stages were pumped in three wells to
stimulate production from the Marcellus shale.
to continue to develop new and
innovative technology such as the
FracPoint EX-C system. This system
with reactive element packers

) is one of many systems
that are part of the completions
technology portfolio.
Baker Hughes is already
embarking on the next improvement
of the FracPoint EX-C system with
the release of the IN-tallic

frac balls.
Using controlled electrolytic materials
technology, which is an engineered
material that provides high strength
while disintegrating in a controlled
manner in the presence of brines and
acids, the need to flow back or drill out
the balls and seats after the fracture
can be eliminated. These new balls are just beginning to be
introduced to the market, but they are expected to see wider
use as production is ramped up.
While these initial 40-stage FracPoint jobs have saved
an estimated five days per completion over a 40-stage plug
and perf job, the key to delivering real value is in minimising
fracture stage length and improving fracture efficiency, thereby
maximising the productivity of wells and profitability of assets.
The addition of BJ Services and RDS in the last year further
expands the Baker Hughes technology portfolio to provide a
full service, reservoir focused solution and the company aims to
improve and optimise unconventional drilling and completions,
and provide well solutions to its clients, (whether that includes
more frac stages, or more optimally placed wellbores and
fracture treatments). The bottom line is that focus and
investment is helping to change the unconventional reservoirs
of today to the conventional reservoirs of tomorrow.

oor clean-up of high angle wells, particularly with open hole
completions, is a common issue throughout the oil industry
today. When drawdown is applied to an open hole section, fluid
by nature will take the path of least resistance. In a homogeneous
well, this will obviously be at the heel of the well. Due to this
occurrence, the toe of the well will never be fully cleaned up and the
drilling fluid is likely to remain across the section, leaving the filtercake
Figure 1. Sandface Valve in the open position with the filtercake highlighted in yellow.
David Coull, Omega Completion Technology Ltd, UK,
reveals how an autonomous valve offers a smart solution
to the issue of poor wellbore clean-up.
OT_43-46_Aug2011.indd 43 10/08/2011 11:11
August 2011
undisturbed. Similarly in non-heterogeneous wells, staged
start-up has its benefits, ensuring the poorer quality rock has
an opportunity to clean up before the high permeable areas.
Performance improvements gained by selective start-up has
been reviewed and matched through transient flow modelling.
This issue has been proven through actual field experience
determined by pressure transient analysis and confirmed results
of production by BP on a major North Sea development. In
the aforementioned log, the flow was shown to be coming
predominantly from the heel of the well and in some cases
flowing length was less than 20% of the overall section drilled.
Considerable value in terms of increased production and
reservoir access could be gained if the wells were designed or
modified to improve the flowing interval. A well flowing along
its producing intervals offers significant benefits in terms of
conformance and hence reservoir management and sweep of
Other technologies do exist to rectify the poor clean-up
such as swabbing or surging of the well, but dealing with a live
well is a potentially dangerous operation, as well as the risk
of collapsing the reservoir wellbore. Deep nitrogen lift and coil
tubing clean-out are additional options for the operator, however
the success of such clean-outs is often limited due to the high
hole angle. These all involve intervention, which greatly increases
capital expenditure and carries significant risk to the well and
personnel involved.
Figure 2. Illustration of a horizontal wellbore section showing swell packers providing zonal isolation and production being predominantly at the heel
of the well.
Figure 3. A unique pressure profile is sent from surface to initiate the sequential start up of the well.
Utilising Sandface Valve technology, Omega Completion
Technology Ltd addressed these issues at source, rather than
the symptoms of a poor wellbore clean-up.
The use of a fully intelligent well completion to selectively bring
wells onstream and enable the clean-up of individual zones
had been successfully trialled in Brunei by Shell. Transient flow
modelling was able to match the performance improvement
gained by selective start-up.

An alternative mechanical
version of bringing the well
online was investigated. This
involved running a number of
SSDs in the well in the closed
position. The SSDs could then
be opened zone by zone with
wireline intervention followed by
a flow period to enable individual
zonal clean up. However, the
requirement for intervention to be
used to mechanically manipulate
the SSDs to the open position
and commence the clean-up of
each individual zone (typically
three or four per well) would
result in an extensive intervention
campaign to achieve the wellbore
clean-up. This was not achievable
without serious compromise on
a POB constrained platform with
continuous drilling operations.
Omega developed a
solution in conjunction with
BP’s completions team, in the
form of a hybrid of an intelligent
well and a standard SSD.
The subsequently developed
Sandface Valve (SFV) was derived
from an earlier valve design used
by Statoil in Norway called a
Clean Out Valve (COV). Utilising
the main operating features of
the COV, which had realised an
enviable 100% field track history,
the SFV was successfully
field-trialled in the North Sea.

The valve has a one shot opening
facility without the need for
intervention but incorporates the
ability to be closed or re-opened
mechanically later on in the
well’s life. The Timer Activated
Sandface Valves (TA-SFV) are
opened using an electronic timer
system, which offers 100%
redundancy and retains the full
functionality of an SSD once
the valve has been opened. The
completion runs conventionally
and the SFV is placed in the
segmented reservoir sections, in the fully closed position. Each
valve is timed to open with a staggered opening time. The well
can be brought online from the toe section and allowed a period
of clean-up. After a calculated period of time, the next SFV can
open, enabling the middle zone to clean up. After a further period,
the upper SFVs would open, enabling clean-up of the upper zone
and full production from the wellbore.
After the successful field trials, it was quickly realised that
greater flexibility in the opening of the valves would provide
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BP with added control over the sequential cleaning up of the well,
mainly due to three factors:
x The unreliability of gauging well start-up times and, therefore,
the difficulty in setting the optimised opening time for the SFV
using the timer system.
x The need for a lower completion design that could eliminate
the use of a completion barrier valve.
x Reduction in rig time, by providing lower completion and
cased-hole wellbore cleanout in a single trip, saving one to
two days of rig time per well.
The next evolutionary step in the SFV design was to
incorporate the facility to open on a unique command signal from
surface, precisely at the time the operator is ready to commence
with the sequential clean-up of the reservoir section. This
requirement for greater operational flexibility when most needed
provided the company with the Command Activated Sandface
Valve (CA-SFV).
Valve design
The Sandface Valve design comprises of three main sections:
x The electronic section.
x The actuator section.
x The SSD.
The electronic section comprises of two independent sets of
electronics, which in turn provide 100% backup functionality within
the CA-SFV. Each CA-SFV (and TA-SFV) is pre-programmed at
surface prior to installation, using simple computer software and
with the need for only two field specialists. Flexibility exists to
allow the user to determine the pressure recognition setting for the
valve. This unique pressure signal sent from surface is recognised
downhole on each of the installed valves, so only one pressure
signal is required to initiate the timer sequences.
The electronics are coupled to the actuator; when activated,
they initiate the opening of an internal port in the valve, allowing
well pressure to drive the piston downwards and move the SSD
sleeve section to the fully open position. The actuator is a one shot
component, which the electronics section signals to, incorporating
two independent pressure temperature recorders. The SSD
section houses the valve flow ports and once actuated, the SSD
is decoupled from the piston section of the valve and reverts to a
standalone SSD.
To date, a total of 31 TA-SFVs and 26 CA-SFVs have been
successfully deployed, with another installation planned for this
summer. Monitoring of downhole gauges at the valve’s ‘opening’
time, has enabled BP to gain confidence in the functionality and
design of the valve, and these recorded wellbore ‘events’ or ‘spikes’
Figure 4. Sequential clean-up of the reservoir section commences with valve 1, followed by valve 2 a few
days later.
have been confirmed via PLT
surveys using electric line
tractors. On these very same
intervention operations,
shifting tools have been
deployed to both close and
re-open SFVs successfully.
In addition, a new
field development for BP
in the North Sea will see
predominantly CA-SFVs
being installed in each
pre-installed lower
completion (approximately
six per well) with another three oil majors initiating their own
field developments utilising the current SFV technology. The
valve family has also grown by the recent development of the
Command Activated Hydraulic Frac Valve (CA-HFV), which
has seen the pressure rating greatly increased to allow for the
safe handling of higher pressures commonly associated with
hydraulic fracking. This will also eliminate the requirement
for balls to be dropped, which results in the telescoping of
the lower well design and in extensive coil tubing clean-up
operations being required. Preliminary discussions have
shown a few oil majors to be interested in incorporating sand
screens with the SFV, which would see a fully shrouded valve.
Omega’s patented ‘demand activation’ technology,
which will allow the signalling and manipulation of the SSD
in a flowing well, is expected to be of great interest. Part of
this challenge has already been developed and the wealth of
experience gained through field deployments thus far, which
will have far reaching effects on other solutions and services,
especially DSTs. All these developments and technology leaps
enable Omega to move a step closer to providing the industry
with an autonomous valve that is continually self-powered once
installed within the wellbore. Providing operators with a reliable
valve which cannot only initiate the now realised benefits in
sequential start-up, but can also offer additional cycles from
open to close etc., to isolate water out sections without the need
for intervention, or to carry out basic PLTs or PBUs, will obviously
greatly reduce the operator’s exposure to risk and reduce overall
expenditure. Such an autonomous valve offers a ‘smart enough’
solution to the common issue of poor wellbore clean-up without
the requirement for expensive intelligent systems. This will also
go a long way in eliminating the requirement for expensive
packers with multi-penetrators to allow thousands of feet of
electrical or hydraulic capillaries to be deployed to a few ICDs
in series, which in turn often only offer the operator temporary
operational flexibility. Having a system that only requires minimal
manpower during set-up and deployment offshore also offers
great benefits when often POB is an issue and can restrict
the operators operational planning due to these every day

1. Kerem, M., Proot, M. and Oudeman, P., ‘Analyzing Underperformance of
Tortuous Horizontal Wells: Validation With Field Data: Paper 102678-MS’,
presented at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (San
Antonio, Texas, USA, 24 – 27 September, 2006). DOI: 10.2118/102678-MS.
2. Russell, L-A., Elliot, G., Graham, J., Wallace, A., Coull, D. and Forsyth,
D., ‘SPE 122181 – A Novel Timer Activated Sandface Valve To Improve
Wellbore Productivity’, presented at the 2009 SPE European Formation
Damage Conference (Scheveningen, The Netherlands, 27 – 29 May, 2009).
Richard McKimmie, Red Spider, UK, reveals the importance of
remote open close technology in allowing operator freedom.
emote open close technology is allowing operators to work differently and approach
interventions and completions in a new way by cutting rig time while improving health and
safety standards.
UK-headquartered Red Spider has invested heavily in R&D and has also worked closely with
industry bodies and major operators to develop a range of solutions – initially with an eye to well
interventions but increasingly with a focus on completion work.
The company’s remote open close technology product, eRED
is a downhole computer-controlled
valve that can be opened and closed via remote control. Without the need for intervention or control
lines, this saves time, money and removes risk.
The valve has allowed 13 North Sea operators on 24 fields to save up to US$ 900 000 during a
single subsea completion operation, typically reducing slickline runs from eight to one. In subsea
workover operations, savings of up to 36 hrs and US$ 800 000 have also been recorded in a single job.
eRED is a battery-powered through-tubing device that is pre-installed or deployed below a carrier
such as a wireline lock. In practice it works exactly like a wireline plug without requiring any intervention
to deploy or retrieve the plug when a barrier needs to be put in place or removed. This device can
replace any application where a wireline lock and plug is used; achieving exactly the same results
without repeated intervention jobs and removing the risk of multiple slickline runs.
Figure 1. A technician working on PowerBall.
August 2011
An eRED action, such as opening or closing, is initiated
only when a specific well condition (known as a trigger) is
detected. Upon successful completion of that action, it can
look for another trigger, which in turn initiates the next action.
Using a series of different trigger and action combinations, the
device can be used in complex well programmes, opening and
closing as many times as required without any intervention.
As an example of its flexibility, the eRED, which was
originally developed for use in intervention type plugging
operations, began to be used for a variety of other
applications. These applications include shallow set for tree
testing and change out, deep set for completion deployment,
packer setting and tubing testing, annulus short string plug in
vertical subsea trees, liner deployment with external swellable
elastomers and zonal isolation during TCP gun firing. The
company continues to add to this list as the operators,
enjoying the significant risk reduction and cost savings
made by the tool, suggest more potential applications in the
completion of wells.
New products
Further customer requests, followed by investment in
extensive research and development work, have resulted in
two new products being launched this year: the eRED-FB and
the PowerBall.
The eRED-FB is the tubing-mounted version of the field
proven eRED. It consists of a remotely actuated full bore
ball valve that can be opened and closed multiple times,
controlling flow through the tubing without the need for any
well intervention or an umbilical control line.
The use of eRED-FB completely eliminates slickline
intervention from completion operations, resulting in savings of
up to 32 hrs and US$ 1 million in subsea scenarios. Moreover,
a mechanical downhole barrier is present at any time during
operations, which can be activated upon request and can take
control of the well.
Figure 2. The eRED-FB, one of Red Spider’s latest products in the Remote Open Close
Technology fleet.
In addition, the eMotion module,
which controls the eRED-FB, is
particularly flexible and can be used
as a downhole pump with third party
tools. The module can be remotely
commanded to pump fluid into any
hydraulic device, such as frac valves
and flow control sleeves to provide
remote control of devices without
requiring control lines up to surface.
PowerBall is a reservoir isolation
barrier precisely designed for
reliability and to be run open, then
subsequently closed during lower
completion deployment, and finally to
be permanently reopened by remote
command for production or injection
to commence. It can operate in any
type of well, including cased and
open-hole wells.
Remote opening of the barrier
happens with no pressure cycles, but
on detecting a specific trigger much
as with the eRED, thus resulting in a
more flexible and quicker operation.
Savings of up to 12 hrs and US$ 250 000 can be achieved
thanks to the quick activation method of the PowerBall.
Well completion technology challenges include optimising
lower completions, which this new reservoir isolation barrier
successfully achieves by using electronic logic in its primary
opening mechanism. This offers the user increased flexibility
during the opening sequence, which is another benefit as the
tool set-up can be changed, if required, on the well site.
Debris is a well documented challenge during well
completion activities as the technologies utilised are often
exposed to large amounts of debris, leading to operational
failure and costly shutdown time. By moving the mechanical
parts of the ball mechanism below the closed ball area
of the tool, and as a result, protecting them from debris,
the PowerBall barrier offers maximum reliability in dirty
environments. Avoiding remedial action due to failure of a fluid
loss device can result in savings in the region of US$ 2 million.
PowerBall has been tested extensively at the company’s
dedicated research facility in Aberdeen to ensure reliability,
including severe debris and slurry testing to prove its
performance in dirty environments.
Both new technologies received funding through the
oil and gas Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF). Operator
members including BG Group, Chevron and Maersk Oil
invested in the development of the technology.
ITF involvement was crucial to delivering the products in a
relatively short time frame as the body secured commitment
from the operator sponsors. Through the ITF process,
Red Spider was able to pool the knowledge from the project
sponsors, drawing upon of their industry experience to
preliminarily address potential problems that may have delayed
development of the technology.
eRED and its remote open close technology family are
particularly suited for deepwater and subsea applications
where the rig time savings are most valuable. This means that
there is huge potential for these products in the North Sea,
and internationally in Brazil, the
Gulf of Mexico, West Africa and
Case study one
The Ninian field is operated by CNR
International, and is located in the
northern North Sea approximately
140 miles northeast of Aberdeen
in block 3/3. Produced oil from the
Ninian south platform is processed
onboard and exported to the
Sullom Voe terminal on the Shetland
Islands via the Ninian pipeline system.
This case study is on injector well S86,
side-tracked from well S43z, which
had been permanently abandoned.
The operation
In a standard platform completion deployment, wireline plugs
and prongs are used as isolation devices below the production
packer and tubing hanger. These require several interventions
together with all the associated time and risk involved with the
rig-up of surface pressure control equipment to install, test and
retrieve the each isolation device.
The conventional tubing hanger and production packer plugs
were replaced with two eREDs in well S86. The motive behind
this decision was due to several factors including the removal
of risk, improving the safety of the operation and a reduction in
operational rig time, helping reduce the overall cost of the well
Both eREDs were set to the closed position and installed into
assemblies onshore prior to shipping. The first installation was the
deep-set device that was made up to a 4.5 in. bridge plug. This was
then set and pressure tested from above and below in the tubing
pup below the 7 in. production packer. The second eRED was
made up to a 4.7 in. lock and set in the tubing hanger nipple profile.
The lock was then pressure tested as per the deep-set device.
Upon completion of all testing each eRED was programmed to
open. The assemblies were then shipped offshore with the devices
switched onto running mode looking for their next trigger.
Offshore, with both eREDs pre-installed in the open position,
the tubing could self-fill as the completion was run to depth.
Production packer and tubing hanger were then made up as per the
completion programme, removing several interventions during the
completion installation.
The deep-set eRED had been programmed with a pressure/
time activation and was set to activate at approximately 7500 ft
(4750 psi). Once triggered, it was programmed to close after 12 hrs.
This allowed the completion to be on-depth, the tubing hanger to
be landed, the well to be circulated to inhibited seawater and the
production packer to be tested to 4900 psi.
The shallow-set eRED had been programmed to close using a
pressure activation of 2250 psi (target window of 2000 – 2500 psi)
applied pressure for 20 min. Since both the devices were now
closed, the well had two fully tested barriers in place without
the need for any intervention. The BOPs were removed and the
christmas tree was installed and tested against the shallow-set
After a successful christmas tree installation, the tubing hanger
eRED was remotely opened using a positive pressure activation of
3250 psi (target window of 3000 – 3500 psi) applied pressure for
15 min. A positive pressure drop was observed at surface as
the tool opened. Once equalised, the eRED was recovered
using wireline. The deep-set eRED was remotely opened
with its programmed activation of 1250 psi (target window of
1000 – 1500 psi) for 20 min., and a pressure drop was observed as
the tool opened. Subsequent to the deep-set eRED opening, the
well pressure was monitored for a period after which the tool was
recovered using wireline.
Once the completion was run, tested and the christmas tree
installed, the 4.7 in. lock and 4.5 in. bridge plug with eREDs were
recovered and a 5.5 in. Red Spider high lift injection valve was set
on a 5.5 in. packer in the blast joint at 7450 ft prior to handing the
well back to production.
Both the eREDs functioned exactly as per the designed set up.
This allowed CNR International to remotely close and open, then
Figure 3. A technician with an eRED.
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August 2011
perform various pressure tests against the eREDs without any
form of intervention. The reduction in wireline rig-ups and runs
for this operation reduced the overall cost and planned timing
of the completion. Another positive point of this operation was
the reduced exposure to potential waiting-on-weather to rig-up
slickline and all the associated risks with wireline operations. The
results can be summarised as follows:
x In total at least 18 hrs of rig time was saved utilising eREDs.
x Both eREDs were pre-installed onshore, saving one wireline
rig-up and rig-down and five wireline runs.
x Less exposure to potential waiting-on-weather time.
x Reduced associated risk involved with rigging up PCE and
running slickline.
x Various pressure tests were completed and the well was
circulated to completion fluid without the need for any
additional intervention using eREDs.
Case study two
The York East well is situated within the southern North Sea
block 47/3a. York is an undeveloped gas field located in the
southern North Sea blocks 47/2a, 47/3a, 47/3d and 47/3e
immediately north of the Rough gas storage field and 20 km
Figure 4. Diagram showing dual eRED set-up utilised for CNR in the
Ninian field in the northern North Sea (left) and an eRED used during
well testing as a remote downhole shut-in valve (right).
southwest from the BP operated Minerva Hub. The field lies in
150 ft of water depth and once completed the York development
will consist of a normally unmanned installation (NUI) with a gas
export pipeline tied back to land.
Centrica planned to drill, complete, test and suspend the
well with gas across the reservoir face until recompletion at a
later date after the platform is installed over the location.
The operation
The well was drilled to a TD of 14 130 ft MD. A wellbore clean-up
and displacement was then completed prior to deploying the
sand face completion across the reservoir. After the sand face
completion was installed, the upper test string was run with coil
tubing rigged up to pump nitrogen to aid in the clean-up of the
well. The nitrogen was pumped from the toe of the well to clean
up the horizontal section, and pumping continued until the well
was sufficiently unloaded and flowing naturally.
After the coil tubing was recovered, two downhole memory
gauges were run and set in the lower 3.688 in. AR nipple and
the well opened up for the clean-up phase. The well was then
shut in for a build-up period prior to running the eRED in the
upper 3.688 in. AF nipple profile with dual gauges hanging off the
Above the lower set nipple there was a perforated pup to
allow flow to surface. The eRED was used during the well test
phase as a remote downhole shut-in valve with two downhole
memory gauges attached to the bottom sub of the eRED. This
assembly includes an eRED, gauges, pinned melon equalising
assembly, crossover and a 3.688 in. AF lock.
The well was flowed via the rig well test spread and the
eRED was programmed to close after 59 hrs, once the required
step rate test had been completed. It would remain closed for
36 hrs as per the well test programme to obtain the required
downhole build-up pressure data, and upon reaching the
36 hrs, the eRED opened and was recovered using slickline.
Once the tools were at surface, the data was downloaded from
the downhole gauges and the device’s own integrated sensor
log. The eRED log file data was sent back to Red Spider for
conversion to pressure versus time graphs, which were then
passed on to Centrica for cross reference purposes with the
downhole gauge data.
The eRED functioned (opened then closed) as per the designed
programme for the flow and pressure build-up periods on
the York East well. The reduction in wireline rig-ups and
operational footage reduced the overall complexity and cost of
the operation. Another positive point of this operation was the
reduced exposure to weather delays whilst rigging up slickline
and the general risks associated with wireline operations. The
results can be summarised as follows:
x The eRED function times could be changed on the rig to
suit the pressure build-up and flow period changes.
x Less exposure to potential waiting-on-weather time.
x Reduction in the associated risk involved with rigging up
PCE and running slickline.
x Excellent data obtained for the company’s subsurface team
with downhole shut-in, build-up and step rate test data.
The downhole shut-in pressures obtained would not have
been possible with conventional gauges and as such, have
provided the reservoir engineer additional data for well test

