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IMPROVING RECOVERY BUT REDUCING THE IMPACT

25.06.2012

  • Specialist oil industry team heads major research project
     
  • Research aims to help eradicate negative impacts on the environment
     
  • Leading companies taking part are Opus, BP, Shell, Statoil, Total & Wintershall
     

A specialist British team is leading a major research project aimed at improving the treatments for oil separation and produced water associated with enhanced oil recovery techniques whilst ensuring any new technology maintains current environmental standards.

The work is being carried out at test facilities in Orkney, operated by UK company Opus, which has been awarded the £430,000 joint industry project (JIP) contract and is one of six partner organisations involved in the investigation.

The five other firms - BP, Shell, Statoil, Total and Wintershall – will share the cost of the research. In their continuing drive to both eradicate negative impacts on the environment from their operations, and improve their operational efficiency, they will use the findings of the project to create a database that will improve performance in both these regards.

The study will examine the effects enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques used in the oil and gas sector have on fluid separation efficiency, and will research ways of lessening any resulting environmental impact

EOR techniques are used to increase the amount of trapped crude oil that can be extracted from oil fields – many of which are nearing the end of their lives – and therefore prolong their economic viability.

Operators are increasingly using EOR as it can in many cases improve the amount of oil in place that can be recovered by 10-20 per cent. Many of the techniques can present environmental challenges and, therefore, minimising any impacts will further improve production benefits.

Opus, which has its UK headquarters in Guildford, Surrey, specialises in oil separation and treatments for produced water which is a by-product of petroleum production.

Large quantities of water are produced along with hydrocarbons in oil and gas fields during extraction and water production quantities rise as the oil and gas fields reach maturity. Produced water needs to be managed efficiently in order to reduce potential risk to the marine environment.

The JIP will begin with a desktop review of EOR technologies to provide a comprehensive understanding of current methods and identify other concepts suitable for testing. Detailed field and laboratory trials will then be carried out at Flotta.

The Orkney facility will carry out a bulk separation test and then a produced water test to investigate the effect each EOR method has on specific produced water treatment technologies.

Phase One of the project, due for completion in October, will focus on a technique called polymer flooding. Adding polymer to water makes it thicker and more viscous which helps to force more oil towards the wellhead, but the resultant produced water is a main cause of separation difficulties.

Opus’ Director of Strategic Operations, Glen McLellan, said: “We’re pleased to be leading such an important industry project. The securing of the work demonstrates how Opus is internationally recognised and respected for its experience in optimising the performance and environmental efficiency of oil and gas production facilities.

“The JIP partners will enjoy a number of benefits, including access to a shared database of results from the work, which will provide recommended mitigation methods and technologies to treat the polymer flood produced water and we look forward to successfully delivering the project and, ultimately, playing a key role in enhancing the performances of the industry’s producing assets.”

Other EOR techniques that could be considered within the scope of the project in future include ASP flooding and carbon dioxide (CO2) injection. ASP – or alkali-surfactant-polymer – flooding is one method of injecting chemicals into the well where they interact with the water and free the trapped oil, making it easier to recover. Carbon dioxide can also sometimes be pumped in to help the displacement of oil from a reservoir.

The JIP was established and is being managed by independent technology management consultants OTM.

OTM project manager Henry St Aubyn said: “We received a very positive response from the partners to this important research project.

“Expert knowledge and experience from the JIP partners forms a crucial pillar of the research; regular updates and knowledge sharing activities between the participating company representatives and Opus will ensure that this wealth of knowledge is utilised to its full effect.”

IMPROVING RECOVERY BUT REDUCING THE IMPACT