Old and partly lost slots that were given up as providers of new production triggered new solutions for Snorre B. The result was three wells with an average price of NOK 170 million, compared to NOK 490 as reference base.
Drilling & well (D&W) has recently delivered three new wells on the North Sea Snorre B field, contributing strongly to the corporate goal of «radical change» to reduce the breakeven for new wells.
The three wells, C-2, C-3 and C-4, have boosted Snorre B production by 30%
'We estimate the price per barrel for these wells to be well below USD 10. Snorre B is currently producing around 80,000 barrels per day, which is a very satisfactory result. Together with D&W we have found the right drilling targets for our wells, and when we add a predictable and long-term drilling plan allowing optimisation and higher efficiency, we have the success factors,' says Oddmund Rismyhr, acting head of Snorre Petec.
New ideas - new possibilities
'This had not been the outcome if the slots had not been so bad at the outset, forcing us to be innovative. Due to a damaged C-3, for example, we applied a simplified casing design. This resulted in a short and quick well,' says Johan Dahl, head of D&W planning.
The cost reduction recipe involved a standardised and simplified well design - a standard completion design for all wells. The same type of drilling fluid was also applied to allow reuse. By carrying out the same operations in series they also saved a lot of time and resources, as they were able to complete all stages - drilling, lower completion, upper completion and Christmas tree setting - three times when they first started the operations.
'If we drill only one well, we must rent equipment and send it back to shore, while the remaining completion equipment and drilling fluid must be sent to shore when we are done. In this case we did the same operations three times, saving much time, improving use of resources and reducing costs and rental time. We also save a lot on mobilisation costs and logistics,' he says.
'At the same time we learn a lot from each well, which is reflected in the reduction in time spent on sub-operations during the process,' says Dahl.
Took advantage of the good weather season
The planning leader points out the good cooperation between D&W and Petec, which allowed them i.e. to include weather considerations in their planning. Normally they experience 35% waiting on weather during the months of the year with the most demanding weather conditions. Operations in bad weather often lead to major downtime incidents. This has been avoided and consequently they have succeeded at their first attempt.
'Earlier we wanted to start production immediately, and it was therefore not considered to adapt operations to the weather conditions. But we realise that when we make a good plan that takes this aspect into consideration and has a long-term perspective we achieve higher production sooner than we did before. If we had done like we did in the old days, we would not have been able to deliver more than two of these three wells, with the starting point we had at that time,' says Dahl.
Aiming for perfection
For the D&W community on Snorre there is only one reference base that matters.
'We are only looking at how close to a «perfect well» we can get,' says Ilhan Løwen, drilling superintendent of D&W.
This is the result of the best sub-operations completed in wells previously and combined in a fictitious reference well.
'We have made it a little difficult for ourselves by including reference wells from the field start-up all the way back in 2001,' he continues.
The «perfect well» time consumption for C-4, C-3 and C-2 was 49, 46 and 69 days respectively. The actual time consumption was 58, 58 and 91 days. The costs were NOK 168, 149 and 193 million. The average price in the period 2009-2013 was NOK 490 million.
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Supply chains are currently in crisis. They have been for a long time now, ever since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic reshaped the way the world works. Stressed shipping networks and operational blockages – coupled with China’s insistence on a Covid-zero policy – means that cargo tanker rates are at an all-time high and that there just aren’t enough of them. McDonalds and KFCs in Asia are running out of French fries to sell, not because there aren’t enough potatoes in Idaho, but because there aren’t enough ships to deliver them to Japan or to Singapore from Los Angeles. The war in Ukraine has placed a particular emphasis on food supply chains by disrupting global wheat and sunflower oil supply chains and kicking off distressingly high levels of food price inflation across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It was against this backdrop that Indonesia announced a complete ban on palm oil exports. That nuclear option shocked the markets, set off a potential new supply chain crisis and has particular implications on future of crude oil pricing and biofuels in Asia.
A brief recap. Like most of Asia, Indonesia has been grappling with food price inflation as consequence of Covid-19. Like most of Asia, Indonesia has been attempting to control this through a combination of shielding its most vulnerable citizens through continued subsidies while attempting to optimise supply chains. Like most of Asia, Indonesia hasn’t been to control the market at all, because uncoordinated attempts across a wide spectrum of countries to achieve a similar level of individual protectionism is self-defeating.
