In the previous article, we looked at 6 Key Well Abandonment and Decommissioning Challenges and I promised to share with you some of the latest decommissioning technologies and strategies which are in use or being developed and tested today in the Oil & Gas sector.
But first, I think it is important to explain the importance of the need for innovation to tackle the enormous challenges we face with decommissioning in the coming years. Let's do that by looking at a case study of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS)..
Case Study - UKCS Decommissioning Challenge
The UKCS Decommissioning 2017 Cost Estimate Report provided a cost estimate for offshore oil and gas decommissioning in the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) of £59.7 billion in 2016 prices. The Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) has set an ambitious target to reduce these costs by at least 35%.
“The two biggest things that will get the North Sea through the next five years are genuine collaboration and the development and application of technology ... that strategy can halve the cost of well plugging and abandonment” Sir Ian Wood
In a recent interview with Energy Voice, Sir Ian Wood summarised the way forward for decommissioning very well, highlighting a need for improvements in technology and also improved collaborations to reduce costs. In this article I will discuss both the latest decommissioning technologies and decommissioning strategies..
LATEST DECOMMISSIONING TECHNOLOGIES
1. Melting the Cap Rock
Melting the cap rock is a method of decommissioning which uses a thermite plug to seal off the well by melting both the well components and the rock formation around them to recreate the cap rock, i.e. Caprock barrier
The low-cost method of rigless well P&A was trialed onshore by Centrica in Canada in 2016, the trial results demonstrated that this technology could potentially reduce well P&A costs by more than 50%.
2. Resin Plugs
Resin has the ability to formulate completely free of solids, allowing it to penetrate microchannels and effectively seal leaks which may not be possible to seal with cement due to it’s particle size.
Resin Application in P&A includes squeezing for annular fluid flow; shut-off gas source and squeezing a previously leaking plug.
Oceaneering recently conducted the Gulf of Mexico’s first permitted lower abandonment using resin. Because there was a downhole obstruction, the operator of this particular field determined that it could not reliably carry out a lower temporary abandonment with cement.
3. Underwater Drones to Monitor Abandoned (P&A) Wells for Potential Hydrocarbon Leaks
Praxis Energy Partners have proposed an innovative cost-saving solution for postoperative surveillance to ensure a leak-free subsea well abandonment over time.
The project proposes to build an underwater drone, using passive acoustics (to "listen" for leaks), and/or sonar (to "ping" for leaks), and/or a camera (take pictures of “bubbles”).
4. Well Barrier Monitoring System
The Stuart Wright Right Time Barrier Condition (RTBC) proprietary wellbore monitoring software can be used in both the well P&A planning and execution phases to accurately capture the condition of the well prior to and during the well abandonment.
During the planning phase, RTBC can be used to create accurate as built wellbore diagrams with critical barrier integrity validation information captured through the generation of Daily Integrity Reports (DIR) performed retrospectively. The DIRs will incorporate key information from the drilling, completions, production and intervention phases to accurately capture the condition of the well and any potential barrier risks that require consideration prior to commencing the well P&A.
During the well execution phase, RTBC will create accurate as built wellbore diagrams with critical barrier integrity validation information captured through the generation of Daily Integrity Reports during the actual wells abandonment. The Daily Integrity Reports will be captured in a secured cloud database that tracks the progression of the abandonment from the perspective of ensuring the abandonment of well barriers are conducted in accordance to corporate or good abandonment practices.
(Disclaimer: I am a consultant employed by Stuart Wright)
5. Suspended Well Abandonment Tool (SWAT)
Claxton have developed a Suspended Well Abandonment Tool (SWAT) which is deployed through the moonpool, landed on the wellhead and then used to conduct casing perforation and placement of the required cement barriers in the well. It can be deployed from a vessel, removing the need for a drilling rig.
6. Gator Perforator
Lee Energy Systems have created this "REPEATABLE HYDRO MECHANICAL MULTI-USE PERFORATING SYSTEM" which can be used to perforate casing without the need for explosives. The video above demonstrates really well how the tool operates, please watch it at your convenience to find out more about this technology.7. Latest P&A Technology
Archer and Hydrawell both offer systems which can offer significant time savings, compared to a typical well P&A, by eliminating the need to perform a milling section and performing the perforation and cementing in a single trip.
"HydraWell’s technology enables plugging of each well in 2-3 days instead of 10-14 days with conventional section milling methods. This means that the operator could save up to 200 rig days on a 20-well field,” says Mark Sørheim, CEO of HydraWell.
