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Rosneft Joins BP, Schlumberger in Wireless Seismic Technology Pursuit

Russia's largest publicly traded producer, OAO Rosneft, is becoming an equal partner in groundbreaking research between BP plc and Schlumberger Ltd. to develop "cableless" onshore seismic acquisition technology.

Under the terms of the agreements, Rosneft would join BP and Schlumberger's seismic business, WesternGeco, which is working on a project that could revolutionize 2D and 3D seismic survey designs and acquisitions sans cable. No financial details were disclosed.

Technology to cut the cable and use real-time monitoring via wireless sensors could improve subsurface imaging and efficiencies in exploration, appraisal and field development. The ability to deliver faster and better quality seismic data acquisition at lower cost compared to conventional seismic surveys also could result in environmental and safety benefits in difficult to access areas and extreme climates.

"These agreements turn the page in the development of upstream technologies," Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said. "By teaming up with such industry leaders as BP and Schlumberger we are bound to succeed. The fact that Rosneft, Russia's leading oil and gas company, will be involved in the development of state-of-the-art technologies is of prime importance. As a result, innovative solutions will be tailored for specific Russian settings. Given the international status of the research project, the product to be created will have a significant potential on global markets."

Seismic surveys into the late 1970s used cabled systems in what then was the gold standard, 2D imaging using geophones in a line connected by cable. When 3D surveys were introduced, distributed systems were developed to support parallel lines of geophones, and remote boxes digitized the signals to send data to a central recording system. Cableless seismic systems were put into use beginning in the late 1990s, but infrastructure constraints and a lack of managing data has kept cable as the norm. Real-time wireless systems are expected to become more common as technology advances.

Combining Rosneft's experience in challenging Russian conditions, the three companies "anticipate unique opportunities for the creation and rapid deployment of leading-edge seismic technologies," said BP Russia President David Campbell.

The project envisages an initial two-year period to complete a seismic acquisition system. BP and Rosneft would have preferential access to the technology for an initial period, after which Schlumberger would have the exclusive rights to market the system.

BP, whose portfolio has been reduced sharply to help pay for the 2010 Macondo tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, four years ago acquired close to 20% of Rosneft (see Daily GPI, Oct. 23, 2012). During 1Q2016, BP's total output, including Rosneft, was 3.5 million boe/d (see Daily GPI, April 26). Excluding Rosneft, upstream production totaled 2.4 million boe/d.

The two producers already have projects in the works. In June BP and Rosneft finalized binding agreements to create Yermak Neftegaz LLC, a joint venture majority owned by Rosneft (51%) to explore the West Siberian and Yenisey-Khatanga basins in the Russian Federation, covering a combined area of about 260,000 square kilometers. Exploration activities in the two areas of mutual interest include regional research, acquiring seismic data and drilling exploration wells, with initial work beginning this winter.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also is signaling that Russia may sell another 20% stake in Rosneft to reduce the country's budget deficit. If Russian can find "appropriate strategic investors," a sale could happen this year, Putin said in an interview with Bloomberg News. The stake may be worth as much as $11 billion.

"The Russian government has no need to hold such large stakes and we are committed to carrying out our plans," Putin told Bloomberg. "The question isn’t whether we want to or not, the question is whether it makes sense or not and at what moment?"

As to which operators might pony up to buy into Rosneft was not disclosed. However, many of the Big Oil producers already are working with Rosneft on various projects, including ExxonMobil Corp.

The Irving, TX-based supermajor struck a landmark strategic joint agreement with Rosneft in 2011 to explore and develop projects in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and the tight oil fields of Texas and Canada, as well as in Russia and other countries around the world (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31, 2011). The companies later forged agreements giving Rosneft access to U.S. and Canada onshore acreage, and the right to acquire an interest in 20 GOM blocks (see Daily GPI, March 11, 2013; April 17, 2012). In addition, the producers have a technology sharing agreement.

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