Greater revenues from record-high oil prices are fuelling creativity in Norway’s energy sector. Promising technology is being put to work throughout the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) in the quest for improved recovery, cleaner performance and a stronger ability to tap into hard-to-reach fields. Such technology can then be exported worldwide. The country’s well-earned reputation for oil and gas R&D attracts the establishment of research centres on Norwegian soil by some of the top players in the field internationally, along with some of the best students in the reservoir engineering field.
Driven by the world’s growing energy demands and the expectation of continued high price structures, major players on the NCS such as Hydro, Statoil and Shell are teaming with innovative Norwegian partners like Nexans, FMC Kongsberg Subsea and others to find ways to get the most out of mature fields and extract new resources from difficult terrain in the region.
And cooperative public/private initiatives are helping by creating a fast track for high-tech innovations to be developed on the NCS and later marketed around the world. PETROMAKS, OG21, DEMO 2000 and the Asset Forum are all well underway and coming up with real-world solutions for the sector’s challenges.
The subsea separation units to be deployed in Statoil’s Tordis field represent a major advance in IOR (increased oil recovery) technology: they will enable the company to draw out nearly 35 million extra barrels there.
PETROMAKS is a major petroleum research and innovation programme launched in 2004, combining long-term basic R&D and applied and industrial R&D into one thematic programme. The programme acts as an umbrella group, effectively bringing in a wide variety of industry talent to work on key concerns for the oil and gas industry.
A major project on the treatment of produced water was launched in 2005, drawing expertise from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Statoil, Shell, ChevronTexaco, Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and others. The team is working to help meet the government’s target of pollution-free produced water by creating new cleaning technologies and strategies. This challenge has become more urgent as the NCS fields age, and water content as a percentage of pumped volume rises. “Our goal is to develop new cleaning methods that will then be put into production by players in the supply industry,” wrote researcher Pål Viggo Hemmingsen in the PETROMAKS newsletter.
SmartPipe, an innovative project designed to pave the way for self-diagnostic pipelines and risers, is another PETROMAKS initiative unveiled during 2005. Aker Verdal, research organization SINTEF and PETROMAKS are teaming up on this research to help realize a complete condition-monitoring system for offshore pipelines. Key to the success of the project will be developing a distributed sensor network, so a strong focus will be on the use of miniature sensors (both silicon and multi-functional material-based), to be combined with established sensor technologies.
This programme was created to accelerate the commercialization of R&D in the oil and gas sector. DEMO 2000 has a special focus on subsurface technology to help reach the goals of improved modelling, reservoir description, and control for increased recovery.
Thanks in part to support from the programme, Aker Kværner Subsea was able to develop a new subsea pump station of the twin-screw type that recently won the company a contract with BP. “We were selected for this contract based on technology we have been developing since 1998, with the support of the Norwegian government’s ‘DEMO 2000’ programme and major oil companies. It has the potential to enhance production from new developments and producing fields worldwide, in both shallow and deepwater applications,” commented Raymond Carlsen of Aker Kværner on the company’s website.
In 2001, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy set out a national strategy for creating added value and ensuring a competitive advantage for the sector. The OG21 program works to implement this strategy by creating a more coordinated approach to R&D in the sector, resulting in greater international competitiveness through the development of new technology. This initiative often acts in concert with DEMO 2000 and PETROMAKS.
One of OG21’s major studies in 2005 addresses how and to what extent the Norwegian petroleum industry can maintain its competence, capacity and global market position. The study, titled “Norway as an E&P Technology Hub” and set to be published around the turn of 2005/2006, will be go on to address how to sustain and further develop the Norwegian oil cluster into an international technology hub.
This programme, established in 2003, facilitates the implementation of new technology in the sector. Citing an industry-wide focus on reducing the risk element in decisions and the resulting inhibitions to trying out new technology, the Asset Forum creates meeting places and contact between oil and gas companies to help identify areas and projects where new technology can be used by partnerships.
In April 2005, the Forum selected ten emergent technologies as showing great promise for the future. Selections included slimhole rotary drilling from Schlumberger, a deepwater boosting system from Kværner, a subsea conditions monitoring system from Naxys and toe-driven conductors from Neodrill, among others.
Subsea Breakthrough for IOR
New technology resulting in improved oil recovery (IOR) will enable Statoil to draw out nearly 35 million extra barrels from the company’s Tordis fields. The key to increased yield is the development of a full-scale seabed separation facility, to be developed in partnership with FMC Kongsberg Subsea, a subsidiary of FMC Technology. Statoil is investing NOK 1.8 billion in the Tordis IOR project, and expects to raise the field’s recovery factor from 49 to 55 percent.
This innovation holds strong potential for eventual export to other markets, as it represents the first time that full-scale subsea separation has been adopted. Statoil outlines the first steps as reducing reception pressure on Gullfaks C, then installing a subsea module on Tordis that can perform separation and injection of water. It’s a solution that many in the industry are bullish about, citing improved tail production and the ability to impact production in environmentally fragile areas.