Cooking oil is a major product of sensitive importance in Indonesia, and one that it is self-sufficient in as a result of its status as the world’s largest palm oil producer. So large is Indonesia in that regard that its excess palm oil production has been directed to increasingly higher biodiesel mandates, with a B40 mandate – diesel containing 40% of palm material – originally schedule for full implementation this year. But as palm oil prices started rising to all-time highs at the beginning of January, cooking oil started becoming scarcer in Indonesia. The government blamed hoarding and – wary of the Ramadan period and domestic unrest – implemented a Domestic Market Obligation on palm oil refineries, directing them to devote 20% of projected exports for domestic use. Increasingly stricter terms for the DMO continued over February and March, only for an abrupt U-turn in mid-March that removed the DMO completely. But as the war in Ukraine drove prices even further, Indonesia shocked the market by announcing an total ban on palm oil exports in late April. Chaotically, the ban was first clarified to be palm olein only (straight refining cooking oil), but then flip-flopped into a total ban of crude palm oil as well. Markets went haywire, prices jumped to historical highs and Indonesia’s trading partners reacted with alarm.
Joko Widodo has said that the ban will be indefinite until domestic cooking oil prices ‘moderate’. With the global situation as it is, ‘moderate’ is unlikely to be achieved until the end of 2022 at least, if ‘moderate’ is taken to be the previous level of palm oil prices – roughly half of current pricing. Logistically, Indonesia cannot hold out on the ban for more than two months. Only a third of Indonesia’s monthly palm oil production is consumed domestically; the rest is exported. An indefinite ban means that not only fill storage tanks up beyond capacity and estates forced to let fruit rot, but Indonesia will be missing out on crucial revenue from its crude palm oil export tax. Which is used to fund its biodiesel subsidies.
And that’s where the implications on oil come in. Indonesia’s ham-fisted attempt at protectionism has dire implications on biofuels policies in Asia. Palm oil prices within Indonesia might sink as long as surplus volumes can’t make it beyond the borders, but international palm oil prices will remain high as consuming countries pivot to producers like Malaysia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, West Africa and Latin America. That in turn, threatens the biodiesel mandates in Thailand and Malaysia. The Thai government has already expressed concern over palm-led food price inflation and associated pressure on its (subsidised) biodiesel programme, launching efforts to mitigate the worst effects. Malaysia – which has a more direct approach to subsidised fuels – is also feeling the pinch. Thailand’s move to B10 and Malaysia’s move to B20 is now in jeopardy; in fact, Thailand has regressed its national mandate from B7 to B5. And the reason is that the differential between the bio- and the diesel portion of the biodiesel is now so disparate that subsidy regimes break down. It would be far cheaper – for the government, the tax-payers and consumers – to use straight diesel instead of biodiesel, as evidenced by Thailand’s reversal in mandates.
That, in turn, has implications on crude pricing. While OPEC+ is stubbornly sticking to its gentle approach to managing global crude supply, the stunning rebound in Asian demand has already kept the consumption side tight to match that supply. Crude prices above US$100/b are a recipe for demand destruction, and Asian economies have been preparing for this by looking at alternatives; biofuels for example. In the past four years, Indonesia has converted some of its oil refineries into biodiesel plants; in China, stricter crude import quotas are paving the way for China to clamp down on its status of a fuels exporter in favour of self-sustainability. But what happens when crude prices are high, but the prices of alternatives are higher? That is the case for palm oil now, where the gasoil-palm spread is now triple the previous average.
Part of this situation is due to market dynamics. Part of it is due to geopolitical effects. But part of it is also due to Indonesia’s knee-jerk reaction. Supply disruption at the level of a blanket ban is always seismic and kicks off a chain of unintended consequences; see the OPEC oil shocks of the 70s. Indonesia’s palm oil export ban is almost at that level. ‘Indefinite’ is a vague term and offers no consolation to markets looking for direction. Damage will be done, even if the ban lasts a month. But the longer it lasts – Indonesian general elections are due in February 2024 – the more serious the consequences could be. And the more the oil and refining industry in Asia will have to think about their preconceived notions of the future of oil in the region.
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