Brazil conference highlights technologies, opportunities

For the first time ever outside of Houston, the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) expanded to Brazil, Oct. 4-6, to create the OTC Brasil 2011 conference and exhibition.

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Peter Howard Wertheim
Contributing Editor

For the first time ever outside of Houston, the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) expanded to Brazil, Oct. 4-6, to create the OTC Brasil 2011 conference and exhibition. The event convened industry leaders and experts to share technical knowledge and to shed light on new ideas about key issues. Going forward, OTC Brasil event is expected to take place every two years.

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OTC Brasil 2011's opening plenary session included a panel entitled "Brazil's Regulatory Regime for Offshore Oil and Gas Development." It had the following participants (left to right): Caroline Morais, with ANP; Wafik Beydoun, member of the OTC Board of Directors; Marcelo Haddad, Investment Promotion Agency of Rio de Janeiro; Magda Chambriard, ANP director; Stephen Balint, Shell; Ricardo Juiniti, OGX Petroleo & Gas; and David Brookes, BP. Photo courtesy Stéferson Faria.

Experts from 17 countries presented 145 technical papers at the event. Some of the most popular topics included new developments in anchoring and mooring; alternative designs for steel risers; pipeline design and installation; flow assurance; drilling and completion; field development; and theDeepwater Horizon accident and response.

The latest technical advances, challenges and opportunities for the deep and ultra- deepwater offshore sector were offered with a unique Brazilian flair, providing opportunities for social and business networking among the 26 countries represented, including the panels, presentations and exhibits.

New presalt regulations

The opening plenary session topic focused on Brazil's regulatory regime for offshore oil and gas development, and featured Magda Chambriard, director of the National Petroleum and Biofuels Agency (ANP).

Chambriard said a new regulatory framework has been established for E&P in the presalt areas (covering 149,000 sq km/57,529 sq miles) to expedite development. Laws now cover rights assignment and production-sharing contracts (PSCs) for presalt areas under a new state company, Pré-Sal Petróleo SA, formed to oversee pre-salt development. She forecasted that up to 2015 there will be two auctions including areas in the pre-salt. The last auction took place in 2008.

According to the ANP, Brazil has approximately 7.5 million sq km (1.9 billion acres) of sedimentary areas across more than 40 sedimentary basins, of which 29 are considered to be the main basins for oil and natural gas exploration and production activities. Approximately 96% of these sedimentary areas are not yet subject to concession agreements.

As Brazil's presalt reserves are developed, Chambriard said, the country will need to invest heavily in new infrastructure, including platforms, pipelines, ports, ships, and steel; in fact, in every aspect of the offshore industry.

New players on the scene

New companies are being formed to develop the growing oil and gas opportunities in Brazil. One of these, HRT Participações em Petróleo SA, was launched in 2009 by Brazilian oilfield consultants HRT Petroleum. The company currently ranks as the third largest area holder operator, with 21 blocks at the onshore Solimões basin in Brazil's Amazonas state.

HRT CEO Dr. Marcio Mello, who worked as a geologist for 24 years for Petrobras and in Angola for three years, recently ventured into international waters, gaining the rights to explore three blocks offshore Namibia.

"Everyone is raving about the presalt but Brazil's prolific postsalt cannot be overlooked," Mello said. Around 85% of Brazil's crude comes from the postsalt Campos basin, a mature field where pre-salt has been first discovered and enhanced oil recovery technology is being applied.

Mello toldOffshore that "in the production race between presalt Santos basin and post-salt Campos basin I believe Santos will eventually win in the presalt and Campos in the postsalt." The key is that all oil in the post salt comes from the presalt and shallow water petroleum system, which Mello estimates at 18 Bbbl reserves.

Mello envisages one petroleum system – the giant presalt hydrocarbon province made up of the Campos, Santos, and Espirito Santos basins offshore Brazil. He describes them as a "Greater Campos basin."

During HRT's presentations, the geological similarities with offshore Western Africa were highlighted. The geology of the two areas is often compared to underscore the opportunities available offshore Brazil. Dr. Nilo Azambuja Filho, geologist and HRT's chief technical officer, showed how the petroleum system modeling, supported by geochemistry, allows a correlation among counterpart basins across the South Atlantic realm.

"The basins off Namibia have been forgotten for decades, being overshadowed by the success offshore Angola," Filho observed. "Our recent petroleum system modeling and prospect resource analyses have identified large prospects in three of the studied blocks. We think there could be more than 5 Bboe in these unrisked prospects with objectives in the Upper Cretaceous turbidite sandstones, as well as the syn-rift carbonates and sandstones that are analogous to the Tupi and Jupiter fields in southern Brazil."

After state-controlled Petrobras, OGX Petróleo e Gás Ltda. has the largest offshore acreage in Brazil. Founded in 2007, OGX recently announced a commercialization agreement with Shell Western Supply and Trading Ltd. for the sale of the first two shipments of oil from the Waimea accumulation, in block BM-C-41, in the shallow waters of the Campos basin. OGX has a 100% interest in this block.

A total volume of 1.2 MMbbl will be sold. This oil will be shipped in two batches of 600,000 bbl, each of which Shell intends to process in one of its refineries. The Waimea oil, which has 20° API, will be produced by the FPSOOSX-1 through an extended well test (EWT) in well OGX-26HP. The Waimea accumulation is approximately 84 km off the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro at water depths around 135 m (443 ft).

