Brazil's new field

Frank Hartley • Houston The new 14.8-tcf gas field discovered by Petrobras is of huge significance and is set to completely turn around the traditional dynamics of the Southern Cone gas market, according to a recent report by Wood Mackenzie. The find is by far the biggest ever found in Brazil and one of the largest ever in Latin America. International oil companies should take heart that this new gas bonanza suggests exciting opportunities, the report states.

Frank Hartley • Houston

The new 14.8-tcf gas field discovered by Petrobras is of huge significance and is set to completely turn around the traditional dynamics of the Southern Cone gas market, according to a recent report by Wood Mackenzie. The find is by far the biggest ever found in Brazil and one of the largest ever in Latin America. International oil companies should take heart that this new gas bonanza suggests exciting opportunities, the report states.

The new field (SPS-35) is located in Brazil's Santos Basin. Its reserves compare with the 7 tcf or so of gas that currently exists in Brazil. Moreover, the existing 7 tcf is widely distributed across the country, much of it far from markets. The new find is located in a very favorable position only 130 km offshore of São Paulo, the country's main gas demand center.

Although the discovery is big in its own right, Wood Mackenzie says, its wider significance is that it reveals a play that could eventually yield far larger reserves. The discovery means that a significant new gas province has been opened up in Brazil, and this will have ramifications beyond the confines of Brazil itself. The new SPS-35 discovery could turn around the traditional supply picture such that Brazil might not now need any of its neighbors' gas, Wood Mackenzie says.

To date, the whole notion behind building an integrated gas market across the Southern Cone has been based on the simple premise that Argentina and Bolivia have surplus reserves of gas, the report states, while neighboring, energy-hungry Brazil and Chile are both gas deficient. In particular, the real driver has always been perceived to be Brazil, with its huge potential appetite for imported gas.

The fact that the new find has been made by Petrobras, rather than one of the many international oil companies that have recently plowed substantial amounts of money into Brazil, is obviously a disappointment to those wishing to see a more diverse array of players in the country. However, there is plenty of open acreage available within the environs of SPS-35, and any serious Southern Cone gas player will now need to focus on this new opportunity, Wood Mackenzie notes.

The new gas bonanza will again throw the spotlight on the fact that Petrobras is somewhat unusual among its peers in that it is a company that is spoiled for investment opportunities, the report says. However, this could lead to possible constraints caused by resources and finances. With its new gas assets to exploit, this situation becomes even more real, the report says, and it might just tip the company toward starting to look for partners to help out with some of its bigger projects.

Processing/re-cycling cuttings

An Aberdeen-based company has developed a solution to enable oily drilled cuttings and slops to be processed and re-cycled offshore at up to seven tons per hour. Designed and manufactured by Total Waste Management Alliance Plc. (TWMA), the new system, RotoMill, has major implications for cost savings, logistics, and HSE, the company says, and will eliminate the need to ship the cuttings or waste back to shore. With the average well generating between 300 to 500 tons of oil-base mud contaminated cuttings, it is of major significance to operators.

The system is based on a thermal process and has been in the design and planning stage for seven years. ExxonMobil has supported the development and conducted the first full-scale pilot testing offshore. More recently, Industry Technology Facilitators (ITF) and Shell Explo-ration and Production UK and Total, two contributing operators, have also given their backing to the project.

The system was completed in May this year with several trials of specific parts of the system already having been conducted. The first real-time trial of the full system was undertaken in the Penguin field in August on board Diamond Offshore's semisubmersible drilling rig Ocean Guardian. Trials were successful, with the system processing over 6 tons per hour, without any downtime and with full integration with Shell's HSE standards, the company reports.

The system comprises modular units with a sufficiently low weight and small footprint to suit the restricted capacity of a semisubmersible rig. The cuttings process is specifically designed to flash evaporate the fluids from drill cuttings and other hydrocarbon contaminated waste.

Electro/mechanical energy is used to generate the necessary thermal energy to evaporate the fluids. Typically the temperature optimizing the process ranges between 2,500° C and 2,600° C, but this can be varied depending on the type of cuttings or other hydrocarbon contaminated waste being processed and the boiling point of the associated hydrocarbons. The evaporated fluids are retained and reduced using a condensing technique that allows selective recovery of the individual fluids, typically hydrocarbons and water. The remaining solids are discharged as an inert powder, while the recovered fluids are available for reuse or recycling. There are no emissions to the atmosphere during the process. The remaining clean drill cuttings have less than 1.0% and normally below 0.1% of retained hydrocarbons. The benchmark level of retained hydrocarbons set for the U.K. is 1.0%.

E&P software

Shell International Exploration and Production has accepted a multi-year, multi-product software master agreement with Schlumberger Infor-mation Solutions. SIS will provide a set of exploration and production application software that will form an important part of the Shell global standard software portfolios. This is a common set of software tools made available by Shell for use by its E&P business affiliates worldwide, allowing increased efficiency in global work and staff movement, and sharing of best practices and lessons learned.

SIS will help achieve global standardization, especially in data management and static modeling areas. These technologies, combined with other vendor tools and current unique proprietary technology, will ensure that the technology capability remains at the forefront of the industry.

The agreement includes information management, geoscience, reservoir simulation, well and production engineering, and economics solutions. It also gives access to the Schlumberger software development framework, based on Microsoft.NET, as a potential platform for proprietary developments and complements the continued commitment and use of OpenSpirit.

As part of the global standard software portfolios, this information management solution is expected to contribute to the overall information management environment for E&P. The economics and financial planning solutions enable a living business plan.

Sand removal

A system in which the sand produced from oil reservoirs is removed online has been further enhanced. According to the manufacturers, the new innovation will automatically transport the sand significant distances and heights on a production facility. The Hydrohoist, devised by Merpro, enables sand that has been removed (produced sand) to be transported to other treatment areas, sometimes between decks. This action that has until now been carried out by slurry pumps which are high on maintenance and have a low efficiency.

Carrying sand with oil from the reservoir and depositing it in production separators has improved oil production techniques. The TORE manifold solids transportation device has been installed in separators to remove sand online, eliminating expensive shutdowns for maintenance. Combining the two, TORE Hydro- hoist, can solve the problems associated with transporting sand removed from separators over significant distances and heights. Trials have been conducted using a 1-in. TORE to move sand along 100 m of horizontal pipe and 50 m vertically.

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