THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Chevron’s Joe Gregory offered his views and insights on deepwater challenges, technologies, and opportunities during the opening plenary session of the Deep Offshore Technology conference being held in The Woodlands. Gregory is General Manager, Major Capital Projects within Chevron’s Deepwater Exploration and Projects Business Unit.
Gregory spoke on several themes, starting with the importance of “incident and injury free” offshore operations. He said that the industry has a “collective responsibility to safety,” including operations and contracting personnel onsite. But he also noted that this commitment should also extend to those who design and fabricate the equipment and components used in offshore operations. All of these technologies, he said, “need to be designed and operated with safety in mind.”
Turning to the challenges of operating in the Gulf of Mexico, Gregory noted that all of Chevron’s recent major deepwater projects – Blind Faith, Tahiti, Jack/St. Malo, Bigfoot, and Buckskin & Moccasin – were found in the presalt areas, which had been “both a blessing and a curse.”
Gregory explained that the presalt areas made the fields difficult to find, and difficult to drill and access once they are found. But at the same time, he noted that the presalt formations tended to keep the hydrocarbons cool, and at lower temperatures than one might normally expect in such deepwater reserves.
Gregory noted that Chevron is quite active in the Gulf of Mexico, with seven producing fields, five deepwater developments, three discoveries in the appraisal process, and five operating drillships. He then turned to his attention to Jack/St. Malo and Bigfoot, Chevron’s two major upcoming projects in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.
He noted that the hull of the Jack/St. Malo floating production unit, built by Samsung in Korea, will be the largest steel semisubmersible in the world, with more than 160,000 tons of displacement. It was recently transported to the Gulf of Mexico by theDockwise Vanguard on its maiden voyage. The FPU will be sited in more than 7,000 ft (2,134 m) of water, eclipsing that of Tahiti, Chevron’s previously deepest GoM development.
When placed online next year, it will tie in production from the Jack, St. Malo, and Julia fields. The Jack/St. Malo FPU will be Chevron’s largest facility in the Gulf, with a production capacity of 177 Mboe/d, expandable up to 269 Mboe/d.
For its part, the Bigfoot project will have the world’s largest TLP, with 16 mi of pipe. It is also scheduled for a 2014 startup.
Gregory said that Chevron is employing several new and proven technologies to find and develop these fields, including subsalt imaging, dual gradient drilling, single trip multi zone frac packs for completions, subsea boosting and separating, and well intervention systems. He also said that Chevron was pursuing ultra-deepwater development out to 10,000 ft (3,048 m) of water.
He noted that artificial lift technologies would be especially important for future deepwater development, since higher recovery rates are vital to project economics. Gregory said that Chevron was employing “deep set” dual electrical submersible pumps to boost production rates and enhance ultimate recovery. He also said that seafloor boosting will be improved by using single phase pumps early in field life, followed by multi-phase pumps later in field life.
Gregory said that the main challenges for deepwater development going forward would be enhancing and maintaining safety; preserving the supply chain; and retaining skilled labor.
Another key issue would be the overall industry level of activity, which affects equipment fabrication and rig demand. New technologies, he noted, need time for development and testing, to ensure that they meet both technical and regulatory requirements.