Eurogif: ITF fostering new ideas to extend North Sea production

The UK-based Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF) was established to promote the development of innovative technology that meets the needs of the upstream oil and gas industry.

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Sheila Batchelor
Industry Technology Facilitator

The UK-based Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF) was established to promote the development of innovative technology that meets the needs of the upstream oil and gas industry. Now in its third year of operation, the organization has established itself as a key route to collaborative joint industry project funding.

ITF's remit is well aligned with that of Eurogif, and it has been involved with Eurogif since its inception. ITF shares the UK Eurogif membership with the Energy Industries Council and Scottish Enterprise, and ITF's managing director, David Ellix, has an active role on the Eurogif board.

ITF was originally established in response to the work of the UK Oil and Gas Industry Task Force (now known as Pilot) that laid down a series of ambitious 10-year targets for the UK oil and gas industry. The task force concluded that technology cooperation was central to ensuring the future competitiveness of the North Sea industry, and ITF was established by a group of oil and gas operating companies, with support from the UK Department of Trade and Industry. Today, ITF is supported on a subscription basis by 14 oil and gas operating companies and two major service companies and is the vehicle through which these companies support joint industry projects (JIPs).

ITF's role in the JIP formation process is to develop a clear understanding of its members' business needs, relate them to technology gaps, and then seek out technologies and new ideas to address these needs. Funding for selected projects is sought from oil companies as well as public funding schemes or any other suitable sources.

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Corpro Systems' Score technology allows wellbore samples to be retrieved for analysis following drilling/logging operations.
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Once sufficient funds are in place, a joint industry project can be launched.

ITF began operating at the beginning of 2000, and by the middle of 2002 had launched 49 JIPs with a total value of over £13 million. Proposals received in response to a small number of themed calls accounted for a significant part of the total for 2001, and the themed approach was further developed to become the major mode of operation for 2002. Calls for proposals have been issued this year concerning low permeability reservoirs, subsea development, brownfields, infill drilling and production management, and high resolution imaging of hydrocarbon reservoirs. In addition, the door has remained open to ideas that could significantly benefit the industry, but do not fall within any of the call topics for the year. Innovative ideas can be discussed with ITF at any time, and those of most interest to member companies are brought forward for detailed assessment by a panel of experts.

This year, ITF has also focused on extending the stage of technology development that it supports. In May, the Pioneer program was launched to support potentially game-changing technologies that are at an early and highly uncertain stage of their development. At the other end of the technology development curve, developers have been invited to submit proposals for field trialing of fully developed technologies as part of the subsea development and brownfields calls for proposals. Field trialing remains a major obstacle to the application of new technology, and ITF is developing a collaborative approach to allow member companies to share the risk.

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Maris' Continuous Circulation Coupler allows constant circulation of drilling mud during drillpipe assembly.
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The future of the oil and gas industry and its supply chain in Europe will be strongly dependent on both the development and application of innovative technologies. ITF and Eurogif will continue to work together to make these happen.

Seismic characterization

During 2001, two major programs were created in the subsurface area that address the themes of complex reservoirs and seismic characterization. The seismic reservoir characterisation program was established to promote technology advances in the areas of high-resolution seismic, rapid prediction of reservoir performance from seismic, and rock and fluid physics linked to petrophysics.

The structurally complex reservoirs program was formed to promote technology advances in the areas of detection and prediction of faults and fractures, characterization of fault and fracture properties, and flow simulation in complex wells. These two programs consist of nine interlinked projects led by Imperial College, London, University College Dublin, Heriot Watt University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, and Colorado School of Mines.

Continuous Circulation Coupler

Maris International hopes to create a step change in the way that wells are constructed with its Continuous Circulation Coupler. Two phases of this major development have been completed with support from ITF's membership. The technology allows drilling mud to circulate continuously while breaking and making drill pipe connections. This capability provides a "constant downhole pressure regime," reduces risk of kicks and gas influx, and lowers total connection times significantly. The new technology has been licensed to Varco Schaffer, which expects to make the CCS available commercially in early 2003.

Sub Bottom Cutter

The Sub Bottom Cutter (Sbc) project evolved with the introduction of legislation requiring removal of sub-seabed surface equipment to a depth of 1-5 m. Sbc is an environmentally friendly system that can achieve this with minimal seabed disturbance using the Italian patented Tecno-spamec diamond wire cutting technology.

The new technique has been developed by a consortium of four companies; TS Tecnospa-mec Italy, Cutuk, Monyana Engineering Services UK, Hydrakraft Norway and the Universities of Genoa and Athens. Cutuk is the consortium partner responsible for the Sbc's commercialization worldwide. The project has received partial funding from the European Commission as well as contributions from four ITF member companies. The first sea trials of the new 30-in. Sbc are envisaged for May 2003.

Selective coring of reservoirs

Corpro Systems has applied a radical new approach to the design of a system for obtaining core samples, currently undergoing prototype testing. Its Core technology allows samples to be recovered from a hole cut almost parallel to the original well bore after drilling and logging operations have been completed and the well is stabilized. The information gained during drilling and logging provides the exact position and extent of all zones of interest. Up to 25 ft of continuous sample can be retrieved in each operation. The project received funding from the European Commission and ITF member companies.

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