Paul Higginson, Packers Plus Energy Services, UK,
demonstrates the benefits of OHMS systems.
ince their introduction in 2001, many operators have
chosen to complete their wells with open hole,
multi-stage systems (OHMS), due to the time and cost
savings compared to conventional multi-stage fracturing
methods, such as cased hole or ‘plug and perf’ (CHPP).
The operational efficiencies provided by OHMS have been
documented in various unconventional (low permeability)
formation types around the world.
OHMS have also been applied to offshore completions in
South America, West Africa, the Black Sea and the North Sea
because of the even higher potential for cost savings. This
article is a brief introduction and comparison of the OHMS
and CHPP completion techniques as applied to multi-stage
fracturing of offshore wells. Two case study examples are
presented, highlighting the time and cost savings of OHMS in
offshore Scotland and offshore Romania.
August 2011
Offshore CHPP completion method
The specific CHPP method adopted in the North Sea
and Europe is slightly different to the method used in
North America, which employs pump down bridge plugs and
is performed at aggressive rates, often leading to significant
over displacement – bad practice for any fracture treatment.
The method used in the North Sea involves running into
a cleaned out, cased and cemented well with perforating
guns on coiled tubing (CT) to regain access to the reservoir.
After shooting the first set of perforations, the CT is tripped
out. The stimulation treatment is then pumped with fracture
fluid and proppant, which is left significantly under-displaced
above the first set of perforations. At this point, pressure
squeezes are applied to the tubing in order to compact the
proppant until a high pressure plug is formed.
The CT is then run in hole with a clean-up bottom hole
assembly (BHA) to dress the top of the sand plug to a
certain distance above the first set of perforations. The CT is
then tripped out in order to change back over to perforation
guns, and the whole process is repeated for the remaining
stages. After all the stages are treated, the lower completion
is left full of proppant. The final operation is to trip in a
clean-up BHA with CT to remove all of the excess proppant,
at which time the well is ready to be put onto production or
well test.
Offshore OHMS completion method
Although they can also be run in cased hole applications,
OHMS are typically run in open hole, taking the place of the
cemented liner described in the previous section. Cementing
and perforating are not required and CT intervention is
only required as a contingency, not as an integral part of
the planned operations. The OHMS liner consists of a liner
Figure 1. Open hole, multi-stage fracturing system.
hanger, open hole mechanical packers, fracture ports, an open
hole anchor and a toe circulation assembly (Figure 1).
Prior to running the OHMS liner, a reamer run is performed
to ensure the hole is in suitable condition. The OHMS liner is RIH
in approximately the same time as a cemented liner would be,
and can be circulated through while it is RIH and once installed
to total depth (TD). After the final displacement is complete,
a ball is pumped to the toe circulation assembly to close off
the circulation path. This allows the tubing to be pressured
up to set the liner hanger and subsequently the open hole
mechanical packers and anchor.
At this point the running string is tripped out and the upper
completion is run. The tree is in place and the stimulation
equipment is rigged on top of it. The first stage is opened by
pressuring up the tubing beyond the setting pressure of the
open hole mechanical packers. Once opened, a step rate test
and/or mini frac can be performed prior to pumping the first
stimulation. The remaining stages are opened using balls of
increasing size that land on correspondingly sized fracture port
ball seats, allowing pressure to build and open the port sleeves.
CHPP versus OHMS comparison
The OHMS method is significantly more efficient than CHPP, as
shown by the time comparison in Figure 2. OHMS are designed
so that all stimulation stages can be performed continuously
without stopping. However, stopping between stimulation jobs
is not an issue and in offshore applications this may be required
in order to reload the stimulation boat.
In many offshore locations, such as in the North Sea, other
factors come into play, such as logistics of frac boats and
proppant/fluid capacity. The timeline in Figure 2 takes into
account a typical five-stage treatment in the North Sea with
typical proppant/fluid volumes and average frac boat capacity.
The decrease in operational time with OHMS not only results in
cost savings, but also lowers risks to health and safety, as less
time is spent performing high risk operations, such as the use
of perforating guns.
After OHMS stimulation is complete, the well can be turned
over to production or well test. As the well can be immediately
flowed back, stimulation fluids are in contact with the reservoir
for significantly less time, thus mitigating induced damage to
the reservoir. The speed at which the stimulation treatments
can be placed, the reduction of fluid loading on the reservoir
and under displacement are key benefits of OHMS and
inherently follow good simulation practices that have been
developed over decades of hydraulic fracturing.
An unexpected benefit that operators have experienced
using OHMS completions in unconventional reservoirs, is a
dramatic reduction of excessive fracture initiation pressure.

Using CHPP, it was common that some hydraulic fracture
treatments could not be initiated simply due to excessively
high breakdown pressure.
Since fractures are able to initiate
anywhere within the open hole stage section,
the fracture will take the path of least resistance
– where the breakdown pressure is the lowest.
This in turn reduces the potential for fracture
Over the last three years, several papers
have been written comparing offset wells
completed using CHPP or OHMS.
3, 5-8
papers show that in addition to the operational
efficiencies, better production is gained
from OHMS as compared to CHPP. From a
theoretical, modelling perspective this makes
intuitive sense, as OHMS completions would
allow production from the open hole wellbore,
including natural fractures.
Offshore OHMS applications
North Sea: offshore Scotland
The Eastern Area Trough Project (ETAP) is a
network of nine oil and gas fields in the central
North Sea that has been in development since
the late 1990s. One of the reservoirs consists of
a naturally fractured chalk reservoir at a depth
of 1250 – 2800 m with low matrix permeability,
requiring stimulation for economic production.
Historically, wells were cased and cemented with
limited entry perforation clusters at each natural
fracture location and then stimulated with large
acid treatments using ball sealer diversion.
A sidetrack well presented a number of
unique challenges because the density of natural
fractures could not be determined prior to drilling.
The operator wanted to segment the lateral into
isolated sections to allow for sequential,
high-rate acid stimulations. A seven-stage
open hole StageFRAC system from
Packers Plus Energy Services Inc. was chosen
because it provided focused fracturing, allowed
production contribution from the matrix and
eliminated the cost and risk of cementing and
The installation and subsequent stimulation treatment were
performed for the first time from a semi-submersible rig and was
completed 11 days ahead of schedule compared to the previous
plug and perf operations. Not only were time and cost savings
realised through the completion and stimulation operation, but
the well came in significantly higher than expected.
Black Sea: offshore Romania
The Lebada Vest Field is situated in the Black Sea approximately
95 km offshore from Constanta, Romania. The zone of interest
is limestone laminated with streaks of permeability ranging from
0.1 – 2 mD and porosity between 15 – 22%. This oil reservoir is
situated close to an undesirable gas cap.
The operator wanted to multi-stage stimulate the well
without fracturing into the gas cap. Previously, the wells had
been completed with cemented perforated liners and
polymer-based, conventional fracture fluids prepared with fresh
water. The latter required that the treatment boat return to port
after each stimulation because the fracture fluid had to be
Duraband NC
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New Plymouth, NZ
Tel: +64 06 755 3303
David Moore
Republic of Singapore
Tel: +65 9830 1828
“Because Your Drill Pipe Deserves the Best”
Leroy Billesberger
Tel: (604) 701-6533
Colin Duff
Scotland, UK
Tel: +44 1563 820 505
Global Technical
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Cleveland, OH 44142 USA
Telephone: 216-265-9000
Email: sparky postle.com @
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August 2011
OHMS Method
CHPP Method




















































Figure 2. Timeline comparison of CHPP and OHMS
completion methods for a five-stage offshore stimulation.
batch-mixed into the boat tanks at the dock. This process
required an average of three days for each fracture treatment.
After evaluating all completion options, the operator chose to
run a three-stage open hole StageFRAC system. Due to the lack of
a dedicated treatment boat, a supply boat was modified to hold
land-based fracture equipment. The three-stage stimulation was
executed in one day with eight hours of pump time versus an
estimated nine days for a conventional cemented liner, plug and
perf completion.
After treatment, the well became the record producer in the
Black Sea and its stabilised production rate was 2.5 times the best
offset well in Lebada Vest completed with conventional methods.
The time savings realised through OHMS completions illustrated
in Figure 2 and demonstrated by the case study examples
translate into significant cost savings. Typical rig spread rates for
the North Sea range from US$ 150 000 to US$ 500 000+/day,
translating into US$ 6.5 million for 13 days saved on a five-stage
job. Additionally, stimulation costs are reduced by requiring a
shorter working window for the stimulation vessel. Availability of
stimulation vessels can be an issue in certain areas, so adopting
more efficient methods can also increase the chances of
obtaining these services.
As of March this year, over 6200 StageFRAC systems
have been run worldwide in a variety of formations, both on
and offshore. Combined with significant time savings, this
demonstrates that OHMS systems provide multiple benefits
for operators looking to reduce risk, increase productivity and
improve well economics in an offshore setting.

