Exploration and Production (E&P) is driven by new technologies. The energy industry is in constant need of better ways to gather information about a reservoir, have more powerful IT tools, and anything that makes it faster, easier, and safer to reach oil and gas reserves. Below is a spotlight on some of the fundamental E&P technologies:
Gravity gradiometry is used by oil and gas companies to measure subsurface density, or the rate of change of rock properties. From this information it is possible to build a picture of subsurface anomalies which can be used to accurately target oil, gas and mineral deposits. Gravity gradiometry complements traditional seismic technologies to both address image and illumination difficulties, and provide imaging of complex geologies to determine velocity and density. Gravity gradiometry measurements can be taken by airplane over land, or by airplane or ship in marine environments. This provides a cost effective way to scan very large areas and ensure environmental sensitivities are met.
Reflection seismology is the science of examining the earth’s interior through the analysis of mechanical waves. This is an indirect method for assessing the likelihood of hydrocarbon accumulations. Acquisition geometry is a component of reflection seismology, representing different techniques for gathering seismic data. Recently, new land acquisition geometries -such as high channel-count recording systems, high-productivity vibroseis techniques, and advances in wide-azimuth (WAZ) processing – have become game-changers in the industry allowing crews to significantly increase productivity by recording data up to 100 times the density of conventional land surveys.
Fracture detection is a critical component of well planning and production management because fractures either need to be avoided to prevent “thief zones” from capturing fracturing fluids, or they need to be intercepted to provide a conduit for the natural gas to reach the well bore and maximize contact with the reservoir. Detection technologies generally rely on advanced seismic collection and analysis techniques to reveal directional differences in the reservoir’s seismic response that may be related to fracturing. The next generation of fracture detection technologies is focused on creating quicker processing times, more user-friendly software and better visualization of data.
A number of advances were crucial to the progression of horizontal drilling (drilling non-vertical wells). Logging While Drilling (LWD) (measuring formation properties) and Measurement While Drilling (MWD) (measuring wellbore positioning) technologies allow engineers and geologists to gain up-to-the-minute subsurface information, even while the well is being drilled. Having more information about the reservoir area improves both precision and steering during drilling, increasing the recoverable petroleum in a given formation. Advances in technologies providing better real-time data acquisition will bring the next evolution in drilling efficiencies.
Drill Bit Design
Operators can offset operating cost by leveraging innovations in drilling technology. Drill Bit Design (DBD) is an essential component of drilling programs targeting complex formations, as the type of drill bit used will directly affect well time (the amount of time it takes to drill to a certain depth). DBD technologies focus on developing drill bits that provide both stability and directional responsiveness.
Microseismic Fracture Mapping
Microseismic Fracture Mapping (MFM) provides a graphic representation of a fracture by monitoring the seismic events induced by the pump treatment. Monitoring is done through multiple receivers deployed in nearby wellbores. These seismic events are then used to create an image of the fracturing treatment, displaying the geometric properties created by the fracture. These properties, along with other data, suggest how to pump fractures in subsequent wells. MFM provides the ability to observe where the fracture is propagating so geohazards can be avoided, as well as the ability to change pumping schedules, or even stage locations in real-time based on observations of fracture propagation. Knowledge of the fracture allows engineers to maximize reservoir contact and avoid treating zones that already have been treated from a previous stage.
Stimulation technologies include hardware and methods used to pump fluids and materials into the formation to increase contact with the reservoir. Use of stimulation technologies improves the rate and recovery of fluids from the formation into the wellbore and, ultimately, to the surface. Stimulation, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process used by oil and gas companies to increase production from wells that would otherwise have low production rates and low overall production totals. Hydraulic fracturing involves using a pressurized fluid mixture -typically water with a solid material referred to as proppant – to fracture or create cracks in the rock emanating from the borehole. These fractures increase the effective conductivity of fluids within the formation, allowing for increased hydrocarbon recovery.
Production planning describes the process of gathering information that is critical over the entire production lifecycle. Several geological, geomechanical, and petrophysical technologies (wireline logging, conventional core analysis, elemental capture spectroscopy, formation analysis, and micro-resistivity imaging) have been developed to provide measurements essential to understanding the reservoir and optimizing completion designs for maximum well performance. The information collected also supports enhanced oil recovery plans for maturing formations.
Drilling risers provide a temporary extension of a subsea oil well to a surface drilling facility and are categorized into two types: marine drilling risers generally used by floating drilling vessels; and tie-back drilling risers generally deployed from fixed platforms or very stable floating platforms. As pressure, temperature, and margins of safety go up, so does the weight of the system, and the complexity of the riser is impacted. Risers can be designed for these conditions, but testing in exact conditions must be carried out before they can be commercialized, which requires considerable investment. Riser design is one of the biggest challenges for deepwater development. In the next several years, the industry will face more challenging reservoirs in hostile environments, deeper water, and remote operating areas. Advances in riser technology will be critical to developing those fields.
Subsea production systems can range in complexity from a single satellite well with a flowline linked to a fixed platform to several wells transferring to a floating facility or directly to an onshore installation. Subsea production technology includes different processes to help reduce the cost and complexity of developing an offshore field. These processes include subsea water removal and re-injection or disposal, single-phase and multi-phase boosting of well fluids, sand and solid separation, gas/liquid separation and boosting, and gas treatment and compression. Subsea separation of water, sand and gas reduces the amount of production transferred from the seafloor to the water’s surface, increasing processing capacity. Separating unwanted components from the production on the seafloor avoids the process of flowlines and risers lifting these ingredients to a surface facility, just to direct them back to the seafloor for re-injection.
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