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EOR Performance
and Modeling
Mature Fields and
Well Revitalization
Well Control

Effectively Using
Real-Time Data
Cutting Subsea Well
Completions Costs

Building a New Normal on the Bedrock of
Risk Management
Baker Hughes new CEO Martin Craighead writes about how the oilfield
service industry of the future must be built on the bedrock of effective
risk management.

30 The Tantalizing Promise of Oil Shale

As much as 6 trillion bbl of in-place resources of oil shale are estimated
to exist worldwide. With world proved reserves of crude oil estimated at
1.3trillion bbl, why does oil shale remain a scarcely touched resource?

38 Reducing the Hidden Costs of Subsea Well Completions

Subsea completions tied back to platforms have allowed marginal fields
to be put into production, but maintaining that production long enough to
reach the industry average for recoveries is an unsolved problem. A small
group of companies are working to change that.
Cover: Oil shale of the Green River
formation in cliffs near Anvil Points, and in
the stockpile at the ShaleTech plant, Rifle,
Colorado. Photo by Robin Beckwith.

Performance Indices


Regional Update


Company News


Presidents Column




Technology Applications


Technology Update




SPE News


Professional Services


Advertisers Index


SPE Events

Printed in US Copyright 2012, Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Trends in Monitoring: How to Use Real-Time
Data Effectively
Real-time data is not about well control, it is about well control avoidance.
Recent catastrophic blowouts have underscored the value of real-time
data and have also underscored the value of having the right kind of
experience to understand well data interpretation in real time.

54 Unconventionals, Future Challenges Highlight

Annual Conference
Coverage of the 2011 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in
Denver, which featured presentations on shale and other unconventional
reservoirs, long-term global energy strategy, environmental
considerations, remote operations, and other important regional and
discipline-focused topics.

99 2011 Editorial Review Committee Awards

Every year, SPE recognizes those who have made an exceptional effort to
ensure the technical excellence of its peer-reviewed journals.

An Official Publication of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.


Baojun Bai, SPE, Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering,
Missouri University of Science and Technology

61 Storing CO2 With Next-Generation CO2-EOR Technology

64 Steamflooding To Enhance Recovery of a Waterflooded Light-Oil

67 Rheology of a New Sulfonic Associative Polymer in Porous Media

70 EOR Potential in the Middle East: Current and Future Trends
Syed A. Ali, SPE, Research Advisor, Schlumberger

75 Seria Field, Brunei: 80 Years OnNear-Field Exploration

Going Strong

78 Doubling Production From a Mature North Kuwait Reservoir

82 Marlim Field: Mature-Field Optimization
Jerome Schubert, SPE, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University

85 Kick-Tolerance Misconceptions and Consequences for Well Design

89 Kick Detection and Well Control in a Closed Wellbore
94 Kick Mechanisms and Well-Control Practices in Deepwater Vugular

The full-length SPE technical papers featured in this issue are available
free to SPE members for two months at

Nanoglass Cleans Flowback/Produced Water
Paul Edmiston of the College of Wooster in Ohio won the 2011 Popular
Mechanics Breakthrough Award for his discovery of a reactive nanoglass.
Thisis of significant interest to oil and gas companies because of its potential
uses with produced water.
Offshore Disconnection Technology
Innovative offshore engineering that takes into account potential operational
risk helps mitigate incident impact. The ability to successfully, quickly, and
smoothly disconnect production when in the face of a threatening situation
Workshop Scrutinizes Upstream Water Management
An SPE Applied Technology Workshop in Barcelona, titled Water
ManagementIntegration of Wells, Reservoir, Facilities, and Environment,
focused on the critical relevance of upstream water management.

Download past
issues of JPT
in PDF format


The Journal of Petroleum Technology (JPT) offers
SPE members the opportunity to download and
read the full-length SPE technical papers that are
synopsized in the magazine (Society of Petroleum
Engineers members only).


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2011 MAR


































































Saudi Arabia*



























2011 MAR









































































Eq. Guinea




























































































































Total World


























2010 DEC



2011 JAN

























































Latin America
















Middle East





























Asia Pacific





4 th

1 st

2 nd

3 rd













Figures do not include NGLs and oil from nonconventional sources.

Includes approximately one-half of Neutral Zone production.
1 Includes crude oil, lease condensates, natural gas plant liquids, other hydrocarbons for refinery feedstocks, refinery
gains, alcohol, and liquids produced from nonconventional sources.
Source: Baker Hughes.
Source: US Dept. of Energy/Energy Information Admin.


Totals subsidiary, Total E&P Nigeria
(TEPNG), discovered oil in the Etisong
North-1 well in 262 ft of water in the
southeastern corner of Oil Mining Lease
102 offshore Nigeria. The well reached
a total depth (TD) of 7,831 ft. One of
the three reservoirs encountered tested
at 8,500 B/D of 40 API oil. This is the
second discovery in the lease, following
the Etisong Main find in 2008. TEPNG
(40%) is operator, with Nigerian National
Petroleum Corporation (60%).
PetroSA was granted environmental
authorization to produce gas from
an offshore gas field by South Africa
Department of Environmental Affairs,
following a two-year environmental impact
assessment process. The project, also
known as Project Ikhwezi, is important in
PetroSAs drive to sustain its gas-to-liquids
refinery in Mossel Bay in the Western
Cape. Drilling is expected to begin in
July and production from the first well is
expected in first-quarter 2013.

pay. The two wells, located approximately

93 miles from Onslow in the WA-205-P
permit area, were drilled in 3,035 ft
of water. Chevron Australia (67%)
is operator, with Shell Development
(Australia) (33%).

Rodinia Oil spudded its second

exploratory well, Kutjara-1, with the
objective of appraising the Kutjara
structure in the Officer Basin, South
Australia. Kutjara-1 is located in the west
central portion of PEL 253 approximately
45 km southeast of Rodinias first well,
Mulyawara-1. Rodinia (80%) operates

Endeavour expects to commence
production drilling in the Greater Rochelle
development in spring 2012. The company
will drill two production wells. Endeavour
(44%) is operator in the Greater Rochelle
development that includes blocks 15/26b,
15/26c, and 15/27. The field lies about
115miles northeast of Aberdeen, Scotland,
in 459 ft of water.

Janglau-1 well drilled in Block PM308A

offshore peninsular Malaysia. Janglau-1
was drilled to a TD of 3820 m by the
jackup rig Offshore Courageous. During
drilling below 3153 m, oil was found in
multiple pay sand units in an intra-rift
sand/shale section extending over a gross
interval of approximately 300 m. The well
was successfully logged and petrophysical
analysis indicates 24 m of net oil pay.
Lundin Malaysia (35%) operates PM308A,
with JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration
(Peninsular Malaysia) (40%) and
PETRONAS (Petroliam Nasional Berhad)
Carigali (25%).

Chevron reported further drilling
success in the Carnarvon Basin offshore
Western Australia. The Acme West-1 well,
drilled to a TD of 15,558 ft, encountered
approximately 377 ft of net gas pay;
the Acme West-2 well, drilled to a TD of
14,590ft, encountered 184 ft of net gas


W&T Offshore has completed the
Main Pass 108 No. 8 well in the US Gulf of
Mexico (GOM). The well reached a total
measured depth of 12,878 ft and found
seven pay sands. W&T is currently in the
process of completing the development
well. W&T Offshore wholly owns and
operates the project.

Stone Energy drilled its seventh and

final well of the platform rig program
FrostUp at the Amberjack field. The
well was completed and first production
took place near yearend 2011. The field is
located in Mississippi Canyon 109 in the
US GOM. Stone wholly owns and operates
the field.

McMoRans Lafitte ultradeep prospect,

Ventures completed its first hydraulic

fracture in a gas well in Ukraine. After
the Ologovskoye-6 well was hydraulically
fractured, the well flowed gas at a rate of
2,300 Mcf/D. Kulczyk owns a 70% interest
in the Olgovskoye, Makeevskoye, and
North Makeevskoye, Krutogorovskoye,
and Vergunskoye licenses in the Lugansk
area of Ukraine. Gastek owns the

located on US GOM Eugene Island Block

223 in approximately 140ft of water,
encountered additional hydrocarbons.
Thewell was drilled to a true vertical
depth of 29,756 ft. Wireline log results
indicate 56 net ft of hydrocarbonbearing sand over a 58-ft gross interval
in the Cris-R section of the Lower
Miocene with good porosity. The new
Cris-R sand interval combined with the
115 ft ofpotential net pay announced
previouslybrings the total possible
productive net sands to 171 ft in the
Lafittewell. McMoRanholds a 72%
interest, with Energy XXI (18%) and
Moncrief Offshore (10%).



Gulf Keystone announced a major

Repsol Sinopec Brazil and its partners

upgrade of gross oil-in-place (OIP)

volumes for the Shaikan discovery in the
Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as calculated by
Dynamic Global Advisors (DGA). These
volumes are a P90 value of 8 billion bbl
to a P10 value of 13.4 billion bbl of OIP,
with a mean value of 10.5 billion bbl. This
upgrade is based on data acquired since
the last resource evaluation of the Shaikan
discovery by DGA issued in April 2011.
Gulf Keystone (75%) operates the Shaikan
Block with Kalegran (20%) (a 100%

Petrobras and BG Group reported a new

oil discovery in the Carioca area, located
on Block BM-S-9, confirming the potential
in the Brazilian pre-salt Santos Basin area.
The discovery was made in the 4-SPS-81A
(4-BRSA-973A-SPS) well, known as Abar,
and is located 35 km south of the Carioca
discovery well and 293 km off the So
Paulo coast. Initial tests have shown the
existence of a good quality oil of 28API
incarbonate reservoirs at a depth of
4830m. JPT

Lundin Petroleum discovered oil in the

subsidiary of MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas)

and Texas Keystone (5%).

Polish independent Kulczyk Oil


KKR agreed to acquire most of
Samson Investment, a family-owned oil
and natural gas producer, for USD 7.2
billion. A KKR-led investor group will buy
all Samsons assets except its onshore
US Gulf Coast and deepwater US Gulf of
Mexico (GOM) assets. The company will be
renamed Samson Resources.

Weir Group agreed to acquire

Seaboard Holdings for USD 675 million.
The consideration will be payable in
cash on completion and funded from
new and existing bank facilities. The
acquisition is expected to be immediately
earnings accretive, and post-tax returns
are expected to exceed Weirs cost of
capitalby 2014.

Orion Petroleum executed a binding

transaction agreement to merge with
Petrel Energy, paving the way for
Oriontoacquire 100% of Petrel for the
issue of 115.1 million new Orion shares to
Petrels current shareholders. Once the
merger and share issue are completed,
existing Orion shareholders will comprise
57% of the merged group and Petrel
shareholders 43% of the register. Orion
will be renamed Petrel Energy and retain
its ASX listing.

BP entered into an agreement to

sell its interests in the Pompano and
Mica fields in the deepwater US GOM to
StoneEnergy for USD 204 million. Stone
Energy will acquire BPs 75% operated
working interest in the Pompano field and
50% nonoperated working interest in the
Mica field, together with a 51% operated
working interest in Mississippi Canyon
Block 29 and interests in certain leases
located in the vicinity of the Pompano
field. Closing of the transaction is subject
to the pre-emption rights of various
co-working interestowners.


with settlement, the rigs name has

been changed to EndeavourSpirit

Statoil signed an agreement to acquire

Hess 11.25% interest in PL097 and 8.33%
interest in PL110, together constituting
a 3.26% participation interest in the
SnhvitUnit, Barents Sea, and in the
Hammerfest liquid natural gas facility
located at Melkya. A 3.26% interest in
PL110B, PL110C, PL448, and PL488 is
part of the agreement. Statoil will pay a
post-tax amount of NOK 1 billion. Posttransaction ownership in Snhvit will be
as follows: Statoil (36.79%) (operator),
Petoro (30%), Total E&P Norge (18.40%),
GDF SUEZ E&P Norge (12%), and RWE
Dea Norge (2.81%).

CAMAC signed a heads of agreement

to acquire 100% of the issued share capital
of Avana Petroleum, a private Isle of Man
company, for a purchase price of USD 15
million, payable in shares of the companys
common stock. Avana is an independent
oil and gas exploration group whose core
area of interest centers on the western
Indian Ocean and East African margin
with interests in the Seychelles Islands and
offshore Kenya.

Kinder Morgans USD 38 billion

takeover of El Paso will create the
worlds biggest pipeline company, with
80,000 miles of conduits for natural
gas, petroleum, and refined products.
The deal will link pipeline networks
from Florida to California to Illinois,
New York, and Montana. The merger is
subject to approval by the US Federal

Statoil will acquire Brigham

Exploration for USD 4.4 billion. Brigham
has 375,000 acres in North Americas
Williston Basin, which includes the Bakken
Shale oil play.

Buccaneer Energys 50% owned

TNK-BP reached an agreement to buy

subsidiary Kenai Offshore Ventures

completed the acquisition of the GSF
Adriatic XI offshore jackup rig from
Transocean Offshore Resources,
a subsidiary of Switzerland-based
Transocean. Total purchase price
was USD68.5 million. Coinciding

a 45% stake in Amazon oil exploration

blocks from Brazils HRT Particiapoes for
USD 1 billion. The company said the 21 oil
and gas exploration blocks, located in the
largely untapped reserves of the Amazons
Solimoes River Basin, would bring TNKBP a net prospective and contingent

resource of 789 million BOE, according

to a Degolyer and MacNaughton reserves
audit report.

Raytheon Technical Services, NASAs
contractor for operations at the Sonny
Carter Training Facility Neutral Buoyancy
Laboratory (NBL) near the Johnson
Space Center, signed an agreement to
partner with Petrofac Training Services
in Houston whereby Petrofac will use
the NBL to provide survival training for
offshore oil and gas workers.

In India, Paradigm opened a new office

in Gurgaon, Haryana, the greater New
Delhi metropolitan area. Paradigm also
recently relocated its Mumbai office to
Platinum Techno Park, Navi, Mumbai.


Cal Dive was awarded a contract by
Pemex Exploracin y Produccin for
the installation of an 8-in subsea pipeline
located in the Abkatun field in 47 m of
water. The contract will generate total
revenue of approximately USD 27 million.
The offshore construction is expected to
commence in April 2012.

Expro secured a contract worth

approximately USD 12.5 million with
Eni Iraq, lead contractor of the Zubair
Consortium. Expro will provide chemical
analysis laboratory work for the Zubair
field in Southern Iraq, running for the
duration of three years with a possible
two-year extension.

Valiant Causeway awarded Technip

alump sum contract, worth approximately
EUR 33 million, for the Causeway field
development, located about 450km
northeast of Aberdeen, Scotland,
atawater depth of 150 m. Thecontract
covers engineering, procurement,
installation, and commissioning of
rigid and flexible pipelines, and subsea
equipment, as well as umbilicals, which
will be manufactured by Technips
whollyowned subsidiary DUCO under
aseparate contract. JPT





100,000-Member Milestone:
Its All About Service
Ganesh Thakur, 2012 SPE President

2012 President
Ganesh Thakur
Chevron Energy Technology Company
2011 President
Alain Labastie, Total
2013 President
Egbert Imomoh, Afren
Vice President Finance
Kenneth E. Arnold

SPE is celebrating a milestone: our association has

reached 100,000 members! From its beginnings as a society
within the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and
Petroleum Engineers (AIME) in 1957, SPE has grown to the largest individual-member organization serving managers, engineers, scientists, and other professionals worldwide in the
upstream segment of the oil and gas industry. Because of its
mission to collect, disseminate, and exchange technical knowledge and provide opportunities for professionals to enhance their technical and professional competence, SPE is still the source the industry turns to for the latest technical advances. But the organization has changed a lot in the past 50 years.
So what does the SPE of today look like? It is no longer just the US-centric association it began as; it is a very diverse global organization. If we made a composite of
the several people who joined SPE on the day we hit 100,000 members, the SPE member would be from Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada; Dacono, Colorado, and Hattiesburg,
Mississippi, United States; Singapore; Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia; and Perth, Australia.
Spanning over 10,000 miles with a median age of 47, this member has a background in
production and operations, service and manufacturing, and academia.
Our membership is growing in nearly every SPE region, including those in North
America, although our greatest growth is outside North America. Many years ago,
SPEs leaders had the foresight to see the expansion of the oil and gas industry globally and adapt our services and reach when other North American associations did not.
Membership has doubled in just the past 10 years, driving SPE to offer more programs
and services to a truly diverse industry hungry for information.
With that diversity comes the challenge of how to reach and serve all of our members. To better extend our member services, SPE now operates offices in Calgary, Dallas, Dubai, Houston, London, Kuala Lumpur, and Moscow, and offers technical conferences and workshops in locations across the globe. SPE has also expanded to reach
new segments of members, from young professionals with programs including global
workshops and a dedicated magazine, The Way Ahead, to new technical areas such as
projects, facilities, and construction with a new magazine, Oil and Gas Facilities.
SPE also made it easier for its members to access data. Members can access more
technical information online than ever before, including electronic books and the ability to view presentations from more conferences. The development and expansion of
OnePetro has given SPE members access to technical information from 14 associations
and more than 120,000 articles.
Our society has an impressive legacy, and a bright future. Together we will continue to make it a society of achievement and respect in the industry. But we must be
disciplined in what we want and be selective in what we do. We will pave the path to
be a high-performance organization and position ourselves to reach our potential. I
am looking forward to the new year and the great milestones we will achieve together. I will work tirelessly to do my part in ensuring our continued excellence in existing
programs and in developing new programs and services to meet member needs. JPT

Alek Musa, Total E&P Nigeria
Keith MacLeod, Sproule Associates
John Cramer, Superior Well Services
Sid Smith Jr., PolyFlow
Mohan Kelkar, University of Tulsa
Hosnia Hashim, Kuwait Oil Company
Lon Beugelsdijk, Shell International E&P
Yiaw Hin Wee, PETRONAS
Arnis Judzis, Schlumberger
Andrey Gladkov, Modeltech
Nestor Saavedra, Ecopetrol ICP
Maurizio Rampoldi, Eni E&P
John Boardman, RISC
Peter Schrenkel, Vision Natural Resources
Sam Sarem, Improved Petroleum
Recovery Consultants

Joseph Ayoub, Schlumberger
Roland Moreau, ExxonMobil Upstream
Research Company
Cindy Reece, ExxonMobil
Ahmed Abou-Sayed, Advantek International
John Walsh, Shell Exploration & Production
Gene Narahara, Chevron Energy
Technology Company

Sudhir Vasudeva, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation
Mohammed Y. Al-Qahtani, Saudi Aramco

To contact the SPE President, email




J.C. Cunha, Drilling Manager,
Ecopetrol America, Chairperson
Francisco J. Alhanati, Director E&P,
C-FER Technologies

Optimism Reigns
John Donnelly, JPT Editor

Syed Ali, Research Advisor, Schlumberger

Renzo Angeles,
Senior Research Engineer, ExxonMobil
Mohammed Azeemuddin, Research
Scientist-Rock Mechanics, Chevron
Baojun Bai, Associate Professor of
Petroleum Engineering, Missouri University
of Science and Technology

This year promises to be another one of healthy upstream

spending. Perhaps the only thing that can derail the optimistic
outlook is the global economy.
Strong oil prices will lead 2012 worldwide E&P spending
to a record high of USD 598 billion, according to a new report
by Barclays Capital, which annually tracks oil and gas industry upstream spending. That reflects a 10% increase over 2011
E&P spending, which also set a record, according to the survey
of 350 oil and gas firms. But Barclays notes that the rate of growth will be slower than
last years because of the global economic uncertainty that is hanging over most industries. If that uncertainty were to disappear, the E&P forecast would appear very conservative, the report said.
Spending is forecast to increase by 8% within North America and by 11% outside
of it. The increase in spending is across the board, with strong increases in the former
Soviet Union and CIS countries (42%), Latin America (21%), and Africa (14%), and
smaller increases in Europe and the Middle East. Latin America is seeing aggressive
E&P spending by Brazils Petrobras, Colombias Ecopetrol, and Mexicos Pemex. Mexico is trying to reverse rapidly declining production rates and Colombia is trying to
jump-start an upstream profile that has largely languished since the mid-1990s. Brazil
is forging ahead with its promising pre-salt development. Other large upstream spenders this year are expected to be ExxonMobil, PetroChina, Lukoil, and Chevron.
The survey said that oil and gas companies were basing their 2012 capital spending budgets on an average oil price of USD 87 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate and
USD 98 a barrel for Brent. Global benchmark Brent was set to finish 2011 at its highest
annual average price, in both real and nominal terms, since the modern oil industry
began, according to an IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates analysis released
just before the end of the year. Continued strong global demand, concerns about supply constraints in some regions, and higher production costs all combined to support
the record-level price. Brent was expected to average USD 111/bbl last year.
In short, the supply/demand balance and higher labor and material costs are driving the highest prices. Upstream production in challenging areas is also a factor. Drilling in North America should continue to be strong, although low natural gas prices
have caused companies to shift away from gas and toward liquids plays. Companies
responding in the Barclays survey said that the biggest factor in determining their
North American activity was oil prices, followed by gas prices and then cash flow.
Spending growth in North America is forecast to last until at least 2015. JPT

Ian G. Ball, Director, Subsea Domain

Luciane Bonet, Senior Reservoir Engineer,
Petrobras America
Paul D. Cameron, Well Intervention Advisor,
BP Exploration
Robert B. Carpenter, Senior
AdvisorCementing, Chevron
Simon Chipperfield, Team Leader Central and
Amadeus Gas Exploitation Development, Santos
Gerald R. Coulter, President, Coulter Energy
Martin Crick, Product
Champion-Interpretation, Schlumberger
Martyn J. Fear, General Manager Drilling
and Completion, Husky Energy
Emmanuel Garland, Special Advisor to the
HSE Vice President, Total ExplorationProduction
Robert Harrison, Consultant Petroleum
Engineer, Soluzioni Idrocarburi
Delores J. Hinkle, Director, Corporate
Reserves, Marathon Oil
George W. Hobbs, Director, Strategic Chemistry
John Hudson, Senior Production Engineer, Shell
Gerd Kleemeyer, Head Integrated Geophysical
Services, Shell
Gregory Kubala, Global Chemistry
Mtier Manager, Schlumberger
Cam Matthews, Director, C-FER Technologies
Casey McDonough, Drilling Engineer,
Chesapeake Energy
Stephane Menand, Managing
Director, DrillScan US
John Misselbrook, Director Global Coiled Tubing,
BJ Services
Badrul H Mohamed Jan, Lecturer/Researcher,
University of Malaya
Alvaro F. Negrao, Deepwater Group
Manager, Repsol-YPF SA
Shauna G. Noonan, Staff Production
Engineer, ConocoPhillips
Karen Olson, Completion Expert,
Southwestern Energy
Michael L. Payne, Senior Advisor, BP
Mauricio P. Rebelo, Technical Services Manager,
Petrobras America Inc.
John D. Rogers, Vice President of Operations,
Fusion Petroleum Technologies
Regis K. Romeu, Petroleum Engineer, Petrobras
Jon Ruszka, Drilling Manager, Baker Hughes
Hisham N. Saadawi, VP Engineering, Abu Dhabi
Jacques B. Salies, Drilling Manager,
Queiroz Galvo E&P
Helio Santos, President, Safekick
Luigi A. Saputelli, Senior Production Modeling
Advisor, Hess Company
Jerome J. Schubert, Associate Professor,
Texas A&M University
Brian Skeels, Emerging Technologies
Manager, FMC Technologies
Erik Vikane, Manager Petroleum Technology, Statoil

To contact JPTs editor, email


Scott Wilson, Senior Vice President, Ryder Scott



Building a New Normal

on the Bedrock of Risk Management
Martin Craighead, SPE, Baker Hughes

Martin Craighead
became president
and chief executive
officer of Baker
Hughes on 1
January 2012. He
joined the company
in 1986 and has served in various
engineering, operations, managerial,
and executive positions throughout
North America, Latin America, and
Asia Pacific. Craighead was named
chief operating officer of Baker Hughes
in 2009 and was appointed president
in July 2010. He earned a BS degree in
petroleum and natural gas engineering
from Pennsylvania State University and
an MBA from Vanderbilt University.


Historically, our industry has been driven by a series of inflection points to

re-examine best practices, technologies, or philosophies on how we conduct our
business. The most notable of these have often been associated with tragedies such
as the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea and, most recently, the Macondo
disaster in the US Gulf of Mexico. Piper Alpha led to a wide-scale focus on health,
safety, and the environment (HSE), fundamentally changing the way companies
viewed safety, and led to orders of magnitude improvement in HSE practices. While
the full impact of Macondo is only now being fully understood, it is clear that we
will see a similar effect on the way we handle quality, competency, safety critical systems, and contingency planning.
In both of the incidents, external pressure precipitated the cultural or technical shift to a new operating norm, while the capabilities and technology for bridging
the gap were available. Until we consider risk management and operational sustainability as business drivers and an equal part of our mission, we will never make the
paradigm shift from a reactive to a proactive business model.
The industrys goal should be an incident-free environment, but government
regulation alone will not help the industry achieve that goal. The reservoirs our
industry is targeting are more challenging, the environments are harsher, and the
technology required is ever more complex. As an industry we must be willing to go
far beyond what is regulatedwe must fundamentally change the culture of our
business to address risk management in our processes, our technology, our talent
management, and our safety programs.
Consistent processes and procedures across our business are the foundation
for this change. A common operating system not only ensures that we meet regulations in all areas where we work, but also establishes repeatable performance that
takes us far beyond what is required. Generally, there is one best way to perform an
activity, whether it is solving problems for our customers or developing new products andtechnology.
An operating system encompasses critical operation management systems and
captures the latest information and best practices. Such systems are widely used
in industries such as automobile and fast food. Of course, the challenges facing the
oil and gas industry are more diverse and highly complex. However, in general, the
companies that pay attention to every aspect of their business and work smarter to
capture the true power of their intellectual property win in the market.
Reliability assurance programs are becoming part of our industrys core operating standards and increasingly are a central part of our product and service research
and development. These programs are starting to define sigma level performance
versus traditional percentage-type measures. Other industries, such as aerospace,
show that with full commitment from all parties involved, both internally and with
the customer base, a three sigma-level shift can be accomplished in a decade. What
would our business look like today if, at the system level, performance was measured in failures per 10,000 operations rather than failures per 100 operations?
Several years of data collection have provided meaningful insight into the
critical factors affecting the performance of our operations. Procedures, training,


and competency problems are almost
as prevalent as technical issues in nonproductive-time statistics. Armed with
a better understanding of the factors
relating to reliability, we are building
more comprehensive reliability assurance programs targeting both human
and technical components in our
improvement processes.
Designing for reliability is only part
of our technology initiative. Technology
innovations designed to advance the science of safety and lower the risk factor
are now a major focus for oilfield service companies. Remote surveillance,
real-time data management, and realtime monitoring systems that incorporate materials such as fiber optics are a
few of the areas being researched today.
Researchers are not working on the next
generation technologythey are working on the next step change in technology to provide orders of magnitude more


capabilities in the inherently riskier reservoirs and harsher exploration regions

where we work today and where we will
work tomorrow.
While technology designed to mitigate risk is important, no amount of
technology innovation can overcome
poor decisions. We must recognize that
people are the true differentiators. Consequently, competency assurance programs are becoming a holistic part of
employee development. Although training has long been in our vocabulary,
certification has not and it has a wider
set of implications. As the complexity of our daily activities continues to
rise, perhaps the toughest challenge
is developing a sustainable workforce
for our operations. We have to define
more rigorous programs to prepare our
next generation of senior managers for
the environments they will be expected

More than 20 years after Piper

Alpha, safety programs have improved
to the point where incident rates are
well understood and, in general, are at
acceptably low levels. However, we are
also starting to look at safety on the
job and safety by design programs,
which take a more overarching view of
the systems we are interacting with in
our operations environment. We believe
this is where real progress can be made.
None of these far-reaching goals
can be achieved if our industry is not
committed to a cultural shift that makes
risk assessment, management, and mitigation integral parts of the way we do
business. And this is where the highest
level of leadership comes in. In the new
normal, occupational safety is no longer
enough. Top-level executives in the oilfield service sector have a responsibility
to ensure that all levels of their organizationfrom procurement and manufacturing to research and development,
and field operationsfully understand
and embrace safety and risk management as the foundation for decisions.
We also have a duty to constantly communicate our commitment to employees, customers, investors, governments,
and the public.
But one company alone cannot effect
the necessary change. The oil industry is
a complex, diverse, competitive business
and every companyfrom the largest
to the smallestmust commit to higher standards. Partnering with industry
institutes and associations is the most
effective means to facilitate industrywide
self-regulation that surpasses government requirements. These groups are the
link that binds us and it is our responsibility to support their efforts.
The bottom line is that every
employee must be empowered to do the
right thing without fear of consequence.
An empowered workforce and a cooperative industry will enable world-class
processes, procedures, technology, and
competency-based training programs to
achieve the desired step change. It is on
this bedrock of risk management that we
will build the oilfield service industry of
the future. JPT


Dennis Denney, JPT Senior Technology Editor

Multipoint Monitoring
Weatherford has introduced its LxData fiber-optic thermal-monitoring system to address challenges of extracting
heavy oil. In-situ thermal processes with
ultrahigh temperatures and highly corrosive environments require reliable monitoring solutions. Specialized techniques
are needed when dealing with difficult
conditions such as the bitumen reserves
in Alberta. Thermal monitoring along
the entire heated wellbore is required
to enhance efficiencies and reduce environmental effects of these operations.
The monitoring system uses a proprietary optical-sensor-array technology
that addresses challenges of these complex reservoirs and offers a full representation of the wellbore with high data
quality and extended service life. The
design provides flexibility in placing sensors to achieve real-time data management of the well, pad, and field levels.
Thermal monitoring over time allows
a step change in visualization simulation and in modeling tools to augment
steam-assisted gravity drainage or any
in-situ operation, leading to significant
improvement in production efficiencies
and economics while providing an additional check of environmental factors.
The fiber-optic sensors (Fig. 1) can be
used in multiple applications and in conjunction with other components of the
companys WellScan reservoir-monitor-

ing products, including specific-location

temperature, pressure, seismic, acoustic,
and multiphase flow.
For additional information, email

For additional information, email

Monitoring Technology
Multisleeve Fracturing System
i-TEC has developed and field proved
its i-FRAC CEM system (Fig. 2), a multistage fracturing system for cementedlong-string and -liner applications. The
system is ball-drop activated, and multiple sleeves can be installed as clusters
in each stage to maximize reservoir contact. A single ball shifts open all sleeves
in a stage, and then pressure is applied
to break the cement sheet and initiate
fractures. Each sleeve has ports sized for
optimized fracture initiation. Up to 22
stages can be installed per well, and each
stage can contain from 1 to 20 sleeves.
Installation of the system is performed
in a single trip, and the system is cemented in as a normal long string or liner. A
special wiper dart was designed to pass
through all ball seats and wipe the casing and sleeves clean of cement before
the dart is bumped into the float collar
and the cement is given time to set. The
fracturing treatment is carried out in a
continuous pumping operation, as for an
openhole sliding-sleeve system. No wireline, cranes, or coiled-tubing units are
required on location. The frac balls are
designed to be produced back to surface

Fig. 1Slimline ultrahigh-temperature pressure



after the treatment, and the ball seats are

millable for future full-bore applications.

