Energy Voice | New scheme to ‘transform’ North Sea oil recovery

A new initiative could have Aberdeen leading efforts to recover up to 27billion barrels of oil worldwide, according to the Oil, and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC).

The OGTC has launched a “facility of the future” initiative, aimed at developing new technology to recover the 3.5billion barrels of North Sea oil trapped in “small pools”.

At present, these are not economically viable to recover, however experts at the centre believe the scheme could cut operating costs by 50% through automated and re-usable technology.

Chris Pearson, the small pools solution centre manager, believes it is a chance to boost the North Sea’s exports to other oil hotspots such as the Gulf of Mexico.

He said: “According to Wood Mackenzie there are 27billion economically challenged barrels globally. This is an opportunity for the North Sea to develop and export that technology and expertise to other parts of the world.

“New, smarter and more automated ways of developing oil and gas fields are required if we’re to fully unlock marginal discoveries and maximise economic recovery from the UKCS.

“The Facility of the Future initiative will help to significantly reduce life-cycle costs and strengthen the investment case for both marginal discoveries and more traditional reservoirs.

“The approach is to be able to disassemble and reuse, rather than decommission these facilities.”

The scheme has been kicked off with a study led by Crondall Energy subsidiary Bouyant Production Technologies, and co-funded by the OGTC into the use of normally unattended installations (NUIs) which are typically used for shallow gas fields.

The design concept involves removing barriers such as water depth limitations and minimal manning approaches.

There are around 360 small pools in the North Sea at present, containing between three and 50million barrels each.

As a result, they have a shorter life cycle than larger fields and project manager Niki Chambers argued this creates a need for a new approach.

She said: “We’re designing it to be remotely operated which removes the need for systems to support people on board.

“When you remove that need, you can greatly reduce costs.

“There are a number of projects ongoing within the industry looking at these facilities offshore. One of the things with small pools is they have much smaller life spans of other fields at around five or six years.

“Everything we’re designing will be for a 20-25 year period with the idea of it being reusable. It takes away that need to decommission.”

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