Able to scale underwater mountains and cling to steep valleys, Hydro’s “Spider” subsea digging machines are currently at work on the seabed at Ormen Lange.
Hydro’s Spiders Exploring New Ground
Ormen Lange, Hydro’s huge gas field set to come online in October 2007, has presented long-standing challenges for engineers because of the seabed’s dramatically uneven terrain. Teaming up with Nexans, Hydro has come up with a high-tech solution: “Spiders”, two remotely controlled underwater diggers designed to create a more even surface for the placement of gas pipes.
Each Spider is run by new 3D software and, thanks to sensors on all movable parts, can make use of acoustic transmitters placed on the seabed. Real-time updates in 3D of the seabed terrain give operators excellent control of the machines. Commands are transmitted by a controller to a level of precision of only 10-20 centimetres, even when operating at a depth of 1,000 metres. First constructed at Nexans’ facility in Halden and tested at Ormen Lange in 2004, today’s updated and improved versions of the Spiders are currently deployed on vessels and are at work in the field.
The Spiders are part of an increasing commitment by industry to increase recovery of the huge gas resources in the area. According to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, more than four trillion standard cubic meters (Sm³) of saleable gas have been proven on the NCS, and future finds are expected to add nearly two trillion Sm³ more.
International Companies Finding Value in Norway
A/S Shell Norge, a division of Royal Dutch Shell, has been active in the country since 1912, and on the NCS since 1964. Terje Jonassen of Shell pointed out that Norway is one of the growth areas for the company, due to the continued value to be found on the NCS. In 2004, the company spent 52 million NOK in research in Norway, while participating in more than 50 projects.
This research is expanding Shell’s capabilities in the near term. In two years, when the company’s drilling activity begins at Ormen Lange, operations will demand a whole new level of coordination for sea and land facilities. To meet the challenge, Shell has created a state-of-the-art operations room at Risavika that features the world’s first high-speed wireless connection between a land base and a moving ship, some 110 kilometres out on the Norwegian Sea. The breakthrough promises to create safer, more efficient operations through high-speed data transfer, communications and video conferencing.
Schlumberger Offering 4D Solutions
Another international player with deep interests in Norway is Schlumberger, one of the leaders in supplying technology, project management and information solutions to the oil and gas industry. The company has pioneered innovations designed specifically to manage production efficiently in mature environments like the NCS.
One of the latest advances from Schlumberger R&D has been the creation of infrastructure and systems to support 4D time-lapse definition, which, along with deep-reading directional electromagnetic and pressure and mobility measurements, enhances reservoir knowledge. By providing a real-time view, zones of interest and previously bypassed pockets are identified, which is a key step in overall value creation.
The company is quite active throughout the NCS marketplace. At the Asgard field, for example, Statoil and Schlumberger are exploring a Remote Interactive Drilling programme. In addition, the company offers North Sea operators systems for pressure and mobility measurement, multiphase well testing, integrated production surveillance and a host of other industry services.
Norway’s R&D commitment has produced innovative companies like Ocean Riser Systems, which features cutting-edge pressure management systems for deepwater drilling and wells.
Norwegian Competence Draws Students Worldwide
At NTNU’s Master’s Programme in Reservoir Engineering, one encounters a truly varied mix of students. Over half the scholars are non-Norwegian, testimony to the value placed on the nation’s expertise by oil-producing countries around the world. Jon Kleppe, head of the programme at NTNU, cited three main reasons for the popularity of studying these topics in Norway:
“First, Norway is well-known internationally for its oil industry and perhaps regarded as a technology leader in offshore exploration and production. Secondly, NTNU has a high reputation internationally as a leading university, not the least in petroleum engineering and geosciences. And thirdly, the around 500 students from 50 different countries that have been enrolled in the M.Sc. programmes in these fields over the past 12 years (since the language of instruction was changed to English) are very good ambassadors for NTNU when they return home.”
From Research to the Marketplace
Norwegian innovations are finding an increasingly easy path to the private sector, thanks to entities like Sinvent, an arm of the SINTEF group, whose goal is to commercialize technology spawned from SINTEF research. The recent launch of ResMan AS, with partners Statoil and IFE, is a good example of this investment creating new solutions for industry. ResMan offers a polymer-based “intelligent chemical” approach to wellstream monitoring, eliminating the need for high-maintenance cables.
Another firm with roots in R&D, Ocean Riser Systems (ORS), has taken on the long-lasting challenge of pressure management in deepwater drilling and wells. The company employs a high-pressure riser and subsea mud pump that lifts returning mud from the well, raising it from a lower level in the riser back to the rig. ORS cites the advantages to its system as reducing costs while increasing safety.