Omega Well Monitoring, part of Reservoir Group, has launched its latest Leakator (Fig. 3). The tool is optimized to
locate leaks and monitor downhole
flow. It was developed in response to
the increasing requirements to improve
efficiency and reduce operating costs by
monitoring well integrity. The tools runit-yourself capability means an existing
on-site crew can operate the tool without the need for further staff. It has no
moving parts, so only the O-rings and
detachable batteries need to be replaced
during servicing. Because it uses small
AA batteries, operators do not need to
comply with dangerous-goods legislation during transportation. The modular
memory instrument uses multiple sensor arrays, with synchronized data from
the sensors merged and plotted against
depth to highlight local variations in the
well. These data provide an indication of
leaks. Optional sensor modules enable
additional data to be monitored, including differential temperature, flow, and
flow direction. The sensors are distributed physically and have a balanced output,
allowing extreme sensitivity to very small
local anomalies of temperature and flow.

Fig. 2The i-TEC i-FRAC CEM system.



Fig. 3Omegas Leakator sensor.

A surface readout capability is also possible. With the modular assembly, operators can customize the setup to fit the
specific requirements of individual jobs
as determined by well conditions. The
tools 25-mm diameter enables access to
all zones.
For additional information, visit

DST Well Testing

Expro Groups enhanced drillstem-test
(DST) capability provides technology
and special-data services, including tubing-conveyed perforating, data acquisition, surface readout by use of cableless telemetry, fluids sampling and analysis, compact well-testing solutions,
and enhanced flow measurement. Following the drilling and casing of a well,
a DST is used in conjunction with the
companys downhole data system that
uses advanced wireless-telemetry technology to transmit high-quality bottomhole-pressure and -temperature data to
surface in real time by electromagnetic
through-tubing/casing communication.
Also, the companys tubing-conveyed
sampling provides a high-quality alternative to traditional DST-type full-flow
samplers. The companys meters offer
continuous wellhead surveillance with
its nonintrusive clamp-on sonar-based
metering technology (ActiveSONAR and
PassiveSONAR). Flowmeter analysis
includes multiphase-flow-interpretation


Fig. 4The Moyno HTD350 stator elastomer is

mechanically secured to the stator tube.

techniques. The meters can be installed

without production shutdown and are an
extremely safe way to monitor well flow.
The DST Slip Joint is a telescopic joint
run in the tool string, allowing 5 ft of free
travel that allows for tubing movement
caused by temperature changes. The tool
is pressure and volume balanced internally and is splined, enabling torque to be
transferred below the tool.
For additional information, visit

Baker Hughes FracPoint multistagecompletion system uses openhole packers to isolate multiple stages and uses
ball-activated sleeves to divert the
fracture treatment. The systems EX-C
sleeves extend the capability of ball-activated systems, enabling more contact
with the reservoir while maintaining
fracturing efficiency. The mechanical
support in the ball seats allows 1/16-in.increment ball sizes and ball seats.
When the ball makes initial contact with
the ball seat, pressure is applied to shear
a set of shear screws, which releases
a collapsible ring under the ball and
increases the amount of surface-contact area between the ball and the seat
to provide support to achieve fracturing pressures. A significant addition to
the system is the IN-Tallic disintegrating
frac balls that are made of a new nano-

material. The material has the compressive strength of steel, but is lighter than
aluminum. The balls were developed to
disintegrate in most common wellbore
and fracturing fluids, so no special fluid
mixture is required, enabling operators
to remove the frac balls from the well
without having to mill them out.
For additional information, visit

Sealed Stator
R&M Energy Systems Moyno HTD350
downhole pump is designed for hightemperature applications that previously prevented operators from using
downhole progressing-cavity pumps
(PCPs). This downhole pump uses an
elastomeric stator that is mechanically secured to the stator tube for greater temperature and chemical resistance
(Fig. 4). This patented design uses no
bonding agent between the elastomer
and the stator tube. The downhole pump
has the capability of handling downhole temperatures up to 350F and is
compatible with steam-injection applications without removing the stator
from the well. Models are available for
95 BFPD/(100-rev/min) up to 6,000-ft
lift, 275 BFPD/(100-rev/min) up to
5,400-ft lift, and 500 BFPD/(100-rev/
min) up to 4,000-ft lift. JPT
For additional information, email



Antistall Tool Reduces Risk

in Drilling Difficult Formations
Nils Reimers, SPE, Tomax

A new method is now in use to reduce the

risk and increase efficiency when drilling difficult formations. The antistall tool
makes it possible to drill highly mixed
and laminated formations with less risk
of severe vibrations and downhole equipment failures. By reducing vibrations, the
tool simultaneously improves the rate of
penetration (ROP).
Drill bit-induced vibrations that
occur during rapid transitions in subsurface formations are hard to predict and therefore equally hard to avoid
through the preselection of bits and drilling parameters. The antistall technology
is based on a dynamic, self-supported
downhole mechanical system that actively controls the bits depth of cut (DOC) by
manipulating the weight on bit (WOB).
The system uses the rotary torque as an
input control parameter to actively counteract the torsional peak loads and stalls

that are common through sharp transitions and contrasts in the underground.
Because of its relatively simple functional principle, the method has proved
highly versatile. It is capable of reducing
vibrations in a wide range of applications
that, in addition to regular rotary drilling, includes reaming and through-tubing milling (Dagestad et al. 2006).

Continuous Prevention
of Bit Stalling
Because it is part of the lower bottomhole assembly (BHA), the antistall tool
can quickly and continuously prevent the
bit from stalling and thereby limit the
development of severe stick-slip vibrations. The mechanical function of the
downhole tool is based on converting the
rise in the drilling torque that precedes
a stall into an axial contraction that will
immediately cut back the WOB. The fast

reduction of weight on the bit reduces the

DOC sufficiently to keep the bit rotating.
The conversion to the axial contraction
takes place through an internal helix and
appears as a reduction in the length of the
polished, telescopic section seen in Fig. 1.
With the contraction, a strong spring and
absorber is simultaneously compressed
internally in the tool body above the telescopic section. The energy absorbed in
the spring is fed back through the system to maintain a steady torsional load.
This capability of absorbing and releasing
energy makes the system work continuously and with no need for reset.
Fig. 2 shows a downhole recording of torsional (stick-slip) vibrations in
a 17-in. hole where the antistall tool
was run in at 2567 m to improve drilling,
after an unexpected, difficult formation
had caused several bit trips. Except for
the antistall tool and a new bit, the BHA
was practically identical throughout, and
the data showed how the stick-slip vibrations were reduced and the reduction
was achieved without much manipulation of surface parameters. The actual
stroke needed to keep the bit rotating is
a fraction of the telescopic capacity. The
purpose of the extensive capacity is to
provide the desired antistall effect with a
wide range of loads and without the need
for specific configurations or time spent
on changing surface parameters. Because
of its flexibility and ease of operation,
antistall technology does not require any
service personnel in the field.

Torque Stability Optimized

Fig. 1The antistall tool must be placed within 50 m of the bit.
Typically the tool goes on top of the nonmagnetic section or above
the underreamer, where applicable. (Photo courtesy of Tomax.)


From third-party testing and field qualification, the effect on stick-slip and the
capability to provide a more stable torsion load on the bit has been documented
(Selnes et al. 2008). However, a surpris-



Rev/Min (DRILLING_) (RT)



AST in






Average Rev/Min and Stick-Slip Variation


Rate of Penetration, m/hr

ing factor was the ability of the antistall

tool to begin to work just as the cutters
were about to stall. With torque stability
continuously optimized in this way, there
is considerable potential to boost drilling
speed. In testing and qualification, drilling speeds have as much as doubled and
the improvements have been repeated in
the field. The biggest improvements have
occurred where reference vibration levels have been highest.
Torsional vibrations can also come
from drillstring interaction with the borehole wall. Such vibrations can be strong
in high-friction formations such as carbonates. The resulting large variations in
angular velocity often saturate the downhole accelerometer readings transmitted from the measurement-while-drilling
(MWD) tools and impair the quality of
real-time information they provide.
A further complication under these
circumstances is that the strongest oscillations often appear as the bottom part
of the string goes into compression. As a
result, it is impossible to separate oscillations induced by friction or by the bit.
If applied in this situation, the closedloop function of antistall technology will
decouple the string oscillations from the
bit. This prevents the accumulation of
stress and vibrations at the end of the
BHA, where advanced rotary steering
systems are often located. The antistall
tool will also help to stabilize the oscillating input energy to yield the best bit
efficiency and ROP results possible under
these circumstances.










Measured Depth, m

Fig. 2The effect of the antistall tool on downhole stick-slip, ROP, and
rotary speed, plotted with an overlay showing the tool run in from a
depth of 2567 m.

new method. One set of statistics (Performance Analysis 2011) was obtained
from 78 jobs by the same service contractor through 2010. The results showed
that the downhole tool failures caused
by vibration were cut in half with antistall technology. Newer numbers including a portion of 2011 showed a further
decline. The same statistics also reported
improved average ROP results from the
use of the antistall tool, with no negative
influence observed on any parameter.
The analysis concluded with a practical
applications table shown in Table 2.
From 2010, it was possible to
equip the antistall tool with downhole

recorders to measure the actual workload and axial displacements. This helps
design engineers to better understand
the closed-loop process and improve
the method. The functional principle
and the operational improvement that
result from the dynamic DOC control
can have significant impact where drilling challenges are a barrier to predictable timing and cost. Below are more
case studies.
StatoilSmrbukk South Field
(sgard), Norwegian Sea. Smrbukk
South is known as the most challenging part of the sgard field for drilling.

Field Results
The technology has been used in a growing number of fields to reduce failures
(Reckmann et al. 2010) and improve
drilling performance in advanced operations. Both service and operating companies have driven its implementation.
Table 1 shows the distribution of antistall
tool experience between the lead rotary
steerable systems, including their combination with simultaneous underreaming systems. Comprehensive field studies and more statistical information have
provided nominal figures for the vibration mitigation and other effects of the





Rotary Steerable
System (RSS)
PowerDrive Exceed
PowerDrive Vortex

RSS Run With

Antistall Tool

RSS Run With

Antistall Tool and

Baker Hughes

AutoTrak X-treme



Geopilot GTX









High Shock/








Use of

To improve drilling economics, Statoil

in 2006 initiated a process to speed up
high-pressure/high-temperature lateral
drilling through the difficult, abrasive,
and partially calcite-cemented sands.
The company moved toward a more
aggressive bit to lessen the need for high
WOB and thereby reduce the side forces and accompanying friction-induced
stick-slip and string wear. While successful, it depended on not encountering excessive calcite-cemented sands.
To bring the bit safely through the
cemented layers, Statoil added the antistall tool. Some friction-induced stickslip still occurred with the tool. However, the average run length and drilling
speed were increased by 15% to 100%,
depending on the porosity of the drilled
intervals (Kjoglum 2007).
BPAzeri-Chirag-Gunashli Field,
Azerbaijan. Although young, the sediments under parts of the Caspian Sea are
challenging to drill because of variable
compaction and stringers. To reduce
formation stress from circulation pressures, drilling typically involves simultaneous underreaming. The contrasting sediments frequently cause torsional
vibration and reduced equipment reliability. To decrease vibration, the antistall tool was used. The nominal effect of
running the technology in the first well
was to reduce drilling time with severe
vibrations from 56% in the previous
well to 2.2%, comparing the same sections. The figure was then reduced to
1.0% in the same section of the next well
Large Independent Operator
Oooguruk Field, Alaska North Slope.


Discovered in 2005, the Oooguruk

field was a fast-track project brought
on stream three years later. The drilling campaign encountered significant
vibration challenges from calcite stringers in the long lateral well sections,
which threatened to set back the project
schedule. To address this issue, several
changes were made and antistall technology was added for the intermediate
and lateral sections. This resulted in a
great reduction in vibrations and step
improvement in reliability, with most
sections drilled in one run. A significant
increase in ROP was also achieved. The
improvements enabled the project to
return to schedule (Skjelvik 2011).
Large Global OperatorUK. A North
Sea operator needed a cost-effective
means of removing a number of integrated ball valves that had been installed
in the lower production tubing of various wells to isolate pay zones during
completion and service. Hunting Welltonic, a coiled tubing service contractor, performed the removal work using
a 2-in. mud motor and a matchingsized antistall tool. Use of the tool had
already been established as a coiled tubing best practice by a number of area
operators. The contractor was able to
remove the valve faster than with any
other method, experiencing only onesixth of the restarts typical of the best
alternative without an antistall function

Field experience gained with the antistall technology suggests that the method can make a significant contribution
to improving the cost-effectiveness of

exploration and development drilling.

Because the tool reduces vibration in
the bottomhole environment, it creates
the opportunity to use advanced downhole instrumentation, data communication, and pressure management systems
that are vital to achieving continuous
improvement in recovery.

Austbo, J. 2011. From Oseberg to Baku. New
Drilling Technology From Local Research
to the Global Oilfield. Oral presentation
given at the SPE Bergen One-day Seminar,
Bergen, Norway, 6 April.
Dagestad, V., Mykkletvedt, M., Eide, K., and
Reimers, N. 2006. First Field Results for
Extended-Reach C-Drilling Technology. Paper SPE 100108-MS presented at
the SPE/ICoTA Coiled Tubing and Well
Intervention Conference and Exhibition,
The Woodlands, Texas, 45 April. http://
Forsyth, G. 2010. Milling of HTHP FIV
Valve. Hunting Welltonic Test Report
Kjoglum, S. 2007. Analysis of Downhole Tools
for Drilling Optimization. Norwegian University of Science and Technology diploma
thesis, Trondheim, Norway.
Performance Analysis of Antistall Technology. 2011. Schlumberger document InTouch
Reckmann, H., Jogi, P., Kpetehoto, F.,
Chandrasekaran, S., and McPherson, J.
2010. MWD Failure Rates Due to Drilling Dynamics. Paper SPE 127413-MS presented at the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference and Exhibition, New Orleans,
Louisiana, 24 February. http://dx.doi.
Selnes, K., Clemmensen, C., and Reimers, N.
2008. Drilling Difficult Formations Efficiently With the Use of an Antistall Tool.
Paper SPE 111874-MS presented at the
IADC/SPE Drilling Conference and Exhibition, Orlando, Florida, 46 March. http://
Skjelvik, H. 2011. Antistall Technology
A Tool Designed To Mitigate Stick-Slip.
Oral presentation given at the Oil Online
Drilling & Completing Trouble Zones
Conference, Galveston, Texas, 2627
October. JPT



Oil shale stockpile at Enefit Energys

White River Oil Shale Mine, Utah.

The Tantalizing
Promise of Oil Shale
Story and photos by Robin Beckwith, Staff Writer JPT/JPT Online
A vast energy treasure lies within an
18,963-sq-mile area of Colorado, Utah,
and Wyoming: an estimated 4.28 trillion
BOE of in-place resources of oil shale,
according to US Geological Survey (USGS)
research geologist Ronald Johnson. He
presented the new assessment at the 31st
Oil Shale Symposium, held mid-October
2011 at the Colorado School of Mines.


In other countries, while far

fewer oil shale resources are thought
to exist, their presence is nonetheless
formidable. China contains an estimated 333 billion BOE; Russia, 248 billion
BOE; Democratic Republic of Congo,
100 billion BOE; Jordan, 90 billion BOE;
Brazil, 82 billion BOE; Italy, 73 billion
BOE; Morocco, 53 billion BOE; Austra-

lia, 32 billion BOE; and Estonia, 16 billion BOE. Israel indicated at the 30th Oil
Shale Symposium that its resources may
be as much as 250billion BOE.
The CIA World Factbook estimates
2011 world proved reserves of crude oil at
1.47 trillion bbl. Total annual production
of oil shale in the only three countries
today where it is exploited for commer-


cial use is 73% less than daily worldwide

crude oil production of approximately
86.74 million B/D.
With oil shale estimates vastly overshadowing those for crude oil,
why does oil shale remain a scarcely

The Bottom Line

In-place resources and proved
reserves have markedly different meanings. The former speaks of potential;
only the latter indicates the existence
of hydrocarbons that can be exploited
economically. No attempt was made
to estimate the amount of oil that is
economically recoverable, explains the
USGS in the introduction to its 2011
assessment of US Greater Green River
Basin oil shale resources, because there
has not yet been an economic method
developed to recover the oil from oil
shale. This statement might be amended, says Center for Oil Shale Technol-

ogy and Research (COSTAR) director

Jeremy Boak, to reflect a view that current producers might suggest, "whereby, while methods have been developed to recover the oil from oil shale,
none has yet demonstrated commercial
production of Green River formation
shale oil.
As USGS geologist emeritus John
R. Dyni states in Geology and Resources
of Some World Oil-Shale Deposits, A
deposit of oil shale having economic
potential is generally one that is at or
near enough to the surface to be developed by open-pit or conventional underground mining or by in-situ methods.
Although some Colorado oil shale reaches the surface at places like Colony,
deposits typically start about 1,000 ft
under the surface and extend down for
as much as another 2,000 ft. Within
the oil shale column are rocks that vary
considerably in kerogen content, with
some portions of the section richer on

average and other portions leaner. The

entire column ultimately could produce
more than 1 million BOE/acre over its
productive life, the Energy Information
Administration (EIA) states. To put
that number in perspective, Canadas
Alberta oil sands deposits are expected
to produce about 100,000 bbl/acre.

Oil Shale Is Neither

Crude Oil nor Coal
Equating oil shale with other types of
hydrocarbons gives the impression that
comparable means of exploiting it can
be used. However, oil shale is not directly fungible with either crude oil or coal,
though it shares some characteristics of
each. Each ton of oil shalea carbonate rock, generally mudstone or siltstonecontains significant quantities
of a solid organic sedimentary material
called kerogen (a substance from which
nearly all oil is derived), with a trace of
bitumen and gas. Some oil shale is rich

Determining Oil Shale Resources: The Fischer Assay

Estimates of oil shale resources are distinguished according
to their grade, which is determined by a laboratory test called
the Fischer assay.
According to USGS geologist emeritus John R. Dyni, the
Fischer assay was first developed by German chemist, Franz
Fischer. In 1949 it was revised by two US Bureau of Mines
researchers, K.E. Stanfield and I.C. Frost. They called their
process the modified Fischer assay, which was used specifically to determine the quantity of shale oil in cores and well
cuttings of Green River oil shale. The Bureau of Mines version was adopted as a standard analytical technique by the
American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in the
1980s, but it was withdrawn by ASTM in 1996. Dyni surmises this was because it was not suitable for determining the
total amount of energy in some oil shales, especially those of
marine origin. Nevertheless, he continues, over the years, it
became the de facto method for determining the grade of oil
shales in other parts of the worldof both marine and nonmarine origin.
Dyni, in Geology and Resources of Some World Oil-Shale
Deposits, explains that testing oil shale yield using the Fischer assay involves crushing a 100-gm sample of oil shale to -8
mesh (2.38 mm) and heating it in a small aluminum retort to
930F, which is reached at a rate of 22F/min and held at that
temperature for 40 minutes. This process mimics to some


extent the pyrolysis of oil shale in surface retorts, the primary historic method for oil recovery from oil shale.
According to Robert N. Heistand, in The Fischer Assay:
A Standard Method?, The Fischer assay is not a standard
analytical procedure. It does not produce quantitative values
such as the weight percent nickel in a stainless steel or a ppm
mercury in water. Rather, the Fischer assay is a performance
test such as the octane number of motor fuels or the tensile
strength of fibers. COSTAR director Jeremy Boak points
out, however, that it does produce some quantitative values:
weight percent oil, weight percent water, weight percent residue, and weight percent gas plus loss (by difference), as well
as the specific gravity of the recovered oil.
Oil shale quality is typically expressed as a weight percentage of the rock determined by Fischer assay value. For
example, Jordanian oil shale quality is stated as 9% by Fischer assay; and various oil shales mined in China have Fischer
assay values ranging from a low of 5.5% to a high of 15%.
When assessing oil shale resourcesreached through subjecting an areas respresentative samples to Fischer assay
testingtheir yield is expressed in gal/ton, with a yield of
25 gal/ton to 50 gal/ton the richest and considered commercially prospective. The USGS has used a lower limit of
about 15 gal/ton, with others suggesting a limit as low as



ShaleTech Internationals Paraho II Retort near Rifle, Colorado.

in carbonate (marlstone), whereas other

deposits are relatively clay rich.
Oil shale kerogen must be heated to
between 650F and 700F (in-situ pyrolysis) or between 900F and 950F (surface
retorting) so it can yield petroleum liquids and methane. Pyrolysis accelerates
the process that occurs naturally to generate oil and gas. Even then, it yields middle-distillates, such as kerosene and diesel fuel, as well as heavy residual components, and is commonly waxy rather than
tarry. Only with further refining processes equivalent to hydrocracking can shale
oil be transformed into a lighter-range
hydrocarbon like gasoline.
Being nearly completely solid, oil
shale resembles coal, although the mineral content of oil shale is generally
much higher than the ash content of
coal. Oil shale can be mined, crushed,
and burned in power plants, as it is in
Estonia and China (and formerly was


in Israel). When considered on a dryweight basis, as coal is, the gross heating value of oil shales varies widely
ranging from about 500 to 4,000 kilocalories per kilogram (kcal/kg) of rock.
The high-grade kukersite oil shale of
Estonia has a heating value of about
2,000 to 2,200 kcal/kg (when this kukersite is considered on a dry, mineral-free basis, its heating value would
be higher but not as high as coal). By
comparison, the heating value of lignitic coal has a much higher range
from 3,500 to 4,600 kcal/kg on a dry,

Oil Shale Requires Retorting

The kerogen in oil shale has a much higher hydrogen content than that in coal. The
highest value use of oil shale is therefore to
extract liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons
from the rock. This is achieved through
surface or in-situ retortingknown as

pyrolysiswhich is a capital- and timeintensive step not required when extracting crude oil. Pyrolysis is a more complex process than methods used to extract
crude oil from tar sands, for example.
With steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), heavy crude flows when hot
steam is injected into a pair of parallel wellsvertically apart about 5 m
drilled horizontally at least 1 km. Tar
sands (bitumen) are softened to lower
their viscosity enough to produce heavy
crude that will flow.
Oil shale, in contrast, is not a form of
highly viscous crude oil. A chemical and
physical process called pyrolysis must
occur for liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons to be released from the solid hydrocarbons of the oil shale kerogen. Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition
of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen. It involves
the simultaneous change of chemical


The Colony Bench from below, looking toward the ExxonMobil Colony Mine site near Parachute, Colorado,
where the company is researching its Electrofrac in-situ pyrolysis method.

composition and physical phase, and

According to James T. Bartis et al.
in Oil Shale Development in the United States, An oil shale plant operating
on a commercial scalethat is, producing a minimum of 50,000 barrels per
daywould need to incorporate multiple
retorts. Because the residence time of oil
shale in the hot zone of a retort is nearly a half hour, a retort designed to produce 50,000 barrels of shale oil per day
would need to be sized to contain more
than 1,500 tons of oil shale, which is well
beyond the state of the art. The Longkou
coal mining company in Shandong Province, China, has an oil shale retort plant
with a processing capacity of 60,000 tons
of shale oil per year. The plant has 40 Fushun retorts. Surface retorting is also used
in Estonia and Brazil.
There are a few experimental operations. For example, a demonstration


plant, featuring the Paraho II vertical retort, commenced construction in

August 2011 in Queensland, Australia.
While it is small in terms of oil shale
throughput and production volumes, the
plant is touted as a complete end-toend plant incorporating technology that
promises to advance significantly both
the technology involved and the knowledge of the complexity of constructing
such a plant.
Although in-situ oil shale conversion
produces a better grade synthetic crude
than surface retorting, no method has
yet been engineered for production testing on a scale necessary to produce oil in
quantities approaching those required to
justify the expense of the process. In-situ
oil shale conversion involves some method of heating the rock over an extended period of timegenerally two to six
years. The processing takes much longer
because of the insulating properties of

rocks. Slow heating is needed to ensure

even heating of the in-situ retort. The
pyrolysis reactions occur at lower temperatures, with the resulting products
much lighter, requiring far less preprocessing in order to enter a refinery. Three
major in-situ heating projects are under
way: Shells In-Situ Conversion Process,
American Oil Shale and Totals in-situ
rubblizing approach, and ExxonMobils
Electrofrac Process (see sidebar).

Oil Shale Production:

Where and Why
One or more of three elements are generally agreed upon as necessary for the
development of an oil shale industry:
government incentives, a drastic reduction in the availability of crude oil (an
oil crisis), and sustained high crude oil
prices. These are exhibited in the three
countries that today have commercial oil
shale production:



Experimental In-Situ Pyrolysis Projects

Shell has tested most of the components of an in-situ retort
for oil shale in the Green River formation of Colorado. With
its In-Situ Conversion Process (ICP), electric heaters would
be placed in vertical holes drilled through the entire thickness (locally more than 1,000 ft) of a section of oil shale.
The area would be isolated from groundwater via ground
freezing technology amounting to a freeze wall that contains the ICP. Between 15 and 25 heating holes would be
drilled per acre, in order to obtain slow, even heating over
a period of two to three years, with the temperature finally reaching between 650F and 700F. In this manner the
necessary chemical and physical changes would occur to
cause the release of hydrocarbons comprising two-thirds
liquid and one-third gas similar in composition to natural gas. In tests, the released oil and gas have successfully been gathered in collection wells positioned within the
With a 30-year history in investigating its ICP, Shell is
one of three companies holding research, design, and development leases issued by the US Bureau of Land Management
in Colorados Piceance Basin. Shell is planning to demonstrate and commercialize shale oil recovery via a second-generation ICP whereby permeability development is accomplished by leaching of saline minerals with hot water, followed by production via ICP. According to a recent report,
Lab pyrolysis experiments and reservoir simulation studies
have been completed. [Shells] baseline hydrological monitoring program is in place. Design of the wells and surface
facilities are nearing completion. Drilling and construction
are scheduled for [2012].
ExxonMobils Electrofrac Process uses a method of heating oil shale in situ based on established principles of oil and
gas well horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The
proppant used in fracturing is highly electrically conductive
and is a means of extending heat beyond the borehole and
into the fractures. The proppant creates an electrically conductive pathway the length of the fracture system, turning it
into a large, platelike electrode. ExxonMobil has conducted
Development of the Brazilian oil
shale industry began in 1954 with the
establishment of Petrobras, Brazils
national oil company. A division of
PetrobrasSuperintendncia da Industrializao do Xistowas charged with
developing oil shale deposits. Between
1972 and 1998, about 10.4 million bbl
of shale oil were produced, along with
liquefied petroleum gas, methane, and
sulfur. Today, Brazil produces approxi-


a 100-ft scale test (which it calls The Giant Toaster) at its

Colony Mine near Parachute, Colorado.
ExxonMobil public affairs advisor J. Patrick McGinn
explains that The proppant is calcined petroleum coke. It is
basically pure carbon. Petroleum coke comes from the coker
units in oil refineries. The calcining process heats up the pet
coke again and drives off remaining volatile compounds and
moisture. He explains that although the company makes
petroleum coke in its refineries, the calcining is done by several other companies. At this point in its research and development project, ExxonMobil is not using large quantities of
pet coke and so the companys source is a distributor who
gets it from other sources.
The main difference between using horizontal drilling
and hydraulic fracturing for crude oil or natural gas and using
them for oil shale is the time frame: To release the hydrocarbons, heat delivered electrically via the calcined petroleum
coke proppant subjects the surrounding rock to the effects of
pyrolysis over a period of around five years in order to yield
its liquid oil.
American Shale Oil in partnership with Total is currently testing another in-situ approach that relies on largevolume increase as solid hydrocarbons react to liquid and
gas to rubblize the rock. The produced fluids transport heat
farther into the rock volume, while some are tapped off as
production. At the 31st Oil Shale Symposium, Chevron presented the outline of yet another in-situ process that also
involves rubblization of the rock. However, Chevron plans
either explosive or thermal (possibly cryogenic) rubblization
before injection of a reactive fluid at still lower temperatures
to extract the hydrocarbons.
Of all the in-situ methods, only Shell has documented
production of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons. None has
been production tested at a scale needed for economic production, and such a test is probably more than five years
away. Although the fundamental processes are understood,
says Boak, and most participants are optimistic about their
approaches, the field is ripe for further invention.

mately 159,000 tonnes of oil shale annually, a relatively small amount.

