Published on June 5th, 2012
Technology to Watch for in 2012 – Five Industry Innovators
Statoil ASA, an international energy company, is working on leading-edge subsea gas compression technology. Statoil’s subsea gas compression technology is the first of its kind in the world and is expected to be realized for use on the Åsgard field in the Norwegian Shelf in 2015.
In early 2008, Statoil first started testing its technology at its test facility, the K-lab, on Kårstø on the western coast of Norway. K-lab is now being readied to test a full-scale model underwater, where the power supply system from Åsgard A, to the compressors on the seabed, are now being stimulated.
When the pressure in the reservoirs declines, the flows become unstable, and the drive mechanism becomes too weak to move the gas. Previously, Statoil was only able to install compressors on the installations above water. The company is now conquering the depths of the sea with subsea gas compression technology.
Subsea gas compression encompasses placing a large structure approximately 75 meters long, by 45 meters wide, by 20 meters high with compressors, pumps, scrubbers and coolers on the seabed to maintain high pressure. The closer the compression is to the well, the higher the efficiency and production rates become.
This new technology is expected to improve gas recovery results from the Mikkel and Midgard reservoirs by approximately 278 million barrels of oil equivalent. Statoil’s project is anticipated to be one of the most important contributors to new volumes and will provide future opportunities for improved recovery from a number of fields. By carrying out compression on the seabed, energy efficiency can be improved as well as costs can be lowered compared with carrying out compression on platforms or on land.
“With subsea gas compression technology, we are one step closer to realizing our vision of a subsea factory. Processing on the seabed, and gas compression in particular, is an important technological advance to develop fields in deep waters and in remote areas,” says Elin Isaksen, communication manager for Statoil.
Cenovus is a Canadian oil company that operates two oil sands projects in northern Alberta, Foster Creek and Christina Lake. The company uses steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology to produce the oil, and invests in technologies that increase recovery rates, while improving energy efficiency and reducing environmental impacts.
One example is Cenovus’ solvent aided process (SAP) where a solvent is injected with the steam. The solvent (Cenovus uses butane) works to thin the oil, causing it to fl ow. The use of a solvent reduces the amount of steam that is required in the SAGD process, while increasing the amount of oil that can be recovered and improving production rates.
Cenovus anticipates that SAP will increase its production by about 30 percent and reduce its steam-to-oil ratio (SOR) by 20 to 25 percent. Lowering the SOR means operations will be more efficient, and use less water and less energy to make steam. Cenovus began testing SAP at a facility in Senlac, Saskatchewan, and is now running its third test, which began in 2009, at its Christina Lake oil sands project. Currently, Cenovus has one SAP well at Christina Lake, and the company has seen encouraging results.
“The technology is still in the test phase, but we have included it in an application for one of our emerging oil sands plays, Narrows Lake. If implemented at Narrows Lake, it would be the first commercial project using SAP,” says Jessica Wilkinson, a Cenovus spokesperson. The start-up of the Narrows Lake project is planned for 2016, pending regulatory approval.
“Cenovus has industry-leading SORs at our oil sands operations, and we see SAP as a way to reduce them even further,” says Wilkinson. “SAP might also allow for greater distance between well pairs, which could further reduce the environmental footprint.”
Shell, a global group of energy and petrochemicals companies, has developed a new technology called “Flying Nodes” in conjunction with a British company, Go Science. Shell is currently testing Flying Node prototypes, which are designed to aid how the company conducts its seismic exploration for oil and gas resources, and aims to deploy them within two years.
Flying Nodes are self-propelled surface nodes that would be deployed from a ship and guided into position by GPS satellite communications. Then the pre-programmed flying nodes would be launched, up to 2,000 nodes could be sent out per day, potentially surveying an area thousands of kilometers square and up to 3,000 meters deep. They move at speeds of up to 24 kilometers per hour and could travel up to 250 kilometers on a single battery charge. A collision avoidance system keeps them clear of underwater obstacles. Following instructions from the deployment vessel and surface nodes, the flying nodes maneuver into position. Then multiple vessels on the surface can begin the seismic survey, using compressed air guns to send sound waves through the ocean floor. Quality control nodes collect data to determine if the flying nodes are working properly and also instruct a node to return to its deployment vessel or move to another position on the survey grid. After the seismic survey has been completed, all nodes would return to the deployment vessel.
These robot-like devices can cluster into swarms in an offshore environment, such as the seafloor, and could soon aid in the quest to find new hydrocarbon resources to help meet the world’s growing energy demand.