1. Snyder, D. and Seale, R., ‘Optimisation of Completions in Unconventional
Reservoirs for Higher Ultimate Recovery: Paper SPE 142729’, presented
at the SPE Middle East Unconventional Gas Conference and Exhibition
(Muscat, Oman, 31 January – 2 February, 2011).
2. Themig, D., ‘Advances in OH Multistage Fracturing Systems – A Return to
Good Frac-Treatment Practices’, Technology Update (May, 2010), p. 26.
3. Lohoefer, D., Snyder, D.J. and Seale, R., ‘Long-Term Comparison
of Production Results from Open Hole and Cemented Multi-Stage
Completions in the Barnett Shale: Paper IADC/SPE 136196’, presented at
the IADC/SPE Asia Pacific Drilling Technology Conference (Ho Chi Minh
City, Vietnam, 1 – 3 November, 2010).
4. Ketter, A.A., Daniels, J.L., Heinze, J.R. and Waters, G., ‘A Field Study
Optimizing Completion Strategies for Fracture Initiation in Barnett
Shale: Paper SPE 103232’, presented at the 2006 SPE Annual Technical
Conference and Exhibition (San Antonio, Texas, 24 – 27 September, 2006).
5. Samuelson M.L., Akinwande T., Connell R., Grossman, R.
and Strickland B., ‘Optimizing Horizontal Completions in the
Cleveland Tight Gas Sand: Paper SPE 113487’, presented at the
CIPC/SPE Gas Technology Symposium 2008 Joint Conference
(Alberta, 16 – 19 June, 2008).
6. Edwards, J.W.M., Braxton, D.K. and Smith, V., ‘Tight Gas Multi-stage
Horizontal Completion Technology in the Granite Wash: Paper SPE
138445’, presented at the SPE Tight Gas Completions Conference
(San Antonio, Texas, 2 – 3 November, 2010).
7. Houston, M., McCallister, M., Jany, J., and Audet J., ‘Next
Generation Multi-Stage Completion Technology and Risk Sharing
Accelerates Development of the Bakken Play: Paper SPE 135584’,
presented at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition
(Florence, Italy, 19 – 22 September, 2010).
8. Lohoefer, D., Snyder, D.J., Seale, R. and Themig, D., ‘Comparative
Study of Cemented Versus Uncemented Multi-Stage Fractured Wells
in the Barnett Shale: Paper SPE 135386’, presented at the SPE Annual
Technical Conference (Florence, Italy, 19 – 22 September, 2010).
9. Augustine, J.R., ‘Openhole versus Cemented Completions for Horizontal
Wells with Transverse Fractures: An Analytical Comparison. Paper SPE
142279’, presented at the SPE Production and Operations Symposium
(Oklahoma City, 27 – 29 March, 2011).
10. Bukovac, T., Belhouas, R., Dragomir, A., Perez, D., Ghita, V. and Webel, C.,
‘Successful Multistage, Hydraulic Fracturing Treatments Using a Seawater-
Based Polymer-Free Fluid System Executed From a Supply Vessel;
Lebada Vest Field, Black Sea Offshore Romania: Paper SPE 121204’,
presented at the 2009 SPE EUROPEC/EAGE Annual Conference and
Exhibition (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 8 – 11 June, 2009).
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www. ener gygl obal . com/ s ect or s
ith today’s drilling technology, horizontal and deviated
wells are routinely drilled and developed over long
distances. The technology refined just over a decade
ago has had a significant impact on how reservoirs are drained
today, both in terms of how the wells are developed and how
they are managed. Today, wellbores can be driven in even
very thin-bedded undulating oil and gas carrying formations.
This, combined with the continuous demand for more oil and
gas, has stimulated the development of technologies able to
pursue the new challenges and not least to do so in an optimal
Optimising reservoir drainage
Optimising reservoir drainage relies on a number of factors,
not least on how the well is designed and the components that
are installed. The ability to configure and reconfigure a well
to match the characteristics of the reservoir is essential for
optimising the productivity, not least as smaller and more widely
spread reservoirs are exploited. In general, wells underperform
compared to what can be physically recovered due to
inadequate technology. The actual recovery rate is dictated
by costs, technology and operational considerations. Based
on these considerations, different development approaches
may be adopted; from smarter wells with built-in controllability
used to configure and adapt the production over time, to smart
intervention where technologically relatively simple wells are
maintained and configured to address the evolving conditions.
For both approaches, the choice of technology is decisive and
influences both cost recovery and safety aspects.
Traversing the formation
The early days, where wells could be immersed and oil extracted
from large homogeneous reservoirs are long gone. Fields
developed today necessitate a much more refined approach
where oil and gas bearing layers can be separated from water
bearing layers that have a negative impact on the production.
Isolating and sealing such zones is traditionally done with
packers and cement. Extended horizontal wells pose a special
challenge in this context. In vertical or more moderately deviated
wells, gravity can be used positively during all phases of the
well. With heavily deviated and horizontal wells, gravity has the
opposite effect and becomes an obstacle. Casings, valves and
Michael MacDonald Arnskov, Welltec, Denmark, discusses how next generation
well packers pave the way for fast and reliable well completion by using
components that eliminate some of the issues associated with conventional
approaches when isolating and managing oil and gas bearing layers.
August 2011
other components required to complete the well and bring it
onstream cannot simply be lowered in to the borehole but have
to be pushed with force without getting jammed.
Safety is in this context paramount and the important
sealing of the annulus between the casing and borehole
becomes very tricky. Historically, cementing has been the
primary means to seal the borehole against the casing or
to block off sand faces and similar. For zonal isolation this
is done by inserting packers that seal the void between the
casing and the borehole, after which cement is injected and
cured. The virtues of cement cannot be fully exploited in
extended horizontal wells as it physically impossible to pump
cement over such long distances, neither from a mechanical or
operational aspect.
These difficult trajectories combined with unconventional
developments such as Steam Assisted Gravity Drive (SAGD),
gas shales and geothermal wells, has led the industry to develop
new annulus isolation solutions where prevailing solutions are
Today’s packers
Swellable packers dominate annulus isolation solutions, where
the physical properties of elastomers are exploited to provide
a seal between casing and borehole when exposed to fluids.
These packers typically come as short sections of tubes
wrapped in elastomers, which are inserted in the casing or liner
as they are lowered down into the borehole and finally placed at
the desired location. The elastomers will gradually start to swell
as they are exposed to water, oil or a mix of both depending on
the design and will gradually establish the seal once adequate
contact with the borehole or casing has been attained.
Swellable packers mold themselves and can autonomously
swell multiple times, thereby in effect adapt to changes caused
if a formation should subside or compact. One of the issues
the well designer faces is selecting the right elastomer for the
job. The well, formation and fluid properties must be evaluated
carefully in order to select the most appropriate elastomer. This
also includes any possible changes during the life of the well
which have to be considered.
Swellable packers have many virtues; however, there are
also some less desirable characteristics which have motivated
further development. The type of elastomer must be compatible
with the well fluid in order to swell as designed. The elastomers
start to swell as soon as they get in contact with the triggering
fluid, which makes it difficult to control the process with a risk
that premature swelling occurs, in which event the casing or liner
could get stuck with serious implications. By the same token the
actual time required to achieve the desired swell can be quite
uncertain, meaning that 20 – 30 days may be required before the
well can come onstream.
The self-healing properties of the elastomers are particularly
attractive where there is a risk of washouts or similar changes
as the elastomers will swell further and adapt to the prevailing
conditions. In the long-term there may be some slight
uncertainty as the properties of the elastomers are degradable
over time and the quality decays as it becomes more brittle.
Tomorrow’s packers
The shortcomings of elastomers have stimulated the
development of packers which retain the qualities of the
swellable packers and eliminate the limitations. This is achieved
by engineering a seal that is backed by a hydraulically expanded
steel body, which when exposed to pressure, expands and sets
against the borehole creating a tight and impenetrable seal. The
expandable seal is mounted on a pipe section, which is included
in the casing or liner as an in-line component. The hydraulic
expansion of the sleeve not only conforms to the open hole, but
as the degree of expansion increases to cover badly washed out
holes, then so does the differential pressure capabilities of the
packer due to the work hardening processes of the metal sleeve
during the expansion process. The utilised technology is known
as hydro forming and was developed in the 1950s. Today it is
used extensively by a wide range of industries.
Hydro forming provides a number of benefits. The actual
packers are mounted between the various casing and liner
sections and lowered into the well section by section. Once
in place the well is put under pressure and the expandable
seals begin to inflate until contact is made with the borehole
preventing further expansion.
By using seals that are activated from the surface, a new
level of control and reliability is achieved. Furthermore, a much
faster completion can be achieved as the actual operation can
be carried out in less than an hour depending on the conditions.
If cement is to be used then this is completed as normal
and the cement is fed into the well. Within a few minutes of the
cement plug being bumped, additional pressure is applied to
the well to expand the packers prior to the cement setting. The
hydraulic expansion of the packer in the wet cement ensures
compliance within the open hole, eliminating the possibility of
cement channels.
Micro annulus eliminated
When the packer is deployed in a cemented liner or casing,
the risk of micro annulus between the casing and cement is
removed. The controlled centre out expansion of the packer
to the formation will extrude the cement away, leaving only the
packer to formation contact. The relative high plasticity of the
formation in comparison to the steel will ensure that steel to
formation contact remains after the release of the expansion
pressure. The removal of micro annulus will prevent migration of
fluid or gas behind cemented liners or these new next generation
The well design simplicity reduces the capital expenditure,
minimises the equipment risk during deployment and maintains
the long term flexibility for future work over, side track and
eventual well abandonment.
This new approach enables the oil and gas industry to
develop and bring wells on much faster than what has been
possible earlier and effectively offers the industry an annular
barrier solution, which provides a metal barrier to prevent
annular flow.
Field tests under way
The global well service provider, Welltec, has developed a
range of packers based on the hydro forming technology and
is currently conducting field tests to complete the numerous
laboratory qualification and verification tests which have been
conducted to prove that the packers fulfil the requirements.
The actual data shows that the capabilities of the design
exceed the requirements and that the vision of developing and
manufacturing a packer based on these principles is more than
viable. They are indeed the next generation.

ermanent downhole monitoring is by no means new to the oil and gas industry. The
earliest SPE paper reference for a permanently cabled pressure and temperature
monitoring system dates back to 1963, yet despite its maturity, industry uptake of
permanent cabled monitoring systems is relatively low. The trend of increasing wellbore
complexity for extended reservoir contact, and greater reservoir heterogeneity along the
contact, are demanding improved monitoring and control solutions.
Traditionally the only option for enabling these solutions was the previously mentioned
cabled systems, limiting the application of intelligent well technology to new installations or
workovers. Cabled systems are also not always possible in new installations, especially where
the completion is discontinuous, such as with two-trip completions or multilateral wells. Slim
hole or monobore completions may also not allow cables to be deployed along the tubing
string. These complexities of cabled systems, along with the cable cost and associated
nonproductive time (NPT), means that such cabled systems have relatively low overall market
However, new wireless technology is proving a more flexible alternative and addressing all
of these issues. Tendeka has over seven years of experience in the development, testing and
deployment of wireless wellbore solutions as a feasible alternative to cabled systems. One of
the first incarnations of a wireless system was the Tendeka Wireless Gauge, with systems being
deployed offshore in the North Sea since 2008. The wireless gauge allows real time flowing
bottom hole pressure (FBHP) to be efficiently transmitted to surface, an attractive option for
wells where the cabled gauge system has failed, or was not initially installed.
August 2011
Wireless technology
The Tendeka wireless system uses pressure pulses to transmit
data from the lower completion to surface. Through a novel
tool design, the well’s production is partially choked for a very
short duration to create a pressure pulse that is detectable
on the surface pressure gauge. This method has a number of
advantages, in particular having very low power consumption,
since the well’s energy is being used to transmit data to surface.
The system also requires no additional surface installation
or pickup, since an existing tubing head pressure gauge
can be used to detect the pulse train. This means that for
the majority of operators, the system can be deployed by a
single intervention, allowing for highly accurate data to be sourced
almost instantaneously for a fraction of the cost of a recompletion.
Compared with a memory gauge system, it allows data to be
collected in real time and provides a continuous confirmation of
Using a wireline set packer to deploy the system, the gauge
can be set in a blank pipe, therefore giving the optimal freedom
with regards to installation depth. The alternative is to set it using
a wireline set lock, which is generally more cost-effective than the
wireline set packer option, however, this does limit the installation
location to where there are wireline nipple profiles in the completion.
The gauge system can be installed as close to the producing interval
as required.
The unique nature of using pressure pulse transmission is the
ease of installation. No retrofitting of topside equipment is required,
avoiding many of the technical and contractual issues when
introducing a new monitoring system. The system is also extremely
power efficient, as it is the reservoir’s inherent energy (not that of
the battery pack) being used for carrying pulses from bottomhole
to surface. The power consumption does, therefore, not increase at
greater depth passing on a major benefit to the customer in terms of
longer battery life and tool operation.
A common misconception,
most likely due to limitations
in MWD telemetry systems, is
that pressure pulses cannot be
utilised in the presence of free
gas. Significant testing, modelling
and field testing have shown that
the method is equally effective in
oil and gas producing wells, with
some of the latest systems even
being designed for operation in
water injection wells.
Wireless gauge
A major operator in the
North Sea recently deployed the
Retrofit Wireless Pressure and
Temperature Gauge at a depth
of 2200 m in a low pressure
(32 bar) gas well offshore
Norway. The existing wellhead
pressure sensor was used to
capture the wireless signal
and extract the data, therefore
no extra infrastructure was
During the installation planning, questions arose regarding
the effects of free gas attenuating the signal. However, once the
wireless gauge was installed at depth, the signal pulse proved
to be easily distinguishable. The application was especially
challenging as the well was a marginal producer and the wellhead
pressure had large background pressure variations due to the
limited well deliverability. Despite these conditions, pressure pulse
transmission proved effective. Therefore, the wireless technology
has been qualified to transmit pressure pulse based signals even
in low pressure gas wells, thereby demonstrating that the wireless
downhole telemetry can be applied in nearly all fluid compositions
and flow regimes. The downhole tool has considerable built-in
intelligence, such that the choking mechanism is constantly
modified according to the flowing conditions. Even if the well
starts to significantly deplete while the wireless downhole gauge is
installed, the gauge itself will modify its pressure pulsing method to
ensure a detectable pulse train is transmitted to surface.
The wireless gauge is unable to transmit signals in a
non-flowing or shut-in well due to an actual flow regime being
required to produce the pressure pulses. The tool can be
programmed to record pressure build-up (PBU) data during shut-in
periods, and once well production is restarted the stored data can
be transmitted to surface. During this actual installation, there were
periods of shut-in while surface maintenance was conducted. The
tool successfully recognised the shut-in events and entered its
power-saving hibernation mode. When the well resumed
production, the technology reactivated itself and the first telegrams
transmitted following the restart, gave accurate shut-in pressure
data to surface.
This application, and two others undertaken at the time,
demonstrated that the system functions not only in oil wells, but
also in gas wells and wells with a high gas/oil ratio. During the
trials, it was demonstrated that the wireless gauge could function
in wells with slug flow and high levels of pressure/noise variations
Figure 1. Comparisons of topside decoded data to the Wireless Gauge internal log and third party
memory gauge.
Society of Petroleum Engineers
For more information about these events or other 5PE conferences,
workshops, and forums visit www.spe.org/events.
6–8 September 2011 SPE Offshore Europe Aberdeen, UK
12–15 September 2011 Well Integrity in the Operational Phase–
A Lifetime Management Approach
Noordwijk, The Netherlands
19–22 September 2011 North Sea and European Area Stimulation Berlin, Germany
25–30 September 2011 Unlocking the Potential of Nanotechnology
for Exploration & Production
The Algarve, Portugal
2–7 October 2011 Shale Gas: Beyond Current Technologies and
Going Global
The Algarve, Portugal
9–14 October 2011 CO
Geological Storage: Will We Be Ready
In Time?
The Algarve, Portugal
18–20 October 2011 SPE Arctic and Extreme Environments Moscow, Russia
5–7 December 2011 The New Frontier–Brownfield Opportunities London, UK
on surface. During shut-in periods, the tool successfully recorded
the shut-in data and transmitted it to surface when production was
Injection rate monitoring
The downhole pressure temperature gauge is also able to operate
in water injection wells, where a back pressure is created instead of
the injection fluid, and in a similar manner generating a detectable
positive pressure pulse train on the surface.
A recent development in the wireless technology products
now also allows the measurement of injection rate. By measuring
the pressure drop across a modified venturi, an accurate flow
rate can be calculated. Flow loop testing has verified the method
is extremely accurate when used in single phase fluids, such as
with water injection applications. This allows the gauge to be run
between injection intervals, reporting on the pressure, temperature
and rate split between zones. All this information is then transmitted
to the surface using wireless telemetry.
Wireless activation
The susceptibility of downhole mechanical pressure counting
activation mechanisms to debris ingress has resulted in numerous
in-well failures of these systems. Due to these limitations and
the resulting lost time incidents, a major operating company
requesting an alternative electronic activation method approached
Using a built-in pressure transducer, the wireless technology
is also able to detect pressure pulses from the surface. Unlike
mechanical systems, which become jammed when covered
in debris, electronic systems are still able to register pressure
changes applied from surface even through a few metres of barite
or other wellbore debris. Furthermore, electronic systems are
fully programmable to detect a pressure sequence that cannot be
accidentally created in normal operations. In the event of pressure
pulse transmission not reaching the tool, the electronics can be
programmed to activate at a preset time interval. The final backup
is an acoustic pickup, which receives a signal from a downhole
tool hundreds of metres away.
Two systems have been developed based on the
surface-to-bottom hole wireless communication. The first
system allows for the opening of a completion plug without
the need for intervention. The development was driven by an
operating company struggling to recover completion plugs after
high pressure stimulation from above. It is suspected the high
differential pressure across the plug causes sufficient deformation
for the completion plug to become permanently attached to
the nipple profile. In the replacement wireless system, rather
than recovering the completion plug, the wireless plug opens its
flow ports in response to the programmed signature, allowing
production or injection to take place across the device. This
not only saves the single wireline run to recover the plug, but a
potentially large fishing operation for plugs that have become
permanently fixed to the nipple profile.
The second wireless activation system provides a remote
firing signal for downhole barrier plugs, providing a reliable
alternative to the suppliers’ mechanical ratchet style activation.
Downhole barrier plugs are especially susceptible to debris since
any fallout while running the upper completion ends up on top of
the barrier plug and around its mechanical activation port. The
wireless pressure monitoring system does not suffer from these
problems for reasons mentioned above. The wireless activation
system has a substantially charged pressure chamber that is
released to activate the barrier plug on receipt of the appropriate
signalling from surface.
Wireless inflow control valve
The latest developments in wireless technology now allow these
systems to operate inflow control valves. This will bring with it a
step change in the way operating companies design, test, stimulate
and operate maximum reservoir contact wells. Locations that
could not previously be controlled, such as within the laterals of a
multilateral well, or at the furthest extent of a long open hole lateral,
can now be controlled using wireless signalling. Incorporating zonal
isolation packers and inflow control devices with that of the wireless
intelligent downhole devices, allows new and effective methods
of reservoir inflow control to be developed. As each wireless
inflow control valve is autonomous no cabling is required between
devices, allowing a large cost saving in control lines and downhole
connectors. The drilling department is also offered more flexibility
in rotating the completion while running in hole without risking
damage to externally strapped control lines.
Wireless telemetry is equally effective for transmitting data from
bottom hole to surface, or from surface to bottom hole. Top down
communication allows for more effective wireless activation devices
to be developed for stimulation control, or for controlling downhole
barrier plugs. The realisation of wireless inflow control valves will
enable completely new and novel methods for completing complex
wells at lower cost, less disruption and lower drilling risk.

