Alternate approach sought for offshore UK marginal oil fields

Offshore staff

ABERDEEN, UK – The National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI) is asking the industry to collaborate on developing small hydrocarbon accumulations in the UK North Sea.

NSRI, the technology division of Subsea UK, is seeking solutions to recover up to 1.8 Bbbl of oil which it says cannot currently be exploited economically.

These accumulations represent around 5% of the UK’s reserves and could potentially account for 20% of future UK production, it claims, incurring $19 billion in capex and $16 billion in opex investments.

Dr. Gordon Drummond, project director of NSRI, said: “Solving the small pools challenge could yield a reward potentially greater than predicted with regards to the domestic market. It would enable the already capable UK supply chain to export its knowledge, products, and services to international markets, thus safeguarding jobs, revenue, and maximizing economic recovery from the North Sea.”

NSRI has been tasked with helping to deliver new subsea technologies to unlock these small discoveries, thereby prolong the life of UK North Sea infrastructure.

It organized a series of brainstorming sessions between representatives from industry, technology developers, universities, and research institutes to devise technological solutions.

The participants suggested that while new technology is part of the solution, the industry’s commercial structure is constraining the economies of scale needed to make oil recovery from these reservoirs viable.

Dr. Drummond said: “Access to host facilities and infrastructure, non-collaborative behaviors between operators and small operators who don’t have the finances or the will to develop these resources were identified as barriers to the development of small pools.

“Of the technical solutions discussed, some could have widespread application but, before progressing these, we need to carry out a geographic information system (GIS) map which details the size, location, and fluid complexity of the small pools superimposed upon a North Sea map showing the ownership of and type of existing infrastructure.

“From this it will become apparent what type of technical solutions need to be progressed, for example tiebacks, subsea hot tapping, clustering arrangements and stand-alone facilities.”

NSRI views compact FPSOs, production buoys, subsea production facilities including boosting, processing, and subsea storage as enabling technologies, providing access to infrastructure via hot taps and self-sufficient hook-up modules.

Participants in the discussions also highlighted the need for simplification and standardization of subsea components and hardware; less rigorous specifications to suit the shorter design lives of small reservoirs; and design efficiency measures to improve the economics of small pools.


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