In addition to offshore environments, the system could be used in inland waters or combined with a land-based system to survey such challenging terrains as swamps. It could also be effective in Arctic environments, by deploying nodes underneath the ice.
The use of Flying Nodes is expected to increase the efficiency of ocean-bottom seismic data acquisition, which could also reduce seismic data acquisition costs by 50 percent, and lead to a commoditization of ocean-floor seismic information.
Canadian Floating Fence Corporation
The Canadian Floating Fence Corporation has created X-BOOM, a spill containment system that collects oil from oil spills. X-BOOM is a patented technology comprised of vertical spars that support a hybrid mesh filter system—the physical boom that separates the water from the oil—in a stable, upright position that allows water, wind and waves to pass through.
By using mesh weaves, the boom can filter diesel fuel, bitumen and Bunker “C” crude oil, and can be used to contain oil spills on rivers, lakes and oceans.
X-BOOM was tested at a U.S. Navy test basin where 100 percent of the test material was collected. The system was tested at 1.5 knots and was towed as high as 3 knots without instability or damage. X-BOOM outperforms industry standards for spill containment systems by at least .75 knots to as high as 2.25 knots. The mesh is 15 times stronger than steel, is floatable and is slash-proof, and it becomes stronger by 33.4 percent at -80 degrees Celsius (or -112 degrees Fahrenheit). X-BOOM is currently being tested at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology – Polytechnic in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Existing spill containment systems, known as horizontal booming, have solid surface floatation and skirting. When wind and waves pass through, oil is driven over or under it, and the booms wash onto the shores. CFFC’s spill containment system technology is unique in that it can corral oil and allow the oil to amass into a larger volume, which allows existing skimming devices to work extremely well, because they can retrieve between 80 to 90 percent oil to water ratio. The oil can then be collected much easier, contained for collection and transferred before it reaches shore.
X-BOOM is also less labor intensive than other systems and can be launched from very small vessels and towed by personal watercraft. The boom can also be cleaned and reused, precluding it from having to be buried like other booms. The technology also helps oil and gas companies be in compliance with energy regulators, and it helps to reduce major claims through insurance companies.
Stephen Neal, CEO of CFFC, says, “Based on the statistic that less than three percent of the oil was collected from a Gulf of Mexico spill, we anticipate that X-BOOM will collect at least fifty percent of the oil from an oil spill.”
PETRONAS, the national oil company of Malaysia, has developed three technologies to address the challenges of developing high carbon dioxide fields, prolonged exposure of our facilities to corrosive environments and crude containing depositions in upstream production fields.
PETRONAS has developed and tested a new multifiber membrane separation technology for more efficient and cost-effective removal of CO2 from natural gas. Unlike current membrane designs made with the same type of fiber materials with a single set range of performance characteristics, the new multifiber design uses two or more different types of membrane fibers with different performance characteristics. This allows for a reduction in CO2 separation stages, increases separation performance and maximizes overall gas-processing capacity. The main benefit of this technology is the significant reduction in the total deck footprint and weight of the membrane skids, used offshore which would translate into lower costs.
This technology has been tested at one of PETRONAS’s offshore operations with results meeting the test’s stated parameters. The technology will be commercially applied at the PETRONAS’s JDA-GBE Project. PETRONAS has developed a pipeline repair system that uses composite material, consisting of a fiberglass reinforcement saturated in a resin matrix. Unlike other available technologies, PETRONAS’s PIPEASSURE™ is highly durable and resistant to moisture and is capable of withstanding the conditions that subsea pipelines are exposed to. The technology functions as an overwrap to protect and repair damaged sections of oil and gas pipelines.
PIPEASSURE™ allows repairs to be performed efficiently and in a cost-effective manner, avoiding lengthy pipeline shutdowns. PIPEASSURE™ also extends the lifespan of compromised pipelines, enabling operators to schedule installation of a replacement pipeline at a later date, with minimum downtime.
PETRONAS’s Solid Deposition Treatment Technology (SDTT) is a thermo-chemical solution that removes the deposits near and around wellbore and production tubing. The two components of the system that are able to enhance production from the treated wells are injected simultaneously into the wellbore through production tubing. The process results in a highly effective way of providing solvency to dissolve and remove the solid deposits.
This technology has been able to reduce operating costs by increasing the sustainability of the well production, and is also compatible with formation hydrocarbon and well completion.
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