Innovation headlines deepwater conference

The 30th anniversary of Deep Offshore Technology International (DOT), held last month in New Orleans, was a success. My sincere thanks to the conference host Hess Corp., and to all of the sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, advisory board members, and the PennWell conference team, for making it possible.

David Paganie • Houston

The 30th anniversary of Deep Offshore Technology International (DOT), held last month in New Orleans, was a success. My sincere thanks to the conference host Hess Corp., and to all of the sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, advisory board members, and the PennWell conference team, for making it possible.

DOT has been the pulse of the deepwater industry for 30 years. Last year in Amsterdam the mood was somewhat subdued, just seven months removed from the tragic incident in the Gulf of Mexico. This year the incident and related issues were central discussion points at the event, but a healthy dose of enthusiasm and optimism returned to the fore. I was encouraged by the number of new concepts and case studies that were presented. Operators openly discussed lessons learned from high-profile deepwater projects. And industry engaged in constructive debate on asset integrity, risk management, and safety.

Safety, as DOT keynote speakerStand Bond, Hess Corp., put it, is the first order of business for the industry today, including health and environmental issues. And one important driver of safety is engineering. The trend now, he said, is moving from a management systems approach to behavioral-based safety. The next step is major accident prevention and mitigation. And the challenge in this step is to identify and measure possible events and to preempt their occurrence.

Using the first year of DOT – 1981 – as a starting point, Bond also discussed the innovated technologies that have been developed to enable the drilling and completion of wells in increasing water depths. DOT hosted a number of presentations of concepts that could further enable the safe and efficient development of deepwater fields.

Dr. Ming-Yao Lee, Chevron, made a case to identify, select, and qualify technologies that will enable ultra-deepwater field development using non-spar dry tree floaters (e.g. semisubmersible) with moderate to large drilling and production payloads. Two dry tree semisubmersible concepts were presented. The authors of the paper suggest that a dry tree with integrated drilling and production systems can offer the following benefits:

  • Increase recovery factors for ultra-deepwater Wilcox trend reservoirs
  • Provide large payload capabilities while overcoming TLP water depth and spar size, transportation, and installation limitations
  • Enable quayside topsides installation and integration.

Michael Choi, ConocoPhillips, presented a new self-contained, mobile deepwater extended well test (EWTS) and reservoir appraisal system to mitigate reservoir uncertainty in field development planning. Conceived by a DeepStar research consortium, The FPSO-type vessel is designed with a bundled top tensioned riser for emergency quick disconnection. Oil is processed and stored onboard, and offloaded to shuttle tankers for export. Gas is also processed onboard but is exported as compressed natural gas. For the system to be economically viable, the authors suggest that it would be built by a third party and then leased to an operator as a service on a day rate basis, similar to a drilling rig. Pending final investment decision, the system could create an EWTS leasing/service industry in the Gulf of Mexico by 2015, similar to the MODU market, the authors suggest.

Daniel A. Nunez, Shell International E&P, outlined the comparative advantages of several different approaches to solving the issue of finding the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly method to dispose and ideally monetize associated natural gas offshore Brazil. One emerging alternative, said Nunez, is transfer via marine compressed natural gas (CNG). In this alternative, gas could be targeted to dedicated industrial consumers. But this option would require the offshore development facility – in most cases an FPSO – to have processing infrastructure on the vessel. With additional technological advances, the CNG option could become more attractive, even if it is somewhat expensive, he said. A "micro" gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility could be another feasible alternative, said Nunez, but it would still require a large footprint on an FPSO vessel. In addition, feedstock consistency, fouling, and wax deposition are potential concerns with this option.

DOT in 2012 returns to Perth, Australia, Nov. 27-29, 2012. It my pleasure to welcome Shell Development (Australia) Proprietary Limited as the conference Host andBruce Steenson, VP of Technical & Prelude, Shell Australia, as the advisory board Chair. For more information, please visit: www.deepoffshoretechnology.com.

To respond to articles in Offshore, or to offer articles for publication, contact the editor by email(davidp@pennwell.com).

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