According to China University of
Petroleum doctoral candidate Yue Ma,
production of oil shale in China reached
approximately 10 million tonnes in
2011a sharp rise from its annual rate
of about 180,000 tonnes, an amount sustained more or less since the late 1930s.
There is only one country in the
world where oil shale exploitation has

a meaningful impact on the economy:

Estonia. The EIA indicates that Estonia
has no proved reserves of crude oil, coal,
or natural gas. With 16 billion BOE of oil
shale resources, this country of 1.28million peoplethe 155th-largest country in
the worldrelies on its annual production of 15 million tonnes of kukersite, 80%
of which is burned to generate two major
power plants whose combined capacity
of 2,380 MW meets well over 90% of


Oil sand containing oil generated from the Green River formation, Asphalt Ridge Tar Sand Quarry, Utah.

the countrys electrical powerneeds. The

remaining 20% is retorted for making
fuels and petrochemicals.
Without such elements spurring
development, oil shale capital costs
represent a steep hurdle. In Oil Shale
Development in the United States, the
following is given as a rough estimate
of the anticipated capital costs for mining and surface retorting plants: Considering mine development, upgrading,
and modest infrastructure expenditures,
a 50,000 barrel per day first-of-a-kind
surface retorting complex will incur capital expenditures of between USD 5 billion
and USD 7 billion (2005 dollars) and possibly higher than that.

lion bbl in 2002 to 180.02 billion bbl in

2003 (sustained to 2011 at 175.21 billion
bbl). Similarly, advances in horizontal
drilling and hydraulic fracturing pushed
North Dakotas average oil production

to more than 460,000 B/D in September 2011more than four and one-half
times its September 2005 level.
However, for widespread commercial oil shale resource development to

Technology, High Oil

Prices, and Time
As technology develops and the price of
crude oil remains high enough to justify
its use, estimates of proved crude oil
reserves go up. For example, advances in
SAGD methods as well as in the refining
and transportation of heavy crude oil
gave rise to the jump in Canadian proved
crude oil reserves from a low of 4.86 bil-


High-grade oil shale weathered into paper shale, Mahogany zone,

Utah. The Mahogany zone contains rich oil shale, averaging up to
80gal of oil per ton of rock.



Outcrop of the Birds Nest aquifer unit (named after cavities left behind after dissolution of large nahcolite
nodules) of the Green River Formation in Evacuation Creek, Utah.

become a reality, a huge range of factors need to be aligned economically and

logistically. Necessity in the case of oil
shale needs to drive not only invention

but the presence of a host of other ingredients. These include transportation and
processing infrastructure; readily available water resources; byproduct and

Estonia Extends Oil Shale Presence into the US

Eesti Energia (known as Enefit outside Estonia), the company responsible for
Estonias more than 90 years of oil shale mining and 50 years of oil shale surface retort production, is extending its presence and expertise into the US. On
30March 2011, Enefit American Oil, a wholly owned subsidiary of Enefit, purchased 100% of Oil Shale Exploration Company (OSEC). With the purchase of
OSEC, Enefit acquired one of the largest tracts of privately owned oil shale in the
US totaling more than 30,000 acres and containing about 2.1 billion bbl of inplace oil shale resources.
Enefit and joint venture partner Outotec have undertaken co-development
of next-generation oil shale processing technology, combining Eesti Energias
improved solid heat carrier process and Outotecs circulating fluidized bed technology, increasing efficiency and decreasing environmental emissions. Enefit
American Oil plans to develop a 50,000-B/D mining, retorting, and upgrading
project for synthetic oil. Project development is estimated to take six years, followed by a three-year construction period. First oil is planned for 2020.


spent shale handling; equitable air and

water quality standards and regulation;
a trained and available labor force; and
the presence of human systems, such as
housing, roads, power, water treatment,
schools, and police, and the tax base for
their financial support, in the sparsely
populated areas within which oil shale
resources typically reside.
The most straightforward way for oil
shale to yield its hydrocarbon riches is for
the sedimentary basins in which it occurs
to be subjected to geologic forces comparable to those that resulted in crude oil.
In fact, the process used to yield crude
oil from oil shalepyrolysishas been
assumed to take place during categenesis,
the conversion of buried organic matter
to fossil fuels. The difficulty with such a
perspective is that it involves a time horizon of millions of yearswell beyond
anything imaginable to a species used to
defining long term as a period of 5, 10,
or 20 years atmost. JPT


Workers look over one of the four

components that make up Expros Ax-s
well intervention system during testing.
Powered by an electric wireline, the
equipment can deploy eight tools to
diagnose and repair subsea wells.



Reducing the Hidden Costs

of Subsea Well Completions
Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT/JPT Online Staff Writer

Subsea completions have made it possible to produce oil in

remote locations and from smaller reservoirs. But the cost
of maintaining them may shorten their productive lives.

ubsea wells have the same things that go wrong as

other wells, but fixing them requires moving in a rig
and the cost can often be USD 1 million a day, said
Matthew Law, technical manager of sales and marketing
at Expro Ax-s Technology. Where there is direct access
from a production platform, there is generally regular well
intervention. As a result, the recoverable reserves are higher.
Major producers such as BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil,
Statoil, and Shell are among those seeking to cut the cost
of deepwater workovers by 50% or more to allow better
maintenance. There is no accepted industry average for how
much production can be gained from regular interventions.
The consensus is that the potential impact on the thousands
of subsea completions represents billions of dollars worth
of hydrocarbons.
One of the biggest challenges in (increasing)
deepwater recovery rates is the cost of re-entry is so high,
said Peter Sharpe, executive vice president of wells at Shell.
Drilling rigs are capable, but it can cost USD 5 million to
just diagnose why production is down on a subsea well. Based
on offshore workovers generally, the payoff for deepwater
work will range from simple fixes that yield significant
gains, to difficult cases where the repair cost far exceeds the
likely return. Most wells fall somewhere in between.
The experience of operators in the relatively shallow
waters of the North Sea shows there is a return for investing
in regular subsea well maintenance. The cost and technical
challenges rise in deep water, where the lower-cost
methods used in the North Sea are now being tested.
Without significant cost reductions, the cost of repairs that
can slow production declines on 10 wells can exceed the cost
of a deepwater exploration that might deliver far more in
the near term. To reduce cost, the industry is considering a
mix of proven technologies and emerging ones. Much of the
work is directed toward using construction boats rather than
drilling rigs.
Cost is one of the drivers, but we are also looking
at keeping these activities off drilling rigs to allow more
exploration and development work, said Colin Buchan,


well delivery manager for floating hoist at Shell. They are

complex machines designed to drill wells. They were not
designed for well interventions.
There are not enough rigs in the world to maintain all the
subsea trees. From 1990 to 2010, nearly 4,200 trees have been
used in subsea well completions, according to Quest Offshore.
That total is expected to rise by more than 400 in 2012, and
steadily increase to more than 800 in 2016.
The vast majority of subsea installations will be
in water that is 3,000 ft or deeper. Most of the subsea
workovers done without a drilling rig have been done in
water that is less than 1,500 ft, and only a handful in water
up to 3,000 ft. North Sea operators began developing ways
to work on producing wells using machines that are moved
and often powered by wirelines in the 1990s. If you look
back at the first activities when this started happening in
1994, the tool box was pretty basic, said Buchan.
The range of diagnostic and repair work continues to
grow. The range of wireline work runs from diagnosing
blockages and spotting water sources to grinding or
suctioning out obstructions and setting plugs.
For Statoil, well maintenance has become a key part
of its drive to increase ultimate recoveries from offshore
wells to an average of 55%. It has two boats working full
time doing light well interventions on the Norwegian
Continental Shelf. Many of those jobs were done by the
North Sea Alliance, which is made up of Island Offshore,
Aker Solutions, and FMC Technologies.
Now the goal is to move into deep water. Shell has
begun a four-year program to use wireline intervention for
increasingly more involved tasks to diagnose and repair
wells off West Africa, Brazil, and the United States.
One sign of the change is the American Petroleum Institute
revising its standard on the risers used for interventions
(API RP 17G R2011 is also known as ISO 13628-7). The goal
is a rule that will lead to standards for lightweight risers
on boats used for construction and repair work, wireless
intervention equipment, and coiled tubing used for injecting
liquids into subsea wells, said Brian Skeels. He is the


There will always be a share

of the well intervention that will be
carried out using regular drilling
units, Solli said, adding that
there are not many smaller vessels
engaged in this work today but more

When fully assembled, Expros Ax-s

wireline intervention unit stands at
110 ft high and weighs 237 tons. It
was designed to speed workovers
with units holding tools, a winch
and fluid tanks on top of a well

chairman of the API task group on

intervention systems, and emerging
technologies director at FMC.
The number of subsea
interventions that will be performed
in the years to come is likely to grow
substantially as more and more fields
are being developed with subsea wells
in deep waters, said Tomas Elander
Solli, business development manager
for mobile offshore units at Det
Norske Veritas, which has developed
standards for classifying vessels
doing this work.


The Payoff for Specializing

in Workovers
The first step toward reducing
deepwater well intervention cost is
specialized mobile workover vessels.
Statoil plans to build a new generation
of specialized floating workover
platforms, known as Category B, each
equipped with a riser and coiled tubing
capable of doing jobs that its wireline
boats cannot do.
One of the few examples of what
it is building is the Q4000, which is
built and operated by Helix Energy
Solutions Group. It is one of the
companies working on a Category
B design as is Island Offshore. The
Q4000 played an important role in
shutting down the Macondo blowout in
the US Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in2010.
Operational changes and
reconfigurations during the Macondo
incident that required days or weeks
on the drilling rigs were accomplished
in days aboard the Q4000, said Kurt
Hurzeler, US commercial manager
of well operations at Helix. The
improved ability to transition from
electric line to slickline to coiled
tubing operations should provide a
40% improvement in efficiency.
Another move in that direction
is the Skandi Aker which is the size
of a small drillship. It is designed to
serve the market for construction
and repairs as well. It also is expected
to do workovers for 60% of the cost
of a drilling rig, said ErikNorbom,
vice president technology at
The vessel will soon get to work.
In late November, it was being readied
for well intervention work, including
coiled tubing through it high-pressure
riser, for Total off Nigeria. With
more jobs coming up, we look forward
to proving we can do this work very
efficiently, Norbom said. The

market will come around. There will

be more and more interest in this.
Doing More with Less
Wireline equipment developers are
scrambling to show they can do
deepwater work using smaller offshore
construction vessels for a fraction of
what it costs to do it with a rig.
There are 15 companies developing
some form of wireline well
intervention equipment, according to
the Research Partnership to Secure
Energy for America (RPSEA). It has
been supporting development of new
deepwater intervention technology for
more than a decade.
Using a wireline tool to grind
out an obstruction can cost one-third
of the cost of a drilling rig, said Ole
Eddie Karlsen, vice president of global
subsea operations at Welltec, whose
tools are used for well work. While
the benefits of using wireline have
been demonstrated when it comes
to demand, we have not seen a
breakthrough, he said.
While Expro is working on
signing up its first customer, Law
noted that for the Ax-s, companies are
lining up to be the second user.
Companies such as Blue Ocean,
Expro and FMC are among those who
have built wireline systems able to
enter wells and carry out a growing
range of diagnostic tests and repair
work. Blue Ocean set a depth record
for electric wireline interventions
when it worked on two wells owned
by ATP Oil and Gas in water 3,000 ft
in the GOM. Oil and gas production
from the well increased and the water
cut declined after it perforated a zone,
milled out a 100-ft long section of
pipe, and slid asleeve inside one of
But not long after that job, there
was the nasty event that will remain
nameless. That stopped us in our
tracks, said Neil Crawford, president
of Blue Ocean. He was referring to
the Macondo disaster, which added
more caution and safety reviews to
all aspects of offshore work. It also
changed the well workover market
overnight by shutting down drilling



Light well intervention requires
boats as long as a football field
or a soccer pitch equipped with:
A dynamic positioning
systemallowing it to remain
in position.
A moon pool or platform for
ready water access.
A high-capacity crane or
winch able to compensate
forthe wave action.
Deck space to accommodate
wireline equipment or coiled
A control room with a large
staff to manage subsea
Two remotely operated
vehicles to ensure that at
least one is always available.

in the GOM. During the moratorium,

companies with leased rigs kept them
busy doing repairs.
Blue Ocean has grown in the
past year with consulting work for
Trendsetter Engineering, the leading
supplier of capping stacks that are
being deployed to control blowouts. It
also tweaked its device to ensure that
it meets all the new government safety
standards imposed for drilling rigs in
the US.
A question asked by potential
customers: Is doing a wireline
intervention as safe as a drilling rig
with a riser? Ian Still, operations
manager at Blue Ocean, pointed out
that a wireline cannot transport
hydrocarbons the way a riser can and
asks them: Dont you think riserless
would be somewhat safer? It makes
them pause.
Coiled Tubing Requested
Over time, the range of jobs that can
done using wireline equipment has
grown significantly. Welltecs goal is to
convince operators that the majority
of subsea well jobs can and should be
done without a drilling rig.


The 157-m-long Skandi Aker is the largest boat of its kind. Owned by Aker
Solutions, it was built to do subsea well testing, construction, and repairs,
including jobs requiring coiled tubing, in water up to 3000 m deep.

However, in an industry where

drilling rigs with risers has long been
the standard for deepwater well work,
the group of companies selling new
ways of doing repairs using wireline
equipment are working to change the
ways of those who see a riser as an
essential piece of equipment.
There are technologies that will
provide lower cost intervention, said
Hurzeler of Helix. Many of these
operations should be undertaken
with the expectation that they may
provide diagnostic information,
but the overall goal may not be
Riserless methods have their
limitsmud cannot be pumped
down a wirelinebut the cost of a
riser-equipped vessel can also be
a limiting factor. Currently 70%
of all subsea intervention missions
can be successfully accomplished
by wireline/e-line equipment, said
Skeels of FMC. Some still would
rather pay more to guarantee success,
only to find themselves deciding that
a selected intervention is too costly
Those who see a future in small
boat interventions are looking for
alternatives to risers for transporting
fluids. Creating a riser for well
intervention work that does not
require the heft of a drilling
platform or drillship is the ultimate

The Iris electric

wireline intervention
device was used
on wells in water
3,000 ft deep in the
Gulf of Mexico. It is
connected to the
top of a well head.
The device caps the
well during work and
allows tools to be
inserted into the well
one at a time.

goal for innovators pushing smaller

FMC, Expro and Blue Ocean,
which is working with Baker Hughes,
are among those trying to find ways
to use coiled tubing to deliver fluids
instead of running tubing through a
riser. On the plus side, the tubing is
strong and flexible enough to survive
in the water. But it must be held taut
in the water by a ship that is bobbing
up and down in the waves. A failure to
adjust for a sudden change can buckle
the tubing. The fact that smaller
vessels ride rougher than larger ones
adds to the challenge.
Nautilus International is
takinga different path to the same


Coiled Tubing Reel

Coiled Tubing Injector

Coiled Tubing
Blowout Preventer

Intervention Vessel

Top of SelfStanding Riser

Riser Extension,
located from 100
to 1,000 ft below

Sooner or later, companies

will realize something drastic has
to be changed, said Keith Millheim,
managing director of Nautilus.
The problem is, when selling
something new, a lower cost path
to maintaining production is not so
motivating. Over my 50-year career, it
was drummed into me that people are
more enthusiastic about something if you
add value, he said. It can be tougher to
sell new things that save money. JPT

Buoyancy Module

Pipe with
Standard Joints

Keith Millheim,
managing director

Stress Joint

Further Reading

Connector for
Shutoff Device

Shutoff With 2
Shear Rams

SPE 143296 Success From Subsea

Riserless Well Interventions
by L. Fjrtoft, Statoil, et al



The self-standing riser from Nautilus International is supported by the

buoyancy of an air-filled cylinder located about 150 ft below the water
surface head.

goal with a riser supported by an

air-filled buoyancy chamber that
holds up the heavy column of pipe
likea balloon on a string. The
company is seeking funding from
RPSEA to continue development
of the riser for a variety of subsea
The transition to new ways of
doing deepwater well work has been
slow for most. As new deepwater
machinery comes into the market,
demand is in short supply. When it
comes to delivering a viable day rate
to customers, regular utilization is
a key aspect to that, Law of Expro
said. He added that delivering on the
promise of lower cost interventions


will require year-round work for the

Ax-s system.
Generating steady work will
require the industry to follow the
lead of Statoil, which has long-term
contracts keeping workover vessels
busy more than 300 days a year.
When a well fails, operators want
intervention, Skeels of FMC said.
But otherwise operators have not
been willing to provide the regular
demand needed to justify building
intervention vessels.
While lower cost interventions
can add to the bottom line over
time by allowing more well work,
they do not offer the quick gains of
a discovery.

OTC 22586 Workover/Well

Intervention and Regulatory Challenges
by Tomas Elander Solli, DNV
SPE 130688 Coiled-Tubing Intervention
and Drilling System Using Cost-Effective
by Keith Millheim, Nautilus International,
et al.
OTC 19642 The Next Major Challenge
for Deep Water: Developing Marginal
by Keith Millheim, Nautilus International/
SPE 107243 An E-Line Solution to Sand
and Scale Remediation in High-Angle
by Brian Schwanitz, Welltec, et al.
SPE 146124 Qualification of the
Deepwater Subsea Well Intervention
system AX-S for 10,000 ft Operations
by Matthew Law, Expro Ax-s Technology

Industry Forums
SubWIN Subsea Well Intervention
SubWIN Subsea Well Intervention


Taking Advantage of
Vessels of Opportunity
Colin Buchans job at Shell is to find ways to find other vessels of
opportunityoffshore construction vessels adapted to do what
drilling rigs are not so well equipped to do faster and for less.

think it was one size fits all before. A drilling rig is what
you used, Buchan said. Now there are more options
there to pick from. His job title, well delivery manager
for floating hoist at Shell, is an indication of what the options
look like. Hoisting is a reference to many devices lowered to
the bottom using a wireline, rather than sending them down
to the well through a riser.
Were not seeing drilling rigs going out of business,
he said. But the high cost of repairing wells using drilling
rigs and their limited number compared with the number
of subsea well completions both argue for new approaches.
The goal is to do as much as possible to improve
production from subsea wells by expanding the roles
of vessels now doing deepwater construction work,
such as installing manifolds or anchors on the seafloor.
Construction vessels would play a growing role,
from wellsite preparation through completions and
maintenance, to plugging and abandonment.
Wireline well interventions have become common in
the North Sea and will be moving to deep water. Offshore
Brazil construction boats are coming in behind drilling rigs
to complete wells by installing production hardware, such
as subsea trees to control the flow and connecting them
into the production system.
The high cost of drilling, completions, and repairs has
a direct bearing on the ultimate output of reservoirs. To
ensure the ultimate return exceeds the ultimate cost over
the life of the well, operators will only develop discoveries
with 150 million bbl of recoverable reserves or more into
production, said Keith Millheim, managing director of
Nautilus International. He, along with others, has started
a pair of companies to commercialize a self-standing riser
technology that he says will reduce costs sufficiently to
change how deepwater fields are managed.
One of the companies, MEPS First Oil, is focused on
reducing the cost of extended well tests and reducing
the time it takes to begin production. More testing could


reduce the risk that a field will fall short of expectations

because of an incomplete understanding of a reservoir.
Significantly reducing the cost of field evaluation,
construction, maintenance, and production could expand
the universe of deepwater fields that can be profitably
produced. Millheim estimates that there are 3,000
deepwater fields globally with less than 50 million bbl of
reserves that cannot be produced without shifting the cost
curve to allow more testing, maintenance, and artificial lift
to be used. JPT

The progression of jobs that can be moved off

drilling rigs begins the day drilling begins and
ends the day a well is plugged and abandoned.
It would start with a work vessel preparing
the wellsite and initiating drilling.
After the well is drilled, a construction boat
will install the production tree and the other
hardware to put it into production.
When maintenance is needed, a boat
equipped to do wireline repairs will be
brought in to diagnose and make repairs, such
as removing blockages or replacing faulty
hardware. A workover vessel with a riser will
be called in if needed.
A wireline-equipped workover vessel will plug
and abandon the well when it reaches the end
of its life.


The Weight of the Mission

Two things stand out about Expros Ax-s technology
it is capable and it is big. The scale of the device, whose
name is pronounced access, shows the array of tools that
may be called on to deal with production problems.

he seven-year development project, which cost

USD 200, produced a device that can be lowered
on top of a wellhead with the brains of a remotely
operated vehicle (ROV) capable of deploying any one of
eight diagnostic and repair tools in minutes with a winch
and tanks for glycol or other fluids needed on the job.
When fully assembled, it stands at 110 ft high and weighs
Its competitors include companies such as Blue Ocean
Technologies, whose Iris system is also certified to work in
deep water. It weighs 25 tons, but it can only insert one tool
at a time into the well. Change outs require pulling one tool
to the surface and lowering another. All subsea wireline
systems connect to the subsea trees with a well control

package using valves and blowout preventers to contain

what is inside the well.
(The term tree was coined when the flow control
device consisted of a vertical pipe with hardware branching
off of the trunk. Subsea wellheads are complex clusters of
pipes, valves, and controls surrounded by a stout metal
frame the size of a garage.)
The size differences show different design
Expro designed its device to speed the work by offering
a wider range of options, like a surgeon with an array of
tools at hand to deal with the unexpected. Inside the pressure
housing is a collection of eight tools, which can be altered to
suit the job. An Expro illustration showed a diagnostic water

tool, a cutting torch, a perforating gun, a plug, and a tractor

to pull the strings through a horizontal well.
Once it is on the well, it can change out wireline tools
in 10 minutes, said Matthew Law, technical manager of
sales and marketing at Expro Ax-s Technology. There are
eight tools on board. It is more efficient than those with
limited functions that must be pulled up to the surface to
change out functions.
He said the added speed of the work by the Ax-s, plus
a day rate significantly less than drilling rigs, will allow
workovers at one third the cost of a drilling rig.
Blue Ocean and other companies take it one tool at a
time. Each is lowered in a lubricator, which is a long tube that
uses a grease injector to maintain a seal, where the electric
line cable slide in and out. Ian Still, operations manager at
Blue Ocean, said it can pull a tool, bring it to the surface, and
lower a replacement to the bottom and latch it on in about
one hour. Glycol, which is used to prevent the formation of
hydrates, and other fluids are delivered through an umbilical
to the device. In the North Sea, change outs in similar
wireline systems take from six to 12hours, Law said.
Blue Ocean demonstrated its system in a field operated
by ATP Oil and Gas located in 3,000 ft of water in the US
Gulf of Mexico (GOM). It increased the production from two
wells by perforating, shifting a sleeve and removing the
buildup on a 100-ft section of pipe.

Early next year, Expro is planning an extended final

commissioning of its system on a test well in a fjord in
Norway. The company plans to do its first field test in
March or April.
Shell Phases in Deepwater Wireline Work
Shell began doing deepwater interventions test this
year. In the first eight wells, it limited the wireline work
to replacing safety valves and setting plugs to speed
workovers by drilling rigs that follow. In the GOM, it used
a lower riser package from Oceaneering and Wild Well
Control on one well. For seven wells off Brazil and West
Africa, it used its own equipment.
One of the spots identified for improvement by
Shellwas the entry point for the electric line. Grease is
applied to seal the space around the cable as it enters the
area known as the stuffing box. (The Expro design avoids
this by using a pressure housing). Just the right amount of
grease must be applied to create a barrier. Too much of it
impedes the slide of the electric line when a tool is lowered
into the hole.
The grease head is the weak link in the electric line
system, said Colin Buchan, well delivery manager for
floating hoist at Shell. A top priority is a reliable pressure
head for deepwater activity. Shell has a couple of designs it
is working on at the moment. JPT

Seeking the Lighter

Side of Heavy Duty

he weight of a deepwater riser requires a large vessel

to bear the weight of the steel pipe running a mile or
more from the surface to the ocean floor.
The Skandi Aker, which is equipped with a relatively
small 7-in. high-pressure riser for well maintenance and
construction work, is more than 157 m long, about half the
length of the largest cruise ships.
Innovators have taken on the challenge of building a
riser that will allow smaller boats to do things now only
possible with a rig or drillship. More than a decade of work
has gone into solving the problem, and no one appears
close to getting a product on the market.
Their motivation is the many people in the business
who expect the added muscle that coiled tubing can provide
when working on wells. Oil companies want to be able, if

they have a problem they have to get rough with, to have

the equipment to get rough with it, said Brian Skeels,
emerging technologies director at FMC Technologies.
Several companies are looking for a way to use
coiledtubing deployed off a construction vessel to deliver
fluids to the well as a riser does. It would offer a conduit
to the seafloor for jobs requiring fluids such as acid
treatments. The challenge is to maintain enough tension
on a pipe from a vessel that is rising and falling with
Baker Hughes is developing what it describes as a
riserless coiled tubing intervention system. Unlike the
riser, which provides a conduit for coiled tubing, this
tubing would act as a pipeline carrying fluids directly
into the well, said Lance Portman, vice president of coiled

tubing and cementing at Baker Hughes. It could allow

smaller vessels to do a greater range of work, for example,
by delivering hydraulic fluids to power tools or acid to
You have limited options with wireline. With
coiledtubing, you have more options, Portman said. The
company developed a system to maintain the tensionon the
tubing with two devices: one on the boat to adjust for the
heaving caused by the waves, and the other on the seafloor
that maintains the tension on thetubing.
The project with Blue Ocean, which is providing the
seafloor equipment needed to safely get the pipe into the
well, is years away from having a system to sell.
Another alternative is a riser capable of standing on
its own. The self-standing riser under development by
Nautilus International has a buoyancy chamber at the top
of the assembly about 100 ft to 150 ft below the surface. It
supports a long string of pipe that connects to stress joints

that absorb the movement of the structure and connect

to the well, said Keith Millheim, managing director
He sees one vessel installing the device and
a second one coming in later and doing the well
work. The Nautilus riser would be leased for an
Self-standing risers have been used before for different
purposes, as have other components. Nothing used in this
is what would be called R&D, Millheim said. The casing,
stress joints and buoyancy cans have been used in other
The Nautilus technology survived a four-year test
in the US Gulf of Mexico that showed its durability.
Demonstrating that it can provide a low-cost portable
testing option for deepwater work will require further
development. Nautilus is seeking a grant to help fund field
testing and an operator willing to do it. JPT


Trends in Monitoring:
How to Use Real-Time Data Effectively
David Pritchard, Successful Energy Practices International, Jesse Roye, Digital Oilfield Solutions,
and J.C. Cunha, Ecopetrol America

Real-time data is not about well control,

it is about well control avoidance. Recent
catastrophic blowouts have underscored
the value of real-time data and, more
importantly, they have also underscored
the value of having the right kind of experience to understand well data interpretation in real time.
What is the well telling us? How do
we use real-time data to ensure a stable
wellbore? Real-time monitoring integrated with rigorous total well control analysis is required to embrace and achieve
continuous improvement and ensure the
safest possible environment. Next generation monitoring requires a step change
that includes hazards avoidance as a precursor to drilling optimization.
Real-time data can be used effectively to avoid, minimize, and better manage
drilling and completion operations. They
can also provide the foundational support to improve training in the industry
as well as develop hands-on simulators
for hazards avoidance.
The fundamental definition of process safety is that of ensuring containment. In the case of drilling and completion operations, that means well control.
Process safety management (PSM), a
regulation promulgated by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is an analytical tool focused on preventing release of any substance defined
as highly hazardous. This concept can
be extended to oil and gas well operations within the context of ensuring that
the well is constantly under control. The
industry has pursued personal safety,1
which resulted in significant improvement in preventing accidents commonly referred to as slips, trips, and falls.
Though this is a notable accomplishment, it had no influence on well control


episodes, and blowouts remained a frequent occurrence.2 As well complexity

increases, well control events increase
disproportionally.3 Even the term well
control, which should be related to the
performance of oil well operations in a
controlled manner, became more associated with the operations necessary to fix
a situation once control was already lost.
Often, the industry depends on
blowout preventers as execution tools
rather than the fail-safe tools they were
designed as. If a driver constantly slams
on the brakes of a car at high speed, eventually the brakes fail, or at the least, fail to
operate in a timely manner or accurately.
Real-time data offers the ability to
ensure process safety. Fig. 1 shows the
relationship between real-time data and
its impact on operational outcomes.
Currently, real-time data is primarily used to improve efficiency and drive
down costs. While this is a nice outcome,
it is a secondary issue when compared
with hazard avoidance and well containment that can be achieved by the correct
use of that same data. In order to ensure
reliability and safety, a paradigm shift is
required in terms of real-time data monitoring and use. This shift to better use the
data involves a realization of the following key elements:
All well control events are predictable and avoidable, both in rotating and
flat time (logging, casing cementing)
Independently of the company, one
blowout can wipe out collective improvements in efficiency. This applies not only
for a given well or company, but for the
industry as a whole.
Real-time data is now sophisticated
to the extent that it has become a reliable predictor of well instability events

such as stuck pipe, wellbore breathing

(commonly referred to as ballooning),
mud column fluid losses, and well control
The more complex the geological environment, the more uncertain
the pore pressure and fracture gradient
realities. Geomechanics information and
prediction must be constantly updated
in the face of the data being generated.
Drilling trends can be excellent predictors of changing wellbore stability models while drilling. Effective monitoring
helps ensure the successful navigation of
the drilling margin.
Monitoring must evolve to be proactive. Multiple specialists should be
involved in the real-time recognition of
prescient hazards.
Real-time data not only can lead
to process safety, but it can also improve
decision quality in issues such as management of change and risk management.
Our industry wellsite leaders are
challenged in their ability to effectively
monitor key drilling parameters. Their
available time to monitor drilling conditions has been eroded by the necessary
administrative requirements of well construction operations. They need help.
There are justifiable considerations
for automation using real-time data. This
is valuable and part of the natural evolution for this industry. Removing as many
people from harms way is important.
Successful realization of automation,
to any extent, will first require effective
subsurface recognition and avoidance of
geohazards as well as the use of realtime data to successfully navigate the
The Safety Training Observation
Program (STOP) became a proactive tool
in our industry regarding personal safe-


So What?