OGX acquired 34 exploration blocks in five Brazilian and three Colombian basins, covering 34,000 sq km (13,127 sq mi) exploration blocks, said Paulo Mendonça, the company's general executive and E&P director.

"Six offshore and one onshore drilling rigs are now operating and two others, one offshore and one onshore, are contracted preparing to begin drilling," Mendonça pointed out. "As of now, 32 exploration wells have been concluded with an overall success rate of 90%." The company plans to start production in 2011, with 20,000 b/d by the end of the year. This will be achieved withOSX-1 FPSO in Campos basin.

"OGX plans to produce around 730,000 b/d by 2015 and 1.38 MMbbl/d by 2019," Mendonça added. "To achieve this goal OGX will need 19 FPSOs, five tension leg wellhead platforms, and 24 wellhead platforms. This process has already begun, with the first equipment being bought or contracted."

Mendonça said that OGX's investments reached $2.7 billion between July 2007 and October 2010. "Probably the most important investment was in the recruitment of E&P teams plus six semisubmersibles and one onshore rig that is already operating," he noted. OGX also has a jackup rig and one onshore rig, eight support vessels, and four helicopters for logistic support.

This year OGX is drilling new wildcat wells and appraisal wells, mainly in the Campos basin, and will also initiate drilling operations in the Pará-Maranhão basin and the Espírito Santo basin (in partnership with operator Perenco).

Training young professionals

In addition to technical sessions, a young professionals workshop was held at the event. It was designed to help more than 100 younger members of the industry to identify the skills they need to meet their goals and define a career path. It was a practical response to many of the speeches that cited the lack of skilled labor to meet the needs of the industry.

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Continental Rift: Separation of South America and Africa about 160 million years ago. Courtesy HRT Participações em Petróleo SA.

A panel of experienced professionals addressed several topics related to career development, and they discussed theory versus hands-on experience, required skills, and realities that can help workers prepare for a career in the industry. Daniel Moczydlower, CEO of Chemtech, shared how he successfully navigated his career, including the steps and decisions that placed him in a leading position at age 34.

Subsea separation/ boosting advances

At a topical luncheon session, Maria Pena, Shell's production manager, spoke about the BC-10 project in the Parque das Conchas area, one of the company's most challenging ultra-deepwater efforts. The project employs a pioneering subsea oil and gas separation/boosting system which enables improved recovery by removing backpressure from the wells.

Shell is the operator and has a 50% interest in the project. Parque das Conchas lies in around 1,780 m (5,840 ft) of water, 120 km (75 mi) southeast of Vitória, capital of Espirito Santo state. Production started in July 2009, with the first phase developing three fields (Abalone, Ostra, and Argonauta B-West), and the second phase developing a fourth field (Argonauta O-North). The first phase, now fully onstream, involves 10 producing wells and one gas injector well.

The FPSOEspirito Santo has 100,000 b/d of oil and 50 MMcf/d of gas processing capacity, and a 1.4-MMbbl oil storage capacity for shipment offloading. Current production is around 70,000 b/d.

Attendees also discussed some of the other innovative subsea boosting and separation systems being deployed offshore Brazil. It was noted that Petrobras has installed boosting subsea units in Phase 1 (operating), Phase 2, and the EWT (installed) of Jubarte field and in Golfinho field, both in the Espirito Santo basin.

In the Marlim field, a test will take place by the end of this year; and in the Marimba field, subsea separation units have also been installed. Both of these fields are in the Campos basin.

In the same basin, Petrobras also has plans for boosting units in Barracuda and Espadarte fields, as well as plans for water injection in the Albacora Leste field. And, new separation and boosting concepts are being reviewed for possible deployment in the Congro, Malhado, and Corvina fields.

Statoil specialists offered a presentation entitled "Experience to Date and Future Opportunities for Subsea Processing" at the technical session on Subsea Processing and Pipeline Operational Integrity – Keys to Deepwater Production System Success. They provided an overview of field operating experience for subsea boosting in the LuFeng field and the separation, produced water reinjection and fluid boosting applications at Troll pilot and the Tordis fields, including the Tordis restart plans, among other projects.

Officials from Aker Solutions offered a presentation entitled "Subsea Compression: A Game Changer." They concluded that, after 25 years of development, subsea gas compression technology has reached a readiness that makes it not only a more energy-efficient option than topsides, but also a more economically attractive one by reducing both capex and opex, and increasing the total recovery.

David Pinchin, Seabox AS, provided an update on other subsea system innovations. He noted that a full-scale pilot plant has recently completed its test on the seabed with the help of a global technology funding program from Total, Shell, ConocoPhilips, GDF SUEZ, and the Research Council of Norway. "The new treatment system has produced some very good water quality results that compare favorably with water quality achievable from topsides seawater treatment plants in the key areas required for water flooding," Pinchin commented. "The technology is applicable for offshore oil fields at any stage of their production lifetime, and is now ready for field applications. Total subsea water flooding (including treatment) is now achievable on the seabed for the very first time."

The author

Peter Howard Wertheim is based in Rio de Janeiro and can be reached atpeterhw@frionline.com.br.

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