www. energygl obal . com
Sebastiano Barbarino,
OVS Group, USA, explains how
asset performance can be increased
through workflow technology utilising
existing information and applications.
Delivering on
emex’s Samaria-Luna asset,
located in the southern state of
Tabasco in Mexico, produces
> 200 000 bpd, with over 200 wells
on both natural flow and gas lift. Gas
for lift operations is supplied by
skid-mounted booster compressors
at the wellhead.
The challenges
x Monitoring useable data from
multiple and often conflicting
sources of data.
x Integrating results with operational
data from modelling applications
provided by multiple vendors.
The solution
One Virtual Source (OVS) technology
combined automation of modelling
workflows, real time monitoring,
surveillance-by-exception (SBE),
and virtual integration of eight
data sources, including real time,
operational, well test, field data, and
others, into a single and user-friendly
August 2011
The results
x Standardised engineering processes across the asset, with
a heavy emphasis on automation and analytics.
x Integrated reporting and SBE methods ensure engineers’
time is now focused on engineering issues, not data
x ‘Live links’ to all sources ensure that data duplication is no
longer an issue.
x Workflow-based automation has brought the various
preexisting well, production network, and reservoir
modelling tools online, so they can be incorporated into
daily operational activities and decision making.
The ‘intangible’ benefits of standardising processes and
providing readily available access to information are seen
as key enablers of the more directly measurable economic
The Samaria-Luna asset has multiple data sources – eight
primary data sources that collect information including
operational data, official data, real time data, laboratory fluid
samples, corporate data and various data files in Excel for
nitrogen, well test, reservoir pressures, among others.
Well models are maintained to support decisions regarding
production schedule changes, well performance analysis and
optimisation efforts. This necessitates that the primary well
models are maintained by a single owner to avoid inconsistency
in updates and interpretations.
A large number of man hours were required to assemble the
necessary information before effective analyses were made of
changing well performance trends and problem predications.
This also applied to the effort required to update and maintain
the well models in an ‘evergreen’ state.
The primary requirements of this project were to deliver a
software platform for engineering workflows and analytics that
x Virtually integrate all information from the Samaria-Luna
asset. A virtual integration was preferred in order to avoid
the high costs and disruption of migrating to a data
x Perform unattended SBE of critical reservoir and operational
variables using both user and model-defined operating
Figure 1. The key building blocks to improving asset performance.
x Deliver engineering workflows to automate and
standardise key engineering processes, including nodal
analysis, gas lift optimisation, and virtual well metering.
x Assure rapid uptake of the new software platform by
providing an innovative and user-friendly interface
capable of providing a complete management solution
from acquisition through analysis to decision.
Workflow automation
The asset required three types of workflow automation:
Surveillance-by-exception automation. The SBE
requirement is to provide a system for unattended monitoring
of critical operational data. Exceptions to operating envelopes
will result in alarms and email-based notifications to ‘asset
owners’ when critical situations are identified. Critical to the
success of such a solution, the operating envelopes would
be defined based on both user-adjustable and model-based
Prior to implementation, it was noted that the varied
sources of data could present a potential challenge to
successfully delivering this requirement. As not all wells were
equipped with real time sensors, the SBE system had to
be intelligent enough to recognise the correct data source
on a well-by-well basis (e.g. real time sensors vs. field data
capture). Pemex’s technical team also desired that the
same workflow methodology be employed across the entire
asset; all evaluation and reporting had to be standardised,
irrespective of the actual data source in use. Once identified,
this challenge could be designed for and easily addressed
during implementation.
Well modelling automation. The primary requirement for
well modelling automation was to provide the capability to
automatically run well-by-well optimisation using existing
modelling tools. In order to achieve this, a number of
individual workflows were required:
x Well test validation.
x Sensitivity analysis for model fine-tuning.
x Model adjustment.
x Optimisation by well.
x Tubing head pressure validation.
It was required that all of these workflows be sufficiently
autonomous to automatically run when a new well test is
acquired. The workflows must keep a log of the results and
store the historical evaluations so the engineers could later
analyse them in conjunction with alarms and other available
operational data.
Virtual well metering. Virtual well metering was a further
requirement for the system. Using the ‘evergreen’ models, the
system had to generate estimates of individual three phase
well flow rates based on the current operation. The desired
frequency of the virtual flow rate estimates was daily.
The technology
The overarching principle of this project was to rapidly deliver
a user-friendly solution for accessing and analysing data, and
automating standard engineering workflows. Pemex desired
to preserve and utilise all existing data and application
infrastructure to minimise the technical and economic costs
of the project. This approach would provide the immediate
benefits of a fully integrated solution with a minimum of time
and effort.
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August 2011
The solution implemented was based on the use of
the commercial platform OVS that had been successfully
implemented in a number of other assets in Pemex. The platform
addressed the requirement to integrate all existing data sources
and applications into a single working environment, without
changing the existing infrastructure. Within weeks, the virtual
data integration effort was complete; the final project, including
workflow delivery, was successfully concluded within four
months – an unprecedented achievement.
Data integration phase
Once the requirements for the project had been defined,
implementation began by identifying and mapping all of the
available data sources into the software platform. The data
sources integrated were: SISRED, SICAVHI, SNIP, FINDER,
OSIsoft PI, well test, reservoir pressure and nitrogen injection.
In this early stage, it was noted that the critical well test data
was dispersed in a variety of Excel spreadsheets maintained
by different areas, all stored in different formats. Effort was
undertaken within the asset organisation to standardise the
process for well test data capture using the OVS platform, and
storing the data to a common database. This critical data was
made available at any time, and served as the starting point for
many of the new workflows that were later developed. Migration
of historical data to this common data source also facilitated
standardised reporting and visibility of well test data across the
asset for all areas.
Access to real time data stored within the OSIsoft PI
historian provided much needed visibility into live data feeds
for the wells and booster compressors, which could be viewed
in real time within OVS, alongside other key data from different
sources and at different frequencies.
The implementation was developed in such a way as to
comply with a logic that represented the standard engineering
workflow adopted by this organisation for production
optimisation and surveillance (Figure 2). Integrated displays
and reports provide significant support to daily operational and
strategic decision making.
Surveillance phase
Using the integrated data access layer configured in the previous
phase, SBE criteria were configured to monitor data from
any available source in an unattended fashion. These criteria
consisted of complex, compound conditions that could be tuned
by end users, as well as model-based predictions.
Pemex’s technical team specified a standardised set of
criteria for evaluating the critical operational variables on a
well-by-well basis. These same standards were applied in a
transparent fashion to end users, regardless of whether data was
captured manually or automatically by sensors.
The OVS platform’s support for dynamic data sources
proved critical to meeting the requirements for standardised
SBE criteria and displays. With no additional input required by
the end user, the data integration layer transparently determines
the availability of data and the appropriate source from which
to read. All calculations and reporting have been standardised
across the asset, despite the underlying complexity.
Asset wide visualisation
With surveillance in place, standard reports and dashboards
were then delivered to increase visibility of performance metrics
across the asset. These reports combined roll ups of data and
alarms from all available sources for an integrated view of asset
performance – a view previously unavailable due to the disparate
Engineering workflow automation
With the foundational data access capabilities in place,
configuration of the required engineering workflows could
proceed. The intent of the workflows was to not only reduce
the time spent manually gathering data, but to implement
standardised analysis procedures supported by automation. For
this project, the workflows addressed nodal analysis for both gas
lifted and naturally flowing oil wells.
Using a commercial nodal analysis application, the following
workflows were addressed:
x Well test validation.
x Sensitivity analysis for model fine tuning.
x Model adjustment.
x Optimisation by well.
x Tubing head pressure validation.
x Virtual measurement.
While some of these processes had been previously
performed manually, the time required for data collection, model
updates, and aggregating the results in Excel was prohibitive for
frequent analysis. Supported by the OVS workflow automation,
these processes are now performed automatically so engineers
can focus on value-added engineering work.
Well test validation
After every well test was taken and updated to the database,
the results were used to automatically validate whether the
accuracy of the model was within a user-defined tolerance.
This process was critical to establishing the validity of the
model to be used in further processes, such as optimisation
and virtual metering.
The workflow gathers the operating variables at the time
of the well test, including THP, Qgi, GOR and water cut and
calculates the model predicted oil volume. If the model predicted
result was within a certain tolerance of the measured volume,
then the model was compliant and could be relied upon
for further analysis. The workflow also extracted the model
Figure 2. Example of engineering workflow for production
optimisation and surveillance.

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calculated performance curves so they were available for
comparisons and display.
The workflow was scheduled to run automatically as new
well test data became available. No human action was required
for this process to be performed. The calculations were still
performed using the existing nodal analysis software and
models; OVS introduced the automation necessary to effectively
run this analysis on a wide scale.
Sensitivity analysis for model fine tuning
To better support the process of fine tuning the well models, a
workflow was developed to standardise the model parameters
which may require updates. The workflow iteratively sought
the proper adjustment to independent parameters necessary
to reproduce the test condition (e.g. 2% decrease in reservoir
pressure). Further reports were also available to assist the
engineer in validating this result using available data (e.g.
historical reservoir pressure measurements and forecasts).
For Samaria-Luna, the process was standardised to consider
six key model parameters, including:
x Gas/oil ratio.
x Water cut.
x Gas injection rate.
x Tubing head pressure.
x Choke.
x Reservoir pressure.
These model parameters were all selected based on level of
importance and measurement uncertainty.
Once the engineer had decided which parameter to adjust,
the adjustment was applied through the OVS Model Manager.
The OVS Model Manager recorded all changes and adjustments
made to the model so the audit trail could be consulted at any
time. Prior versions of the models were also archived for use
in future analysis and could be rolled back to undo a change if
Optimisation by well
Using the validated well model, an optimisation process could
then be run to identify the optimal operating condition for each
well and quantify the resulting gain in oil production.
This standard process was automatically run every day for
every active well, using the well’s current operating parameters
(WHP and Qinj Rate). The process is identical for wells with
real time data and those without.
To determine the optimal operating conditions, an iterative
process is run to calculate the well’s maximum effective
production rate. The algorithm employed searched for the
asymptotic maximum, as opposed to the technical maximum,
in order to make the most efficient use of gas. The constraints
were configurable by the end users, and could be changed at
any time.
Tubing head pressure validation
As a further check on the validity of the model, the
model-predicted tubing head pressure was calculated using the
production line pressure measurements. If the model-predicted
THP is within a user-defined tolerance of the measured THP
(e.g. 10%), the results of the optimisation were considered valid.
If that validation failed, an alarm was generated and displayed
as an indication that the engineer could review the data and/or
model prior to applying any operational changes.
Virtual well metering
Using the ‘evergreen’ well models, a virtual well metering
workflow was run to predict the daily three phase flow rate for
each well. The flow rates were calculated based on the daily
operating conditions of each well.
The new production surveillance and optimisation tool described
has seen rapid uptake within the Samaria-Luna asset. The tool
is in daily use by engineers, and provides much needed visibility
into daily operations, enabling early response to problems and
proactive well management.
Integrated displays, unattended surveillance, and automated
engineering workflows have all contributed to more effective
decision making. Processes have been standardised, data is
readily available, and uncertainty has been reduced. Productivity
of the engineers has greatly improved, and quantifiable benefits
are being realised.
The implementation has actively supported the continuous
growth and maintenance of production for this asset. Further
work is planned to employ this same technology to support both
reservoir engineering and well planning activities, with similar
anticipated benefits.

www. ener gygl obal . com/ s ect or s
READ about the latest
developments in exploration
on Energy Global.
Raphael Moscarello and Paul Kleinen,
Bredero Shaw, Canada and USA, and
Sean Haberer, ShawCor, Canada, present
a new, innovative modular mobile plant for
pipe coatings in this month’s cover story.
ith oil and gas exploration migrating to developing
countries, remote locations, and deep offshore
environments, there is an increased demand for
state-of-the-art, mobile facilities that reduce logistics costs,
mitigate risk and improve safety. This article describes the new

coating plant – a novel way of coating pipe. Brigden
is a completely modular mobile plant capable of manufacturing
a full range of anti-corrosion and flow assurance pipe coating
systems with the same quality and output as the most
advanced fixed plants.
August 2011
Brigden incorporates innovative system designs; from pipe
preheating through to end finishing using advanced robotics.
This mobile facility enables delivery of high quality pipe coating
systems at any location in the world. This concept is based on
the successful mobile concrete coating solution offered globally
to all Bredero Shaw customers.
Mobile solution
The Brigden mobile plant can be located in-county, near a
pipe mill or close to an oil and gas field to streamline logistics,
Figure 1. Quench tunnel.
Figure 2. Bredero Shaw’s new Brigden modular facility.
improve safety and reduce costs of handling and
transporting pipe. To meet aggressive installation schedules,
the plant is shipped in standard ISO containers, eliminating
break bulk cargo delays and special handling requirements.
Steel pipe can also be shipped directly to the project site,
which further improves scheduling. The mobile plant can be
strategically located to reduce transportation and handling
costs, which may result in lower import duties for bare pipe
when compared to coated pipe.
Brigden’s modular concept is based on standard
designs and proven process technologies that have a
successful track record in the pipe coating industry. The
modular plant can be transported via ship, truck or rail
to the manufacturing location and takes only six weeks
to assemble and be fully operational. Demobilisation is
expected to take only 30 days. This modularity represents
a significant time savings compared to conventional
mobilisation for a permanent coating plant. The compressed
mobilisation/demobilisation period allows for rapid response
to client needs.
Game changing engineering
Brigden is a turnkey operating facility assembled from
contents supplied in 50 standard and specifically designed
shipping containers that are ISO certified. Depending upon
the geometry of the yard or building, Brigden’s modular
design can be configured in an S-shape or a U-shape.
Modular compressors are part of the integrated system.
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Energy Global
August 2011
Adding more modules to the baseline layout expands the
plant capability to accommodate 80 ft (24.4 m) pipe and large
42 in. (1066 mm) diameter pipe. New modules are added to
accommodate various pipe coating technologies and processes
including the manufacturing of syntactic polypropylene
insulation, robotic cutback, different extruder requirements
and production of novel, proprietary coatings. Plants can
also be adapted to regional and client specific needs such as
small diameter pipe, internal coatings and large manufacturing
Electrical power can be provided from utility grid sources, or
site generated as necessary by project requirements. Even the
absence of an appropriate building structure is not a limitation as
the modularity allows for a complete steel frame fabric building
rated for coastal wind standards.
A dedicated team of application experts leads the Brigden
operation. This team is trained in continuous improvement
practices supported by regional operations resources for safe
and timely manufacturing and delivery. The plant set-up and
execution are based on standard operating practices that
are an integral part of the ShawCor manufacturing system.
Office facilities, rolling stock for pipe handling and raw material
processing are sourced locally.
Table 1. Manufacturing capability – current platform
Diameter (mm) Length (m)
Min. Max. Min. Max.
3LPE (multi-layer
219 (8) 1066 (42) 10.4 (34) 24.4 (80)
3LPP (multi-layer
219 (8) 1066 (42) 10.4 (34) 24.4 (80)
FBE 219 (8) 1066 (42) 10.4 (34) 24.4 (80)
Dual layer FBE 219 (8) 1066 (42) 10.4 (34) 24.4 (80)
Flow assurance
219 (8) 600 (24)* 10.4 (34) 24.4 (80)


219 (8) 600 (24)* 10.4 (34) 24.4 (80)
*The diameter reflected in this section refers to the diameter of pipe and
coating if cutback roots are used.
Figure 3. Robotic cutback machines.
Plant capabilities
The Brigden mobile plant has been designed with the same
production capacity as a fixed plant. Brigden is capable
of coating pipe with an outside diameter of 8 – 42 in.
(220 to 1066 mm), lengths of 34 – 80 ft (10.4 – 24.4 m)
and weight up to 325 lbs/ft (484 kg/m). The plant comes
fully equipped with integrated facilities for raw materials
storage, facility maintenance, and quality control and testing.
In addition to standard parameters, the plant has built in
flexibility to accommodate project-specific requirements
dependent upon client needs.
All phases of the Brigden coating operation, including
surface preparation, pre-heat, coating application and final
inspection can be conducted in an enclosed area of 18 000 ft

(1700 m
). A total area of 2.8 acres (1.2 ha.) is needed to set
up the entire facility excluding pipe storage requirements.
Safety and reliability
Bredero Shaw is an industry leader in providing a safe
and healthy workplace. Demonstrating leadership in HSE
performance, Brigden incorporates not only leading process
technologies, but also extensive hazard elimination and safe
work procedures, including integrated closed loop control
systems and process automation to ensure safety, reliability,
and quality of the process.
Installed mobile facility
Brigden engineering began in January 2009 with all
equipment designs finalised by December 2009. The initial
deployment of Brigden has been completed at the Port
of Beaumont, Texas for a world class five layer Syntactic
Polypropylene insulation project to be installed in over
7200 ft (2200 m) water depth in the Gulf of Mexico. The
Brigden assembly crews arrived at Beaumont in mid-March,
with the initial modules. Complete installation of the
coating facilities, including a fabric building, coating
equipment, end cutback robotics, laboratory, and
management/administrative facilities, was completed in
The Brigden facility will compress the overall project
schedule and reduce risk as the steel pipe is received directly
from ocean cargo vessels within the Port of Beaumont and
the plant location allows direct deepwater access to berths
with water depths of 40 ft (13 m). Coated pipe is loaded
and shipped directly to the installation vessel or welding
facility, reducing costs and minimising fatigue due to double
handling and associated transportation. Public road transit
is eliminated for both bare and coated pipe, mitigating
all exposure to liabilities arising from traffic accidents or
Unique benefits
Brigden incorporates the latest in capable, safe, and reliable
pipe coating technology and employs Bredero Shaw’s
industry leading processes to deliver superior products in
locations not served by fixed plants. But perhaps the most
significant benefit Brigden offers to customers is the essential
role of Bredero Shaw’s engineering, mobile technology, and
operations personnel and their ability to deliver an end to
end solution option wherever and whenever it is needed. The
industry now has a new option.