Interpret well
data in real
Weight on Bit
Rate of Penetraon
Hookload variaons
Mechanical Specic Energy
Motor and Boom Hole
Assembly dynamics
Drilling trends; Gamma ray,
D exponents, etc.
Pressure while drilling and
Equivalent Circulang
Density trends
Pressures and volumes
Mud log data, gas or
hydrocarbon levels,
mud weight
and lithological trends
Pit Trends and Pump


Monitor in
RT what
the well is
telling you


Business Impact
Provide well
(well control)

Ensure and
Improve safe

Idenfy, conrm
and migate

Improve Success
of Well

Evaluate risks for

Management of
Change (MOC)
while drilling

Evaluate and

rigorous, total
well control
analysis in risks
Develop and


Idenfy and

Eciency of

Knowledge and

Provide RT
training for

Fig. 1Real-time data and operational impact. (Courtesy of Successful Drilling Practices and Digital Oilfield

ty.4 This same principle must be applied

to operations in general. Real-time monitoring should evolve to this level, not necessarily in terms of declaring STOP, but in
creating the ability to notify that conditions are, or may become abnormal. As
mentioned before, all well-control events
are predictable.
There are no worldwide industry
standards regarding acquisition or monitoring of real-time data. The fact is that
our industry could substantially benefit
from standardization present in other
industries. This would improve its overall safety record.
An example is the airline industry,
where there is no room for a pilot to
decide on matters related to how, when,
and where to land an aircraft. Industry
standards regarding monitoring of realtime data would help ensure that regulations are effective. The more proactive
the industry is in this area by establishing
a set of standards for data and monitoring, the less the regulatory involvement.


The industry is reluctant to develop collaborative standards, primarily for fear

of losing a competitive edge; however,
everything is secondary to process safety.
Ensuring process safety is fundamental
to the industrys viability.

Wellbore Stability
and Process Safety
Ensuring a stable wellbore is the precursor of process safety. To its credit, the
industry has made enormous improvements and technology advancements
in areas such as rig floor management,
equipment, and automation. Real-time
data reflects every drilling parameter
related to these technologies. The following are examples of some key parameters:
Weight on bit
Rate of penetration
Hookload variations (buoyancy)
Mechanical specific energy
Motor and bottomhole assembly

Drilling trends; gamma ray, Dexponents, etc.

Pressure while drilling and equivalent circulating density trends
Pressures and volumes
Mud log data, gas or hydrocarbon levels, mud weight, and lithological
The typical real-time system has a
multitude of tracks; all to some degree
reflect drilling trends and/or flat time
conditions. Our technology and efficiency gains have been so good that some
questions must be asked and answered:
Are we outdrilling our ability to properly recognize and address changing wellbore stability conditions? Are we allowing the time to interpret the data? This is
not to suggest that we should slow down,
or lose efficiency, but that we use the
data to facilitate reliable and safe operations. Stop, look, and listen comes
The problem with the plethora of
data available in terms of monitoring




Events Related to
Wellbore Instability

General Populations:
263 Wellbores < 600 ft
of Water

Stuck Pipe (%)

Wellbore Stability (%)
Loss Circulation (%)
Kick (%)
Total (%)
Total Wellbore
Instability (Days)
Total NPT Days
Instability % of NPT
Average Days to Drill
Kick Days



99 Non-Sub-Salt
Wells: WD >
3,000 ft







is that only limited viewing screens are

available, and oftentimes there are several influencing variables in terms of
understanding and interpreting wellbore
stability issues. Furthermore, the more
complex the drilling operation, the more
multidisciplinary input is required.
All of this data is critical and no single piece of data will yield a good decision. The totality of the data must be
considered, and if the drilling conditions
are changing such as increasing rate of
penetration (ROP), this could be a result
of several factors, and justifiably could
lead to a flow check. What if the operation is time drilling with controlled
ROP and the well is becoming underbalanced? What if the faster ROP is lithology-related and yet the mud weight is
incorrectly increased? What if the well is
being displaced with simultaneous operations confusing pit volumes? How do
we use real-time data and monitoring
to ensure process safety concerning test
procedures? The point is that total data
interpretation is critical.

Drilling Management
Is Risk Management
Risk management is beginning to be
recognized as fundamental to drilling
management.5 No matter how robust
the planning processes and procedures,
wellbore stability models are, at best,
predictions that are constantly changing because of the uncertainties inherent in the drilling process. Too often, it


65 Sub-Salt
Wells: WD >
3,000 ft

is presumed that these changes do not

affect the risk of achieving the overall
well objectives safely and reliably. Realtime data can and should be instrumental in recognizing and addressing change,
commonly referred to as management
of change, and the resultant risks. Risks
can never be eliminated, but they can be
managed and mitigated. For example,
real-time data has the ability to update
stability models with actual drilling conditions and change projected casing
points. Not only does it improve the efficiency of the operation, but it also provides an advanced planning platform and
decision fault analysis for issues such as
contingency planning.
Recognition and addressing of risks
is an evergreen, real-time process. Realtime centers should be proactive in management of change and risk analysis. Lessons are only as good as the validating
information that supports them. Trend
changes should be important for developing any new or revised well procedures
or programs going forward. For example,
applying correct mud weights, rheology,
and general drilling dynamics in forward
operations would make it less arbitrary
and safer. Contrarily, misapplication of
the same lessons can lead to inducing
hazardous conditions:
Excess Mud Weight Excess Equivalent Circulating Density Ballooning
Losses Mud Barrier Compromised
Potential Kick Follows Well
Control Operation

In this sense, drilling management

must have a component of management
of existing risk. And the tool for this process is the correct use of real-time data,
which includes, besides constant monitoring, accurate interpretation and timely preventive actions.
One may correlate a well-managed
and controlled operation with procedures that will slow down the drilling and
completion processes. This is not necessarily true. Firstly, we need to notice
that in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), for
wells drilled in deep and ultradeepwater,
wellbore instability as a percentage of
nonproductive time ranges from 26% to
56% as depicted in Table 1.6
Secondly, even with so much lost
time, we are still having situations of loss
of circulation, fluid gains, wellbore instability, and many others that can potentially result in loss or total loss of well
control. So the outcome of careful management will be more efficient and less
costly, with safer and faster operations.
However, to obtain the desired outcome, a paradigm shift must be made by
the industry. With the risks and decision
making involved, well drilling operations
must be the responsibility of a multidisciplinary team.

Information Technology
and Real-Time Data
In order to successfully apply and monitor real-time data, information technology (IT) systems must be in place for
users to access the data from around the
globe. Furthermore, there should be consistent monitoring criteria, beginning
with the wellsite and then the office and
other offsite designations. Alerts must
be consistent and the IT system and software should recognize changing drilling trends, no matter which tracks are
onscreen at the time, and bring forward
abnormalities not in the line-of-sight of
a particular screen. Establishing bandwidths for alerts is critical to ensure that
alarms are synchronized, and all viewers
are simultaneously and correctly alerted
in a timely manner. Unilateral disablement of an alarm is unacceptable, as is
the establishment of alerts bandwidths


Rig Site (on or oshore) Transmission

Real-Time Monitoring Center

Operator (Inside

1 or more service vendors

Firewall and/or
Sensor / Data



Sensor / Data



Data can be received by:

Operator RTC
Service Company RTC

Data base

Data pipe


Data base
Real-me WITSML
or other RT data format


Full Access

Operator (Inside Firewall or under operator control

Controlled le access (web

access enabled)

Partners, etc.

Fig. 2Real-time data flow for monitoring real-time operations. (Courtesy of Successful Drilling Practices
and Digital Oilfield Solutions.)

that are so broad as to render the existence of alarms meaningless. Default and
exceptions to defaults must be established by consensus involving the operator and critical contractors. Common situational awareness should be the determiner in establishing effective bandwidths of monitoring. This also requires
a multidisciplinary alignment as a geoscientist might interpret real-time data
differently from a driller, whose metrics
are based on different criteria. Drilling
performance and reliability are a multidisciplinary responsibility. Bandwidths
for alerts will also be dependent on the
category of the well being drilled and the
maturation of the subsurface and drilling
knowledge of the area.

The Evolution of the

Control Room: Real-Time
Operating Centers
In its current state, the dynamics of control room input may be viewed as a
positive factor or as interference. Lack
of common direction may lead to certain individuals seeking input to improve


operational efficiency, while others may

ignore the input. Also, in some cases,
geoscientists may not be willing to share
subsurface data because of tight-hole
or privileged information conditions.
This behavior, especially regarding data
from tools such as logging while drilling and mud log, can be detrimental to
the management of the operation, since
the data is crucial to process safety. In
todays increasingly complex wells, this
model must change. Again, process safety is paramount and trumps a perceived
competitive edge. Although confidentiality is important, it is up to each company
to ensure that confidentiality is maintained only while not compromising process safety.
Many companies still subscribe to
the belief and practice of either not using
or minimizing the use of real-time data
systems to coordinate drilling and completion operationsboth offshore and
onshore. Such practices directly compromise process safety management and
leave these companies increasingly vulnerable. Currently, products from major

E&P service providers give reliable, multiyear proven capability for both onshore
and offshore real-time data collection
and transmission. The addition of a realtime operations center to deliver interpretation and analysis of the real-time
data stream and relay proactive recommendations provide the following:
Leverage of experienced resources
across multiple operations
Access to deep subject matter experts regardless of location
Capability to perform trend and
model analysis not available at the rig
Proactive ability to identify issues
before they become problems
Effective integrated operations
Enhanced process safety
More cost-effective operations
The design for such an integrated
system is understood and documented.
It should come as no surprise that many
companies across the world have successfully adopted this model. Many operating companies, including supermajors,
national oil companies, and independents, have been using this model for




years and continue to refine and expand

their capabilities. The basis for these
real-time systems can be represented by
the model in Fig. 2.
The linkage of real-time data and
real-time centers to monitor and support drilling and completion operations
provides tangible economic, engineering, operational, and risk mitigation
benefits. These benefits will continue
to increase in importance as the pool
of experienced drilling and completion,
and E&P workers decreases and as operations continue to expand into more
complex and costly operating environments onshore and offshore.
Competency and training are critical in the industry. While there are many
excellent training companies and centers,
including for well control, there is little
training or practice for hazard avoidance.
Again, referencing the airline industry,
pilots train periodically in aircraft simulators specifically developed for practicing
to avoid hazards. There are many good
well control simulators, but are there
any well control avoidance simulators?
Given that well control is predictable by
properly interpreting drilling trends and

monitoring flat time operations, well control avoidance simulators can be natural
extensions of control rooms and excellent
training venues not only for drilling, but
also for multidisciplinary personnel.

David Pritchard has more than

43 years of oil and gas production,
exploration, operations, and drilling
experience. He has consulted for
more than 20 major and national oil
companies, independents, chemical
companies, and major service
providers across the globe. A registered
professional engineer, his expertise
includes drilling hazards management
and training, well planning, execution,
and analysis with a focus on risk,
particularly related to narrow margin
drilling and high-pressure/hightemperature operations. Pritchard has
authored or coauthored 16 industry
publications, and was selected as
co-chair of the Technical Committee of
the Deepwater Horizon Study Group
examining the Macondo blowout. He
received a BS in petroleum engineering
from the University of Tulsa.

Jesse Roye is a principal at Digital

Oilfield Solutions, a consulting firm
specializing in real-time drilling and
completions operations centers, and
has more than 35 years experience in
the E&P industry. Previously, he has
worked for supermajors and oil service
providers. His career spans engineering
and management responsibilities in the
US onshore, deepwater Gulf of Mexico,
Canada, Middle East, and Asia Pacific.
He has authored various technical
articles and papers and coauthored
a number of books and engineering
software programs on production
and drilling engineering. He earned
a mechanical engineering degree
from the University of Houston and
an MS degree in computing, systems,
and management from Houston

The industry as a whole must cast off vestiges of outmoded thinking that drilling
is all about cost per foot and embrace the
fact that process safety is paramount.
Senior management must warrant
that there are processes in place and
adhered to that consider process safety management as the precursor to reliability. For example, in deepwater operations in the GOM, wellbore instability
represents from 26% to 56% of total
nonproductive time, and real-time data
provides an opportunity to predict and
avoid these instability events. Removing hazards and reducing their daunting
number will significantly lower organizational and industry drilling costs.
One breach of process safety eliminates all efficiencies gained from technologies both on a company and industry basis. Therefore, the industry must
undertake a step change in how it per-

ceives real-time data, and how the data is

interpreted and used.
The development of standards for
real-time data and monitoring centers
will be a big, positive step change for
the oil and gas industry. Change is difficult but necessary, and achieving it will
greatly improve the holistic safety consciousness, reliability, and reputation of
our industry.

1. Brett, J. Ford. 2010. Forum on Offshore
Drilling, Panel Session, Pensacola, Florida. 11 August 2010.
2. SINTEF Offshore Blowout Database. 2009.
Scandpower Blowout and Well Release
3. Pritchard, David M. and Lacy, Kevin D.
2011. Deepwater Well ComplexityThe
New Domain, Prepared for the Presidents
Commission for the Deepwater Horizon
Study Group (1 March 2011).
4. STOP is a registered trademark of DuPont.
5. Cunha, J.C. 2010. Drilling Management,
JPT, September 2010, Vol. 62, No. 9, 72.
6. The James K. Dodson Company. https://
aspx JPT

J.C. Cunha, SPE, is drilling manager

for Ecopetrol America in Houston.
Previously, he was the well operations
manager for Petrobras America. A
former associate professor of petroleum
engineering at the University of Alberta,
Cunha has served on several SPE
committees and was an 201011 SPE
Distinguished Lecturer. Cunhas career
spans engineering and management
positions on several projects in South
America, the Gulf of Mexico, Africa, and
the Caribbean. He has authored various
technical articles including 30 SPE
papers and has coauthored two recently
published SPE books, Advanced Drilling
and Well Technology, and Fundamentals
of Drilling Engineering. He earned a civil
engineering degree from Juiz de Fora
Federal University, Brazil, and MS and
PhD degrees in petroleum engineering
from Ouro Preto University, Brazil, and
the University of Tulsa, respectively.



Unconventionals, Future Challenges

Highlight Annual Conference
Shale and other unconventional resources, long-term global energy strategy,
environmental issues, and the latest
technological breakthroughs were examined and debated during SPEs annual
conference in Denver in late October. The
2011 SPE Annual Technical Conference
and Exhibition drew 9,400 oil and gas
professionals from 57 countries.
In addition to numerous technical
paper sessions spanning the upstream
technology universe, the panel and special sessions drew large crowds. The opening general session featured several highprofile panelists discussing how to deal
with increasing world energy demand
while ensuring the highest safety standards. Moderator Chad Deaton, chairman and chief executive officer of Baker
Hughes, moderated the panel that consisted of Matthias Bichsel, member of the
Executive Committee and director of projects and technology at Royal Dutch Shell;
Jos Formigli, pre-salt executive manager

at Petrobras; US Senator Mary Landrieu

of Louisiana; and William S. McArthur,
director of safety and mission assurance
at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
The main message from the panel
was that oil and gas is getting harder to find, and when oil companies do
find and develop hydrocarbons, they
must work harder to meet higher public standards. In addition, the regulatory overhaul that followed the 2010
Macondo disaster is not the last word on
Society may no longer be able to
live with a single drop of oil spilled. If that
is not how it is now, it could be coming,
Bichsel said.
One indication of the negative public attitudes toward the oil business was
a 2011 corporate reputation survey that
showed its standing slipped further. We
are near the bottom when the public
ranks industries. We are there close to
the banks, Formigli said.

Panelists at the opening general session. From left, Deaton, Bichsel,

Formigli, and McArthur.


Oil demand projections show the

industry will need to produce considerably more oil in the decades ahead just
to keep up with the worlds energy needs.
That adds to the challenge. You are
operating in a complex environment and
it will only get more complex as oil and
gas gets harder to find, addedDeaton.
The presentations focused on how
to continue improving safety levels in
the industry. Self-regulation was strongly endorsed by Bichsel, who said companies are more likely to embrace change
from within.
One area that is ripe for self-regulation is fracturing, he said. Bichsel pointed out that public opinion tends to judge
the entire industry based on the behavior
of its weakest performers.
When a question from the audience
pointed to the industrys shortcoming, he
called on more active adherence to industry standards. There should be no tolerance for anyone who is not living up to
standards, he said.
But rules and safety plans are just
starting points. The US space agency was
represented on the panel because of the
lessons learned from some hard experience by NASA. The phrase, safety culture, at NASA brings back painful memories for us, said McArthur. The former astronaut listed factors the agency identified that added to the danger
Overconfidence in a workforce full
of talented people who believe they can
do anything
Schedule pressures and budget
pressures that cloud the judgment of
decision makers
Relying on complex systems whose
interactions are not well understood


Risky deviations from safe practices that people come to accept because
they had gotten away with it many times
All of the speakers came back to the
critical role played by top management.
Leaders create a safety culture by supporting a systematic approach to workplace safety, Formigli said.
One aspect is creating a path for
warnings from staffers. Past failures
at NASA led to the creation of procedures to ensure that dissenting voices
on safety get an audience with decision
makers. The goal is to protect that single
voice in the wilderness who says I am not
comfortable with this, said McArthur.

Keynote Address
The first day of the conference also
featured the keynote address from US

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy,

who argued that the United States is at
a defining point and must decide if it
wants to remain competitive on the global stage. He likened today to significant
times in the countrys past such as the
Revolutionary War, Industrial Revolution, World War II, and the growth of
technology beginning in the 1980s. We
are going through another crucial stage,
he said. A comparison to the early 1980s
is the closest because then as now, the
US was uncertain of its place in the world
and its future. But today, we have even
graver challenges, he said.
Confronting these challenges
requires a new perspective, McCarthy
said. We have to begin to think differently, he said. We have to start thinking
about government differently than we
have in the past.

Keynote speaker Kevin McCarthy.

In particular, government needs to

think more about desired outcomes and
work backward when crafting legislation.
The federal government should create a

Tough Questions Raised in Carbon Session

The special session, The Role of the Petroleum Industry in
the Process of Capture, Storage, and Use of CO2, did not
dodge controversy. A collaborative effort of all six SPE technical directors, the session pointed to the huge task surrounding the logistics of getting enough carbon capture and
storage (CCS) projects up and running to make a serious
impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions within the next
few decades.
Moderator Tom Knode of Halliburton, SPE technical
director for health, safety, security, environment, and social
responsibility, introduced each speaker. Kamel Bennaceur
started the Schlumberger CO2 group in 2003, which became
a new business segment. With world energy demand on a
trajectory to increase 40% in the next 20 to 25 years, he
said, fossil fuels are projected to still represent more than
75% of the mix.
Global energy-related CO2 emissions are projected to
increase from 27 Gt in 2005 to 40 Gt in 2030, with current
policies in place. By 2050, they are estimated to increase
130% to 60 Gt. The overall objective in decreasing CO2 emissions is to limit their atmospheric presence to 450 ppm. One
of the options is CCS with three approaches: postcombustion, precombustion, and oxyfuel combustion. CCS is projected to contribute 19% of the overall reduction. However, this percentage is predicated on the International Energy Agencys BLUE Scenarios challenge, with 18 operational
projects needed by 2015, 100 by 2020, 850 by 2030, 2,100


by 2040, and 3,400 by 2050. For this to occur, several items

would need to be in place, including financial mechanisms
and business models, legal and regulatory frameworks, public awareness and acceptance, and adequate technology.
Ahmed S. Abou-Sayed, president of Advantek International and SPE production and operational technical director,
pointed out that CO2 gas injection is not a new technology
application. He emphasized that monitoring is paramount
in determining the efficacy of carbon storage, no matter the
locationa saline reservoir or a depleted gas, oil, coal seam,
or shale reservoir. Monitoring of the wells deep subsurface, shallow subsurface, and ground surface is expected to
continue for long periods after the injection is terminated
for safety and to confirm predictions of storage behavior,
he said.
Chuck Fox, vice president of operations and engineering at Kinder Morgan CO2, said that though margins look
good on CCS projects for the long term, they will not come
to be without large upfront investments. He stated that 92%
of purchased CO2 used for enhanced oil recovery would be
stored. However, it will require a drastic reduction in capture cost, he said. Its very expensive now.
Christine A. Ehlig-Economides, professor of engineering at Texas A&M University, emphasized the enormity of the
task of achieving a 1.75 billion tonne annual reduction in CO2
emissions by 2030. CCS as a solution for seriously storing
CO2 isnt nearly enough, she said.



need to be heard. ... Do not let elected
officials determine what your policies
are, he said.

Digital Oil Fields

2012 SPE President Ganesh

Thakur addresses members
during the annual President's
Luncheon and Meeting of

tax code that allows businesses to compete fairly, and come up with an energy
policy that takes into account price, reliability, and the energy industrys ability
to be globally competitive.
McCarthy encouraged members of
the oil and gas industry to be vocal. My
advice to you is to not stay quiet. You

In a special panel session, digital energy experts said that the first 10 years
of digital oilfield technology has proved
the value of the approach. But the lesson learned by all is that an electronic
nerve system connecting sensors in wells
with the central office does not add value
unless people in the business change how
they work together.
The first decade of digital oilfield
development has delivered more production, lower costs, and safer operations,
but the trend is far from reaching its
potential. This is really effective when
you can design it into the way you operate, said Peter Kapteijn, a smart field
coordinator at Maersk Oil.
He and the other panelists emphasized the need to link the dataflow and
analysis capabilities of the computers
and the Internet with a corporate culture
that is constantly seeking opportunities

to improve operations based on close

observation of operations.
The greatest number of digital energy projects has been in offshore fields,
though one of the most extensive examples of how this technology can be used
is in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco has
wired thousands of wells to gather a
wide range of data that flows throughout
The key payoff, and challenge, for
Saudi Aramco and the industry has been
changing their organizations to bring
the expertise of many to the problems
at the field level. The scale of the efforts
has ranged from monitoring pumps
for longer life to multiple projects
to increase the ultimate output from
Saudi Aramco formed a steering
committee to bridge divisions within the
operation that could blunt the effectiveness of the digital initiative, said Tofiq
Al-Dhubaib, senior petroleum engineering systems consultant at Saudi Aramco.
A tangible sign in the industry of
the links forged by digital energy are

For Nanotechnology, the Future is Nearly Now

Nanotechnology experts are out to prove the practical value
of the science of the extremely small with useful projects that
could pay off soon. The developments discussed by experts in
a panel session focused on approaches that could be used in
the relatively near term.
Asked why there was little talk of visionary ideas such as
ultrasmall robots capable of moving through the pores of an
oil reservoir, Howard Schmidt, the nanotechnology consultant at Saudi Aramco, said, My personal inclination is to get
some home runs, to build credibility.
Funding is also an issue when it comes to exotic ideas
requiring longer development periods. Matt Bell, chief executive officer of Geodynamics, said companies funding product
development are looking for a return in the relatively near term.
Still, there are products in development that will bend
the limits of what is possible now.
Schmidt described three groundbreaking projects under
development at Saudi Aramco:
Tests have shown that a nano-agent it developed can
travel into a reservoir and be recovered. This is a step
toward creating ultrasmall sensors that can be used to track


Electromagnetic particles under development can be

used to enhance cross-well electromagnetic imaging by acting as contrast agents.
Protective coatings under development will aid
enhanced oil recovery projects by delivering surfactants in
places where heat would otherwise break down the chemicals.
At Shell, nanotechnology is seen as an option for dealing with a wide range of extreme exploration challenges.
New composites created using nanotechnology combining
ceramics and metal, or polymers and metals, may provide
lightweight options able to withstand the extreme conditions
found in the Arctic. Sensors using nanomaterials could be
used for oil spill detection.
Baker Hughes has released products for everything
from reducing sand production in wells to a replacement
for guar that can be used to make fluids more viscous, without some of its side effects. Nanotechnology expertise was
used to improve the way the company makes diamonds for
drill bits.
Nanotech is for real. It is here. It is now. It is giving
us products, said Guarav Agrawal, director of enterprise
research at Baker Hughes.



the remote monitoring centers that have
popped up around the globe.

A Journey to Automation
In another panel session, oilfield automation experts discussed and debated
the question: Is automation coming to
well completions? The conclusion was an
emphatic eventually.
The group put together by SPEs
Drilling Systems Automation Technology
Section (DSATS) offered a series of presentations showing strong reasons for
automation including greater efficiency
and safety, and because there is no other
way to solve some of the problems.
But there are obstacles to overcome,
beginning with the dizzying range of processes used to complete wells and their
maintenance. Planners started with a
question: Is there enough work going
on in the area to sustain an afternoon
Some said ignore it, there is nothing there. Others said there must be
something going on there, said John
de Wardt, president of De Wardt, whose

management consulting includes expertise on drilling automation. At the end, he

concluded, A lot more is going on in this
than we appreciated in DSATS.
One example was using automated equipment for drilling casing exits,
which are passages out of the wellbores
created to add arms on a multilateral
well. Applying variable speed controls
opens the door for programming in continuous improvements that can result in
faster, more precise drilling, said Adrian
Vuyk Jr., a global re-entry technical trainer at Weatherford. Can we automate casing exits? Yes. But what it takes is money
and time, he said. The reward for the
effort to create that capability is cost-saving improvements.
Baker Hughes has demonstrated the
value of sensors in completing extreme
reach wells that otherwise could not be
completed using packers. The problem is
that these installations are now limited
to wells that extend horizontally about
15,000 ft.
Maersk drills wells in Qatar nearly
three times that length and wants to be

DeGolyer Distinguished Service

Medal winner Tom Gouldie poses
with his mother, Wanda, after
receiving the award.

able to isolate zones, to control processes

such as water inflow, said Ed Wood, product line manager of well isolation and
construction at Baker Hughes. The com-

Technical Director Sees Growing Importance of Gas

Natural gas could become the first primary energy source
for the worldovertaking oil and coalby 2050, SPE Technical Director Kamel Bennaceur told an audience at the
Research and Development Technical Section dinner during
the conference. This scenario differs from the concept of gas
as a transition fuel to alternative energy sources. However,
achieving this goal will depend on the progress in CO2 and
other emissions control, shifting to gas from coal and nuclear energy, and expanded development of unconventional
Bennaceur, vice president of the Brazil Research and
Geoengineering Center at Schlumberger, is the SPE technical director of management and information, and chairman
of the Carbon Capture and Sequestration Committee. He was
one of the main authors of the World Energy Outlook for
2007 to 2008 published by the International Energy Agency,
during an assignment in which he was seconded to the agency. Bennaceur was also the lead author for the agencys Energy Technology Perspectives.
The electrical power sector will be the biggest source of
the worlds CO2 emissions, as big as all other sources combined, he said. A major factor in the rapid growth of CO2


emissions has been the increased use of coal for power generation in emerging markets. Over the past two decades, coal
has been growing in a very disruptive manner, Bennaceur
said. The best scenario for reaching the natural gas goals that
he outlined would involve reducing projected CO2 emission
levels in 2050 by 50%, he said.
Natural gas has by far much fewer emissions than coal
and significantly less than oil for the same output of energy,
Bennaceur said. What is even more remarkable, if we look
at NOx, SOx, and other particulates, natural gas is by farI
would say hundreds of times or even thousands of times
less than other types of fossil fuel.
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, Bennaceur said that the projected nuclear power
growth in China and elsewhere is not going to continue and
that there will be an accelerated retirement of nuclear plants
in Europe and North America. In addition, renewable energy
sources still have issues of deployment, intermittency, and
cost, he said.
At the same time, unconventional gas development is
creating tremendous growth in resource estimates for natural gas, he said.


