Offshore Europe 2013: Adaptation, technology key to future North Sea production

Production in the UK North Sea can be sustained into the 2030s and beyond, said speakers at the Offshore Europe Plenary Session.

Offshore staff

ABERDEEN, UK – Production in the UK North Sea can be sustained into the 2030s and beyond, said speakers at the Offshore Europe Plenary Session. However, the sector will have to adapt in various ways for this to happen.

Sam Laidlaw, CEO of Centrica, said current investment plans target 11 Bbbl of reserves. Recovery of the 13 Bbbl thought to remain, however, would depend partly on how the UK’s taxation regime evolved, he cautioned.

Andrew Gould, chairman of BG Group, said that consistency of the fiscal regime is what investors are looking for, irrespective of how heavy the tax burden may be. That would help the sector attract more new players to increase recovery from existing fields and develop fields in frontier areas.

He added that new technologies would be needed to eke out further production from mature fields and to reduce the high costs of North Sea field abandonment.

“Compared to other parts of the world, management of safety here is better than anywhere else,” he continued. “The next step is to use technology to reduce the number of people working offshore in the North Sea.”

That, he said, would involve innovations in communications technology and also new types of offshore facilities designed for remote operations. Remote management would additionally allow more efficient use of skilled resources than on just one platform or rig, he added. At the same time, redundancy of equipment in these situations will be important, Gould said, as 100% uptime will be critical.

Gould also called for new techniques to increase recovery from subsea wellheads in the North Sea, with subsea interventions currently more expensive than for platform wells. And there is a need, he claimed, for new materials to resist the geomechanical loads sustained in more extreme high-pressure/high-temperature wells, along with more rugged electronics in high-pressure logging tools.

The sector would further benefit from more field developments involving shared power connections from shore to offshore facilities, he concluded.

9/3/2013

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