Archer Stronghold™ Systems
Archer's Stronghold™ Barricade™ is designed to perforate selected casing or liner sections; wash and clean the perforated zone completely; then enable permanent rock-to-rock cement plugging—all during a single trip.
The HydraHemera™ system was developed to enable plugging a well across multiple annuli without performing a section milling operation.
The system consists of two components, a HydraHemera™ Jetting Tool and a HydraHemera™ Cementing Tool. The HydraHemera™ Jetting Tool is used to wash and clean out debris in the annuli behind perforated casings. It features jet nozzles which are positioned at irregular angles and engineered for optimum configuration and exit velocity. The jets penetrate and clean thoroughly behind multiple perforated casings.
The HydraHemera™ Jetting Tool ensures optimum conditions in the casing annuli prior to placing the plugging material in the cross section. Debris, old mud, barite and old cuttings are replaced by clean mud.
Using a ball drop mechanism after jetting, the HydraHemera™ Cementing Tool is activated, and combined with the HydraArchimedes™ tool enable placing plugging material in the entire cross section of multiple annuli, and hence, establishing a proper barrier in the well for P&A or sidetrack purposes.
You can view a video of the HydraHemera™ system here.
LATEST DECOMMISSIONING STRATEGIES
Historically, the oil and gas industry has not been particularly strong in collaborating and cross-sharing information. In today's low oil price environment, especially in the area of decommissioning where cost saving is paramount, there is now an increased impetus towards collaboration. Below are some examples of collaborations focused around decommissioning and well abandonment.
1. OGA Well Plug and Abandonment (P&A) Optimisation Programme
In February 2017, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) launched a search for operators to voluntarily participate in a multi-operator, well P&A optimisation programme.
The objective of the pilot programme is to demonstrate the cost savings which can be achieved through collaborative working, stimulate work-sharing campaigns and adopt improved execution and contracting models.
It will be interesting to see how successful this initiative is and how many Operators opt to sign up for the programme.
2. Integrated Consortiums
In answer to Operator's desire to have a single point solution for decommissioning, a number of consortiums have formed to provide such an offering. One such example is the Bureau Veritas - Stuart Wright consortium which was recently formed to support clients in the North Sea, Asia-Pacific and beyond.
Tackling the enormous challenge of decommissioning will require not only advances in technology but also smarter strategies on how to collaborate to improve efficiency, knowledge sharing and reduce costs.
I have highlighted a few examples of the latest decommissioning technologies and strategies in this article as a starting point for discussion, it would be great to use this platform to hear from you on other technologies and strategies which you have knowledge of or experience with - PLEASE COMMENT BELOW..
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
In April 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production averaged 830,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 1.2 million b/d at the beginning of the year, according to EIA’s May 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook. This average is the lowest level since January 2003, when a nationwide strike and civil unrest largely brought the operations of Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), to a halt. Widespread power outages, mismanagement of the country's oil industry, and U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela's energy sector and PdVSA have all contributed to the recent declines.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Baker Hughes
Venezuela’s oil production has decreased significantly over the last three years. Production declines accelerated in 2018, decreasing by an average of 33,000 b/d each month in 2018, and the rate of decline increased to an average of over 135,000 b/d per month in the first quarter of 2019. The number of active oil rigs—an indicator of future oil production—also fell from nearly 70 rigs in the first quarter of 2016 to 24 rigs in the first quarter of 2019. The declines in Venezuelan crude oil production will have limited effects on the United States, as U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil have decreased over the last several years. EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in 2018 averaged 505,000 b/d and were the lowest since 1989.
EIA expects Venezuela's crude oil production to continue decreasing in 2019, and declines may accelerate as sanctions-related deadlines pass. These deadlines include provisions that third-party entities using the U.S. financial system stop transactions with PdVSA by April 28 and that U.S. companies, including oil service companies, involved in the oil sector must cease operations in Venezuela by July 27. Venezuela's chronic shortage of workers across the industry and the departure of U.S. oilfield service companies, among other factors, will contribute to a further decrease in production.
Additionally, U.S. sanctions, as outlined in the January 25, 2019 Executive Order 13857, immediately banned U.S. exports of petroleum products—including unfinished oils that are blended with Venezuela's heavy crude oil for processing—to Venezuela. The Executive Order also required payments for PdVSA-owned petroleum and petroleum products to be placed into an escrow account inaccessible by the company. Preliminary weekly estimates indicate a significant decline in U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in February and March, as without direct access to cash payments, PdVSA had little reason to export crude oil to the United States.