25 of them and they have performed well,

Wood said.
More sensors are an essential first
step in creating systems where a programmable electronic device takes a
leading role in managing a job. There
is an absolute need for better instrumentation, said Dinesh Patel, a technical
adviser for completions at Schlumberger.
Drilling automation advances will
provide a template for solving some of
the problems faced in completions, panelists said. For example, automating the
job of managing drilling fluids can open
the door to automating completing fluid
injections during hydrofracturing. JPT

Presentations on the exhibit floor drew large crowds. Photo by Robin


pany solved the problem with a sensor

that can be programmed to respond to
changes such as pressure, temperature,

or the chemistry. It allows someone at

the surface to trigger the steps to isolate a
zone. To date, Baker Hughes has installed

Contributing to this report were Robin

Beckwith, Stephen Rassenfoss, Joel Parshall, Gentry Braswell, and John Donnelly. For more extensive written and video
coverage of this years conference, please
go to and www.spe.


Baojun Bai, SPE,
is an associate
professor of
at Missouri
University of
Science and Technology. Previously,
he was a reservoir engineer and head
of a conformance-control team for
PetroChina. Bai holds PhD degrees
in petroleum engineering and in
petroleum geology. He serves on the
JPT Editorial Committee and as a
technical editor for SPE Journal and SPE
Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering.
Recommended additional reading
at OnePetro:
SPE 142668 Enhanced Waterflood for
Middle East Carbonate CoresImpact of
Injection-Water Composition. By Robin
Gupta, ExxonMobil Upstream Research,
SPE 142105 A Simplified Model for
Simulations of Alkaline/Surfactant/
Polymer Floods. By Mojdeh Delshad, SPE,
University of Texas at Austin, et al.
SPE 144294 Large-Scale High-ViscousElastic-Fluid Flooding in the Field
Achieves High Recoveries. By Wang
Demin, SPE, Daqing Oil Company, et al.
SPE 144599 A Combined Experimental
and Simulation Workflow To Improve
Predictability of In-Situ Combustion.
By M. Bazargan, Stanford University, et al.
SPE 147858 In-situ Combustion Using
Sugar Dust, Sweet ReservoirsA Smart
and Better Alternative. By Panchamlal,
SPE, Maharashtra Institute of Technology,
et al.
SPE 147999 Lessons Learned From
Nine Years of Immiscible-Gas-Injection
Performance and Sector-Modeling
Study of Two Pilots in a Heterogeneous
Carbonate Reservoir by Lakshi Konwar,
SPE, Zakum Development Company, et al.


In spite of continued investment and advances in exploiting alternativeenergy sources, oil and natural gas will continue to be a significant portion of US and
global energy portfolios for decades. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) uses unconventional hydrocarbon-recovery methods that target the approximately two-thirds of the
oil volume remaining in reservoirs after conventional-recovery methods have been
exhausted. Though limited by high capital and operating costs, EOR techniques will
have a substantial effect on the future supply of oil.
In 2011, SPE hosted an EOR conference in Kuala Lumpur, and three workshops
to address EOR technologies in Malaysia, Kuwait, and the Syrian Arab Republic.
The Malaysia workshop focused on chemical-EOR methods, the Kuwait workshop
addressed opportunities and for challenges of EOR methods in the Middle East, and
the Syrian Arab Republic workshop discussed EOR in carbonate reservoirs. More than
300 EOR papers were published in SPE conferences, with many additional presentations in EOR workshops. These papers address important issues related to practical
application of conventional EOR methods and the development of novel EOR technologies. The topics cover experience with, opportunities for, and challenges of EOR
technologies; fundamental study of EOR mechanisms for different methods; feasibility study and improvement of an EOR method for a specific reservoir; EOR-screening
criteria; reservoir surveillance, monitoring, and evaluation technologies; reservoir
simulation and modeling; lessons learned from EOR pilot and field trials; and some
novel EOR methods.
Polymer flooding has been proved the most cost-effective chemical-EOR method
in the laboratory and in the field. A recent focus on polymer flooding evaluated associative polymers because of their advantage over traditional hydrolyzed polyacrylamide (HPAM) polymers; thus, one paper about comparing the flow behavior of associative polymer and HPAM in porous media was selected for this feature.
CO2 injection is a win/win strategy because it can enhance oil recovery and be
used for CO2 storage in reservoirs to reduce greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere.
However, CO2 EOR targets maximum oil recovery while CO2 sequestration targets
maximum storage capacity without leakage. One paper featured here provides some
guidance to balance the two technologies.
Steamflooding has been applied successfully in heavy-oil reservoirs. However,
one paper synopsized in this feature will describe successful steamflooding in a lightoil reservoir.
EOR opportunities in the Middle East are also highlighted. JPT


Storing CO2 With Next-Generation

CO2-EOR Technology

arbon dioxide enhanced oil

recovery (CO2-EOR) has potential
for storing significant volumes of CO2
emissions while increasing domestic oil
production. The causes of suboptimal
CO2 storage and oil-recovery efficiencies
by current CO2-EOR practices were
examined to determine how a group of
advanced or next-generation CO2-EOR
technologies could increase CO2-storage
volumes and oil recovery.

A six-part method was used to assess
CO2 storage and the EOR potential of
domestic oil reservoirs. These steps were
assembling and updating the major-oilreservoirs database; calculating the minimum miscibility pressure for applying
CO2-EOR; screening reservoirs favorable
for CO2-EOR by use of the minimum
miscibility pressure and other criteria;
calculating oil recovery from applying
next-generation CO2-EOR technology;
applying updated costs in an economic
model; and performing economic and
sensitivity analyses to understand how
the combined effects of technology and
oil prices influence the results of applying next-generation CO2-EOR and CO2storage technology.

Domestic-Oil-Resource Base
The USA has a large oil-resource base,
on the order of 597 billion bbl of oil
originally in place (OOIP). Approximately one-third of this oil-resource base,
204 billion bbl, has been recovered or

placed into proved reserves with existing primary- and secondary-oil-recovery technologies. Therefore, 393 billion
bbl remains unrecovered as technically
stranded oil.
Much of this stranded oil is in
east and central Texas (74 billion bbl),
the midcontinent (66 billion bbl), and
the Permian Basin of west Texas and
New Mexico (62 billion bbl). California,
Alaska, the Gulf Coast, and the Rockies
also have significant volumes of stranded oil.
Not all of the remaining domestic
oil resource is technically amenable to
CO2-EOR. Favorable reservoir properties
for miscible CO2-EOR include sufficiently deep formations with lighter (higher-gravity) oil. Some of the shallower
oil reservoirs with heavier (lower-gravity) oil may be amenable to immiscible

Impediments to Current
CO2-EOR Performance
Large volumes of oil are left stranded
after primary- and secondary-oil-recovery methods are completed. This includes
oil that is bypassed because of poor waterflood sweep efficiency; oil that is physically unconnected to a wellbore; and, most
importantly, oil that is trapped as residual
oil by viscous, capillary, and interfacialtension forces in the pore space.
The main mechanism by which CO2EOR can recover this trapped oil is by
creating, with the assistance of pressure,
miscibility between the residual oil and
the injected CO2. Additional mechanisms

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper SPE 139717, Storing CO2 With Next-Generation CO2-EOR Technology, by
R.C. Ferguson, SPE, V.A. Kuuskraa, SPE, and T.S. Van Leeuwen, SPE, Advanced
Resources International, and D. Remson, US Department of Energy, National Energy
Technology Laboratory, prepared for the 2010 SPE International Conference on CO2
Capture, Storage, and Utilization, New Orleans, 1012 November. The paper has not
been peer reviewed.

such as viscosity reduction, oil swelling,

and improved reservoir contact also contribute to more-efficient oil recovery.
Laboratory tests and reservoir modeling show that very high oil-recovery
efficiencies are possible theoretically by
use of innovative applications of CO2EOR. Under ideal conditions, gravity-stable laboratory corefloods that use highpressure CO2 have recovered essentially
all of the residual oil. Similarly, reservoir-simulation models that use innovative well-placement and process designs
to facilitate contacting the majority of
the reservoirs pore volume with CO2 also
show that high oil-recovery efficiencies
are possible.
However, field performance of CO2EOR projects has not exhibited the high
oil-recovery efficiency shown in laboratory tests. Geologically complex reservoir settings, combined with lack of reliable performance information or process-control capability during the CO2
flood, highlight the challenges of optimum oil recovery by use of CO2-EOR.
Field data show that currently practiced
CO2-EOR technology recovers only 5 to
15% of a reservoirs OOIP compared with
theoretically possible oil recoveries of
more than 20% of OOIP by use of nextgeneration CO2-EOR technology.
The causes of less-than-optimum
past performance and modest oil recoveries by currently used CO2-EOR technologies include the following.
Insufficient injection of CO2
Poor sweep efficiency
Poor displacement efficiency
Lack of CO2 conformance
Inadequate reservoir characterization and project surveillance

Next-Generation CO2-EOR
Four individual technologies were examined that aim at improving oil recovery
and CO2-storage potential.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Option 1: Increasing CO2 Injection.

This option involves increasing CO2injection volumes to 1.5 hydrocarbon
pore volumes (HCPV). Higher HCPV of
injected CO2 enable contacting more
residual oil in the reservoir. However,
higher volumes of CO2 injection lead to
longer overall project length and higher gross CO2/oil ratios. Field operators must consider this option carefully
when evaluating its cost effectiveness.
In the past, the combination of high
CO2 costs and low oil prices led operators to use small-volume injections of
CO2 (traditionally 0.4 HCPV) to maximize profitability. This low-volume CO2injection strategy was selected because
field operators had very limited capability to observe and control the movement
of the injected CO2 in the reservoir. With
adequate volumes of lower-cost CO2 and
higher oil prices, CO2-EOR economics
now favors use of higher volumes of CO2.
However, these increased CO2 volumes
would need to be managed and controlled to ensure that they contact, dis-

place, and recover additional residual oil

rather than just circulate through a highpermeability interval of the reservoir.
Option 2: Innovative Flood Design and
Well Placement. This option assumes
that optimized well design and placement would contact more of the residual oil in a reservoir. The well-design and
placement objective is to ensure that
both the previously highly-waterfloodswept (with low residual oil) portions of
the reservoir and the poorly-waterfloodswept (with higher residual oil) portions
of the reservoir are contacted optimally
by injected CO2. To model Option 2, it
was assumed that one new vertical production well would be added to each pattern targeting previously bypassed or
poorly contacted portions of the reservoir. (The model assumes that each CO2EOR pattern already has one production
and one injection well.)
Option 3: Improving the Mobility
Ratio. This option assumes that increas-

ing the viscosity of the injected water

(as part of the CO2-water-alternatinggas process) is achieved by use of polymers or other agents. Note that the viscosity of the CO2 was left unchanged,
although increasing the viscosity of CO2
with CO2-philic agents theoretically
could improve performance further. To
model Option 3, it was assumed that the
viscosity of injected water was increased
to 3 cp, or three times the viscosity of
water. The authors plan to calibrate the
model so that the viscosity of the injected water will match the viscosity of the
oil, creating a mobility ratio of 1.0.
Option 4: Extending Miscibility.
This option assumes that miscibility
extenders are added to the CO2-EOR
process to reduce minimum-miscibility-pressure requirements by 250 psi.
Examples of miscibility-enhancing
agents include addition of liquefied
petroleum gas to the CO2, although this
would lead to a more costly injection
process; addition of H2S or other sulfur

compounds, although this may lead to

higher-cost operations; and use of other
(to be developed) miscibility-pressureor interfacial-tension-reduction agents.
Successful application of Option 4
could enable 21 previously immiscible
fields to become suitable for miscible

ciated costs, but when applied correctly, each can improve the performance
of CO2-EOR floods beyond current best
practices. Nationwide, next-generation technologies increase technically
recoverable oil from 83 to 128 billion
bbl. These technologies also improve

economic CO2-storage capacity from 9

to 11.5 billion tonnes. Each of these
next-generation technologies provides
an opportunity for future research and
development and will help use and
store CO2 while producing domestic
crudeoil. JPT

Option 5: Integrating Application of

Next-Generation Options. The maximum benefit, in terms of increased
oil recovery, accrues when these four
individual next-generation technology
options are applied jointly as part of a
highly instrumented and process-controlled reservoir-characterization and
-surveillance strategy.

Technically and Economically

Recoverable Resources
A reservoir-by-reservoir assessment of
1,715 large oil reservoirs that are amenable to CO2-EOR (extrapolated to national totals) shows that a significant volume, 128 billion bbl, of domestic oil
may be recoverable with the application
of next-generation CO2-EOR technologies, adding 128 billion bbl of technically recoverable oil to domestic supplies.
The Permian Basin of west Texas
and New Mexico, with its world-class
size, favorable geology, and carbonate
reservoirs, offers the largest volume of
technically recoverable oil resource by
use of CO2-EOR. In addition, significant potential exists in east and central
Texas, the midcontinent area, the Gulf
Coast, and California.
The economically recoverable base
case evaluated the next-generation CO2EOR potential with an oil price of USD
70/bbl (constant, real) and a CO2 cost
of USD 45/tonne (USD 2.38/Mcf) (constant and real, delivered at pressure to
the field). In the base case, 57.9 billion
bbl of incremental oil became economically recoverable by applying next-generation CO2-EOR technology.

To take advantage of the theoretical
potential that CO2-EOR has in unlocking
the large stranded domestic resource
base, each of the individual technologies must be applied on a customized
basis, specific to the reservoirs. Each of
the technologies has incremental asso-



Steamflooding To Enhance Recovery

of a Waterflooded Light-Oil Reservoir

teamflooding can improve upon

performance of a waterflooded
light-oil reservoir and enhance its
oil recovery. In the Cy reservoir of
the Daqing oil field, a steamflooding
project is enhancing oil recovery after
waterflooding. The mechanisms,
strategies, barriers, and difficulties of
reaching high recovery are discussed for
steamflooding in a waterflooded light-oil
low-permeability reservoir. A detailed
reservoir-engineering study focused on
the development method, the injection
and production system, and the physical
and numericalsimulation.

Steamflooding in heavy-oil sands is well
documented as a mature technology, and
while steam has been injected into lightoil low-permeability sands for almost as
long, the mechanisms and effectiveness
of this process are much less understood
because of flow complexities in these
sands and complexities of high-pressure
steam injection. The full-length paper
details the examination of thermal recovery in such a reservoir by use of physical
and numerical simulations.
Wettability alteration, interfacial
tension, and threshold-pressure-gradient
decline contribute to higher oil displacement and sweep efficiency. Vaporization,
viscosity reduction, thermal expansion, and relative permeability variation
account for more than three-fourths of
the incremental recovery in steamflooding. The Cy reservoir is a low-permeabil-

ity reservoir with a high wax content and

oil viscosity ranging from 16 to 95 mPas.
It underwent 10 years of waterflooding
with only 10% of the original oil in place
(OOIP) recovered from the reservoir.
Challenges faced in this complex project
were related to the heterogeneous nature
of the reservoir, limited sand continuity, unfavorable mobility for the ongoing
waterflooding, associated high threshold-pressure gradient, and poor injection
response. In 2007, steamflooding was initiated to improve the performance and
enhance oil recovery. The steamflooding
project has shown promising results. The
response to steam injection was quick and
significant. Injectivity has doubled and
productivity has almost tripled.

The width of this massive sandstone is

1000 to 1500 m. The thickness is 2 to
4 m. It has low-permeability sandstone
units interspersed with shales. The permeability range is 1 to 20 md, and porosity is 12 to 18%. Both the initial fractures
and the hydraulic fractures develop in the
west/east direction. Block C601 is 770 to
880 m deep with a reservoir temperature of 55C and reservoir pressure of 8.4
MPa. The crude oil has high wax content
and a high wax-precipitation point of 15.9
to 25.9% and 49 to 52C, respectively. At
reservoir temperature, the oil viscosity is
16 to 95 mPas, averaging 40mPas.

Initially, the reservoir was developed

under primary mechanisms (mainly natural depletion), with an initial per-well daily
oil production of 3.9 t, declining to 1.7 t
in 1990. Waterflooding was initiated in
July 1990. After 9 months, the producing
wells began to respond and oil production increased. After 2 to 3 years of water
injection, per-well oil production peaked
at 2.7 t/d. In 1996, water cut began to
increase, up to 15.3% in December 1999,
and per-well oil production declined to
1.9 t/d.
Before starting the steamflood,
there were 175 wells in Block C601, of
which 120 wells were producers and 55
were injectors. The daily oil production
was 137 t in the whole Block C601. The
annual oil recovery was 0.54%, and the
water cut was 14%. Daily water injection was 557 t (per-well injection was
12 t/d), with an injection pressure of
14.5 MPa (downhole injection pressure
of 23 to 25MPa). Reservoir pressure had
decreased to 6.87 MPa. After 10 years of
waterflooding, only 10.28% of OOIP had
been produced.
During the waterflooding period,
the key challenge faced was a poor waterdrive system with high injection pressure. The poor response between injectors and producers was the result of low
permeability, high oil viscosity, cold-temperature damage, and high thresholdpressure gradient.

Waterflooding History

Steamflooding Project

Block C601 covers an area of 14.04km2, and

the OOIP is approximately 8.820106 t.

The steamflooding project in Block C601

started in 2005 and covers an area of
approximately 1.9 km2. The OOIP was
1.330106 t. The pilot-test project
included three well groups with injectorand producer-well spacing of approximately 300350 m in the west/east
direction and 150250 m in the north/
south direction.
In 2005, the first well group, 119-52,
began steamflooding, and 2 years later,

Geological Characteristics

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper SPE 145005, A Case Study: A Successful Steamflooding Project To Enhance
Oil Recovery of a Low-Permeability Light-Oil Waterflood Reservoir, by Wu Shuhong,
SPE, PetroChina; Han Min, Greatwall Drilling Company; Ma Desheng and Wu
Yongbin, PetroChina; Qian Yu and Yao Chunli, Daqing Oil Company; and Shen
Dehuang, SPE, PetroChina, prepared for the 2011 SPE Enhanced Oil Recovery
Conference, Kuala Lumpur, 1921 July 2011. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


reservoir temperature, with a wettability

index of 0.02. At temperatures of 200
and 270C, the rock will be weak waterwet and water-wet, with wettability indices of 0.2015 and 0.3816, respectively.
Also, interfacial-tension decline was seen
with the temperature increase.

Oil Recovery Increment, %

Oil-Recovery Increment, %











Fig. 1Mechanisms contribution to steamflood incremental recovery.


Well Groups C117-53 and C121-52 were

added to the pilot test. These latter well
groups cover 0.73 km2. The OOIP was
640103 t. There are three injectors and
14 producers in the pilot test. Before
steamflooding, the total liquid production was 32.7 t/d, with oil production of
29.6 t/d.

response to steam injection was prompt

and significant. The oil/steam ratio is
approximately 0.3. The incremental
oil recovery is predicted to be more

Performance. Steam injection began in

Well 119-52 in 2005. For the first month,
the injection was approximately 65 t/d,
with an injection pressure of 18.2 MPa,
compared with the waterflooding injection pressure of 25 MPa. After 1 month
of injection, the injection rate increased
to 84 t/d and the injection pressure
increased to 18.5 MPa. The steam temperature was approximately 330350C,
with a steam quality of 5070%. Compared with waterflooding, the average
injectivity of steamflooding increased to
7t/d, from 1.1 t/d for waterflooding. The
performance of steam injection showed
that steam injection could decrease the
resistance to fluid flow and improve
water injectivity.
After 5 months of steam injection,
producers responded to steam injection and oil production increased to 23
times that before steam injection. During
2006, there were several months in
which steam injection stopped because
of steam-generator repair. During this
period, production declined to 16 t/d
from the first peak of 28 t/d in a year.
In 2007, steam injection resumed and
oil production increased to 29 t/d. The

Distillation. Distillation is a key mechanism of steamflooding, especially in a

light-oil reservoir. At temperatures of
200 and 270C, approximately 31.5 and
49.5% of the oil is vaporized, respectively. Through oil vaporization, steamflooding can reduce the remaining-oil
saturation to 10%, far less than that
obtained bywaterflooding.

Steamflooding Mechanisms
in a Low-Permeability
Light-Oil Reservoir

Thermal Expansions. For Block C601,

thermal expansion of crude oil is approximately 9104C1. Thermal expansion
of crude oil, rock, and water contributes
up to 45% incremental oil recovery. In
a fractured system or a low-permeability
fractured reservoir, thermal conduction
allows heat to sweep areas of the reservoir that are not contacted by steam. In
this case, thermal expansion is an important recovery mechanism.
Wettability and Interfacial-Tension
Alteration. With the temperature increase, rock wettability changes gradually, from strong oil-wet to weak oil-wet
or water-wet. For Block C601, wettability changes with the temperature. The
rock is medium oil-wet under the initial

Gravity Segregation. Gravity override,

or segregation, of steam plays an important role in the thick light-oil reservoir.
Under favorable conditions, such as relatively low oil viscosity and high vertical permeability, gravity override can
provide an efficient displacement mechanism: The injected steam segregates
upward and spreads areally. The steam
zone grows downward as injection continues. Therefore, gravity override is a
prime factor in overcoming viscous fingering to achieve an efficient displacement process and oil recoveries as high
as 60%.
For a low-permeability reservoir,
it is believed that gravity segregation
of steam is weaker than in a high-permeability reservoir because of the low
velocity of steam movement, because
of the small steam volume in the lowpermeability reservoir, and because of
high-pressure steamflooding. However,
gravity segregation was observed in
the high-pressure steamflooding in the
Threshold-Pressure-Gradient Alteration. Long-tube displacement experiments showed that high temperature
can improve the injectivity, a challenge
faced in waterflooding of low-permeability reservoirs. Two series of experiments were carried out in a core-tube
flood at temperatures of 25 and 200C.
At the same flow velocity, the pressure
differential at a temperature of 200C
was only one-fourth that recorded for
25C, which indicates that the high temperature improves the injectivity of the
Laboratory work showed the incremental contribution to oil recovery of each
mechanism, as shown in Fig. 1. For steamflooding in the low-permeability light-oil
reservoir, vaporization, viscosity reduction, and thermal expansion were three
important mechanisms that contributed
to more than three-fourths of the incremental recovery bysteamflooding. JPT


Rheology of a New Sulfonic Associative

Polymer in Porous Media

or hydrophobic associative
polymers (APs), incorporating
a small fraction of hydrophobic
monomer into a partially hydrolyzed
polyacrylamide (HPAM) polymer can
promote intermolecular associations
and, thereby, enhance viscosities and
resistance factors. The behavior of a new
AP in porous media was investigated.

In polymer or chemical floods that use
polymer for mobility control, the cost
effectiveness of the polymer is a major
concern. Resistance factor is the effective
viscosity of the polymer solution in porous
media, relative to water (i.e., water mobility divided by polymer-solution mobility). HPAM and xanthan polysaccharides
have been the dominant polymers used for
enhanced oil recovery (EOR). If polymers
that are more cost effective than these traditional EOR polymers can be identified,
field applications of chemical floods could
become much more widespread.
For hydrophobic APs, incorporating
a small fraction of hydrophobic monomer
into an HPAM polymer is intended to
promote intermolecular associations to
enhance viscosities and resistance factors. At moderate concentrations (e.g.,
0.05 to 0.5%), these polymers (with 0.1
to 7% hydrophobic monomer) can provide substantially higher viscosities than
equivalent-molecular-weight polymers
without hydrophobic groups.
In some cases, the increase in viscosity with increasing polymer concen-

tration is abruptleading to concerns

about controlling the performance of
the polymer during flooding operations.
If small changes in concentration cause
large changes in viscosity, small operational errors could accentuate injectivity
problems if polymer concentrations are
higher than the target and could provide
insufficient mobility control if polymer
concentrations are low.
Another concern is the ability of
APs to penetrate deep into a reservoir.
Within a certain range of shear rates,
the polymer becomes sufficiently extended to promote intermolecular interactions over intramolecular interactions.
Polymer complexes formed by APs
enhance viscosity and can provide high
resistance to flow for a short distance
in porous media. However, an important unresolved issue with many APs is
whether the enhanced-viscosity characteristics can be propagated deep into a
reservoir. Most previous studies of these
polymers used short cores with no internal pressure taps to evaluate behavior in
the porous media. As a result, resistance
factors that appear high may actually
reflect plugging.
This study examined the rheology (both in a viscometer and in porous
media) for a new sulfonic hydrophobic
AP. This sulfonated polymer has lower
hydrophobe content (and higher molecular weight) than most APs investigated for EOR previously. This sulfonated
polymer exhibits viscosities that are
not noticeably higher than those for the
HPAM analog. It provides significantly

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper SPE 141355, Rheology of a New Sulfonic Associative Polymer in Porous
Media, by R.S. Seright, SPE, Tianguang Fan, SPE, Kathryn Wavrik, SPE, and
Hao Wan, SPE, New Mexico Tech, and Nicolas Gaillard, SPE, and Cdrick Favro,
SPE, SNF Floerger, prepared for the 2011 SPE International Symposium on Oilfield
Chemistry, The Woodlands, Texas, 1113 April. The paper has been peer reviewed. See
SPE Reservoir Evaluation & Engineering December 2011.

higher resistance factors in porous media

than HPAM, and the associative properties allow polymer propagation through
porous media.

Face Plugging
Filter Tests. Both polymers showed
excellent filterability at lower concentrations (1,000 ppm or lower), but plugged
within 70-cm3/cm2 throughput at higher
concentrations (1,500 ppm). Thus, the
higher turbidity observed with the AP did
not impair its filterability relative to that
of the HPAM. Plugging characteristics of
the AP appeared to be similar to those of
HPAM. The plugging behavior for both
polymers being severe at 1,500-ppm
polymer, but not at lower concentrations,
might be explained by use of bridgingadsorption concepts.
Core-Face Plugging. Several experiments examined the level of face plugging that occurred during injection of
large volumes of AP solutions through
a 363-md Berea sandstone core and
through a 12,313-md porous polyethylene core. These 13- to 14-cm-long cores
had two internal pressure taps dividing
the cores into three sections. By monitoring pressure drops and resistance factors in the various core sections, the level
of face plugging could be assessed as a
function of polymer-solution throughput. After injecting 97 pore volumes (PV)
(580 cm3/cm2) of the AP solutions having
concentrations up to 2,500 ppm through
the 12,313-md core, resistance factors in
the first core section were no higher than
in the second or third core sections. Similarly, after injecting 51 PV (248 cm3/cm2)
of AP solutions having concentrations up
to 2,500 ppm through the 363-md core,
resistance factors in the first core section were no higher than in the second
or third core sections. Thus, no significant face plugging was observed for the
AP solutions.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Pore Plugging
Resistance Factor vs. Flux and Concentration. At a given flux, the resistance factors were reasonably consistent
in the three core sections. Resistance
factors were somewhat higher in the
third core section, which argues against
plugging of the inlet face. Consistent
with normal HPAM behavior, a strong
shear thickening was seen at moderateto-high flux values and Newtonian or a
slight shear-thinning behavior was seen
at low flux values.
For conventional HPAM and xanthan polymers, resistance factors at low
fluxes were reasonably consistent with
expectations based on viscosity measurements, unless a pore-plugging effect
occurred (e.g., if the permeability was
too low to accommodate the size of the
highest-molecular-weight species within
the polymer).
The lowest resistance factors for APs
were noticeably greater than (approximately double) the highest measured
viscosity (i.e., viscosity at 1.8 sec1). If
this result was caused by large polymer
adsorption or retention, different resistance factors might have been expected
in the hydrophilic 363-md Berea than in
the hydrophobic 12,313-md polyethylene.
If 363-md Berea has smaller pores
and pore throats than 12,313-md polyethylene, pore plugging might be more
severe in the less-permeable core
because particles of a given size should be
more likely to plug small pores than large
pores. Although the porosity and permeability for Berea sandstone and porous
polyethylene are quite different, poresize, pore-throat-size, and pore-aspectratio distributions are very similar.
Residual-Resistance Factors. At the end
of AP injection, many PV of brine were
injected to determine residual-resistance
factors. After injecting 109 PV of brine
through the polyethylene core, residualresistance factors were 1.9, 2.1, and 1.3
in the first, second, and third sections,
respectively. This result suggests little or
no significant pore plugging in the 12,313md polyethylene core. However, after
injecting 170 PV of brine through the Berea
core, residual-resistance factors were 13.0,
19.3, and 15.3 in the first, second, and
third sections, respectively. This result


suggests some pore plugging or higher

polymer retention in the 363-md Berea
core. In both cores, residual-resistance
factors were not sensitive to flow rate.

Mechanical Degradation
In previous work, when xanthan or
HPAM resistance factors were higher than expected at moderate-to-low
flux values, the effect was shown to be
the result of a high-molecular-weight
polymer species. For both xanthan and
HPAM, this species was removed by flow
through a few feet of porous rock. For
HPAM, the species was readily destroyed
by mechanical degradation. Regardless,
the species was not expected to propagate deep into a reservoir to provide lowflux resistance factors that were substantially higher than expectations from viscosity measurements. Other studies of a
hydrophobic AP concluded that it contained a low-mobility (high resistance
factor), high-molecular-weight species
that propagated significantly slower
than other components of the polymer.