ouglas-Westwood‘s first edition of its World Subsea
Hardware Market Report forecasts 23% growth in
capital expenditure compared to the last five years,
with US$ 139 billion to be spent on subsea hardware during
the 2011 – 2015 period. The industry is being driven by
the challenges involved in accessing new reserves. Fields
are being developed in deeper waters, from increasingly
remote locations and in extreme metocean conditions.
Smaller, more widely scattered reserves, which were in
the past uneconomic or too technologically challenging to
develop, are now benefiting from higher oil prices and more
advanced subsea hardware solutions. Subsea developments
continue to account for an increasing share of offshore
activity, making it an attractive market for oilfield service and
equipment manufacturers.
August 2011
Market forecasts
Reductions in orders and in the economic viability of projects
saw expenditure decline between 2009 and 2011. However,
a strengthening economic environment is expected to
drive an increase in annual expenditure, peaking in 2015 at
approximately US$ 33 billion.
Subsea pipeline expenditure will account for over half of
all subsea Capex over the next five years. Eastern Europe
and FSU, Asia and the Middle East are expected to account
for the majority of all pipeline expenditure over the period
with a number of sizeable projects such as Nord Stream
(Eastern Europe and FSU) and Natuna (Asia). This huge
market is characterised by a number of multi-billion dollar
projects which are expected to come to fruition over the next
five years.
The Deepwater ‘Golden Triangle’, namely the
West African, US Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and Brazilian
areas, will account for a large percentage of global subsea
production, SURF and processing hardware expenditure
during the forecast period.
The ‘Golden Triangle’
Africa will remain one of the world’s most significant subsea
regions for hardware expenditure. A large number of
development projects are underway or planned, with increased
installation activity off the coast of Nigeria and Angola, in
particular, driving annual expenditure over the next five years.
Most future pipeline projects are also expected to centre on
deepwater developments off West Africa.
Latin American subsea expenditure is dominated by
Brazilian activity at present and given the potential of the
country’s presalt reserves, this is likely to remain the case
for some time to come. Annual expenditure in the region is
expected to grow throughout the period to 2015 due to a
number of Petrobras developments such as Iara, Guara,
Baleia Azul, Marlim Sul and Tupi.
North American expenditure, predominantly the
US GoM, is expected to grow annually over the period to
2015. Significant activity was witnessed in the previous
Figure 1. Global subsea hardware Capex.
Source: Douglas-Westwood: The World Subsea
Hardware Market Report 2011 – 2015.
five years with expenditure peaking in 2008 before declining
towards the end of the period due in part to a limited
volume of trunkline projects in development since 2008.
The repercussions of the Macondo oil spill in the GoM are
expected to affect the sector as regulations in the region are
tightened, delaying deepwater E&P.
The North Sea region
The mature North Sea region (Norway and the UK) is
forecast to see substantial subsea hardware Capex during
the forecast period until 2014 before declining in 2015.
Notable developments include Total’s Laggan/Tomore (UK)
and Chevron’s Lochnagar/Rosebank (UK), ENI’s Goliath field
(Norway), Statoil’s Vega (Vega South) and Trestakk fields
Emerging markets
Capex in both the Asian and Australasian markets are forecast
to remain strong with expenditure over the 2011 – 2015 to total
over US$ 35 billion. The majority of this expenditure will be on
subsea pipeline projects such as the Natuna developments
(Indonesia), the transoriental (Malaysia to South Korea)
gas pipeline and the Kopi-Port Moresby gas pipeline off
Papua New Guinea. In Australasia, major developments
including Woodside’s Pluto, ExxonMobil’s Scarborough and
Chevron’s massive Greater Gorgon fields (including Jansz,
Chrysaor and Io) are expected to drive upstream expenditure.
In Asia, activity is expected to see rapid growth with
developments such as Shell’s Gumusut (Malaysia), Chevron’s
Gehem and Gendalo (Indonesia), Salamander’s Bualuang
(Thailand), Reliance Industries MA-D6 (India) and CNOOC’s
Xijiang 32-1 (China) under development or in planning.
Market drivers and trends
The increase in offshore E&P activity is a key driver for the subsea
hardware market with fields increasingly being developed using
subsea technology due its cost-effectiveness in deep waters,
strong resistance to prevailing climatic conditions and the ability
to utilise marginal fields that could not have their own individual
facility attached. The
development of deepwater
fields using subsea
technology will be the
primary means of reserve
replacement for IOCs.
Hardware expenditure
for deepwater (> 500 m)
developments over
the next five years is
expected to account for
over 50% of the total
market spend which is
a significant increase
on the 2006 – 2010
period and illustrates
the growing importance
of harder-to-produce
The adoption of
subsea separation and
boosting technology
provides a potential upside to forecast activity as it allows
production of more difficult reservoirs, longer distance
tie-backs (due to improved flow assurance) and marginal
fields (due to greater overall recovery and product rates).
Using subsea technology allows small fields to become
economically attractive using subsea tiebacks. Total’s
Pazflor development will be the first to use a combination
of separation and boosting hardware when installed
later this year while subsea compression technology is
expected to be installed for the first time at Statoil’s Åsgard
and Gullfaks fields off Norway in 2014/15.
In recent years, the world has witnessed oil price
shocks driven by situations where supplies have become
very tight as spare capacity is absorbed by growing
demand for energy across the world. Future projections of
oil supply and demand suggest that this situation is likely
to be repeated again.
Energy is becoming more expensive as the resources
we extract become more technically demanding and
intensive to access. Ultimately, a future peak in world oil
supply is inevitable; the only question remaining is the
date that this will happen. The implication of this supply
scenario for the global energy markets is that we will
expect to see a sustained increase in oil prices as
supplies tighten in the run-up to the peak year. This will
impact on deepwater developments to the extent that
they will become more economically viable as the
oil price rises. Developments that were marginal at
US$ 20/bbl will undoubtedly be more vigorously pursued
in an environment where the long term expectations of oil
price are US$ 60/bbl and upwards.
For oil companies, it is clear that budgets for 2011
are increasing, with Barclays Capital estimating that
worldwide E&P budgets will increase by 11%. The
longer term outlook indicates that subsea, predominately
deepwater, developments will continue to play a major
part in the portfolios of the majors IOCs (such as Total,
Shell, BP and Exxon) and some NOCs (such as Petrobras
and Statoil).
Subsea equipment manufacturers
Within the subsea equipment market, after reaching a
peak in the last quarter of 2007 at a value exceeding
US$ 3 billion, orders fell, bottoming in Q1 2009 at under
US$ 1 billion. Since the second quarter of 2009 orders
have been recovering gradually with 4Q 2010 reaching
almost US$ 2 billion. A secular recovery from Q4 2008
suggests that the industry should improve during 2011,
with many of the delayed orders from 2009 now being
The majority of orders for subsea trees between Q3
2009 and Q3 2010 have, however, come from Petrobras
who have ordered over 300 trees in three tranches from
Cameron, FMC and Aker Solutions.
Equipment backlog grew steadily through 2007 to
the middle of 2008, reflecting strong demand and limited
production capacity in the industry. With the onset of the
global financial recession in 2008, orders collapsed and
manufacturers began to work through their backlogs.
As a consequence, backlogs have declined from just over
US$ 8 billion in mid-2008 to around US$ 6 billion at the end
of Q4 2009. By the end of Q4 2010, backlogs had risen
above US$ 7 billion, mostly through orders from Petrobras.
FMC had seen a substantial decline from 2007 in its
market position dropping from above 50% to around 32%
in Q4 2009. By the third quarter of 2010 FMC had returned
to the top spot with the largest backlog in the industry — its
share in 2010 was 44%.
Cameron is currently the holder of the second largest
backlog in the industry, with about 31% of the total backlog
for subsea production equipment. Between Q3 2009 and
Q2 2010 Cameron held the largest total backlog. This
represents a substantial increase from 2007, when its market
share was around 18%.
The total value of the backlog for all the leading
manufacturers remains very healthy and is set to increase as
orders pick up during 2011/12.
The astonishing technical capability that exists within the
subsea sector today puts into perspective just how
capital-intensive oil and gas extraction now is for upstream
E&P players. The technology that is being deployed is
unlocking reserves that would previously have been
impossible to access, but at a price, and as a result the
sector has become a very sizable opportunity for the oilfield
service and equipment community.

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A view from
the trench
ubsea pipelines, control umbilicals
and cables are routinely ‘trenched’
(i.e. lowered into either an open or
backfilled trench in the seabed). This is
often a requirement for several reasons:
x To provide pipeline stability.
x To protect the product, mainly from
vessel anchors or fishing activity.
x To increase the thermal insulation
of the pipe from the relatively cold
The practicality of trenching pipelines
is affected by a number of factors, in
x Trench depth.
x The size and nature of the pipe itself.
x The nature of the seabed.
The requirement for the
Rock Trencher 1 (RT1) was driven by
the need for cost-effective stabilisation
of planned natural gas trunk and flow
lines on the Australian Northwest
Shelf. The RT1 trunk line trencher
was designed and manufactured by
Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd, to work in the
most challenging seabed conditions such
as those found on the Northwest Shelf of
Australia, to post-trench large diameter
trunk lines and pre-trench control
umbilicals in hard ground.
The design process behind the
new machine was based on trenching
in Northwest Shelf seabed conditions.
The company has also applied for
patents for the novel chain cutting
system fitted to the RT1. Now the
system has undertaken trials in the
Northwest Shelf it is well placed for
future requirements.
Seabed conditions
of the Australian
Northwest Shelf
Geotechnical data analysed from
areas where there is a potential
for mechanical trenching on the
Northwest Shelf has shown the
presence of shallow soils composed
primarily of Holocene deposits.

These deposits consist of carbonate
sand, gravel, conglomerates and
limestone, which have been widely
deposited onto what is now the
seafloor overlying the Pleistocene
limestone from which they have
been derived. The area has been
exposed to several changes in
sea level leading to the sub-aerial
exposure and cementation of
these deposits. The strength of the
consolidated sediments is variable
and there is evidence of solution
cavities. Laboratory testing on
recovered samples indicates UCS
values ranging typically between
5 and 15 MPa, with CaCO
as high as 99%.
Cemented, high carbonate
materials typically occur in relatively
shallow water areas, which are
predominantly where secondary
Pierre Boyde,
CTC Marine Projects Ltd, UK,
discusses the design, build and trialling
of one of the world’s biggest subsea
rock trenching machines.
Figure 1. Cutter boom and chain assembly.
August 2011
pipeline stabilisation is a requirement. Calcarenite rocky outcrops
have been shown to have strengths (UCS) in excess of 30 MPa in
some areas. Sections of calcarenite rock often occur in outcropping
areas that have underlying harder rock. Calcarenite seabed areas
are often overlaid with sedimented sand materials with varying
degrees of mobility, ranging in depth between 0 – 3 m. It is also not
uncommon for cemented layers of rock to overlay sand.
The variability of the seabed described above created a design
challenge for the RT1, as a major requirement was for it to be
able to create a stable trench in not only rock but also sand and
clay materials. To date there has not been a machine capable of
achieving pipeline trenching at economically productive rates under
the conditions found on the Northwest Shelf.
The solution
The RT1 is a 2300 kW tracked heavy duty pipeline trencher that
has been specifically designed for the burial of large diameter
pipelines in hard ground, specifically in conditions found on the
Australian Northwest Shelf.
The machine is deployed to the seabed and lands over the
pre-laid pipeline. It then picks up the pipeline and deploys an
arrangement of three heavy duty chain cutters angled to cut a wide
sloping 45˚ trench beneath the pipeline, with the cutters attacking
the entire trench face. Dredge pumps clear spoil from in front of the
cutters and out of the trench.
Wide tracks and air buoyancy are also provided to allow
operation in softer ground. Finally, the configurable jetting/dredging
system allows a second clearout pass of the trench or ‘jetting only’
trenching in softer seabeds.
Cutter boom and chain/pick design
The trencher cutter booms are arranged in a novel overlapping
configuration that allows the entire trench face to be attacked whilst
keeping the cutters away from one another. The cutter booms
incorporate a guard mechanism so that physical contact between
the chains and the pipe is not possible, even in cases of complete
machine failure. The pipe is held in two fully instrumented roller
The chains selected for the RT1 are of a standard design and
were chosen as they have a proven track record in land-based
The trencher combines these triple chain cutters, which are
arranged to cut equal areas each side of the trench to keep forces
balanced on the vehicle. With high power, a heavy vehicle and a
very rigid connection between the chain boom and the chassis, a
hard ground trenching capability is expected.
The chains are made up of interleaved links, with the pick
holders mounted on individual chain links. Two different tungsten
carbide pick lengths may be used to suit ground conditions. To
achieve high productivity where seabed conditions are suitable, the
longer picks are used. This increases the transport capability of the
chain. In harder ground conditions where trenching rates are less
likely to be transport limited, shorter picks are suitable. Figure 1
shows the cutter boom and chain/pick assemblies.
Dredge and jetting system
The RT1 is equipped with a dredge and jetting system. The dredge
system is used over the cutter booms to remove spoil as it is
transported from the trench by the cutting chain, and at the rear of
the machine to remove any spoil remaining in the trench. The jetting
system is used to fluidise the spoil remaining in the trench so that
the dredges can remove it.
The jetting system provides a chain wash and rear jetting, and
the dredge system has been designed to perform a second pass if
necessary in the event that spoil has in-filled the trench, preventing
the pipeline from achieving the desired lowering depth. Spoil
handling has been designed to handle all seabed conditions.
Spoil blades
It is anticipated that the RT1 will be able to transport large pieces
of material from the trench and this was observed during 40%
scale model trials. In order to avoid material falling into the trench
and possibly preventing the pipeline from settling into the trench
bottom, the spoil blades are incorporated in the design.
The spoil blades are positioned immediately behind the aft
cutters, to collect material transported from the trench without
allowing any free space for material to fall back into the trench.
The instrumented spoil blades are articulated, which allows them
to relieve if an immovable object is struck, or if an excessive spoil
build-up occurs.
The crumber covers the trench cross-section directly behind the
aft cutter and is designed to prevent any undredgeable spoil from
Figure 2. Cutter arrangement showing uncut section.
Figure 4. Dredging profile at a 25˚ angle of repose.
Figure 3. Sand to be dredged at a 35˚ angle of repose.
10th Middle East Geosciences Conference and Exhibition
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The Middle East's Premier Geoscience Event
Under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain
August 2011
passing so that all the material cut by the cutter chains is removed
from the trench.
During trials, the model was operated with a crumber and this
philosophy has been implemented on the full scale machine.
Chip breaker
During scale model trials it was observed that it is possible for
a quantity of material on the surface to carry over the forward
cutter 1, which is not in line with the rear cutters 2 or 3 (Figure 2).
Figure 5. Variation of traction demand with seabed pitch and density.
Figure 6. 40% scale model trenching trials.
Figure 7. The compete RT1.
To avoid this, a ‘chip breaker’ has been added to the system. This
has been included as part of the cutter 2 crumber arrangement.
The chip breaker consists of three angled pieces of steel on the
crumber support structure. These are designed to place torsional
and bending stresses on the uncut section of material, so that
relatively small sections of material will break off, rather than an
extended slab of material carrying over cutter 2.
The structure behind the chip breaker is shaped to direct the
material broken off behind cutter 2, so that it will be removed
from the trench by cutter 3.
Pipe handling and pipe stress
The RT1 concept has been developed to minimise the pipeline
lift required, and therefore allow operations with large pipelines
featuring relatively heavy concrete coating without inducing
excessive pipeline stresses.
Pipeline stress analysis was performed, during the
machine’s design, using a number of different pipe diameters,
concrete coating thicknesses and densities. The current design
aimed to meet DNV pipeline stress criteria for 1.5 m outside
diameter pipelines to be trenched in the flooded condition.
RT1 trenching performance
Performance prediction model
Cathie Associates, using accepted theoretical principles relating
to chain and wheel cutters used in land-based applications,
developed a performance prediction model, which was then
applied to the cutting arrangement used on the RT1. The
applicability of the model has been proven using data gathered
during the scale model trials and official full-scale trials on the
Northwest Shelf of Australia.
Performance in cemented materials
Performance in cemented material is determined by the strength
of the material. For the performance prediction, a conservative
cemented material strength was considered as being the mean
rock strength, plus one standard deviation. Where the entire
trench depth consists of 7 MPa calcarenite/limestone, the
predicted speed is 200 m/hr. The model suggests that for a
UCS of 4 MPa and 10 MPa, a speed of 300 m/hr and 125 m/hr,
respectively, would be anticipated.
Performance in sands
Performance in sand requires a different approach to cemented
materials. At best, progress may be transport-limited, resulting
in very high speeds. However, this may not be the case, and
progress may be below this.
Sands with a cone resistance of 3 MPa, described
as between loose and medium dense were used in the
performance modelling and in these conditions, the cutters are
transport-limited to approximately 445 m/hr. From experience
of trenching in sand, rates are usually in the region of 200 m/hr,
therefore an estimate of 200 m/hr in sand seems reasonable.
The above progress rate is an estimate for the progress of
the cutters through the sand. It is possible that the sand may
collapse from the 45˚ trench wall effectively filling in part of the
bottom of the 45˚ trench. To ensure that the trench depth is
maintained, the rear dredge system must remove this material.
The quantity of sand that the rear dredge system must
remove depends upon the angle of stability of the trench wall.
Figure 3 shows the area that would have
to be dredged assuming a 35˚ angle of
Each dredge pump is expected to
have a mixture capacity operating in the
region of 2320 m
/hr. The dredge pumps
have been designed to operate at above
20% spoil content in most scenarios.
The ability of the dredge pumps to
operate at high spoil content mixtures
is influenced by the availability of spoil
to the dredge pump suctions. If a low
angle of repose is considered, then
the following profile would be seen if
dredging was not used (Figure 4 shows a
25˚ angle of repose).
Here, the dredge pump suctions would
clearly be within the collapsed material.
Therefore, it is expected that relatively high
spoil content will be dredged.
It is not anticipated that trench walls
will collapse due to consistently low
angles; the dredge system is capable
of maintaining the trench depth with
acceptable progress rates. If collapse
should occur, it is likely that trench wall
instability will not present a problem with
regards to pipeline lowering or progress
rates. The RT1 has been designed so that
a 25˚ angle of the trench will not result in
undermining of the vehicle tracks.
Performance in layered materials
A method for predicting performance in
layered materials was not developed, as it
is unlikely that this would yield significant
results. However, the performance in
layered materials was assumed to lie
somewhere in between that of cemented
materials and sand. To achieve this, the
following approach was taken:
x Values for cemented layer UCS
and sand density were selected to
represent an average/mean condition.
x Using these values, layer positions
and depths were selected. The aim
was to represent the conditions on the
Northwest Shelf as closely as possible
given the information available.
x The cross sectional areas of sand
and calcarenite were examined and a
performance prediction between the
sand performance and calcarenite
performance was established.
Estimations for both 7 MPa calcarenite
and sand were 200 m/hr. Therefore, the
performance in layered materials was also
in the region of 200 m/hr. Re-calculation of
layered progress rates may be relevant if
the prediction for either sand or calcarenite
changes significantly.
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Trench profiles
In cemented materials, the trench profile
is expected to maintain the 45˚ passed by
the cutters. Therefore, when the full trench
depth consists of cemented material, the
trench will be a relatively clean 45˚ ‘V’, this
was demonstrated by scale model trials.
In sands, the angle of stability of the
trench is uncertain. Anecdotal information
suggests that the trench will stand at 45˚,
and this is backed up by an assessment
that the angular sand will maintain a
relatively steep angle. However, this has
not been conclusively proven, therefore
trench walls may lie at less than 45˚ for
Where the full trench depth is sand,
the trench will assume a ‘V’ shape at the
angle of stability of the sand. The bottom
of the trench may have a slightly curved
profile rather than a sharp ‘V’; however,
this is not expected to hinder pipeline
lowering. The RT1 was designed with
sufficient dredge capacity to remove all
of the additional material at angles of
stability as low as 25˚, which is considered
very conservative.
Trench profile assurance
The trench profile created will be
subject to the specific conditions in the
area being trenched. In areas where
a significant layer of sand is present
towards the bottom of the trench, the
trench profile created will be dependent
upon the dredge and jetting system
being controlled adequately to maintain
the appropriate trench profile. To ensure
this, the trench profile being created is
constantly monitored, and the dredge
pumps are controllable.
Traction requirement
The traction requirement for the RT1 was
estimated from previous scale model
trial data. This was performed by scaling
the measured tow force by area. This
resulted in an estimation in the region of
14 Te being required. The performance
prediction model provides a further
means to estimate the traction required,
assuming the RT1 is operating in a
power-limited condition.
The performance model calculated
the required pick force for maximum
performance in the given conditions.
This force can be directly related to
the reaction force experienced by
the RT1 through the cutter chains.
Initial calculations showed a traction
requirement in the region of 5 – 18 Te.
August 2011
Scale model trials were carried out during the design phase of the
RT1. The aim of the 40% scale trenching trials was to:
x Provide information on the performance of inclined chains,
interaction between the staggered chains and the cutting face,
and soil transport mechanisms.
x Provide information on the performance of the cutting
and transport mechanisms in seabed replicating layers of
calcarenite and uncemented sands, as well as rate of progress
information in different ground conditions.
Findings from the scale trials were incorporated into the design
of the RT1 as described in the sections above. Full-scale trenching
trials took place on the Northwest Shelf of Australia and provided:
x Confidence in the ability of the RT1 to reliably create suitable
trench profiles for the stabilisation of trunk lines on the
Australian Northwest Shelf.
x Correlating trenching rates in the range of conditions
encountered with available soil/rock strength data and cone
resistance, and showed the development of a trenching
classification system for rock cutting.
Rapid changes in soil conditions were encountered along the
route. The machine was able to deal with a full range of conditions
and create an acceptable trench at a reasonable rate of progress.
Trial sites encompassed a variety of the conditions including:
x Sediments with varying degrees of cementation.
x Calcareous rock with strength up to 30 MPa, and with layers
varying from 0.1 – 2.0 m.
x Uncemented materials in which the trench would be unstable
and therefore the sediment would have to be removed by the
dredge pumps.
x An area where the terrain may be more irregular (described as
high relief in the survey charts) that may cause significant roll/
pitch of the trencher.
The requirement for the RT1 was driven by the need for
cost-effective stabilisation of planned natural gas trunk and flow
lines on the Australian Northwest Shelf. Australia is the only region
globally with potential for significant LNG expansion. Potential
that is not hampered by significant resource access, government
restrictions or geopolitic issues and is central to the expansion
plans of major and independent operators including Chevron,
ExxonMobil, Woodside, Apache, BHP Billiton and Inpex.
The concept of the RT1, one of the most powerful trenchers
in the world, was developed after extensive review of Australian
Northwest Shelf seabed geotechnical data. Detailed design and
build was carried out by Soil Machine Dynamics-Hydrovision, one
of the premier manufacturers of subsea trenching equipment in
conjunction with CTC Marine Projects and Cathie Associates.
A series of 40% scale model trials were carried out and the
results were incorporated into the design of the RT1. Full-scale trial
validation trenching with the machine took place on the Australian
Northwest Shelf in 2010.

