Energy technology breakthroughs introduced in recent weeks are offering a peek at the future of the oil and gas industry, which is less H.G. Wells and more J.J. Abrams.
Robots? Check. Remote drilling? Check. New chemical processes to reduce onshore water use? Check. People? Check, but there’s more manpower reading data logs than wildcatting. Whether in the lab or from displays unveiled at the recent Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, it appears that the energy industry’s future definitely will be seen through 3-D glasses.
The OTC this year honored 15 new technologies for innovation and their impacts for offshore exploration and production (E&P). The technology had to be less than two-years-old, “capable of revolutionizing the offshore E&P industry,” and proven. It also had to have a “broad appeal” for the industry and offer “significant benefits beyond existing technologies.”
“Our spotlight winners ask, ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?,'” said Committee Chair Helge Hove Haldorsen. “It is thanks to them that offshore E&P will continue to play a key role in supplying the world with affordable energy in a sustainable manner.”
Baker Hughes Inc.’s “logging-while-driving” system, called FASTrak, was recognized for its fluid analysis sampling and testing system, which is used to determine a reservoir’s fluid properties. Baker claims the service will enhance critical decision making about a reservoir for horizontal or extended-reach wells, resulting in time and cost savings.
Tesco Corp.’s work in repurposing existing technology for land, offshore and deepwater operations also was recognized. The Top Drive segment is transferring offshore automation and rig mechanization technology to land applications, said Senior Vice President Jeff Foster.
Now being adapted for the onshore are “iron roughnecks” used to connect and disconnect drill pipe, as well as the top-drive drilling system. The “automation, preventive and predictive maintenance” trends offer Tesco and other oilfield service operators an opportunity to reduce “nonproductive” time, Foster said.
Statoil ASA’s spotlight technology enables remote-controlled tie-ins to live natural gas pipelines without interrupting the flow, aptly named the “remotely welded retrofit subsea hot tap tee.” A robot welds a T-joint into a live pipe, which allows off-site drilling by remotely operated vehicles (ROV) into the producing pipe. The tools allow work to be done without disrupting pressure or production, saving as much as three-months time and “millions” on each project, said project manager Kjell Edvard Apeland. The basic technology is more than 100 years old, but the hot tap is the first to use robots and ROVs to optimize maturing fields, Statoil claims.
By conducting underwater operations remotely, “it proves what is possible to do in the future in the subsea environment,” said Statoil’s Jan Olav Berge, senior adviser in pipeline and transport technology.” The first new hot tap technology successfully used was in the Norwegian Sea in 870 feet, but Statoil expects the technology to be upgradable to a minimum of 8,000 feet and as deep as 13,000 feet.
GE Oil & Gas received two technology awards, both for deepwater drilling. The RamTel Plus System and ROV Subsea Display Panel “provide the industry with real-time, electronic measurements” of a blowout preventer’s (BOP) ram position and the pressure required to actuate the blades and/or sealing elements. The second, the Deepwater BOP Blind Shear Ram is designed “to address an industry need to shear and seal today’s large diameter, advanced metallurgy (strength, thickness and ductility) drilling tubulars.”
Honoree WeST Drilling Products SA showed off what it claims is the “first drilling robot,” a continuous motion rig (CMR) that allows drillers to pull drill pipe and run casing without interrupting the drilling process. The technology potentially could reduce drilling time by an estimated 45%. Initially designed for the offshore, the rig “eliminates down-hole problems” and safety risks because no personnel would be on the rig floor, said CEO Odd Skjaerseth. The CMR is adaptable for jack-ups, floating and fixed platforms and drillships, as well as land rigs. WeST Group claims overall rig personnel could be reduced by half, and there would be half as many carbon dioxide emissions as traditional rigs.
Superior Energy Services also was recognized for its Complete Automated Technology System, a rig that uses ROVs, or pre-programmed robotics, to control various completion components. Robotics are housed in one unit to allow an operator to control a snubbing unit, blowout preventer/well control stack, pumps, circulation tanks, top drive, closing systems and pipe handling systems.
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