Will the High Resistance

Factors Propagate Deep
Into Porous Rock?
78-cm Core Length. In permeable polyethylene cores, resistance factors were
not length dependent for any concentration or level of mechanical degradation
when HPAM was used. In the short (13- to
14-cm-long) Berea sandstone or porous
polyethylene cores, resistance factors
were not length dependent for the AP.
Experiments were performed on
a 78.09-cm-long porous polyethylene
core, having porosity of 0.377 and a PV
of 343 cm3. The core had two internal
pressure taps dividing the core into
three equal-length sections with section permeabilities of 7,295, 10,144, and
8,717 md, respectively. The 500-ppm AP
showed the same behavior for the entire
course of this experiment. Regardless of
the phenomenon that caused the resistance factors to be two to three times the
value expected on the basis of viscosity
measurements, the rheology in porous
media remained constant over the course
of injecting many PV of polymer solution.
157.5-cm Polyethylene Core. The
157.5-cm-long porous polyethylene

core had five equally spaced internal

pressure taps. This procedure enabled
determining polymer retention and
inaccessible PV of the core. Two polymer species were propagated through
the corea fast species that arrived at
the end of the first core section after
0.23 PV and a much slower species that
caused resistance to increase steadily
for many PV. The first polymer species
provided a resistance-factor plateau of 7
to 8 after 1 PV. The second species provided a resistance factor of 260 (more
than 60 times the value expected on
the basis of viscosity measurements).
After the first stage of polymer injection, 110 PV of brine was injected
resulting in ultimate residual-resistance
factors of 1.8, 3.6, 3.3, 2.8, and 2.4 in
the five core sections, respectively. The
residual-resistance factors might have
been driven to lower values with more
For the second, slower polymer
species, approximately 4 PV of injection
was required for the resistance factors
in the first core section to level out during both stages of polymer injection
suggesting that approximately 24 PV of
injection would be required for the slow
species to fill the core. This result could
be used to estimate a retention level of
9,000 g/gmore than 40 times that
for the fast species. The ultimate resistance factor associated with this slow
species was approximately 260. The
polymer-retention level and, therefore,
resistance-factor values might vary with
fluid velocity.
122-cm Berea Sandstone Core. An
experiment was performed in a 122-cmlong Berea sandstone core that had four
equally spaced internal pressure taps
dividing the core into five sections. Polymer arrived at the end of the five core
sections after 0.42, 0.84, 1.29, 1.90,
and 2.7 PV, respectively. This rate of AP
propagation was noticeably slower than
that in 11.2-darcy polyethylene. Nevertheless, it suggests that the AP may have
the ability to penetrate deep into the
porous rock of a reservoir. In the last
two core sections, the resistance factors
leveled at a resistance factor of 25, six
times the value expected on the basis of
viscosity measurements. JPT


EOR Potential in the Middle East:

Current and Future Trends

The EOR process is a tertiary oil-recovery method representing the last stage in
a fields life. Fig. 1 shows the definition of
various oil-recovery terms. Primary and
secondary recovery (conventional recovery) target the mobile oil in the reservoir,
and tertiary recovery, or EOR, targets
the immobile oil (cannot be produced
naturally because of capillary and/or viscous forces).
Primary-, secondary-, and tertiary-recovery methods follow a natural
progression of oil production from the
start to a point at which it is no longer
economical to produce the hydrocarbons. EOR processes attempt to recover
oil beyond secondary methods. Recovery, especially EOR, depends on the oil
price and overall economics. On average, the worldwide recovery factor from
conventional (primary and secondary)
recovery methods is approximately
one-third of that originally present in

Oil Recovery

Primary Recovery

Natural Flow

less than 30%

Artificial Lift

Secondary Recovery



Pressure Maintenance

Tertiary Recovery

he number of enhanced-oilrecovery (EOR) projects in the

Middle East (ME) has increased over
the past decade. This is a review of
current ME EOR projects, from fullfield developments to field trials.
The option of advanced-secondaryrecovery, or improved-oil-recovery
(IOR), technologies before full-field
deployment of EOR can be a better first
option before deployment of capitalintensive EOR projects. The MEs general
drive toward ultimate oil recovery
instead of immediate oil recovery is
highlighted in the context of EOR.

Hot Water

Gas Injection


>50% and
up to 80+%

Fig. 1IOR and EOR terms defined.

the reservoir. This factor implies that

the target for EOR is substantial (twothirds of the resource base). Improving the recovery factor can be achieved
by deploying advanced IOR technologies while using best-in-class reservoir
management practices, and by deploying EORtechnologies.
There are 11 EOR projects kicked off,
on pilot, or at commercial scale in the
ME. Oman is taking the lead in the implementation of EOR projects because of
its declining oil production. The urgency of EOR implementation in the ME is
a function of declining oil-production
rates, availability of remaining easy oil,
impending momentum to contain CO2
(starting early with the long lead times
for such projects), and other geopolitical factors.

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper SPE 143287, EOR Potential in the Middle East: Current and Future Trends,
by Saad M. Al-Mutairi, SPE, and Sunil L. Kokal, SPE, Saudi Aramco, prepared for
the 2011 SPE Europec/EAGE Annual Conference and Exhibition, Vienna, Austria,
2326 May. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

As stated by officials of Petroleum Development Oman, the oil production contributed though EOR methods will represent one-third of the countrys total oil
production by 2016 to offset the steady
decline in oil production over the last 10
years. There are many EOR projects running in Oman, on either pilot or commercial scales.
Harweel Field (Miscible Gas). The Harweel field is a carbonate cluster and consists of eight fields and 11 high-pressure/
high-temperature reservoirs. The cluster
is in the south of Oman and produces light
38API crude oil. Because of the high reservoir pressure and light-oil conditions,
miscible-gas injection was selected, with
the potential to increase the recovery factor from 10 to 50%. The availability of
large quantities of sour gas was capitalized by reinjecting the produced sour gas
into the reservoir as an EOR method. The
project was fully commissioned in late
2010. Harweel oil production is expected
to increase by 40,000 B/D.

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Qarn Alam Field (Thermal). Qarn Alam

is an intensively fractured carbonate reservoir in central Oman, south of the western Hajar Mountains. The permeability
is 5 to 14 md, and porosity is 29%. The
oil viscosity is 220 cp, with 16API crude.
Steam-assisted gas/oil gravity drainage
(SAGOGD) was tested, to raise the recovery factor from 2 to 20%. Steam injection is used to capitalize on the existing
gravity-drainage system. The SAGOGD
method requires fewer wells than conventional steamfloods. It is expected to
be in operation by 2011, with a production target of 40,000 B/D after commencing steaminjection.
Mukhaizna Field (Thermal). Mukhaizna is a heavy-oil sandstone reservoir
in South Sultanate of Oman, producing 16API oil. The permeability varies
between 10 and 10,000 md, and porosity varies from 15 to 35%. The reservoir
began primary production in 2000 with
approximately 75 horizontal producers.
Steam injection was selected to increase
the oil-recovery factor. Steam injection
started in July 2007 with the drilling of
horizontal producers (500- to 1000-m
lengths). Vertical injectors are spaced
equally along the laterals. The configurations of vertical injectors and horizontal producers created a modified steamassisted gravity-drainage recovery process. The field went on full EOR deployment in 2008, and current oil production
is more than 80,000 B/D.
Marmul Field (Polymer). Marmul field
is a heavy-oil sandstone reservoir in
the southern part of Oman, producing
21API oil. The ranges of permeability
and porosity are 1 to 20 md and 26 to
34%, respectively. A five-spot polymer
flood was piloted in the late 1980s, proving the concept. Oil recovery is expected
to be boosted by 20%, extending the production plateau by 20 years. Commercial-scale polymer flooding commenced
in February 2010. Marmul is expected to
yield an additional 10,000BOPD.

tion mode in the Amal West and cyclicsteam-injection mode in the Amal East.
The development plan calls for drilling
300 new wells over a 14-year period.
The steam-injection project will increase
production from the two Amal fields by
three times the current oil production of
20,000 B/D.

3 md, respectively. The project had only

three wellsone injector and one producer spaced approximately 70 m apart
and one observation well in between. The
objective of the project was not to assess
recovery, but aimed at understanding
operational challenges associated with
CO2 injection in the oil field.



Kuwait has conducted several studies to

investigate ways to recover heavy oil from
its shallow reservoirs. The studies have
shown that thermal methods (primarily
steam injection) have potential to increase
oil recovery from these reservoirs. Two
steam-injection projects were piloted to
evaluate thermal application in Ratqa
Lower Fars field, one in 1982 and the other
in 1986. The oil gravity is 15API. The permeability and porosity are 3 md and 33%,
respectively. The results from both pilots
indicated the suitability of the reservoir to
thermal recovery process.
Kuwait has been conducting feasibility studies to use CO2 in EOR. CO2
EOR and other miscible processes were
evaluated for applications in mature oil
reservoirs in Kuwait. The initial study
results suggested that use of CO2 could
increase recovery by 10%.

A steam-injection project was applied

in the Issaran field in 2006 to increase
the oil-recovery factor. The field is a
heavy-oil fractured-carbonate reservoir
that consists of three formations. Average oil gravity is 11API. The total oil
production is approximately 5 million
bbl, representing a recovery factor of
less than 1%. A total of 287 wells were
drilled in the Issaran field during steaminjection-project implementation. The
initial results of steam injection showed
that the recovery factor can reach 45%,
yielding total oil production of 300 million bbl.

Partitioned Neutral Zone

The Wafra field is one of four major
fields in the Partitioned Neutral Zone
between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It has
16API heavy oil. The field has two distinct reservoirs. The first one is shallow,
at a depth of 1,000 to 1,400 ft, while
the second one is at a depth of 1,900 to
2,200ft. The average porosity and permeability are 37% and 250 md, respectively. Steam injection began in February 2006 at a rate of 500 B/D. The pilot
comprises a five-spot pattern (four producing wells and a single injector) and a
single observation well. At initial steam
injection, oil production experienced an
increase before it dropped when steam
breakthrough occurred.

Amal Field (Thermal). Amal field is a
sandstone reservoir in south Oman. The
low-pressure field produces heavy crude.
To enhance recovery and reduce oil viscosity, a thermal pilot project was started in 2007 on continuous-steam-injec-


Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil

Operations recently piloted CO2 injection
in the Rumaitha field. This field is a carbonate reservoir with thickness between
130 and 150 ft. The porosity and permeability values are 14 to 17% and 1 to

Injection of low-salinity water is an
emerging EOR technology. The Omar
field is a sandstone reservoir containing light oil with viscosity of 0.3 cp.
Low-salinity-water injection in the field
showed that wettability can be changed
from oil-wet to a water-wet system. Formation water in the field has a salinity
of 90,000 mg/L. The current average
recovery factor is approximately 47%.
On the basis of pilot results, it was found
that the change in wettability from the
low-salinity-water injection led to an
associated incremental recovery of 10
to 15%.

Immiscible-CO2 injection was tested in
1980 in two demonstration areas of the
Bati Raman field, the largest oil field in
Turkey. This field is a limestone reservoir on an elongated east/west anticline,
approximately 17 km long by 4 km wide.
The reservoir rock is a fractured vuggy
limestone in the western and central
parts of the field, but is chalky and tighter to the east. Porosity and permeability values range from 14 to 20% and 10
to 100 md, respectively. The reservoir
contains 12API heavy oil at an average
depth of 4,300 ft. The reservoir temper-


ature is 150F, and the original reservoir

pressure was 1,800 psi.
A huffnpuff application was
considered to increase the bottomhole
pressure of the wells before putting the
wells back on production. The project
was started in 1986 by injecting approximately 50 MMscf/D of CO2 gas. Positive
results of the pilot project were observed
in 1988, at which time CO2 injection was
expanded to the whole field. The reservoir pressure increased from 400 psi to
a 1,300- to 1,800-psi level. The total oil
production increased from 300 B/D to
approximately 4,000 B/D. The per-well
oil-production rate also jumped from
25 STB/D to 100 STB/D by mid-1991,
increasing the recovery factor by 5%.

Advanced IOR Technologies

EOR is also very capital intensive, with
significant risks. A good first option for
any reservoir is to maximize secondarystage recovery. Advances in technology and leveraging best-in-class reservoir-management practices will enable
maximizing waterflooding recovery
before deploying EOR. Saudi Aramco is


a world leader in optimizing the recovery from its reservoirs through prudent
reservoir-management practices. These
practices include deployment of maximum-reservoir-contact wells, intelligent autonomous fields, gigacell simulation, deep diagnostics (i.e., ability to
see inside the reservoir with clarity),
and advanced monitoring and surveillance (M/S) technologies. These are just
a few of the available technologies that
may help improve oil recovery and that
should be considered before full-scale
deployment ofEOR.

Emerging M/S Technologies

Another aspect of waterflooding that
can be improved is project M/S. In many
cases, adequate monitoring is rejected because of expense and budget constraints. This situation may be detrimental to the overall recovery during waterflooding. While an optimum M/S plan
cannot be predetermined for a given reservoir, some of its components include
open-/cased-hole logging, coring, floodfront monitoring, single- and interwell
tracer tests, and emerging technologies

such as borehole gravimeter, crosswell

and borehole-to-surface electromagnetics, and geophysical methods (e.g.,
crosswell seismic, 4D seismic, and 4D
vertical seismic profiling). A good M/S
plan is essential to optimize oil recovery at the secondary-recovery stage,
and is even more important during the

Future EOR Potential

in the ME Region
EOR will not be a priority for several
years in most ME countries. Many ME
countries have started to invest in EOR
with screening and feasibility studies,
R&D and technical studies, and some
pilots and limited commercial projects.
This investment will provide the learning curve for the EOR experience needed for the long-lead-time nature of EOR
projects. Significant challenges remain
for widespread deployment of EOR in the
ME region.
Another factor is the type of EOR
methods that may be deployed. While initial projects have targeted heavy oil with
thermal methods, this may have limited


application in the long run. Most of the

crude reserves in the ME are conventional light oils for which thermal methods
have limited applicability. These lightoil reservoirs favor miscible-/immisciblegas and chemical flooding, depending
on reservoir conditions, fluid properties,
and availability of injectants.

EOR Challenges
EOR, in general, faces significant challenges worldwide. Some of these challenges include the close association with
the price of oil, generally complex projects, being technology heavy, and requiring considerable capital investment and
financial risks. The risks are aggravated
by fluctuations in the oil price. The unit
costs of EOR oil are substantially higher
than those of secondary or conventional oil. The availability of injectant can be
an issue, especially if it involves CO2 or
a hydrocarbon gas. High initial capital
investments are required to move from
a secondary process to an EOR process.
Also, personnel must be highly educated
and be equipped with necessary competencies to run EOR projects efficiently.

Another challenge for EOR projects is the

long lead time required for such projects.
Typically, it may take several decades
from concept, generating laboratory
data, and conducting simulation studies,
to the first pilot, ultimately leading to full
commercialization. While there has been
discussion in the literature of applying or
deploying EOR early during a reservoirs
life, this method generally is difficult and
not necessarily the best option, because
of the risks involved and the lack of data.
These data can be obtained easily during
the secondary stage of recovery.
EOR Enablers. While significant challenges remain for EOR worldwide, and
especially in the ME region, several
enablers will assist its deployment in the
long run. These enablers include a focus
on ultimate oil recovery, moving toward
more-difficult resources (swept oil),
R&D investment, stepwise implementation, and environmental concerns.
There is a concerted move, especially by the ME national oil companies, to focus on ultimate oil recovery
rather than on immediate oil recovery

that is dictated by short-term profits.

This commitment to a long-term view
will ensure optimum exploitation of the
oil resource by keeping the depletion
rates low, improving the secondary oil
recovery through sustainable development, and maintaining long-term profits. Appropriate EOR methods then can
be deployed to maximize ultimate oil
recovery. Life-cycle planning includes
thinking about EOR early enough to
conduct relevant R&D studies and feasibility testing and conducting pilots that
enable key decisions to be made at the
right time.
In recent years, a strong boost to
EOR has come from environmental concerns. This boost is especially true for
CO2 EOR. CO2, a greenhouse gas, has
been linked closely to global climate
change. There are incentives to sequester this CO2. It is also a very good solvent
for light crudes and generally is miscible
with the oil at moderate reservoir pressures. The number of projects injecting
CO2 for EOR has been rising steadily and
is anticipated to increase further in the
foreseeable future. JPT


Syed A. Ali, SPE, is
a research advisor
with Schlumberger.
Previously he was
a Chevron Fellow
with Chevron
Energy Technology
Company. Ali received the 2006 SPE
Production and Operations Award. He
earned BS, MS, and PhD degrees. He
served as the Executive Editor of SPE
Production & Operations and currently
serves on several SPE committees,
including the JPT Editorial Committee
and Well Completions Subcommittee.

Recommended additional reading

at OnePetro:
SPE 142790 Cleveland Formation
Recent Results and Lessons Learned
During Horizontal Redevelopment of a
Mature Field. By David Bumbaugh, BP.
SPE 138202 Identifying the Remaining
Opportunities in a Mature FieldA Case
Study. By Badr Ali Al-Amri, Petroleum
Development Oman, et al.


Revitalizing mature fields embraces multiple objectives, especially maximizing production while minimizing capital expense and reducing the inevitable decline
rate and minimizing the operating expense. The collective approach to meet these
objectives is application of practical and focused engineering and geology tied with
the application of enabling technologies.
Key enabling technologies in the revitalization of mature fields include reservoir
simulation, advanced characterization techniques (e.g., 3D seismic and new measurement, tomographic, and visualization techniques), permanent downhole reservoir
monitoring, horizontal and multilateral drilling, geosteering, production-enhancement techniques (e.g., secondary- and tertiary-recovery schemes), improved perforation and stimulation methods, new fracturing techniques and fluids, cutting-edge
completion technologies, advanced logging techniques, artificial-lift optimization,
and conformance control.
Implementation of appropriate enabling technologies can extend the producing life of mature fields. Yet the complexity of some of these fields can still present
formidable challenges. It takes the right data, the right tools and techniques, and the
right team to create an efficient, cost-effective field-development plan to optimize an
agingasset. JPT

OTC 21382 Marginal Fields: Technology

Enables ProfitabilityMarginal Fields and
Their Challenges. By Samuel Husy, Total.
IPTC 14258 Burgan Multilateral
Campaign: A Success Story in
Development of a Complex Siliciclastic
Reservoir in Kuwait. By Javed Ahsan,
Kuwait Oil Company, et al. This conference
was rescheduled to 79 February 2012; the
paper will be available at that time.



Seria Field, Brunei: 80 Years On

Near-Field Exploration Going Strong

he onshore Seria oil field in

Brunei was discovered in 1929
and has produced more than 1.1 billion
bbl. The field still has a large nearfield-exploration (NFE) portfolio of
undeveloped reservoir blocks on the
northern flank. These blocks, under the
shallow marine surf zone, have been
difficult to access because of the very
shallow water and shoreward-dipping
nature of the fault blocks. However,
the Seria North Flank (SNF) project
has begun to unlock these volumes by
implementing the fishhook-well concept,
allowing these opportunities to be
developed from land.

The Seria oil field is a complexly faulted anticlinal structure with hydrocarbons trapped behind fault/dip structures in stacked deltaic sediments. The
field straddles the coastline, with the
northern half of the field offshore under
shallow water. Early oil production was
dominated by wells drilled on land.
Production peaked at approximately
120,000 BOPD in 1956. The field production declined throughout the 1960s
and much of the 1970s. Since 1990, the
field has been producing approximately
20,000 BOPD.
The northern flank of the Seria anticline was known to hold hydrocarbons,
but the shallow surf zone made drilling rig access problematic. Poor-quality
seismic data had limited development
activity. Several penetrations had been

Fig. 1SNF development showing the fishhook well and reservoir targets.

made by use of deviated wells drilled

from shore, which passed orthogonally through the shoreward-dipping fault
blocks with only limited and suboptimal
reservoir penetration. The potential was
known, but underexploited.

SNF Project (200409)

New high-resolution 3D seismic over the
shallow marine surf zone was acquired
in 1998 that identified a large number
of undrilled blocks on the north flank of
the Seria anticline. Exploration drilling
began in 2004, with the discovery of the
first block on the SNF. Follow-up drilling led to further discoveries in adjacent
blocks in 2005 and 2006.
The stacked sand/shale reservoirs
and the shoreward-dipping nature of

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper IPTC 15199, The Seria Field, Brunei: 80 Years on, Near-Field Exploration
Going Strong, by John Church, SPE, and Bong Poh Yuk, Brunei Shell Petroleum,
prepared for the 2011 International Petroleum Technology Conference, Bangkok,
Thailand, 1517 November. The paper has not been peer reviewed. [Note: Conference
rescheduled to 79 February 2012.] Copyright 2011 International Petroleum
Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.

the fault blocks presented a challenge

for drilling fault-parallel development
wells. Initial planning during the feasibility and concept-selection phases of
the SNF project considered a range of
options for development, including offshore platforms, artificial islands, and
shore-based fishhook wells. The project was sanctioned in mid-2008 with a
phased approach to use the onshore fishhook-well concept, as shown in Fig. 1,
which, although technologically challenging, allowed significantly less-expensive development than use of offshore
infrastructure. Analysis during the concept-selection phase demonstrated that
an onshore development project allowed
significantly greater flexibility for dealing with subsurface uncertainty.
Although drilling upside-down
wells was not new, completing and producing such wells required implementation of novel well concepts such as
reverse-port gravel packing. To manage
production from long (up to 1000 m)
upside-down reservoir sections properly, smart downhole equipment is
used for zonal control. All of the wells

Because the conference was rescheduled, the complete paper will be free
to SPE members at during March and April 2012.


Reverse-Port Gravel Pack

90115 angle
Alpha/beta dunes

Alternative Path
115130 angle

Reverse-Port Gravel Pack

>130 angle
Bottoms up

Shunt tube

Shunt tubes

Packing from heel to toe

Packing bottoms up
Packing from toe to heel

Fig. 2Schematic of various well trajectories and gravel-pack-placement mechanisms.

contain multiple inflow-control valves,

downhole gauges, swellable packers for
zonal isolation, and distributed-temperature systems.
Twenty-five SNF-project development wells were drilled between 2008
and 2010 using the same drilling
resource. Through a process of standardization, simplification, and replication, this campaign was delivered successfully 18 months ahead of schedule and 20% under the approved budget. Additionally, because onshore locations were used, wells could be brought
on stream almost immediately with the
existing infrastructure. Since 2008,
production from the Seria field has
increased by 50%.

Darat Early-Production
Opportunities (DEPO)
Project (2010 on)
With successful delivery of the SNF project and the continued need to deliver
new production, a project was initiated
to identify, high grade, plan, and execute wells for a large number of identified prospects along the coastal strip of
the shallow marine surf zone. The SNF
project had demonstrated an excellent
approach of inexpensive exploratory and
development wells with potential for fast
hookup, which allows targeting relatively small fault blocks, and a recoverable
oil volume of only 250,000 bbl is sufficient to justify both the drilling and the
completion of an exploratory fishhook
well. Additionally, the very low cost of
failure (most of the well cost is in the
completions) removes the need for substantive derisking.


With the large northern flank of the

Seria field under the shallow marine surf
zone (water depths less than 8 m), this
part of the field has remained relatively
unappraised. Most of the structures are
similar to the original SNF project, with
shoreward-dipping shallow faults and
reservoirs ranging in depth from the
surface down to at least 3 km. An integrated exploration and development
team worked the opportunities, and
using a fit-for-purpose screening and
evaluation approach, including a highlevel portfolio analysis, they identified
an area of focus. The early decision on
the area of focus and collective subsurface volume and risk analysis allowed
the project to move from inception to
final investment decision in 16 months,
delivering the DEPO project of 14 exploratory wells and associatedfacilities.
The DEPO drilling campaign started
1 month after sanction in mid-2010. At
the date of writing this paper, eight wells
had been drilled, finding hydrocarbon
volumes greater than expected. Seven of
those wells have been completed and are
producing. Unlike the original SNF project, where the fault blocks all dipped at
the same angle and at approximately
the same depth, this first phase of the
DEPO project contains blocks at multiple depths and at various angles, ranging from 110 to greater than 140. This
variance required multiple approaches
of gravel-packing technology to ensure
that completions can be installed successfully. A drilling-sequence strategy
was implemented that allowed trials of
several completion techniques, including reverse port and alternatives such

as shunt tubes, to be applied in wells of

varying angles and varying reservoirsection length, as shown in Fig. 2. These
trials were required because of the different gravel-packing flow regimes that
occur at different angles. These early
technology trials allowed evolution of
the completion strategy aimed at delivering the highest chance of success for
the emplacement of the gravel packs.

Building on the successes of early wells
in SNF and DEPO, the 2011 business plan
contained more than 5 years of string
activity, targeting continued exploration and development of blocks on the
northern flank of the Seria field. Early
production data from the first-phase
DEPO wells will be critical in determining follow-up development activities,
which will involve additional wells that
could include water injection. Also, new
areas along the flank need to be analyzed, ranked, and targeted by onshore
fishhook wells. Achieving continual cost
reductions and developing and implementing novel technologies successfully will be critical for success as targets
become either smaller or farther away.
With the ability to exploit these now
proven accumulations economically,
a high-resolution ocean-bottom-cable
seismic survey has been undertaken to
image the shallow objectives better in
preparation for the next tranches of
fishhook wells. There are many years of
NFE activity to be planned on the Seria
field, discovering new hydrocarbons
and continuing to sustain, and even
increase, field production rates. JPT


Doubling Production From a Mature

North Kuwait Reservoir

abiriyah Lower Burgan (SA LB) is a

clastic reservoir in northern Kuwait
that has been on continuous production
for 45 years. The reservoir, with an active
waterdrive, suffers from a rapid increase
in watercut. Production performance
of the wells declines dramatically after
the water cut reaches 40%. The formal
strategy for production had been focused
on keeping the active perforations away
from water. In the past, the concern
was to avoid installation of artificial lift
or the application of water-shutoff or

The SA LB reservoir is a prolific reservoir with natural-aquifer support. The
crude is light, at 33API, and has less
than 2.8% sulfur. Cumulative production is approximately 40% of reserves.
The reservoir has produced only by natural flow at a daily rate for the last 3 to
4 years of approximately 50,000 BOPD,
with average water cut of 29%.
The team works daily to review and
identify perforation intervals that could
improve well performance. Also, the well
reviews aim at identifying and implementing suitable water-shutoff jobs for
improving the production performance.
Therefore, close production monitoring,
tracking of water movement, and use
of surveillance techniques (e.g., production-logging tools) are key to the success of these production-management
efforts. Geologically, water movement

Drilling and

Well Surveillance
(Activations and

Artificial Lift
(ESP equipment

SALB Production
buildup Task Team

Service Providers
working with the

Studies Team
(Simulation and

Fig. 1Links between departments and teams.

resulting from cumulative depletion has

led to tortuous movement of the water
front, which requires periodic mapping
and integrating with production activities. Crossflow between layers, caused
by inappropriate perforating procedures,
also results in underperforming wells.
To double production from the reservoir within 6 months, the following
actions were taken.
Extensive review of the well performance
Intelligent analysis of existing wells
Identification of production-enhancement opportunities (with refer-

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper IPTC 15334, Doubling the Production From a Mature Reservoir in North
KuwaitChallenges, Achievements, and Lessons Learned, by H.B. Chetri, SPE,
M. Raju, SPE, Harry Alam, SPE, and Hussain Al-Ajmi, SPE, KOC, prepared for
the 2011 International Petroleum Technology Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, 1517
November. The paper has not been peer reviewed. [Note: Conference rescheduled to
79 February 2012.] Copyright 2011 International Petroleum Technology Conference.
Reproduced by permission.

ence to mapping resources needed),

use of horizontal wells, and first-time
installation of electrical submersible
More-ambitious ESP implementation than was contemplated earlier
The following points became the
cornerstone of the new strategy.
Proactive processing to evaluate
and implement rig and rigless workovers quickly
Drilling, completing, and connecting new wells on priority
Opportunistic use of newly drilled
wells slated for overlying reservoirs in
the Lower Burgan
This strategy also proved useful
to supplement production gaps, if any,
resulting from delays in water-injection
projects for other reservoirs. Interlinked
workflow processes were developed for
other reservoirs with ambitious goals of
similar magnitude. Fig. 1 shows links
between departments and teams that
enabled working as an integrated team.

Because the conference was rescheduled, the complete paper will be free
to SPE members at during March and April 2012.


The SA LB team reviewed the current status of production performance of

the reservoir and prepared an ambitious
plan to double the production from this
reservoir within 6 months through an
aggressive plan that is elaborated in the
full-length paper.