The authors would like to acknowledge Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd,
the design and fabrication company who built the RT1, for its
assistance in preparing this article.
1. Pyrah, J., RT1 Proposed Trail Locations (2007), Unpublished.
This is consistent with the estimation made from trial data, and
varies with the strength of the material being cut.
Cathie Associates investigated the available traction. The
total traction required is the force required at the cutting face,
in addition to the force required to propel the vehicle. Figure 5
shows variation of traction demand with pitch. It also shows the
available traction for various sand densities for the RT1 (single
This revealed that in loose sand conditions, the RT1 can
continue trenching at a normal speed up a 5˚ slope, even if the
cutter force is that required for a 7 MPa rock. In very loose sands,
the machine may not be able to maintain progress rates if cutter
forces are particularly high. However, if cutter forces are as
expected in sand conditions, the machine will be able to maintain
progress on slopes up to approximately 3˚.
In all cases, the RT1 should remain operable, as reducing
progress rates reduces cutter forces, and therefore reduces the
traction demand. For the cutter forces to remain consistently
high, the cutters have to be operating in rock for the full trench
depth. The tracks of the RT1 may be considered as a shallow
foundation when compared with accepted API and DNV
standards for failure of soils. However, the RT1 is well within both
the API and DNV standards when navigating a 5˚ slope.
The operability range of the machine may be extended by
fitting grousers to the tracks. These have proven very effective in
increasing the traction for this type of vehicle.
Figure 8. The RT1 shown working offshore.
Table 1. Brief specifications of the RT1
Operating depth 500 MSW
Maximum trench depth 2 m
Trench profile 45˚ wall, ‘V’ trench
Dimensions 16 x 13 x 8 m
Weight in air 140 – 200 t depending on configuration
Pipe handling Two triple roller cradle assemblies, 65 Te lift each
Buoyancy Up to 100 t
Pipe size 1.5 m outside diameter
2300 kW – 1050 kW for cutter assemblies; 320 kW
for dredge pumps; 700 kW for jetting pumps
he increased challenges operators are
facing as they look to maximise production,
squeeze more oil and gas from their older
fields, and meet environmental requirements, are
seeing a renewed focus on two vital but often
under-reported technologies: subsea sampling and
oil in water monitoring.
While tending to focus on different elements of
the reservoir – in the case of subsea sampling below
the reservoir surface and in the case of oil-in-water
monitoring normally on an offshore platform – both
technologies share one key challenge. That is the
need to introduce greater intelligence, automation
and subsea engineering principles into their
operations and move away from the manual focus
that has too often dominated both technologies in
the past.
Let’s take a look at subsea sampling and oil in
water monitoring in greater detail.
The rise in subsea sampling
One of the key means of generating accurate and
reliable information from oil and gas wells is through
multiphase and wet gas meters. Such meters
provide crucial real time information on
flow conditions in the reservoir.
They can be used
to determine
Eivind Gransaether, Mirmorax,
Norway, discusses establishing
subsea engineering principles in
subsea sampling and oil-in-water
monitoring operations.
Figure 2. The ROV-based subsea
sampling system in sampling mode.

August 2011
maximum oil production and gas handling capacity and can,
for example, provide early warning signs if there is water
As Figure 1 illustrates, however, the uncertainty of metering
systems tends to grow over time – so much so that above
a certain threshold, the values that are represented are so
uncertain that they bring little or no value to the customer in
respect to production optimisation.
It is accurate subsea sampling that leads to the precise
calibration, accuracy over time, and effectiveness of these
metering systems. By adding a subsea process sampling
system, for example, operators can generate fractional data on
oil, gas, water, salinity, PvT (Pressure, Volume and Temperature)
and other information that the meters need to be calibrated for.
Subsea sampling provides high quality, accurate volumetric
sampling for the lifetime of the field and supports such
multiphase meters in the areas of reservoir simulation, field
economics, system integrity, revenue allocation, and production
optimisation – to name just a few. In summary, subsea sampling
is central to reservoir management and the monitoring of
reservoir operations.
Yet is subsea sampling rising to the challenge?
Subsea sampling techniques on the market today include the hot
stab method, extracting the samples by differential pressure, or
flowing the well to a surface test facility that captures samples.
All these techniques, however, share a number of limitations.
Firstly, the techniques are often used topside and are
manual-driven; samples are taken randomly without due
consideration to the flow dynamics of the fluids being sampled,
and the original pressure conditions are not maintained during
the fluid sample’s journey to the laboratory.
The focus on ‘manual’ and the risk of human error means
that there is therefore little way of achieving a truly volumetric
representative sample or being assured that the sample contains
fluids from all the phases. The result is low quality samples, no
volumetric representation, and low repeatability.
Oil-in-water monitoring
As with subsea sampling, oil-in-water monitoring is an equally
important technique where the technologies do not seem to be
keeping up.
The last few years have seen a significant increase in global
water production. One of the main reasons for this is the growth
of brownfields and Produced Water Re-Injection (PWRI) to
ensure higher recovery rates and a longer lifetime for existing
oilfields. This increase in produced water has led to a growing
need for detailed information on the size and amount of sand
and oil in produced water – whether it is reinjection, discharged
or processed water. Effective monitoring and control over
the reinjection process will optimise the water flooding of the
reservoir and ensure maximum production performance.
There are a number of other drivers behind the increased
focus on oil-in-water monitoring. There is the lost revenue due
to oil being lost through produced water discharge; greater
detail on the specific components of produced water can
help optimise the separation of oil and water, taking place
in separation process facilities; and there are real dangers
to production optimisation if produced water is not carefully
This is not just during the separation phase but throughout
production. Potential problems can include the plugging of
disposal wells by solid particles and suspended oil droplets, the
plugging of lines, pumps and valves due to inorganic scales, and
corrosion due to the electrochemical reactions of the water with
piping walls.
And then there are environmental regulations. Measurement
of oil in produced water is now required by law. Regulations
include the 2000/2001 Oslo/Paris Convention (OSPAR) – also
known as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine
Environment of the North-East Atlantic; the UK’s Dispersed
Oil in Produced Water Trading Scheme and The Norwegian
State Pollution Control Authority (SFT)’s regulations, which call
for zero harmful discharge into the sea. Within this context, it is
essential that E&P operators can demonstrate to regulators and
governments the effective monitoring of oil in water.
So are oil-in-water monitoring technologies doing better than
their subsea sampling counterparts in meeting these increased
Figure 1. The uncertainty of metering systems tends to grow over
Figure 3. The Mirmorax Oil-in-Water (OiW) monitor.

August 2011
operator demands? Again, there are a number of flaws to
traditional techniques. Traditionally, oil-in-water monitoring
tends to be manual, with samples taken from the produced
water discharge, acidified to a low PH and then extracted with
a chemical known as tetrachloroethylene.
Once the solvent is extracted, infrared quantification
then takes place with oil content determined by the infrared
absorbance of the sample extract and the total methylene
) that is present. However, there are a number of
downsides to manual sampling.
Firstly, as they are spot samples and as the concentration
of the oil in water often varies over time, operators are not
getting the full, accurate picture. The use of spot data to
calculate a continuous flow is only valid if the measured
component is consistent with time.
There is also potential confusion as to what constitutes
‘dissolved’ and ‘dispersed’ oil with both being extracted by
the extracting solvent. The result is that dissolved oil is often
included in the dispersed oil content, making it more difficult
for operators to effectively and accurately meet environmental
The result is inconsistent ways of analysing the spot
samples with varying results and, in terms of employee
productivity, a highly labour intensive process.
A focus on subsea engineering: subsea
sampling and oil-in-water monitoring
Against this backdrop, Mirmorax is focusing on providing
operators with a more automated and intelligent subsea
sampling and oil-in-water monitoring system built on strong
subsea engineering principles.
Taking subsea sampling first, the company has developed
an ROV-based subsea sampling system that collects samples
subsea. It is only through sampling at or near the wellhead that
samples, representative of the fluid flowing through the meter,
can be generated, yielding more accurate fluid properties and
more accurate multiphase measurements.
The sampling system, via its ROV, extracts the sample into
sampling bottles under isobaric conditions and then transports
them to the surface. Key components of the new system are
an ROV operated docking sampling unit (DSU), consisting
of a docking unit, a hydraulic sample extraction system and
sampling bottles. The sampling unit itself is based on standard
subsea engineering principles and is a combination of field
proven technologies, such as the hydraulic actuator, collet
connector and system for testing sealing integrity.
The second key element – essential in taking samples
subsea and isolating the sample from the process – is
a stationary subsea sampling interface (SSI). The ROV
transports the sampling device from the surface vessel and
docks onto the stationary SSI through a standard hydraulics
and manipulator system. The two parts are then connected
with a robust connector and barriers which are tested to
verify pressure integrity. Figure 2 illustrates the system in
sampling mode, after the DSU has been docked onto the
The operation described is repeated multiple times on
the same well in order to secure a number of samples over a
certain time period. This ensures accuracy on the sample in
case of unstable flow and provides the accumulated volume
needed to perform analysis topside.
The result is a seamless process from sample collection
to final analysis topside – from extracting a representative
sample, taking to the surface and then storing and
transporting to the laboratory facility. And all this takes place
while maintaining the sample at its original pressure conditon
all the way through to the lab.
In oil-in-water monitoring, the company has recently
acquired the Oil-in-Water (OiW) product line, an online and
inline oil-in-water monitor (see Figure 3) for topside oil and
gas applications, from Roxar Flow Measurement, a division
of Emerson Process Management.
As part of the acquisition, Mirmorax has also signed an
agreement to secure all Intellectual Property (IP) rights for the
product with Dutch technology company TNO Science and
Industry. TNO was part of the original Joint Industry Project
(JIP) with Roxar in developing the monitor along with Statoil,
Eni SpA, and Shell and Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).
The oil-in-water monitor and its ultrasonic pulse-echo
technology provides accurate, real time information on the
amount of sand and oil dispersed in water and is an important
alternative to previous manual-dominated operations.
The monitor is based on an ultrasonic measurement
principle. Through the insertion of an ultrasonic transducer
directly into the produced water flow, ultrasonic technology
takes individual acoustic pulse-echo measurements from
solids, oil droplets and gas. Each detected echo is analysed
and classified as coming from an oil droplet, a sand particle
or a gas bubble. Concentration levels can then be calculated
based on the size distribution.
The monitor caters for concentrations of approximately
1000 parts per million (ppm) and by separating and analysing
individual acoustic pulse-echo measurements, the monitor
can provide complete size distributions ranging from 2 – 3 μm.
Calculations can be made simultaneously for oil and sand.
One of the additional benefits of ultrasonic technology
over more traditional technology is that it can ‘sound
penetrate’ material. If there is an issue of oil film or scaling,
the ultrasonic technology can work just as effectively
and accurately simply because the ultrasonic energy
will penetrate the layer and still transmit a signal into the
produced water flow.
The fact that the monitoring is able to take place in real
time also provides a highly effective early warning system.
When the water sample analysis comes back from the
laboratory showing that something is wrong, the damage
may already be done. With online monitoring, if something
happens, such as the identification of a process upset,
you know about it and can react accordingly (as a result
reducing oil pollution). Furthermore, by using advanced
auto diagnostics functionality, the monitor is also able to
overcome challenges, such as equipment degradation,
scaling and temperature or chemical changes.
The company has plans to develop the monitor for
subsea applications, allowing for water characterisation at
an earlier stage of the process and enabling the monitor to
become an important tool in subsea processing.
In this way, the acquisition will help the company come
closer to attaining its goal of delivering innovative, high quality
subsea processing solutions that help operators optimise flow
assurance, meet environmental requirements, and generate
the best possible returns from their reservoir assets.

