Technology Editor, Subsea & Seismic
NEW ORLEANS --The 2009 Deep Offshore Technology International Conference and Exhibition opened this morning in New Orleans with keynote presentations by Mike Loveland of Shell E&P Co., the conference host company, and Ted Falgout, port director of Port Fourchon.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Shell's first deepwater (greater than 1,500 ft or 457 m) Gulf of Mexico discovery, and the decades since that discovery have represented specific challenges for the industry, Loveland said. He categorized them as follows:
1970s – Sand development
1980s – Well ultimate and flowrate
1990s – Production system selection
2000s – Difficult reservoirs.
There were nine wells by 1980 and well control was an issue, he said, simply because there were not a sufficient number of wells drilled to know what to expect. Uncertainty was the subject of the day.
In the 19080s, some 300 wells were drilled and 20 discoveries made, so the issue of the day turned to capital cost considerations which moved the emphasis to ultimate production numbers and rates. This resulted in a lot of exploratory and appraisal drilling as operators sought to define reservoir continuity.
Using Shell's Na Kika as an example, Loveland said the 1990s was the decade of development systems selection, with four general schemes available. Na Kika started with the idea of development by semisubmersible, and then as circumstances changed, the choices went from semi to ship-shaped production system with a pipeline to shore, then to a converted semisubmersible hull retrofitted, and ended as a newbuilt semisubmersible with the most flexibility possible built into it.
With the coming of the 2000s, the GoM challenge became difficult subsalt reservoirs.
Looking ahead, Loveland said the ongoing challenges involve drilling and completion with extended reach up to 1,800 ft (549 m) lateral offsets, drilling through depleted reservoirs, and the need for low-cost approaches such as slim-hole sidetracks from existing wells. Other issues include low-pressure reservoirs with questionable oil quality and the need for direct hydrocarbon indicators to better illuminate the subsalt geology.
"We as an industry have continually met the challenges of deepwater," Loveland said, as indicated by today's 2,800 wells and 100 fields, "and I am optimistic going forward that we will meet the challenges of today."
Ted Falgout of the Port of Fourchon pointed out that the future of the US energy supply rests much in the ability to access the resources of the Gulf, and that is where the Port plays a significant role.
Fourchon, he said, supports 90% of the deepwater oil and gas activity and as much as 18% of the total US production, with a third of the domestic US supply coming through the GoM.
He illustrated the rapid growth of the Port since its establishment in 1960 and talked about the current $360 million in highway construction under way with an aim toward maintaining access to the Port in the event of storms. He also discussed the need for protecting the facility from storm surge and high water in order to keep it functional.
The Port also has been conducting major coastal restoration projects even "before it became popular" he said. The facility also builds an acre of wetlands for each acre it adds to the service area.