Production Buildup
Creating Transparency With the Reservoir Model. Comprehensive in-depth discussions on various assumptions for the
SA LB reservoir-simulation model were
conducted to obtain complete transparency regarding subsurface potential, saturation maps, layering schemes, various
kinds of bubble maps [e.g., rate, water cut,
and gas/oil ratios (GORs)], reservoir-pressure trends (i.e., areal and vertical), and
fluid characterization. This step enabled a
better understanding of the reservoir for
operational activities and directed actions
toward focused segments/layers with better reservoir quality, high productivity
index, and minimum water cut.
Water-Movement Mapping. All available data from openhole conventional

logs and from thermal-decay-time and

pulsed-neutron logs, along with production-logging-tool data and water-cut
performance of the wells, were investigated to develop water-movement maps
for all major layers of the SA LB. Some
of the layers were found to be almost
completely flooded, whereas some layers contained bypassed oil. Some segments experienced more-rapid water
encroachment compared with other segments. It was possible to flag areas having potential oil gains before embarking upon a deep-insight well review,
termed a production-analysis and -surveillance session (PASS).
PASS. Data needed for the review included the following.
All geological maps and openhole
Water-movement maps for all
major layers
Reservoir-pressure data (e.g.,
shut-in bottomhole pressures, pressurebuildup tests, and reservoir tests while
Portable-test data of all wells

Workover and completion history

of all wells
Historical production performance of the wells
Pressure/volume/temperature data
The objective was to
Identify wells for rigless interventions (i.e., additional perforations,
reperforating, nitrogen activation by
use of coiled tubing, swabbing, and
water shutoff).
Identify wells for conventional-rig
workovers (i.e., water shutoff and zone
Identify wells for ESP installation.
Identify wells with no potential
in the SA LB, and hand these wells over
for possible use in other reservoirs, and
vice versa (wells not required by other
reservoirs to be used by SA LB).
New-Well Planning. As a part of the
ongoing development plan for the reservoir, 11 new wells were recommended for drilling during the first year. The
priority of drilling and completing these
wells was set on the basis of estimated
oil gain. The prioritized wells were put

on the drilling schedule and included in

flowline planning to minimize time lag
between drilling and production availability at the gathering center.
Three of the horizontal wells scheduled to be drilled the next year were evaluated in detail from the oil-gain point
of view and were brought forward to
the current year. Discussions were held
between drilling- and reservoir-study
teams of the company to allocate the budget and resources for these three wells.
Management support was obtained to
take calculated risks while drilling the
horizontal trajectory through thin layers
of 8- to 12-ft thickness.
Monitoring and Analysis of the Base
Production. To ensure no erosion to the
base production of 50,000 BOPD, regular
surveillance discussions were held to track
the pressure/production behavior of the
flowing wells and review the well allowables to minimize water production. Beanup or -down opportunities were identified
by holistic analysis of well-performance
data, especially the multibean production-GOR tests, wellhead flowing pres-

sure, flowline pressures, and water-movement status.

per-well gain in oil rate would be more

than 500 BOPD. Significant oil gain was
achieved with ESP implementation.

Bean Up. Well evaluations led to identifying seven wells for bean up. These
wells were located in segments where
water cut was expected to be near zero.
The wellhead flowing pressures were in
excess of 600 psia, and short-term bean
ups were expected to have incremental
oil gain of approximately 4,000 BOPD.
Rigless Intervention. PASSs helped the
team identify wells for which interventions resulted in a production gain of
approximately 5,200 BOPD.
ESP Installation. On the basis of PASS
reviews, 13 wells were identified as ESP
candidates. ESP designs and equipment
were procured, and installation plans
were made. As a part of the ESP strategy, water-shutoff jobs were performed
for high-water-cut candidates before ESP
installation and function tests. Three
naturally flowing wells also were considered for ESP conversion because the

New-Well Drilling and Connection. A

total of 11 new wells were drilled, completed, and connected for quick oil gain.
In addition to the dedicated wells released
and drilled for SA LB, opportunistic use of
12 new wells (originally meant for shallower Mauddud and Upper Burgan reservoirs) was made to increase the oil gain
until the water injection for Mauddud and
Upper Burgan is started in 201213.

Production from the SA LB could be
doubled within 6 months by means of a
focused work plan; dedicated implementation coupled with prompt follow-ups;
instant communication with the facility
staff; drilling; rigless workover interventions; and use of all resources associated
with networking and databases within the
company. The challenge, subsequent to
production buildup, is sustaining the levels
already achieved and minimizing and controlling the rising trend of watercut. JPT

Marlim Field: Mature-Field Optimization

iant fields provide a significant

portion of the total hydrocarbon
production in Brazil. Most of these fields
are in advanced exploitation stages.
A drainage-optimization study was
performed on the Marlim field, a giant
and mature field in the Brazilian Campos
basin. Reservoir-flow simulations were
used to optimize the methodology and
increase the recoverable-oil volume by
accelerating the oil production. As a
result, new-well proposals became more
economically attractive.

The Marlim field, discovered in 1985, is
in the northeastern part of the Campos
basin in water depths between 600 and
1200 m. Reservoir depths are 2500 to
2750 m, with temperatures between 65
and 72C. Marlim is part of a large complex of reservoirs including the Marlim
Sul and Marlim Leste fields. The original
oil in place is 1.012109 std m3, and the
maximum permeable thickness is 125m.
The reservoir is unconsolidated sandstone with an average net-/gross-thickness ratio of 86%, average porosity of
30%, and permeability of 1 to 10 darcies. The petrophysical analysis indicated
original water saturation of 15%, saturation pressure of 265 kgf/cm2, and residual-oil saturation of 23%. The oil at reservoir conditions has a viscosity of 48 cp
and gravity of 1825API. The reservoir
is divided into five stratigraphic zones.
Every zone is in hydraulic communication, although, in some areas, the communication is somewhat constrained.
The reservoir has small aquifers under-

lying the oil, and solution-gas drive is the

main production mechanism. The reservoir is undergoing a secondary-recovery
process by use of seawater injection.
Production startup occurred in
March 1991, and water injection began in September 1994. Peak production occurred in April 2002 with
9.79104 m3/d. Oil production averaged
4.48104 m3/d, with water cut of 54%
in April 2010. The cumulative oil production surpassed 3.18108 m3 in April
2010, representing 32% recovery. The
field contains more than 200 wells, with
125 in operation and a producer/injector
ratio of 1.85.
The current reservoir-exploitation
stage, with oil-production decline and a
significant increase in water production,
presents serious challenges in maintaining extraction cost at acceptable levels.
To accelerate field oil production and
increase the recoverable volume, this
simulation-optimization study considered drilling 16 new producing wells and
attempted to identify targets for future
sidetracks from these new wells.

gained importance in performing these

activities. Generating optimization problems can be divided into three mainsteps.
Decision-variable definition
Boundary conditions
Objective function
Defining producer-well placement
within a dense well network is a typical optimization task. Depending on pattern drainage, the flow-simulation model
may indicate a location with high rates
and cumulative production. However,
an analysis of the entire field until field
abandonment may not be economically
attractive, despite oil production accelerated by opening this new well. On the
basis of changes in pattern drainage and
consequent changes of the streamlines
between injector and producer wells, the
drilling and production of this new well
might reduce the recovery factor.
Optimization aims to solve such
problems by investigating solutions consistently, because it is too burdensome
to resolve the problem through a trial-and-error fashion. Assisted-optimization methods use previously found solutions to guide the optimizer.

State of the Art

Formulating Optimization Problems.
Optimizing reservoir drainage, either to
maximize recovery factor or concession
profitability, is difficult using traditional methods, especially for mature fields
that have a more elaborated flow model.
It must take into account the heterogeneities detected after analyzing the historical production behavior. The problem
output tends to be nonlinear, making it
more difficult to perform manual optimizations. Assisted-optimization tools have

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper SPE 139376, Marlim Field: An Optimization Study on a Mature Field, by
Dirceu Bampi, Petrobras, and Odair Jos Costa, Halliburton, prepared for the 2010
SPE Latin American & Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference, Lima, Peru,
13December. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

Use of Sidetracks. Citing the Gullfaks

field in the Norwegian North Sea, as
the field becomes mature, the net present value (NPV) of new wells decreases because of smaller targets and/or
increased uncertainty in the waterflood efficiency in the reservoir, mainly
at new wells. Two opposite characteristics are common in mature fields: While
the number of available platform slots
decreases, the number of wells that are
being abandoned, owing to poor economics, increases.
Therefore, the drilling and completion cost of new wells should be minimized to ensure cost effectiveness and to
reduce production decline. Several methods can be used to reduce new-well-location costs, including, especially in case

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


of a restricted number of available slots,

the technique of through-tubing drilling
(TTD). TTD permits part of the old well
to be used for the new location, reducing drilling time and cost. TTD also can
be associated with the well-sidetracking
technique, aiming to further reduce the
costs of putting a new reservoir target
into production.

values, incremental NPV. As a result of

this optimization process, the possibility
of changing the position of nine wells was
identified, with seven wells remaining in
the position specified in the initial plan.
As a result of these changes, an incremental gain of 7.4106 std m3 of oil was
obtained, which represents a net incremental gain of 5.2106 std m3.


Phase 2: Sidetrack-Well Candidates.

The aim in this phase was to search
for sidetrack candidates from the original wells defined in Phase 1, after a low
oil rate or high water cut was detected. Wells defined in Phase 1 may be
equipped to allow drilling by use of TTD
technology to sidetrack the wells. More
decision variables were defined, including water-cut abandonment of the previously drilled well, which can range from
75 to 85%. When the previous production constraint or oil rate to abandon
the original well (i.e., 200 std m3/d) is
reached, the original well is abandoned
and the sidetrack well starts production.
A total of 554 simulations were performed in this phase. The best result was
Run 480, with a gain of 1.8106 std m3
of discounted oil. Only five simulations
showed negative values (i.e., inferior
results when compared with the optimal
case from Phase 1). The remaining 549
simulations showed improvements, and
economic viability depended on drilling cost of the sidetrack wells. The cost
to perform the sidetrack wells was not
taken into account in the objective function because the main concern at this
stage of the overall TTD simulation study
was to understand the potential of these
new locations by the optimization rather
than to optimize the TTD plans.
The combinations that showed the
greatest gains compared with the Phase1 optimized case were those that shut
in the original production wells when
the water cut reached 75%, the lower
limit established in the decision variables. These results suggest that most of
the new targets are promising, but must
be explored before the area is too swept
by the waterflood.
When the results are expressed by
incremental production gain, there are
many cases in which the sidetrack wells
could not improve the total production of
the Phase-1 optimized case, which might

A deterministic reservoir-flow model was

used in this study. The optimization procedure was implemented in two stages, which reduced the number of decision variables considerably and, therefore, the number of simulations in each
step. The problem could have been solved
with just one step, at the cost of a significant increase in time required to reach
the desired solution quality. Therefore, it
was decided to perform an assisted optimization that is detailed in the full-length
paper and includes Phase 1 (optimizing
well placements) and Phase 2 (search for
sidetrack-well candidates).

Phase 1: Well-Placement Optimization. The work began with an analysis
of mobile-hydrocarbon thickness maps.
The residual-oil saturation is subtracted to avoid misinterpretation because
the reservoir thickness varies significantly away from the pinchout region, even
in areas with a thickness greater than
The best sequence showed a gain of
5.5106 std m3 of oil over the base case.
Considering that the base case was generated by a technical team with extensive knowledge and experience, the use
of more-systematic techniques and an
optimizer can outperform trial-and-error
methods greatly. Considering the number of wells that must be allocated and
the number of combinations that can
be developed for each well, it becomes
impossible to investigate all alternatives.
Then, after conducting a reasonable number of simulations, use of the experience
and knowledge of the technical team was
still possible to improve the result of the
best sequence provided by the optimizer.
By repositioning some wells, an
incremental volume of 5105 std m3 was
obtained on the basis of incremental NPV,
equivalent to 1.9106 std m3 in nominal


indicate that some sidetrack wells were

drilled in areas with low oil potential.
Finally, the increased cumulative production of the simulation run that showed
the highest objective-function value, Run
480, showed a gain of 2.80106 std m3
of oil. Moreover, the maximum incremental-production gain was obtained in
Run 319, with 2.98106 std m3 of oil.
The far-right column of Table 1 in
the full-length paper shows an index to
evaluate the performance of each well.
This index is a ratio of the combined
cumulative oil production of the original
well and the production of its sidetrack
well (Phase 2) to the cumulative oil production of the original well (Phase 1).
This index indicates that only six
wells show promise for performing the
sidetrack by achieving the goal of better reservoir depletion. However, drilling
these six sidetrack wells would require
premature abandonment of the original
wells optimized in Phase 1 after a production period of 4 to 13 years. Moreover,
assuming that an operational time of
more than 30 years for offshore wells is
unrealistic, wells from the Phase-1 optimization with an index smaller than unity
should be reconsidered in thefuture.

The assisted optimization performed on
this field showed surprising results, significantly increasing oil production by
use of the same number of wells. With the
new-well positions obtained in Phase 1,
the gain over the base case was 5.2103
discounted std m3, or approximately 2106 std m3 in actual production
increase. The combinations for Phase
2 that presented the best results were
those in which the original wells were
abandoned prematurely.
The Phase-2 optimization indicated
that it might be technically more realistic to replace an aging well (more than
30 years of life) with a new sidetrack well
to prevent an excessive number of workovers or even to prevent well failure followed by a mandatory well replacement.
Finally, the importance of a critical review of the optimization results
should not be overlooked. The experience and knowledge acquired during the
early field-development stages will likely
provide insights on how to improve the
results further. JPT



Jerome Schubert,
SPE, is an assistant
professor in the
Harold Vance
of Petroleum
Engineering at Texas
A&M University. He has more than 30
years experience with Pennzoil, Enron
Oil and Gas, the University of Houston
Victoria Petroleum Training Institute,
and Texas A&M University. Schubert
earned BS, ME, and PhD degrees in
petroleum engineering from Texas A&M
University. He is a coauthor of Managed
Pressure Drilling and the author of
more than 35 technical papers. Schubert
serves on the JPT Editorial Committee
and has served on several SPE
committees and as a Technical Editor
for SPE Drilling & Completion. He serves
as Faculty Advisor for Pi Epsilon Tau.
Schubert is a registered professional
engineer in Texas.

Recommended additional reading

at OnePetro:

Procrastination: Is it too many things going on at once that causes us to rush
to meet deadlines, or makes us forget to complete important tasks in a timely manner,
or even try to do too many things at once, resulting in nothing getting done correctly?
You probably are wondering how this relates to well control. In our work schedules,
we all are faced with situations in which we are required to complete multiple concurrent tasks. This often is the case when we rush to finish drilling a problem well so that
we can get the drilling rig moved to the next location and turn this well over to the
completions team. Multiple activities must be completed concurrently that, individually, are relatively simple, but each activity requires the attention of the driller, tool
pusher, company man, and others on the crew. When one of these tasks begins to go
awry, our attention may be on something else, and we can miss important warnings
until it is too late to avoid a disaster.
What is the point? Once again, I will use the Macondo blowout as an example. To
leave the well in a position to be completed by another crew, mud had to be removed
from the riser and top of the well and be replaced with seawater. A spacer was pumped
between the mud and seawater to prevent mixing of the seawater and mud. This is a
simple enough operation, it seems, but when seawater is being pumped into the well,
mud has to be pumped onto a workboat to prevent the pits from running over, and the
spacer is being dumped overboard; keeping track of how much of each fluid is going
where becomes a daunting task. Could this have been a contributing factor in not recognizing the beginning of the kick? JPT

SPE 138465 Qualification of WellBarrier ElementsTest Medium, Test

Temperatures, and Long-Term Integrity.
By Birgit Vignes, SPE, University of
SPE 142076 Well-Integrity Analysis
in Gulf of Mexico Wells Using Passive
Ultrasonic Leak-Detection Method.
By J.E. Johns, Seawell, et al.
SPE 140255 Development of an
Automated System for the Rapid
Detection of Drilling Anomalies Using
Standpipe and Discharge Pressure.
By Don Reitsma, SPE, @balance-A
Schlumberger Company.
SPE 143101 A Proposed Method for
Planning the Best Response to Kicks
Taken During Managed-Pressure-Drilling
Operations. By J.R Smith, SPE, Louisiana
State University, et al.



Kick-Tolerance Misconceptions and

Consequences for Well Design

ick tolerance defines the

appropriate number and setting
depths of casing strings required to
achieve drilling objectives. It also is
used during drilling to determine
whether it is safe to continue drilling or
if there is a need to run a casing string.
Alternatively, it is used to indicate
whether it is safe to circulate a kick
out of the well or whether bullheading
is necessary. During development
of a new well-control system, a
thorough review of the fundamental
concepts involved was carried out,
and, in relation to kick tolerance, a few
misconceptions wereidentified.

Even though kick tolerance is a critical and fundamental concept for the
drilling industry, there is no standard
used by operators, drilling contractors,
or training institutions. Hence, there
are several definitions of kick tolerance
and different ways of calculating it. This
lack of consistency may be why the subject is not well understood and, therefore, is sometimes used dangerously.
Definitions of kick tolerance may be in
terms of pit gain, mud-weight increase,
or underbalance pressure.
Another point of disagreement is
on how the predicted pore pressure
should be used in calculations. Some
companies use a value greater than the
mud weight, while others use a value
greater than the predicted pore pressure. Despite the variations, the goal
is consistent: to use a procedure that
ensures safe drilling of a well. Often,

this lack of a standard and of understanding the topic leads to uncertainty

and discussions during drilling. Questions often arise regarding whether
it is safe to continue drilling. Because
wells are now drilled in more-challenging environments, such as high-pressure/high-temperature and deep and
ultradeep water, a small variation in
the way that kick tolerance is calculated
can lead to premature abandonment of
the well or, worse, to a hazardous drillingsituation.

Kick-Tolerance Calculation
Current Approach
The first step of a simplified kick-tolerance calculation (i.e., constant temperature, constant density, and no compressibility) is to define the maximum
vertical height of a gas influx Hmax at the
casing shoe (assumed to be the weakest
point in the open hole). Hmax is determined on the basis of fracture gradient;
mud weight; kick-fluid density; predicted pore pressure; and adjusted maximum allowable annular surface pressure
(MAASP), which is reduced by a safety
margin. What is conceptually wrong is
that if the bottomhole-assembly (BHA)
length is greater than Hmax, the kick
cannot be circulated out of the wellbore because it will reach the top of the
drill collars with a kick height greater
than Hmax, which would induce losses
at theshoe.

Misconception 1:
Kick Volume Around the BHA
To address this point properly, an
extra calculation must be performed if

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper SPE 140113, Kick-Tolerance Misconceptions and Consequences for Well
Design, by Helio Santos, SPE, Erdem Catak, SPE, and Sandeep Valluri, Safekick,
prepared for the 2011 SPE/IADC Drilling Conference and Exhibition, Amsterdam, 13
March. The paper has not been peer reviewed.

the BHA length is greater than Hmax.

Instead, Hmax must be at the top of the
drill collars. Then, calculations must
be made for the volume across the top
of the drill collars and must be taken
to the bottom of the wellbore by use of
Boyles law, in the same way that it is
used with the kick volume calculated at
the casing shoe. Usually, if Hmax is greater than the BHA length, the difference in
annular volume compensates the expansion of the gas when it travels upward,
reducing the chances of creating
a problem.

Misconception 2:
Safety Margin
The safety margin can lead to an overly conservative solution. This conservative approach can lead to the use of
unnecessary casings and liners in the
well design, especially in deep water.
It has been widely accepted that when
calculating kick tolerance, a safety margin should be applied to the MAASP to
reduce the chance of inducing fractures
during a well-control event. MAASP is
calculated on the basis of fracture pressure at the casing shoe (assumed to be
the weakest point in the open hole) and
current mud weight above the casing
shoe. In most cases, the safety margin
comprises three components: chokeoperator error, annular frictional pressure loss, and chokeline frictional pressure loss. Some companies and publications call for the use of only the first
two terms as safety margin. Although
each well section is different, many procedures establish a fixed value for the
safety margin to be used when calculating kick tolerance. Typical values are
150 or 200 psi. A value of 100 psi is
assumed for the choke-operator error
and the remaining for the frictionalpressure-loss component. Because the
physical principle and rationale behind
the annular frictional pressure loss and

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


chokeline frictional pressure loss are

the same, the effects will be grouped
together. The choke-operator-error
component is addressed separately, to
make sure that each effect is understood
and evaluatedindependently.
Annular and Chokeline Frictional Pressure Loss. When fluid is circulated in a well during a well-control
operation, frictional pressure loss in the
chokeline and annulus will be generated. The magnitude of the frictional
pressure loss will depend on well geometry and the length and diameter of the
chokeline. In deepwater and slimhole
wells, the frictional-pressure-loss component can be significant. To prevent
formation fracturing, the backpressure
applied at surface while the well is static
should be compensated when the fluidcirculation rate changes. Because it is
difficult to estimate frictional pressure
loss in real time during well-control
events, the adopted approach has been
to subtract the frictional-pressure-loss
value from the MAASP. Even though this

approach reduces the chances of fracturing the formation, it imposes large

sacrifices in the well design, leading to
several unnecessary casing strings. The
alternative approach would be to use
this frictional pressure loss proactively
during any fluid circulation; it makes no
difference to the wellbore whether the
pressure at the bottom is coming from a
choke at surface or from friction generated in the wellbore.
Choke-Operator Error. The chokeoperator error is intended to compensate for expected poor manual control of
the choke by the operator. Todays standard is to use a 100-psi safety factor.
However, automated chokes are readily
available. Automation allows better control with smaller oscillations in pressure, and it removes issues related to
operator fatigue or error. Automated
chokes have been used reliably in applications including drilling, well control,
and well cleanup. With improved control, the 100-psi safety margin can be
reduced to 20 psi or less.

Misconception 3:
Current kick-tolerance calculations are
based on many assumptions and simplifications. The belief is that these simplifications represent the worst-case scenario, thus leading to a safe well design.
Afterflow Effect. Usually, for the sake of
simplicity, the afterflow effect is ignored.
Therefore, kick tolerance is considered
equal to the maximum allowable pit gain.
In reality, the formation continues to
flow until the casing pressure increases
enough to equilibrate the bottomhole
pressure to the sandface pressure at the
point of influx. Accordingly, when determining maximum allowable pit gain,
the additional flow into the well after
shut-in must be considered. This afterflow volume may be significant, especially for deep wells with large bores.
Some companies use a fixed value (e.g.,
10 bbl). This simplification can lead to
a conservative result. However, companies not taking this effect into account
may encounter dangerous situations. In

this paper, formation flow after shut-in

is considered to be equal to the wells
Temperature Effect. The change in
temperature along the wellbore will
affect the density and the rheology of
the mud, having a direct effect on the
hydrostatic gradient and the frictional
pressure losses during circulation. Currently, it is assumed that the temperature in the openhole section is constant;
thus, no correction to the volume calculation is applied. The effects of temperature on influx volume are described by
Charles law, which states that the volume of the gas is directly proportional
to the absolute temperature. Contrary
to the afterflow effect, the temperature
correction results in a higher kick tolerance. Therefore, the conventional constant-temperature assumption results in
a conservative solution.
z-Factor Correction. z-factor (compressibility factor) enables use of idealgas equations to model real-gas behav-

ior. Because calculating the z-factor is

not straightforward, the industry has
assumed a constant z-factor equal to 1.0
when performing gas-behavior calculations. In this paper, a 0.6-SG hydrocarbon gas is assumed as the influx fluid.
The pseudocritical properties were calculated using Katzs correlations. Then,
the z-factor was calculated by use of
Dranchuk and Abou-Kassem correlations combined with the Newton-Raphson iterative method. z-factors were calculated for conditions along the open
hole and were used in the bottomhole
kick-volume calculations through the
real-gas law.
Influx-Density Correction. Kick-fluid
density was assumed to be 1.9 lbm/gal
and constant along the openhole section. Once the z-factor was calculated,
the influx density was estimated. Using
0.6 SG for hydrocarbon gas and the
pressure, temperature, and z-factor for
the point of interest (i.e., casing shoe
and bottomhole conditions), volumes at
the bottom of the well were calculated.

Influx density had a direct effect in the

kick-tolerance calculation.

Combined Correction
Effects on Kick Tolerance
Because some effects increase the kick
tolerance while others reduce it, it is
important to combine all the effects to
identify the overall effect on kick tolerance. The consequences are not consistent, illustrating why it is important to
take all effects into account. It has been
argued that the overall conservative
nature of the single-bubble model will
eliminate any detrimental effect produced by simplifications. Because the
magnitude of each simplification and
conceptual error is different, the change
of the final result cannot be predicted. If
it is clear that a conservative approach
is being used, the consequences might
be only economical, with the end result
being an overengineered well. However, when the scenario leads to increased
risk, as is the case with calculating the
kick volume on bottom, this simplification should not be acceptable. JPT

Kick Detection and Well Control

in a Closed Wellbore

losing the wellbore at the top with

a rotating control device (RCD)
for some kind of managed-pressuredrilling (MPD) operations raises a
number of issues with regard to well
control and kick detection. The use
of an RCD provides drillers with an
additional level of comfort because it is
a pressure-management device, but it
does not eliminate the need to have well
control as a primary objective. Early
kick detection and annular-pressure
control are essential parts of MPD
operations, but there can be confusion
as to where the responsibility for well
control lies.

drilled are unknown, then kicks can still

be taken. This leads to the next challenge:
To contain an influx safely, the influx
first must be detected. If MPD is used to
control the bottomhole pressure (BHP)
in the well, then it can be stated that
MPD is the primary well control because
the pressure in the well is controlled to
avoid an influx of formation fluids into
The use of an RCD to close in the
wellbore makes drilling operations safer.
However, it must be noted that, often,
the objectives of MPD are to reduce the
hydrostatic pressure, avoid losses, and
drill the well with a lower mud weight.
Reducing the mud weight can introduce
more well-control events.

The detection of inflow from a formation is one of the primary safety aspects
of drilling operations. Even with a closed
wellbore and with the use of MPD technology, kick detection and the subsequent well-control procedures must
remain in place. The rig crew can get a
false sense of security that with MPD,
the well is controlled at all times and as
such there is no further need for well control. The causes of kicks are not removed
when MPD operations are being conducted. The procedures and risk assessments for MPD operations must include
kick-detection and well-control methods

Primary Well Control

Controlling the annular-pressure profile
is one of the main reasons for MPD, but
it may not avoid kicks in a well. If the
pore pressures of the formations being

MPD Operations
Fig. 1 diagrams the MPD flow process.
The RCD is installed on top of the annular preventer and closes the wellbore
around the drillpipe. The outlet from
the RCD is split between the main return
flowline and the MPD choke manifold.
The MPD manifold is installed in parallel
with the rigs main flowline and in parallel with the rigs conventional rig choke
manifold. This setup allows conventional circulation and circulation through
the MPD manifold. Backpressure can be
applied to the well at any time by use of
the MPD manifold. Any gas being circulated out through the MPD manifold
can be vented safely through the mud/
gas separator. If the surface pressure
exceeds the RCD pressure ratings, the
entire well-control setup can be switched
quickly to standard drilling well-control
equipment. During tripping operations,

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper SPE 143099, Kick Detection and Well Control in a Closed Wellbore, by Steve
Nas, SPE, Weatherford, prepared for the 2011 IADC/SPE Managed Pressure Drilling
and Underbalanced Operations Conference and Exhibition, Denver, 56 April. The
paper has not been peer reviewed.

circulation with the trip tank can be performed through the MPD manifold or
through the existing flowline.
When MPD equipment is used, it
is important that the secondary wellcontrol equipment, such as blowout preventer (BOP) and rig choke manifolds,
remain ready for operations. The secondary well-control equipment should
not be used for routine drilling operations during the MPD operations.

Causes of Kicks
A kick is defined as any influx that constitutes a well-control emergency. Normally, this means use of the BOP to shut
in the well and, subsequently, removing
the influx by use of a choke on the annulus to maintain sufficient backpressure
to prevent further entry. In MPD, the
well-control emergency may not apply
because the system is already set up for
this occurrence.
The pressure in the wellbore can be
controlled with surface pressure, but if
the formation pressure is greater than
the pressure in the wellbore and a formation is permeable, then the well will kick.
Loss of primary well control usually is
caused by the following.
Insufficient drilling-fluid density
(insufficient BHP)
Failure to keep the hole full while
Swabbing while tripping
Lost circulation

Kick Detection
Detecting a kick early and limiting its volume by shutting in the well are critical to
secondary well control, and they could
mean the difference between a manageable situation and one that leads to loss of
control. Immediately following an influx,
the BHP in the annulus is reduced to
some extent by the influx and by the
added lift energy given by the formationfluid flow. This effect leads to a decrease

For a limited time, the complete paper is free to SPE members at


Main Flowline



Rig Choke

Gas to vent


Trip-Tank Fillup

MPD Choke Manifold

With Coriolis Meter



Fig. 1MPD-process flow diagram.

in pump pressure, but this change is very

difficult to detect until relatively late in
the flow.
The flow into and out of the well is
in a steady-state condition during normal
circulation. A kick violates this balance,
and the return flow out of the well will
increase if a kick is taken. Following this
flow increase, there also is an increase in
the surface volume as formation fluid is
added to the circulation process.

Kick Detection in
Closed Wellbores
Closing in the wellbore with an RCD,
in principle, does not change the physics of kick detection. Although the level
in the well is not visible, the increase in
return-flow rate and increases in pit levels remain the most-reliable indicators
of a kick. The use of mass-flow meters
in combination with accurate standpipepressure sensors enables use of an automated kick-detection system on some
MPD systems. This system works during
drilling conditions, but when tripping or
making connections, the flow out of the
well often is the only reliable indicator of
a well-control issue.

Early Kick Detection

It is possible to calibrate the flow into
the well from the pump strokes and then
measure the flow out of the well with
a Coriolis meter. A software program
allows the flow in and the flow out to be
calibrated inside the casing before drill-


ing a new formation. Once calibrated, the

variation between the flow in and flow
out can be displayed and alarmed on the
rig floor, making a highly accurate flowrate-detection system.