India, China, and some European countries continued to receive Venezuela's crude oil, according to data published by ClipperData Inc. Venezuela is likely keeping some crude oil cargoes intended for exports in floating storageuntil it finds buyers for the cargoes.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, and Clipper Data Inc.
A series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, likely damaging the reservoirs and associated infrastructure. In the Orinoco Oil Belt area, Venezuela produces extra-heavy crude oil that requires dilution with condensate or other light oils before the oil is sent by pipeline to domestic refineries or export terminals. Venezuela’s upgraders, complex processing units that upgrade the extra-heavy crude oil to help facilitate transport, were shut down in March during the power outages.
If Venezuelan crude or upgraded oil cannot flow as a result of a lack of power to the pumping infrastructure, heavier molecules sink and form a tar-like layer in the pipelines that can hinder the flow from resuming even after the power outages are resolved. However, according to tanker tracking data, Venezuela's main export terminal at Puerto José was apparently able to load crude oil onto vessels between power outages, possibly indicating that the loaded crude oil was taken from onshore storage. For this reason, EIA estimates that Venezuela's production fell at a faster rate than its exports.
EIA forecasts that Venezuela's crude oil production will continue to fall through at least the end of 2020, reflecting further declines in crude oil production capacity. Although EIA does not publish forecasts for individual OPEC countries, it does publish total OPEC crude oil and other liquids production. Further disruptions to Venezuela's production beyond what EIA currently assumes would change this forecast.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 May 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$61/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
The world’s largest oil & gas companies have generally reported a mixed set of results in Q1 2019. Industry turmoil over new US sanctions on Venezuela, production woes in Canada and the ebb-and-flow between OPEC+’s supply deal and rising American production have created a shaky environment at the start of the year, with more ongoing as the oil world grapples with the removal of waivers on Iranian crude and Iran’s retaliation.
The results were particularly disappointing for ExxonMobil and Chevron, the two US supermajors. Both firms cited weak downstream performance as a drag on their financial performance, with ExxonMobil posting its first loss in its refining business since 2009. Chevron, too, reported a 65% drop in the refining and chemicals profit. Weak refining margins, particularly on gasoline, were blamed for the underperformance, exacerbating a set of weaker upstream numbers impaired by lower crude pricing even though production climbed. ExxonMobil was hit particularly hard, as its net profit fell below Chevron’s for the first time in nine years. Both supermajors did highlight growing output in the American Permian Basin as a future highlight, with ExxonMobil saying it was on track to produce 1 million barrels per day in the Permian by 2024. The Permian is also the focus of Chevron, which agreed to a US$33 billion takeover of Anadarko Petroleum (and its Permian Basin assets), only for the deal to be derailed by a rival bid from Occidental Petroleum with the backing of billionaire investor guru Warren Buffet. Chevron has now decided to opt out of the deal – a development that would put paid to Chevron’s ambitions to match or exceed ExxonMobil in shale.
Performance was better across the pond. Much better, in fact, for Royal Dutch Shell, which provided a positive end to a variable earnings season. Net profit for the Anglo-Dutch firm may have been down 2% y-o-y to US$5.3 billion, but that was still well ahead of even the highest analyst estimates of US$4.52 billion. Weaker refining margins and lower crude prices were cited as a slight drag on performance, but Shell’s acquisition of BG Group is paying dividends as strong natural gas performance contributed to the strong profits. Unlike ExxonMobil and Chevron, Shell has only dipped its toes in the Permian, preferring to maintain a strong global portfolio mixed between oil, gas and shale assets.
For the other European supermajors, BP and Total largely matched earning estimates. BP’s net profits of US$2.36 billion hit the target of analyst estimates. The addition of BHP Group’s US shale oil assets contributed to increased performance, while BP’s downstream performance was surprisingly resilient as its in-house supply and trading arm showed a strong performance – a business division that ExxonMobil lacks. France’s Total also hit the mark of expectations, with US$2.8 billion in net profit as lower crude prices offset the group’s record oil and gas output. Total’s upstream performance has been particularly notable – with start-ups in Angola, Brazil, the UK and Norway – with growth expected at 9% for the year.
All in all, the volatile environment over the first quarter of 2019 has seen some shift among the supermajors. Shell has eclipsed ExxonMobil once again – in both revenue and earnings – while Chevron’s failed bid for Anadarko won’t vault it up the rankings. Almost ten years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP is now reclaiming its place after being overtaken by Total over the past few years. With Q219 looking to be quite volatile as well, brace yourselves for an interesting earnings season.
Supermajor Financials: Q1 2019