espite the high oil price and drive to extract more reserves
from existing fields, decommissioning projects across the
globe are on the rise as many installations near the end of
their lifecycle. Oil & Gas UK advised in its Decommissioning Insight
report, released in October last year, that it expects approximately
£27 billion to be spent on decommissioning services in the UKCS
over the next 40 years.
August 2011
As the industry approaches the challenges of cessation
of production and the decommissioning of assets, it is
essential that in the effort to reduce costs, services are
delivered safely, efficiently and competently. Contractors with
extensive project expertise, technical knowledge and a proven
track record providing integrated support services, such as
industrial cleaning,
waste management,
scaffolding and access
solutions, can deliver
‘best practice’ activity
to help operators deliver
these requirements.
Working together
Key to the success of
any decommissioning
project is the early
involvement of support
contractors. A topside
project can take on
average between two
and seven years to
complete from initial
design to execution.
However, this is
dependent on the
size of the platform
and complexity of
removal, whether
it is a single heavy
lift, multiple module
removal or small piece
removal, as they all
have a bearing on the
resources required.
Given the complex and
potentially hazardous
activity involved in such
projects, it is crucial
for both operators and
contractors to recognise
the level of upfront
inspection, engineering
and planning required
before any work takes
place onsite. For
example, in-depth site
surveys of the various
cold cutting options,
access methods, waste
removal and asbestos,
as well as extensive
non-destructive testing
(NDT) are often carried
out to give a clear
picture of what activity
the project may entail.
Clarifying the
workscopes, developing
This projected increase in activity means that over the
coming years a large number of ageing structures will be taken
out of service and decommissioned. The related workscopes are
expected to be no less difficult than the work carried out 30 – 40
years ago when the industry was involved in the commissioning
phases of the very same platforms.
Figure 1. Mobilising
multi-skilled rope
access technicians
can improve efficiency
and reduce the
number of personnel
required offshore.
August 2011
the methodology,
working practices
and quantifying the
resources required to
progress the project
will help ensure it is
delivered in a safe
and efficient manner.
The detailed plans
developed as a result
of this process, will
allow the work to be
scheduled to maximise
resource utilisation
and optimise activity.
Integrated project
plans with multi-skilled
teams is one way to
improve efficiency while
reducing the numbers of
personnel offshore, for
example, mobilising
multi-skilled technicians
that utilise rope access
One significant
challenge in the minimisation of offshore manhours is ensuring
the cleaning of process systems is carried out to a standard of
cleanliness that is safe and acceptable, without being excessive.
This will vary from system to system and RBG works with
operators to develop a specific Guidance On Cleanliness (GOC)
document to minimise offshore cleaning on the installation,
based on the client’s requirements and the knowledge gained
from previous projects. The GOC document has been used to
challenge workscopes developed by operators and, in one case,
demonstrated a 50% reduction in offshore manhours.
Decommissioning can be seen as just another phase in an
asset’s lifecycle; however, it is important that those working on
the installation recognise that the profile of risks will change
significantly. An installation may have been producing for
30 years with the same core workforce operating on it since
the hookup and commissioning stage. For these individuals
in particular, and the rest of the project team, it is important to
realise that it is not ‘business as usual’ on the platform.
A change in risk profile
A platform’s risk profile changes when the production of
hydrocarbons has ceased and the installation moves into the
engineering down and cleaning, and module process and utility
separation phases. The move from hydrocarbon production to
an active reduction in the hydrocarbon inventory changes the
working practices, and other specialist service providers, (such
as waste handling specialists and heavy lift contractors) become
involved in the project. While safety is always of paramount
importance on a producing platform, introducing new people,
processes, equipment and changes to the installation operating
philosophy means that every member of the workforce has an
even greater role in ensuring that safety remains a key focus and
the highest standards are maintained.
An important difference from ‘steady state’ producing
operations to the decommissioning process is that the physical
operating environment is constantly changing. For example,
the number of first aid injuries from debris in eyes can increase
as people access areas of installation that may not have been
entered for a number of years, such as redundant modules and
the splice areas between modules. Air movement in these areas
will increase the levels of dust in the atmosphere and, if not
properly considered, can present an issue. One such situation
was remedied by the onboard asbestos crew building improved
welding habitats, rather than using the conventional scaffold and
tarpaulin approach. Following this implementation, no further
eye injuries were sustained. Also, due to ongoing workscopes
in all areas of the installation, safety escape routes may not be
available as they were during the operational phase and can
change on a daily basis.
The introduction of many new personnel who are unfamiliar
with the installation can be perceived as a potential risk by the
existing platform team. However, personnel that are new to the
installation can offer a different perspective and identify potential
hazards that may have not been immediately obvious to the
incumbent platform team. Feedback from new personnel should
Safety standards
Key to delivering a safe decommissioning project offshore is:
x Specific pre-mobilisation induction for all personnel led
by the project manager.
x Offshore supervision delivered by management with
previous decommissioning experience.
x Active onsite project management.
x Onsite safety advisors from the key contractors.
x Regular management site visits.
x Recognising adherence to good practice and
x Regular employee led safety meetings.
Figure 2. RBG provides integrated support services on UKCS decommissioning projects.
be actively encouraged to ensure the points highlighted are
acted upon.
In-depth inductions, covering what to expect offshore,
the scope of the project and ongoing works, are crucial for
new personnel, and competency levels must be evaluated
to determine where additional training is required. This will
ensure the most suitable teams are mobilised for each specific
project and workscope. As part of the induction process, safety
sessions are chaired by the project manager to ensure the team
understands the importance of achieving the highest safety
standards and everybody going home safely at the end of their
RBG’s REACH HSEQ initiative is a major focus of the
company’s decommissioning inductions and training.
REACH was launched in December 2009 with the objective
of creating a stronger, safer culture throughout RBG and to
ensure that, individually and collectively, every member of
the team is actively striving to reach higher safety standards.
In the 12 months since its launch, REACH helped the
company deliver a 38.5% reduction in lost time incident (LTI)
frequency globally and 51.2% in the North Sea, as well as an
increase in incident reporting and awareness. This year, the
initiative has been expanded to cover the full HSEQ remit,
with a commitment to reducing the company’s impact on
the environment, improving the health of its workforce and
constantly delivering the highest quality service.
On decommissioning projects, RBG has expended more
than 500 000 manhours without a single LTI. This has involved
a range of different disciplines completing often complex and
potentially hazardous workscopes such as those encountered
in the decommissioning of MCP01, where a significant
part of the activity focused on the removal of asbestos and
utilised 60 skilled operatives. This scope was singled out by
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the operator, TOTAL E&P UK Ltd, and RBG was awarded the
company’s 2006 Safety Award for excellence in this area.
Applying innovations
Innovative technology also plays a major role in delivering
decommissioning projects to the highest HSEQ standards. With
overboard activity playing a significant part in many workscopes,
a safe scaffolding system can significantly improve safety levels.
RBG’s PlusGard advanced guardrail system is custom designed
for the offshore environment and is able to transform traditional
access methods. By providing a dynamic scaffolding enclosure
with flexible and easy-to-use telescopic tubes, the new system
offers a safer working environment for scaffolders operating at
height, specifically over a platform’s side or below deck.
As well as improving safety, PlusGard aims to significantly
reduce the operating costs associated with scaffolding installation
and removal. Whilst traditional ‘over the side’ scaffolding work
requires a fast rescue craft to stand-by for potential recovery at sea
contingency – at a cost of approximately £8000 per day – the safe
enclosure provided by the PlusGard system eliminates this need.
In response to current and future legislation tightening the
requirement to control overboard discharges, RBG developed
its advanced sandwash system to provide a cost-effective,
environmentally sound route to dispose of produced solids. The
units were introduced following a 12 month development period
and incorporate a mix of field proven equipment and techniques,
and a novel approach to the chemistry and fluid dynamics of
three phase separation to allow the clean-up of solids prior to
overboard discharge. Since their introduction to RBG’s service
offering, the sand discharge results achieved are often below
1% oil content, which is well within 6% limit governed by the
Prevention of Oil Pollution Act (POPA) 1971.
With asbestos removal forming a significant part of many
decommissioning workscopes, ensuring personnel onboard are
not exposed to the potentially deadly material is crucial. Under
the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, exposure to asbestos
dust is restricted to 0.01 fibres/m
of air over four hours. To comply
with this legislation, RBG developed a sealed working habitat
which used negative pressure so a constant flow of clean air is
pumped in. The habitat sealing is then smoke-tested and exhaust
air passed through high efficiency filters to prevent asbestos dust
passing outside.
Decommissioning an offshore installation is a long complex
process that requires a wide range of contractors to work together
with an operator to safely deliver the project. Involvement of
contractors in the early planning stages can significantly improve
the efficiency of the various workscopes and optimise the working
processes to reduce the project manhours and personnel onboard.
Safety remains of the utmost importance and the relevant training
must fully explain the potential hazards of moving from a live
hydrocarbon production to a hydrocarbon reduction environment
and the changes in risk profile. As well as ensuring the correct
personnel with the right skills are mobilised, deploying innovative
technology and working practices, such as RBG’s advanced
sandwash system can bring real HSEQ benefits that improve the
efficiency of a project. Adhering to these ‘best practice’ ways
of operating, contractors can help operators reduce costs while
ensuring a focus on achieving the highest safety standards is
eightened hurricane activity in the
Gulf of Mexico (GOM) over the last
decade has altered prescribed design and
assessment criteria, as well as moved
the GOM oil and gas industry towards a
risk-based approach to asset management.
Interim American Petroleum Institute (API)
guidance from May 2007, covering design,
assessment and hurricane conditions, recognises
the more onerous conditions platforms have
experienced in the GOM over the last decade.
Darren J Morahan, Cougar Offshore LLC, USA,
highlights the possibilities of SIM in the Gulf of Mexico.
August 2011
Of particular importance is the increase in design and
assessment of wave heights in the now defined GOM
Central Region. The maximum wave height in the Central
Region has increased to 90.6 ft from the previous API RP2A
Ed. 74 ft. In reality, this means even ‘modern’ structures,
designed to the latest API RP2A 21
Ed. criteria with a
minimum 5 ft air gap above the maximum wave height crest,
could experience up to 7 ft or more Wave-In-Deck (WID)
inundation. This is evidenced by the number of ‘modern’
design platforms that were destroyed during one of the
severe hurricane events primarily due to WID and the resulting
associated increase in Over-Turning-Moment (OTM).
Notable Hurricanes Katrina/Rita (2005) and
Gustav/Ike (2008) destroyed or severely damaged in excess
of 230 platforms in the GOM and resulted in 85% or more
of oil and gas shut-in for months at a time. The extent of
destruction to offshore assets combined with the number
requiring significant repairs to bring them back onstream,
forced the GOM oil and gas industry to recognise the need for
a more proactive decommissioning strategy combined with
select mitigation based on determined asset risk exposure.
Hurricanes are indiscriminate of platform type as demonstrated
in Figure 1, presenting a drilling platform condition pre and post
Hurricane Lili, and Figure 2 presenting a inverted deepwater
tension leg platform.
The fundamental difference between North Sea and GOM
design practice to date has been the North Sea’s adoption of
Ultimate Strength (Pushover) Analyses using 10 000 year criteria
to determine structural robustness with a required minimum
Reserve Strength Ratio (RSR). RSR is simply the ratio of the total
lateral load to cause collapse over the design event lateral load.
Life safety is of greater importance in the North Sea during a
severe storm event compared to the GOM, because platforms
are not evacuated as they are in the GOM when a hurricane
The GOM has utilised a risk-based approach to designing and
assessing existing fixed offshore platforms for some time and this
essentially consists of design or assessment criteria that becomes
more onerous the higher the consequence of failure, i.e. a platform
with multiple wells, and/or large throughput, and/or in water depth
greater than 400 ft would be considered a high consequence asset.
Figure 2. Typhoon TLP inverted by Hurricane Rita (2005).
Source: Rigzone.
Figure 3. Example of platform fleet risk matrix.
Figure 4. SIM process.
Figure 1. Eugene Island 322 D & P, pre and post Hurricane Lili (2002). Source: MMS (BOEMRE).



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This approach recognises that many platforms are not designed
to severe storm or full population hurricane criteria and as such
there is an accepted risk of likely loss during such an event.
Risk exposure and SIM
Understanding the industry’s general acceptance of risk
exposure, it is all the more important to implement a risk-based
approach to asset management. The API is presently balloting
completely new guidance covering the Structural Integrity
Management (SIM) of fixed offshore platforms. API 2SIM
includes sections from previous API guidance, covering surveys
and assessment of existing platforms. This new API guidance
will also provide, for the first time, prescriptive guidance on the
risk management of existing fixed platforms in the GOM, and
formalises what the GOM oil and gas industry has been carrying
out to some extent for the last decade or so.
SIM encompasses risk management from a single asset to
an entire fleet of assets through the life cycle of a structure or
structures. This sounds a grand statement and it requires high
levels of competency in a number of areas including structural,
inspection, assessment and strengthening and repairs.
However, in practice its effectiveness and efficiency is tied to
the complexity of the SIM system that is set up. A good SIM
system relies on data and continued updating of that data i.e.
inspection results, design/assessment results, trend analysis etc.
However, overly complex systems require a significant amount of
maintenance and adapting the system to client specific needs/
requirements becomes elaborate.
The SIM process involves understanding the robustness,
loading consequence and existing condition. Many factors
influence the importance of an asset, or otherwise commonly
referred to as the consequence of failure. Consequence of failure
together with likelihood of failure defines the risk matrix for a
fleet of platforms as shown in Figure 3.
Underwater inspection intervals are driven by the perceived
risk and location of each asset in the risk matrix. The higher
the risk, the more frequent an underwater inspection will
be. Underwater inspection intervals have been linked to
consequence of failure and likelihood of failure in previous
editions of API RP2A, however, API 2SIM goes further to define
the SIM process and the primary steps. The steps include data
gathering, data evaluation, assessment initiators, strategy and
programme, and are presented in Figure 4.
This is a continual process and requires updates to the
system based on inspection findings, trends from inspection
findings and, most importantly, calibration with results from
assessments. It is important to note here that assessments
utilising Ultimate Strength Analyses provide the most
representative indicator of structural robustness and the
closest indication of a hurricane event that would likely cause
collapse. Each of the primary SIM process steps is described
x Data. This entails characteristic and condition data
including platform vintage, structure type, framing
arrangement, well bay utilisation, number of appurtenances
and type, strengthening, modifications, repairs, inspection
findings, assessment results, corrosion protection etc.
x Evaluation. Trend analysis and evaluation of data is carried
out to determine consequence of failure and likelihood
of failure encompassing structural performance and
redundancy, CP performance, fatigue sensitivity, accidental
overload, historic performance etc.
x Initiator. Assessment initiated by change of use, addition
of personnel or facilities, increased load on structure,
significant damage, inadequate deck height or change
in platform condition or operating experience i.e. severe
storm. A number of methods are available to undertake an
assessment including conventional linear elastic design
level checks to more sophisticated nonlinear ultimate
strength pushover analyses.
x Strategy. This is the adoption of an annual inspection plan
and mitigation philosophy to encompass risk management
and reduction. Fleet management of risk with targeted
inspection and mitigation commensurate with determined
risk exposure. Decommissioning strategy for wells and
platforms is fundamental to mitigating risk.
x Programme. This includes data collection through
consistent routine above water and below water
inspections and targeted or special inspections for input
to SIM data management and strategy updating, and
decommissioning and remedial measures planned to
mitigate risk.
Figure 5. An example of a nonlinear pushover analysis model showing
a random sea surface. Source: Cougar Offshore assessment using
Figure 6. GOM TARP and LARP designated reef sites as of
April 2011. Source: CougarGIS

Assessment of existing fixed offshore
platforms has to date been undertaken
in accordance with Section 17 of the
Edition. The ‘Interim
Guidance for Assessment of Existing
Offshore Structures for Hurricane
Conditions’ API Bulletin 2INT-EX provides
updates and guidance specifically
covering assessment initiators,
assessment approaches, site specific
criteria and mitigation.
Ultimate Strength Analysis is
recommended in API 2INT-EX using
linear or nonlinear techniques. Linear
analysis effectively is a design level code
check analysis with all safety factors
removed. The dead load, equipment
and environmental load are applied
and each component of the structure
is checked for capacity. This type of
analysis is therefore component-based
and does not provide an indication of the
platform’s overall robustness. A nonlinear
Ultimate Strength Analysis (Pushover)
utilises the same loading and ramps up
the environmental load until collapse is
reached. As members in the structure
become over-stressed, forces are
redistributed until there is no redundancy
Figure 7. South Marsh 205 B
Platform reefed in place in 525 ft
water depth. Source: Department
of Wildlife and Fisheries,
State of Louisiana.
Inspection PIanning
Geographic Information System (GIS)
SIM - Repairs - Assessment
StructuraI ConsuItants
PO Box 941536
Houston, TX 77094
T: 281-725-0942
F: 713-481-8852
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August 2011
left in the structure and collapse initiates. Even for older
structures that typically have small diameter and
thin-walled members, poor framing arrangements, in
service deterioration and low deck heights, a nonlinear
pushover analysis will provide a more representative
indication of robustness and certainly assist in optimising
mitigation options to reduce risk exposure. A more rigorous
pushover analysis can be carried out using irregular sea
states in the time domain as shown in Figure 5.
Mitigation of risk exposure
Mitigation is the only means to reduce risk exposure
and is a key element in the SIM system strategy. A
number of mitigation options are available including
decommissioning, well removal after permanent plug and
abandonment, strengthening, steelwork reduction in the
wave zone and/or an increased deck height. The ‘Idle Iron’
notice to lessees (NTL) effective 15 October 2010,
mandates the decommissioning of wells and platforms
no longer being used or no longer supporting other
operations. This was in direct response to the number
of platforms idle or on expired leases, the number of
platforms destroyed by hurricanes and the length of time it
has taken to decommission them.
As 2009 and 2010 were both quiet hurricane seasons
this enabled the GOM oil and gas industry to largely
recover and in a few cases even undertake pro-active
decommissioning campaigns specifically to reduce risk
exposure. The NTL recognises there are approximately
650 platforms and approximately 3500 wells that are on
expired leases and/or are no longer of use or producing.
This represents a significant risk exposure should
hurricane(s) enter the GOM.
The number of artificial reef sites in the GOM has increased
due to the number of destroyed platforms that have been
donated as special reef sites. Both the Texas Artificial
Reef Programme (TARP) and the Louisiana Artificial Reef
Programme (LARP) have approved special artificial reef
site applications, in addition to approving numerous
applications for the donation of jackets to already
designated reef sites.
To date, in excess of 400 jackets have been reefed in
TARP and LARP. Reefing of the jacket and recycling of the
deck onshore is the norm and for larger platforms in water
Figure 8. GOM fleet of platforms and pipelines as of April 2011.
Source: CougarGIS