Borehole ballooning or breathing, or
loss/gain, is the result of slow mud losses while drilling ahead followed by mud
returns after the pumps have been turned
off, such as during a connection or flow
check. Usually, any flow during these
periods is cause for concern because it
may be caused by an influx of formation
water, liquid hydrocarbons, or gas. Any
influx from the formation can result in
a well-control problem, the magnitude
of which depends on the influx volume
and composition. However, if the flow is
the result of mud returns, well control is
not an issue.
To be safe, the suspected influx can
be circulated out using the choke, but this
method is time consuming and wasteful,
particularly if the influx is only returning mud. The normal cure is to increase
the mud weight and ensure an adequate
overbalance in the absence of circulation.
If the mud weight is increased and the
influx is only mud, the situation will get
progressively worse with a rise in mud
weight and, therefore, the equivalent circulating density (ECD). Mud losses will
continue, and, eventually, the fracturepropagation pressure will be exceeded,
resulting in total losses.

The use of accurate flowmeters

helps determine whether the increased
flow is an influx or returning mud. Soon
after the pumps are shut down, the flow
out of the well can be observed. If the
flow declines, ballooning is occurring.
When the pumps are started again, the
flowmeter will show that the flow out
of the well lags behind the flow into the
well, which is another indication of ballooning. The accurate measurement of
flow into and out of the well allows kick
detection and detection of losses and
ballooning of a wellbore, but a kick can
still be taken if attention is not paid.

Handling a Kick
Well control can be described as maintaining BHP within a window having
upper and lower pressure limits. On the
low side, the margin normally is bounded by pore pressure and wellbore stability, whereas on the high side, it can be
bounded by differential sticking, lost circulation, and fracture pressure. A kick is
detected in a closed wellbore by use of
the mass-flow meter. With an MPD system installed, there are two choices to
circulate out the influx.
With MPD Equipment. The MPD choke
manifold makes it possible to continue circulating, increase the backpressure
on the well until the flow in and flow
out are balanced, and then circulate out
the influx using the drillers method.
This procedure will work if the forma-


tion pressure can be obtained accurately.

Once a kick is taken, the formation pressure must be determined to establish
the proper kill-mud weight. The formation pressure can still be determined, but
with full circulation this must take into
account the ECD and the BHP must be
used. Without an accurate pressure measurement through a pressure-while-drilling (PWD) tool, this may not be possible.
The backpressure and ECD calculations or measurement can provide the
formation pressure. Accuracy of this
measurement may depend on readings
from the PWD tool. The flowmeter will
provide an indication of the size of the
influx and can be checked with the pit
levels, provided that this kick is large
enough to be seen.
One issue that must be considered
is the potential surface pressure while
circulating the kick out because the RCD
pressure limits will need to be known
and cannot be exceeded. Kick modeling must be conducted to establish the
kick intensity and kick volumes that can

With Rig Equipment. If a kick is detected, conventional well-control procedures can be used as follows.
1. Pull up and space out the drillstring.
2. Stop the pumps.
3. Close the BOP.
4. Record the shut-in drillpipe pressure and the shut-in casing pressure.
The shut-in drillpipe pressure will
provide the level of underbalance (formation pressure), while the shut-in casing pressure will give an indication of the
kick size and density. The pit levels can
be measured to confirm the influx.
Kick Volume and Intensity. The kick
volume is the volume of formation fluid
that entered the wellbore. The volume
gained at surface will provide an indication of this volume. The kick intensity is defined as the pressure difference
between the hydrostatic pressure in the
well and the formation pressure.
With these two parameters, the decision can be made whether to handle the
kick with the MPD system or to close the

BOP and use the rigs choke manifold to

circulate the kick out of the hole. This
decision is driven by the expected surface
pressures and by the pressure ratings of
the equipment.
Generally, a kick with volume of
5bbl or less and kick intensity less than
1-lbm/gal equivalent mud weight can be
circulated out of the hole using the RCD
and the MPD choke manifold. If BHPs are
high, as in the case of high-pressure/hightemperature wells, then the values should
be reviewed on a case-by-casebasis.
Switching From MPD to Conventional Well Control. Once a kick is taken
and controlled using an MPD system,
it becomes important that the driller
and the MPD operator coordinate their
actions if the surface pressures rise and
indicate that the kick should now be
controlled by the BOP system. Switching from the MPD system to the rigs
BOP and choke manifold must be accomplished in a controlled manner.
Standard well-control preparations
in the form of kick sheets, slow circula-

tion rates, and pressures must be continued by the rig crew, as in all drilling operations. Although a well is drilled with
MPD techniques and can be controlled
with the MPD system, the driller must be
able to take over at any time in the wellcontrol process.
It has been seen in several MPD
operations that well-control preparations by the drill crew were not being
performed because the crew relied on the
MPD provider to conduct well-control
operations. Upon entering a well-control
circulation and the system needing to be
switched to lower pump rates and a different pressure, this lack of preparation
can cause significant issues during the
well-control operations.

MPD Operators
and Well Control
If the detected influx is small and has a
low kick intensity, it is possible to circulate the kick out using the MPD equipment. The drillers method normally is
used for this, and the MPD operator must
hold the drillpipe pressure constant while
the driller circulates the kick out. Once
the influx reaches the surface equipment,
the MPD operator must divert any gas
away from the main flowline to a suitable
mud/gas separator.
This process assumes that all MPD
operators have the experience and
understanding required for well-control
operations. Before any MPD operations
are conducted, it must be verified that
all MPD personnel operating the choke
understand the procedures and actions
required when a kick is detected. The
MPD operator must understand the wellcontrol situation fully. Both the MPD
operator and the driller must maintain
a close watch on the surface pressures to
ensure that these remain within the limits of the equipment being used.
Advantages of using the MPD equipment for well control include that the
pipe can be moved up and down and
can be rotated and that stuck-pipe incidents, often associated with well-control
operations, can be avoided. If something
goes wrong at any time during an MPD
well-control situation, the driller must
be able to stop the pumps and shut in
the well using the BOPs and then continue the well-kill operation using the rigs
chokemanifold. JPT


Kick Mechanisms and Well-Control

Practices in Deepwater Vugular Carbonate

tandard well-control training that

drillers receive prepares them
to respond to an influx that occurs
during underbalanced conditions. The
mechanism by which hydrocarbons
may enter the wellbore following a
vugular loss can be different. One
potential result is that the influx
may not be detected as early as
during conventional underbalanced
conditions. A model was developed to
explain the unique mechanism by which
kicks may occur following vugular
losses. Effective recognition and
response practices are proposed that
are consistent with thatmodel.


Practices address
reduced reaction time


Fig. 1The reaction time available to shut in following an influx in

deepwater wells is significantly less than with surface BOPs.

When massive losses occur in vugular

formations, the wells behavior does not
follow a conventional well-control scenario. Gains in pit volumes are not seen
despite hydrocarbon entry, and kicks
can go undetected until they have traveled some distance up the annulus. Once
the kick is detected, backpressure cannot be held effectively to prevent further
influx while circulating the initial kick
out and the annulus-pressure trends and
values appear to be unpredictable. It
also is difficult to control the placement
of fluids or pills. The most significant
challenge is the inability to detect an
influx as soon as it occurs. In deepwater wells, the distance from the vugular zone to the subsea blowout preventers (BOPs) may be short, as shown in
Fig. 1.

Operators are aware of these behaviors, and the industry has developed
unique practices for drilling vugular carbonates safely. Rigs having surface BOPs
address the risks by use of a rotating
control device (RCD). RCDs have been
used in a similar fashion at the surface
on marine risers with subsea BOPs. The
RCD has been installed at the top of the
riser above the slip joint, and a tensionring system is under development that
will enable the RCD to be placed below
the slip joint. In subsea applications, the
pressure that can be applied below the
RCD is more limited than on land locations, usually to the rating of the slip
joint or marine riser. In some cases, the
rating is adequate for the given well. In

This article, written by Senior Technology Editor Dennis Denney, contains highlights
of paper IPTC 14423, Kick Mechanisms and Unique Well-Control Practices in
Vugular Deepwater Carbonates, by F.E. Dupriest, SPE, ExxonMobil, prepared for
the 2011 International Petroleum Technology Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, 1517
November. The paper has not been peer reviewed. [Note: Conference rescheduled to
79 February 2012.] Copyright 2011 International Petroleum Technology Conference.
Reproduced by permission.

other situations, the pressure limitations of the riser system or RCD may not
provide the robust capability needed.

Attributes of Vugular Losses

The unique behaviors observed during
massive vugular losses are associated
with the bottomhole pressure (BHP)
falling instantly to equal the pore pressure in the vug. It is widely believed that
the practice of filling the back side continuously prevents this drop in BHP and
that an influx does not occur unless the
fill rate is inadequate and the fluid level
is allowed to fall sufficiently to underbalance the zone. Actually, the degree
to which the BHP falls is more a function of the rate at which the loss zone
can take the fluid than of the fill rate. In
severe vugular losses, filling the annulus is not effective and the BHP will fall
to equal the vugular pore pressure. As
the vug size or density decreases, there
is a point at which the fill rate will create some backpressure within the vugs
at the face of the borehole, and the
BHP will increase by the amount of this

Because the conference was rescheduled, the complete paper will be free to
SPE members at during March and April 2012.


backpressure. Consequently, the BHP is

almost entirely a function of the vugular conductivity rather than the annulus fill rate.
When complete losses occur and
the annulus level drops quickly, the vugs
are likely to be large; therefore, filling
the annulus continuously may not prevent the BHP from falling. The observed
kicks are not the result of allowing
the annulus fluid level to fall; they are
caused by the well becoming underbalanced because of the drop in BHP,
which allows flow from another location. However, field observations and
pressure-while-drilling data show that
the influx may initiate immediately with
the loss in very vugular formations. The
key question that cannot be answered
with conventional thinking is, If the
mud weight is overbalanced and flowing into the vugs, how can gas be flowing
out of the same vugs?
It is still good practice to fill the
annulus continuously until a diagnostic pill of large lost-circulation material (LCM) can be pumped because this
ensures that the influx travels down to
the loss zone rather than up the annulus, but it does not prevent the influx
from occurring or continuing to occur
while filling. If the pore throats are in
the range of 150 to 3000 m, LCM may
be effective, in which case the losses
will stop, the BHP will increase above
the formation pressure, and the influx
will stop. If the pore throats are larger, continuous fill is used to control the
gas level in the annulus until cementing
or other operations can be executed to
stop the loss.

Interzonal Flow Cell

Wells that drill carbonates containing
hydrocarbon usually are designed to
have casing set in a competent impermeable formation just above the carbonate. If the carbonate is drilled without
losses, or with only low seepage losses, a
filter cake forms and overbalance exists
across the open hole. When a vugular opening is encountered, complete
losses occur and the BHP falls to equal
the pore pressure. Although the annulus
will continue to be filled, this procedure
does not prevent the BHP from falling
to equal the pore pressure in the vugular interval on bottom. The pressure at


any point in the wellbore above the loss

zone is then equal to the BHP minus the
fluid head.
While the greatest underbalance
will be at the top of the carbonate, the
entire borehole will be underbalanced
by some amount as long as there is mud
in the wellbore across the carbonate. If
the annulus fill is stopped, the hydrocarbon will continue to flow into the
wellbore and displace mud downward
between the top and the loss zone until
the annulus across the interval is converted entirely to hydrocarbon. At that
point, there is no differential between
the pressure at any point in the wellbore and that in the adjacent formation. Because the pressure at all depths
is equal, the influx will stop. This is
referred to as a flow cell because the
process tends to drive itself. As mud
swaps and moves downward across the
carbonate, the flow cell again becomes
unbalanced and additional influx
occurs. As the swapped gas moves up
the annulus, its expansion will lighten
the head and a gain in pit volumes eventually will be observed.
The most important operational implication of the flow cell is that
an influx can occur with no gain in
the pits. When an influx occurs, the
rig crew should observe a sudden loss
of all returns. Consequently, the work
process should be to close the BOPs
in response to any complete loss of
returns. While a sudden complete loss
will not always result in an influx, it is
an indication that the opportunity for
one exists.
The argument can be made that the
BOPs should be closed following any
major loss, even one that is not complete. In theory, an influx should not
occur if partial returns are maintained
because getting continued returns
implies that the BHP must be adequate
to lift the head of the drill-weight mud.
In practice, however, the loss may be
temporary because continued pumping will move the gas up the annulus,
which lightens the head quickly and
may allow full circulation. The conservative practice is to shut in on any major
loss, observe the chokeline pressure to
determine whether gas is migrating,
and, if possible, circulate out through
the chokeline to reach bottoms up.

The reason for being conservative is

that if circulation continues through the
open stack following what is believed to
be a partial-loss event and an influx
has actually occurred, then a pit-volume increase may not be seen until the
gas reaches a depth at which expansion occurs, or until the gas comes
out of solution if using a nonaqueous
fluid (NAF).

Swap Management
The industry is trained to manage kicks
by circulating through a choke and
applying sufficient backpressure for
the pressure in the annulus to become
overbalanced to the flowing zone. This
method is ineffective with a vugular loss
because the BHP will remain equal to
the pore pressure in the vugs regardless
of the backpressure observed at surface. In addition, if losses are complete,
there is no flow and pressure cannot
be applied. The influx can be stopped
permanently only by plugging the loss
zone to stop the flow cell. The common
practice of filling the annulus continu-

ously, which has been learned empirically, is a correct one. But filling the
annulus does not stop the flow. Actually, continuous introduction of heavy
mud across the carbonate ensures that
the imbalance that drives the flow cell
is maintained and that the influx will
continue to occur. Because there is no
operational technique to allow the BHP
to be elevated above the pore pressure
in the exposed vugs, and the mud that
is pumped to fill the annulus drives even
more influx, the kick response should
be first to determine the fill rate that
exceeds the swap rate and then to maintain this fill rate until the vugular zone
can be plugged. This method is referred
to as swap management. It does not
stop the influx, but it does allow the
annulus pressure to be controlled at the
desired level during treatments or while
drilling ahead.

Slide Drilling With

a Straight Motor
Slide drilling with no rotation through
a closed subsea annular preventer with

a straight motor enables the driller to

continue to make progress during complete losses. Because the annular preventer is closed at all times, gas cannot enter the riser. A sacrificial fluid,
such as seawater, is used to drill. Double
floats are installedone plunger and
one flapper type. Kill-weight mud continues to be pumped down the annulus at the swap-management rate established in the process described in the
preceding section.
At a minimum, slide drilling continues until the local vugular system
is believed to have been fully exposed.
Although it varies, the general experience has been that highly vugular intervals tend to extend for only short distances. When the bit is believed to have
re-entered pore throats that can be
plugged with LCM or barite, a decision
may be made to treat the major vugular
zone above so that conventional drilling
is possible until the next highly vugular
network is penetrated.
There are several important considerations when planning to slide drill
through a closed annular preventer.
The annular-preventer manufacturer
should be consulted on the planned
interval and the number of tool joints
that will pass through the upper annular preventer. These practices are based
on proprietary stripping tests with specific equipment, and not all preventers may be equally capable. The annulus injection fluid used in deepwater
wells should be designed to prevent
hydrate formation during unexpected
upset conditions, and the drillstring
should be displaced to an inhibitive
fluid whenneeded.

Treating Vugular Losses

Awareness of the flow cell has changed
some elements in the treatment strategy. There are two primary challenges
in treating a vugular zone. The first is to
avoid overdisplacement. The resistance
to flow in a vugular opening is, essentially, only the pore pressure in the vug.
Because drill-weight mud is designed to
be overbalanced, any treatment that is
displaced with drill-weight mud is likely
to be overdisplaced. This operator has
developed a family of practices that use
hydrostatic packers to prevent this overdisplacement. A hydrostatic packer is a



column of light fluid pumped at the end

of displacement to make the total column underbalanced to the integrity so
that when pumping is stopped, the fluid
cannot continue to travel downward.
In the case of vugular carbonates, the
integrity pushing back to support the
column is, effectively, the pore pressure
in the vug, so the hydrostatic packer
must be designed to lighten the column
sufficiently to place it underbalanced to
pore pressure to prevent overdisplacement. Therefore, there will be positive
pressure on the drillstring at the end of
displacement. By use of surface BOPs, it
is necessary to preinstall this light column in the annulus to place it underbalanced to the pore pressure and achieve
a positive surface pressure to prevent
the fluid from moving downward to contaminate the treatment during the operation. In subsea wells, it is possible to
close the choke- and kill-line valves to
remove the fluid head from the annulus so that it is necessary to use a packer
only inside the drillstring.
The new issue raised by the awareness of the flow cell is that even if proper steps are taken to prevent overdisplacement with drill-weight mud, the
flow cell itself may displace the material to the loss zone. When pumping
stops, the influx and downward displacement occur whether the fluid in
the wellbore is drilling fluid, cement,
or some other mobile material. Even
when overdisplacement has been prevented with hydrostatic packers, a gap
or poor-quality cement has sometimes
been found from the top of the carbonate downward to the loss zone as a
result of displacement by the flow cell.
Also, as soon as hydrocarbon begins to
enter the wellbore, it starts to swap with
the fluid above, and this swapped material is displaced downward to the loss
zone. By monitoring the stack gauge, the
volume that has been swapped upward
can be calculated from the rise in pressure, which reflects the height of cement
or other treatment fluid that has been
replaced by the light hydrocarbon. The
rate of change in the annulus pressure
also reflects the rate of change in the
swap rate, which is a useful surveillance
diagnostic in predicting the likely effec-


tiveness of the treatment. Treatments

with stable pressure, indicating that no
swapping is occurring, have been uniformly effective.

Tripping Out of Hole

The swap-management practices may
be used while tripping. The annular preventer is kept closed, and the string
is stripped out until the bottomhole
assembly (BHA) arrives at the BOP. The
swap rate typically is higher after the
string is removed because there is more
clearance in open hole or casing than
in the small annulus around the string.
The chokeline gauge at the stack is monitored as the string is pulled. Any rise in
stack pressure is an indication that the
fluid level in the chokeline has risen.
Because the BHP is constant and equal
to the vugular pore pressure, any rise in
the fluid level in the chokeline must be
the result of an increase in the volume
of lighter hydrocarbon in the column
and an indication that the hydrocarbonswap rate has begun to exceed the fill
rate. If this situation is observed, the fill
rate is increased until a stable pressure
is achieved, indicating that the fill rate
is adequate. In most cases, a pattern is
observed quickly and the rig team establishes drilling-fill and tripping-fill rates
that differ. When the BHA arrives at the
BOP, steps are taken to clear any trapped
gas in the stack before opening the stack
temporarily to pull the BHA through.
The annulus fill continues throughout
the process. The process is reversed to
trip in the hole.
If the swap rate is not high, it
can be controlled further by positioning fluid with high gel strength above
the top of the carbonate. With waterbased mud and favorable conditions,
a high-gel-strength pill can reduce the
swap rate to less than 0.1 bbl/min with
17-lbm/gal mud positioned above gas
in underground flow. In contrast, it is
difficult to build gel strength in NAF
pills, and the swap rate generally is high
enough that it is not practical to hold
a pill in position for the time required
to trip. Crosslinked polymers and
other materials have been considered
to reduce the swap rate and resultant
fill rates. JPT

appointed general manager and vice president Latin America of Equitable Origin. He
will be located in Quito, Ecuador. Before
joining Equitable Origin, Benalcazar
worked for APDProyectos in Ecuador; Tanganyika Oil in Syria; Encana in France, Canada, and Ecuador; and Occidental in Oman, the US, Venezuela,
and Ecuador. Benalcazar has more than 20 years senior management experience in environmental, health, safety, community affairs, and corporate responsibility roles. He is a certified
safety professional in the US, and a member of the American
Society of Safety Engineers. Benalcazar earned an MS in civil
engineering from the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate School of Research and EngineeringFederal University of
Rio de Janeiro.
International Association of Oil and Gas
Producers (OGP) as manager of the wells
expert committee. With an emphasis on
exploration and production project management, and business development, Boogaerdts work has taken him to the UK,
Malaysia, Egypt, and Oman and included such projects as the

Member Deaths
Norman B. Adams, Wichita Falls, Texas
James W. Althouse III, Hudson, Ohio
John Andersen, Svendborg, Denmark
A.W. Augustson, Fort Worth, Texas
C.R. Blomberg, Beaverton, Oregon
Fred W. Burtch, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Robert L. Casey Jr., Spring, Texas
Kenneth R. Evans, Crosby, Texas
E.E. Finklea, Bethel, Connecticut
Kelli M. Flanagan, Kingwood, Texas
Charles B. Godfrey, Midland, Texas
John F. Herbig, Midland, Texas
Robert G. Hindman, The Woodlands, Texas
John Knudsen, El Cajon, California
Curtis H. Lemons, Belle Chasse, Louisiana
I.W. Lovelady, Placitas, New Mexico
Rodney B. Muth, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Robert W. Oborn, Mattoon, Illinois
Orland H. Reaugh, Breckenridge, Texas
Edward W. Reif, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Shamsul H. Siddiqui, West Chester, Pennsylvania
Richard D. Stauffer, Maryville, Tennessee
Ivo Steiner, Zagreb, Croatia
J.S. Stone, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Ray W. Wenzel, McMurray, Pennsylvania
John W. West, Hobbs, New Mexico


China West-East and Balgzand Bacton Netherlands-to-UK gas

pipelines. More recently, he worked for OMV in Vienna, Austria, and Parker Drilling based in the Netherlands. Boogaerdt
earned an MS in mechanical engineering from Delft University
of Technology,Netherlands.
JERRY HUBBARD, SPE, was appointed
president and chief executive officer of
Energistics. He also serves as the corporate
treasurer. He joined the organization in
2006. Previously, he was the companys
chief operating officer. Hubbards experience includes executive operations, business development, project management, and pipeline construction assignments in Alaska, Oklahoma, Texas, and the
UK. He has played a key role in the development and adoption
of global e-business standards for the oil and gas industry,
serving as director of the standards and guidelines committee
for the Petroleum Industry Data Exchange (PIDX) subcommittee of the American Petroleum Institute. He was a founding
member of the PIDX Europe executive committee and served
on the steering committee of the United Nations Standard
Products and Services Code. Hubbard earned an MS degree in
science management and a BS degree in natural resources from
the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
appointed vice president Middle East and
North Africa at Tendeka. He joined the
company as area manager for Asia Pacific in
2010. Simpson was previously country
manager for WellDynamics in Australia,
New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, and
before that held a number of management posts within
Weatherford International. He has more than 20 years experience in the international energy industry, with expertise in
well construction, drilling, intelligent and conventional completions, sand control, inflow control, and production optimization technologies.

In Memoriam
away on 6 December 2011 in Dallas, Texas.
She was born on 18 July 1930 in Oklahoma
City to Dow and Louise Gibson. She is survived by her sister, Charlotte Slemp; nieces and nephew, Nancy McKown and husband Ted, Buddy Slemp and wife Kathy,
Alison Kaye and husband Adam. She retired as production
manager in 1994 from the Society of Petroleum Engineers
after 39 years. Gibson was a long-time resident of Dallas and
lived inPlano, Texas, the past four years.



Every year, SPE recognizes those
who have made an exceptional effort
to ensure the technical excellence of its
peer-reviewed journals. For their contributions, the following Editorial
Review Committee members received
the Outstanding Technical Editor Award
and the Associate Editor Award at the
2011 SPE Annual Technical Conference

Journal of Canadian
Petroleum Technology
Raymond Ambrose, Reliance
Holding USA
Merrill Jamieson, Canyon
Technical Services
Mark Chan, Statoil
Cuong Dang, University of Calgary
Neil Edmunds, Laricina Energy
Marco Fiori, BP Canada Energy

SPE Drilling & Completion

Khalid Ahmed, Kuwait Oil Company
Goke Akinniranye, K&M
Technology Group
Glen Benge, Baker Hughes
Paul Boonen, PathFinder Energy
John Cook, Schlumberger
Cambridge Research
Quanxin Guo, M-I SWACO

Roy Hartley, Aurelian Oil & Gas

Richard Jachnik, Baker Hughes
Patrick Kenny, Baker Hughes
Dick Krabbendam, DPK Engineering AS
Jeff Li, Baker Hughes
Zhen Mao, K&M Technology Group
Carlos Pedroso, Petrobras
Bharath Rao, BTechSoft
Robello Samuel, Halliburton
Brian Tarr, Shell International E&P
Andrew Zheng, Schlumberger

SPE Economics & Management

Eric Bickel, University of Texas at Austin
James Dyer, University of Texas at
Lyndon Pittinger, Occidental Oil & Gas
Bart Willigers, Palantir Economic

SPE Journal
Henri Bertin, University of Bordeaux
Guohua Gao, Shell
Silviu Livescu, ExxonMobil
Mustafa Onur, Istanbul Technical
Randy Seright, New Mexico Institute
Mining and Technology
Burak Yeten, Chevron
Hong-Quan (Holden) Zhang,
University of Tulsa

SPE Honors Technical Paper Reviewers

SPE created the A Peer Apart program to recognize dedicated individuals who have
been involved in the peer review of 100 or more papers. Members who commit
their time to peer review papers make substantial contributions to the industrys
literature by helping to ensure that the papers published in SPEs technical journals are of the highest quality. Over time, these individuals volunteered hundreds
of hours to the society, making SPE journals a valuable resource for the industry.
This year, eight individuals who have reached the milestone of reviewing 100
or more technical papers join the elite groupbringing the total membership of
A Peer Apart to 110 members. They are:
Roberto Aguilera,
University of Calgary
Rodolfo Camacho Velazquez,
Pemex E&P
Lee Y. Chin, ConocoPhillips
Dimitrios G. Hatzignatiou, Integrated
Risk Information System (IRIS/UiS)


Jasper N. Ring, Chevron U.S.A.

Hisham A. Nasr-El-Din,
Texas A&M University
Shauna G. Noonan, ConocoPhillips
Burak Yeten, Chevron

SPE Production & Operations

Annie Audibert-Hayet, Total
Wayne Frenier, Schlumberger
Niall Fleming, Statoil
Bernard Tremblay, Saskatchewan
Research Council
Hayes Chow, ConocoPhillips
Bryan Freeman, Chevron
Mike Wiggins, William M. Cobb &

SPE Projects, Facilities

& Construction
Williams Chirinos, WorleyParsons
Saeid Daneshi, University of Tehran
Varagur Rajan, Alberta Innovates
Technology Futures

SPE Reservoir Evaluation

& Engineering
Shahram Amini, Schlumberger
Reinaldo Angulo, Repsol YPF
S.M. Avasthi, Avasthi Associates
Yuguang Chen, Chevron ETC
Peter Clifford, BP Exploration
Abdallah Harouaka, IHR International
Omer Izgec, Chevron ETC
Alan Johnson, Shell EP Solutions UK
Sameer Joshi, Schlumberger
David Kersey, Saudi Aramco
Ibrahim Kocabas, American University
of Sharjah
Myron Kuhlman, MK Tech Solutions
Stephen Laubach, University of Texas
at Austin
Alana Leahy-Dios, ExxonMobil
Upstream Research
Jagannathan Mahadevan, University
of Tulsa
Saikrishna Maudgalya, Anadarko
Erdal Ozkan, Colorado School of Mines
Prabodh Pathak, ExxonMobil
Andrei Popa, Chevron
Richard Sigal, University of Oklahoma
Kevin Taylor, Taylor Industrial Research
Sheena X. Xie, Intertek Westport
Technology Center
Marco Verlaan, Shell
Christopher White, Louisiana State
Calvin Yao, BHP Billiton Petroleum




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A.R. Hasumi & Assocs.
Page 101
ALMA International, Inc.
Page 101
Aramco Services Co.
Page 81
Baker Hughes, Inc.
Page 25
BHP Billiton
Pages 11, 37
Boots & Coots
Pages 44-45, 46-47
Brookeld Engineering
Page 20
Cansco Well Control
Page 91
CUDD Energy Services
Page 27
CUDD Well Control
Page 87
CUDD Well Control School
Page 95
Dragon Products, Ltd.
Pages 21, 53, 69
Fekete Associates
Cover 2

Friedrich Leutert GmbH

& Co. KG
Page 101

Packers Plus
Page 7
Polyguard Products
Page 101

General Cable
Page 97
Greene Tweed & Co.
Page 63

i-TEC Well Solutions LLC

Page 9
Page 3, 13, 19, Cover 4

Page 17
i-TEC Well Solutions LLC
Page 9

Page 73
T.T. & Assocciates Inc.
Page 101

Cover 3
Kudu Industries, Inc.
Page 23
Mewbourne College of Earth &
EnergyUniversity of Oklahoma
Page 15
Page 57

TAM International
Page 2
Unimin Corp.
Page 62
University of Alberta
Page 72
University of Calgary
Page 62

Page 59

Weatherford International Ltd.

Pages 4, 5

National Oilwell Varco

Page 65
Oklahoma State University
Faculty Position
Page 96

Page 77
Wyoming Carbon Capture &
Storage Technology Institute
Page 79




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Develop Strategies to Extend Lifecycle and

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1314 March DubaiUnconventional

Artificial Lift Configurations and
Deployment Methods

2021 March MilanSPE/IADC Managed

Pressure Drilling and Underbalanced
Operations Conference and Exhibition

1921 March DohaField

Redevelopment to Maximise Asset Value:

2022 March ViennaSPE/EAGE

European Unconventional Resources
Conference and Exhibition


SPE Annual Technical Conference and
Exhibition San Antonio
Deadline: 30 January 2012
SPE Russian Oil and Gas Exploration
and Production Technical Conference
and Exhibition Moscow
Deadline: 10 February 2012
Abu Dhabi International Petroleum
Exhibition and Conference
Abu Dhabi
Deadline: 1 April 2012
International Petroleum Technology
Conference Beijing
Deadline: 2 March 2012

Find complete listings of upcoming SPE workshops, conferences, symposiums, and forums at