depths greater than approximately 150 ft typically represents
a cost saving with less inherent risk. Once reefed, a minimum
clearance to sea surface is required for vessel clearance, so
the jacket must often be toppled or placed on its side. For
a few deeper water platforms in water depths greater than
400 – 500 ft, such as the SM205B computer model depiction
shown in Figure 7, the decision was made to reef it in place
by toppling the upper half of the jacket after removing the
deck for onshore recycling.
GOM uniqueness and market forces
Another significant difference between the GOM and the
North Sea, as well as with other oil and gas regions, is the
number of fixed platforms. Presently over 3500 structures
exist in the GOM representing approximately half the
structures installed since the first facility was installed in
1937 (Figure 8). Each time a hurricane enters the GOM and
heads toward landfall, a significant number of platforms
(Katrina/Rita > 3000 and Gustav/Ike > 2100) are either in
the direct path or close enough to experience moderate to
severe storm conditions that have the potential to cause
damage or complete collapse.
The significance of the ‘Idle Iron’ NTL and the imminent
API 2SIM is to mandate and guide the GOM oil and gas
industry to be more pro-active in mitigating environmental
risk and financial risk for both operators and federal
agencies. In addition to the potential environmental
impact, the cost to decommission a destroyed platform
with a number of wells ranges between 10 and 20 times
the cost to decommission the same platform undamaged.
The cost liability associated with decommissioning has
meant operators in the past have deferred this in the
hope of potential re-use or for when the lease eventually
expires. This liability, combined with the recognition of
risk exposure and the requirements of the ‘Idle Iron’ NTL,
initiated the divestiture of assets in 2010. The most notable
was the acquisition of approximately 310 platforms from
Mariner Energy and Devon Energy by Apache Corp. for
US$ 2.7 billion and US$ 1 billion respectively.
For better or for worse
A good SIM system can tailor consequence of failure to a
client specific business risk model and effectively manage
risk exposure (safety, environment and business). However,
specific competencies on all aspects of SIM are required with
a combination of practical and offshore structural experience.
SIM can offer significant cost savings by targeting
inspections with reduced frequency and avoid unnecessary
costly inspections. Using nonlinear pushover analyses for
assessments, efficient repair schemes that are often not
like-for-like can be utilised for optimised mitigation. An
efficient SIM system can provide significant risk reduction
through the adoption of mitigation and decommissioning
Anomaly tracking should also be part of an efficient SIM
system to ensure timely repairs if required and efficient use
of resources. By developing an inspection programme and
scope of work using structural knowledge, previous inspection
findings and assessment results, both the cost and risk
exposure can be significantly reduced compared to purely
prescriptive inspections following existing guidance.

Leaving the rig for the vessel
orse Cutting and Abandonment AS (NCA) has
focused on developing ‘rigless’ methods and tools
that will enable traditional rig operations to be
performed from less expensive spreads, such as hydraulic
jacks and coiled tubing units for platform wells, and subsea
construction support vessels for subsea wells. The NCA
group of companies, formed in 1999, was acquired by
Oceaneering this year. Employing alternative approaches
and new technology, NCA vessel operations, such as
subsea well abandonments, can prove more efficient than
a rig operation, especially when carried out from a vessel
spread costing less than 20% of the drilling rig spread cost.
In addition to the cost savings, the new approaches can
potentially release rig time equivalent to the time it takes to
drill five to 10 new exploration wells in the Norwegian sector
The company has developed a rigless approach for
subsea well abandonment that has steadily introduced new
tools to enable vessel-based abandonment operations.
In parallel, subsea construction support vessels have
developed through increased size and crane capacities. To
support the subsea construction market, the subsea tooling
and ROV markets have developed technical solutions and
opportunities (which were utopian concepts only a few years
ago). Another important factor is the increased number of
August 2011
vessels that are available in the marketplace, which makes
more of these vessels readily available for abandonment
operations in the spot market. The Subsea Wellhead Picker
has been successfully used in the North Sea since 2007 and is
now setting a benchmark for removal of the subsea wellhead.
Subsea wellhead removal
Subsea wellheads have traditionally been cut by the rig,
mechanically, using rotating knives run on drill pipe to cut
from the inside through the layers of casing and cement.
The mechanical cutter is run to 5 m below the seabed, as
per regulatory requirements. This technique has been used
since the early days of the offshore industry but has several
Figure 1. A subsea wellhead severed with NCA’s Subsea Wellhead
Figure 2. A severed subsea wellhead being recovered.
disadvantages. It can only be run on drill pipe and therefore
requires a rig or at least a vessel with a mast and pipe
handling capabilities. It is relatively time consuming, and
the mechanical knives face extreme loads that may result in
A rigless alternative using explosive charges has
sometimes been used in the past. More environmentally
friendly and safe rigless alternatives are currently available
and in North Sea operations, explosive cutting has been
phased out. This trend is expanding to other areas of the
NCA has developed a new generation Internal Multistring
Cutting Tool (IMCT) that is based on Abrasive WaterJet
Cutting (AWJC). This efficient cutting method uses high
pressure water mixed with abrasives to cut through the
combined steel and cement compound found below the
wellhead. A typical casing configuration is a 30 in. conductor,
20 in. surface casing, 13
/8 in. casing and sometimes a
/8 in. or a 9
/8 in. casing, which all results in a 3 or
4-string conductor. The patented cutting tool is capable of
cutting from inside a 7 in. casing through up to five layers
of casing and out to a 36 in. conductor, even if the casings
are eccentric (with or without cement). Currently more than
150 cuts are carried out every year with the cutting system
for platform and subsea wells. The deepest cut to date was
performed in 375 m (1200 ft) water depths.
For subsea wellhead removal applications, the IMCT is
normally combined with a lifting connector that attaches
to the wellhead profile. The two tools used together are
called a Subsea Wellhead Picker, which can be deployed
on a heave compensated crane from a subsea construction
support vessel in a single run operation, to cut and recover
the wellhead. The wellhead removal operation consists of
a survey, removal of the net guards, drifting and cleaning
the wellbore before the equipment is deployed and stabbed
into the well, assisted by a work class ROV. When the IMCT
is at cutting depth, the lifting connector is activated and
load tested and the cutting can start. After a few hours the
cut is immediately verified by overpull in the crane and the
wellhead and casing assembly are then recovered and laid
out on the vessel deck.
The cutting process is typically completed in 2 – 4 hrs,
amounting to a roundtrip time for the Subsea Wellhead
Picker of only 8 – 12 hrs from deployment until the wellhead
is safely landed on deck.
With more than 20 subsea wellhead removal operations
performed so far, the Subsea Wellhead Picker has a 100%
success rate – no wellhead has been left at the seabed.
Several wellhead picking operations have occurred during
the winter season in the North Sea, where the system has
proven robust in challenging weather. Wellheads have been
cut and retrieved in significant wave heights (Hs) of up to
3.0 m without any major challenges. The tool’s capability to
work in heavy weather makes it attractive to perform these
non-value-added operations during the low season over the
winter when the subsea construction support vessels are
normally free to take on fill-in work.
Releasing rig days
The subsea wellhead removal operation is equally applicable
for old redundant production wells as for newly drilled
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August 2011
Figure 3. The Island Wellserver in well intervention mode.
Figure 4. NCA’s Abrasive Waterjet Cutting spread onboard a subsea
construction support vessel.
exploration wells that are not intended for future use. The
latter concept is often referred to as ‘rig chase’, where the
rig intentionally leaves the wellhead behind when it moves to
the next location. These wells are then picked up in batches
in multiwell vessel campaigns. NCA has frame agreements
with several operators for the removal of exploration wells in
the years to come. At least two multi-client campaigns per
year are anticipated. The Rig Chase

concept releases one
to two rig days per well. For ~40 Norwegian exploration wells
drilled per year, this means the release of 40 – 80 rig days
each year.
Going further downhole
The Rig Chase concept of rigless removal of subsea wellheads
is one important step in the direction of full well abandonments
from a monohull vessel. However, there are still gaps in the
technology to fill. Through the company Subsea P&A AS,
which is jointly owned by NCA and Island Offshore Subsea,
developments in technology are continuing to enable the
remainder of the subsea well abandonment process to be
moved from rigs to vessels. Island Offshore currently operates
three Light Well Intervention vessels; the Island Wellserver,
the Island Frontier and the Island Constructor, all with UK
Safety Case and Norwegian Acknowledgement of Compliance
(AoC/SUT) for well intervention work in the North Sea. The
vessels are normally used for well servicing, pumping and
wireline services. They can also be set up with pipe pulling
and pipe handling capabilities. Work is ongoing to include
equipment for cement placement and circulation, which will
allow opportunities for performing full well abandonments.
Imperative for any well intervention operation, both pre and
post Macondo, is full well control capabilities throughout the
operation and zero discharge to the sea.
For exploration wells, moving the abandonment process
to a vessel will potentially release seven to ten days of rig time
per well. For obsolete production wells, the rig time released
may be as high as 20 – 50 days per well. These numbers
represent a significant cost saving potential and perhaps more
importantly, release rigs for drilling many new wells per year.
Rigless well abandonment challenges
As for any shift in technology, there will be challenges to
overcome. These include qualification of annulus barriers,
placing barriers across downhole control lines, quality and
longevity of plugging materials, tubing and general well
integrity, as well as limited access to the wellbore e.g. tubing
and casing collapses. Some of these are general well
abandonment challenges, independent of whether a rig or
vessel is used for the operation. Some are more specific for
the rigless approach. Industry knowledge and awareness of
these challenges is increasing and new methods and tools are
being developed to meet the challenges and optimise the well
abandonment process.
Some of the production wells will still require heavy
intervention from a drilling rig, and some of them will still be
difficult to abandon through the original wellbore from a rig
and might require a relief well. However, for a large portion of
the subsea wells to be abandoned, using a vessel rather than
a drilling rig for the abandonment will be possible. NCA’s and
Subsea P&A’s ambition is to make sure that the number of
these wells is as many as possible.

Energy & Marine
Steve Nairn, Helix Well Ops, UK,
explains how rigless well abandonment
can address some of the funding, safety
and environmental challenges of well
Figure 1. Well Ops’ 132 m long well intervention and diving vessel the Well Enhancer.
ecommissioning the oil and gas industry’s infrastructure will cost billions over the
coming decades. The financial impact alone is stunning. In UK waters, for example,
a study by Scottish Enterprise has predicted that the cost of decommissioning the
United Kingdom Continental Shelf (UKCS) will be in the region of £20 – 25 billion.

Potentially, this will involve decommissioning 470 installations, 10 000 km of pipelines
and approximately 5000 wells.
Some of the massive funding is expected to come out of
the pockets of North Sea operators and supporting companies. There is significant financial
pressure, moving forward, to maximise decommissioning efficiency.
August 2011
Liability adds another major risk – operationally and in direct
human terms, field operations must continue to be made less
hazardous for employees. Effective decommissioning helps
increase safety. Operators remain liable for a well even after it
is plugged and abandoned. Long-term responsibility includes
ensuring that wells are abandoned effectively so that the wells
maintain their integrity, even though abandoned.
The third pressure element is environmental consequence.
The environmental impacts of oil and gas exploration have never
been more present in the eyes of the world. The industry must
do the best possible job of returning the marine environment to
an as near natural state as possible, once resource extraction
has been completed.
Historical decommissioning
Well decommissioning historically involved removing as much
of the downhole tubular structure as possible and placing
significant quantities of cement into the open hole sections. It
was thought for many years that only a drilling rig could carry
out these decommissioning projects.
In many abandoned wells from that earlier time period, the
production tubing was pulled and then the production casing
cut just above the top of the cement. This was
followed by cutting and pulling as much of the
remaining casing string as possible before filling
much of the hole section with cement.
In the early days of exploration this approach
was logical; much of the recovered casing and
tubing could be used in other wells. Today,
due to significant experience and improved
understanding of the technical issues and hazards
concerned, reusing tubing and casing has been
Modern methodologies
Lengthening experience, increased knowledge
and proven effective new technologies combine to
answer today’s abandonment challenges. Safety
comes first, always. Yet operators will want to
complete the well abandonment process quickly
because no further income is to be generated
from the targeted well.
In line with moves to make all oilfield
operations more efficient, abandonment and
decommissioning procedures have evolved
into a recognised set of best practices among
experienced operators and service companies.
As many of the original well components as
possible should be left in the well, for example.
One such technique of live well abandonment
uses the production tubing to force cement into
the target areas of the well and then leave the
tubing and casings in place downhole. In subsea
field decommissioning in the UK, this particular
method has been widely used.
Since time is money, completing projects in
the shortest timeframe has led to the utilisation
of rigless well abandonment assets and
methodologies, particularly in the North Sea
region. One of rigless abandonment’s main
advantages is minimisation of cost: rates for
semi-submersible rigs can typically be up to four
or five times higher than that of a mono-hull light
well intervention (LWI) vessels.
LWI vessels are a suitable alternative to
the conventional rig-based method, freeing
up rigs to undertake drilling, completion and
workover operations. An additional benefit of
using an LWI vessel to undertake subsea well
abandonment is the synergies it can bring to
associated tasks – flowline and spool removal,
umbilical disconnection, etc. An LWI vessel with a
Figure 2. Recovered tree covered in marine growth.
Figure 3. Recovered wellhead onboard the vessel.
August 2011
saturation diving capability can save millions in reduced rig and
DSV time.
For Helix Well Ops UK, a business unit of global service and
oil and gas production company Helix Energy Solutions Group,
LWI best practices have become the standard way to deliver on
time, on target outcomes. This is based on experience gained
in decommissioning 150 wells and six subsea fields over the
past 15 years.
Forward thinking
Experience leads to identifying
the proper starting point. To
make the well abandonment
process as time and
cost-efficient as possible, it
is important to plan for well
abandonment as early in the
well’s life cycle as possible,
ideally at the initial well design
Other areas of the offshore
industry are seeing the benefits
of planning decommissioning
at the construction stage.
Case in point: platform
construction. Since legislation
was introduced in 1998,
each new offshore platform
must be designed in a way
that allows it to be removed
to shore in its entirety when
it reaches the end of its
operational life. Modern
platforms are designed to
be decommissioned by
reverse installation. Well
abandonment should be no
different. Understanding the
construction of the well from
the outset can save time
and money at the end of the
Accurate cement
During well construction, for
example, it is important that
the production packer can
be set below the top level of
the cement in the production
casing annulus. The packer
should be far enough below
to allow space for the cement
plugs needed to seal off the
If the packer is too high,
additional cement will be
needed behind the production
casing, thus increasing costs
and risks.
The original construction should ensure that all permeable
zones above the production casing shoe are effectively closed
with cement. If a well is not capable of withstanding a long
cement interval behind the production casing, a
two-stage cementing process should be considered. It is
usually simpler to circulate cement in behind the casing when
initially constructing the well, than to have to carry out the
process during decommissioning when the production tubing is
also in place.
Figure 4. Compensated Coil Tubing Lift Frame during operation.
There is a place for historical research as well. When
planning for the decommissioning of an older well, it is critical to
search available well data for information that will assist with the
plug-and-abandonment (P&A) process.
Technical challenges
Original well construction is crucial. Poor well design may lead to
technical challenges in later years. Advancement in technology
allows the operator to assess and address integrity issues that
may exist within the well.
A big challenge facing the industry is abandoning wells with
control lines that are clamped externally to the completion, e.g.
chemical injection lines and ESP controls. If utilising through
tubing techniques to abandon the well, current guidelines prohibit
a cement plug being deemed competent if it has a control line
running through it – effectively a ready made leak path.
Helix Well Ops UK has pioneered the development of LWI
deployed coiled tubing. Coiled tubing allows far more flexibility
in cement placement; it enables work to be conducted below the
production packer at the perforations for example, or allows for
more accurate cement placement and verification. By working
below the area of control lines, the reservoir can be abandoned
safely and the lower section of tubing can still be left in situ,
without the requirement for a heavy workover to pull the entire
Of course, a simpler solution for future well planning is to
ensure that the flowline entry point into the completion is shallow
enough to allow a continuous cement plug to be placed into the
well, without having to be concerned about leak paths.
Another challenge is with the subsea equipment. Wells,
regardless of age, may require remedial action prior to pulling
the tree before the abandonment work can start and often the
only solution here is the deployment of divers.
By bringing together Wireline, coiled tubing and the
accompanying services described above onto a mono-hull
LWI vessel, all the advantages of a multi-service offering can
be provided without the need for a separate DSV, or incurring
the expense of using a rig.
Ensuring that well abandonment and decommissioning
projects are completed in a cost and time-efficient manner,
while remaining sensitive to the environment and minimising
the hazards to which personnel are exposed, will be a
challenge which every major operator in the oil and gas
industry will face.
Already, rigless well abandonment techniques offer many
advantages over more traditional methods in P&A
strategy-setting. These strategies help operators resolve risks.
By planning for well abandonment when a well is constructed,
by making operations more efficient, it is possible to minimise
wastage and allow improved use of resources, which in
turn benefits the industry’s ongoing drives for safety and
environmental management.

1. Scottish Enterprise, North Sea Decommissioning Supply Chain
Steering Group Report (April 2009).
ABC 34
CRC-EVANS 20 - 21
M-I SWACO 04, 79
SPE 59, 63
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