by Charles Benson

    The Future of Flowassurance

    Flow assurance in the oil and gas industry is vital to successful delivery of each and every field development, from first oil to cessation of operations. Optimizing operating costs, maximizing productive time and mitigating process failures are key deliverables.

    Forecasting the future is rather more difficult but several factors are certain:

    • Demand for oil and gas will continue to rise.
    • The volume of water and sand will rise at an even faster rate.
    • Regulations on water usage and discharge will become stricter.
    • Oil and gas processing and transport infrastructure will continue to age.
    • Heavy oil and deepwater will dominate the oil growth curve.

    The easy oil has been found – development and production of next generation oil to meet future demand will represent challenges that will increase logarithmically.

    As we look forward and develop our strategies for growth, considering these challenges is vital to meeting the industries future needs. In response, within the M-I SWACO Production Segment, we have moved from being an exclusively production chemistry-based business to one that combines various aspects of chemistry and engineering, to deliver on our strategy of being a production-technology-solutions provider.

    Addition of new technologies has been a key feature of this strategy:

    • Fixed-bed media solutions to compliment liquid scavenging technologies.
    • Combining process equipment with chemistry, incorporating wellhead desanders, gas/oil augur separation technology, internal SCARPA sand removal systems and traditional hydrocyclones with EPCON CFU technology to address produced water and sand waste streams, all supported by flow assurance chemists and process engineers to deliver continuously optimized levels of performance.
    • Extending the application of drag-reducer chemistry to meet CO2 emissions targets.
    • Launch of a business, focused on remedial well treatments to maximize production from existing well stock, manage heritage NORM waste issues and deliver innovative decommissioning technologies to support end-of-life operations.
    • Development of flow assurance software, allied to condition-monitoring technologies to overcome the complexities of field operations, including inventory management, monitoring chemical application and performance, tracking field data and logging process analyses in near real-time.

    Up until today, chemicals are often viewed in isolation to the process itself. The next step change within flow assurance will be the combination of equipment and chemical technology working in unison, a truly cradle-to-grave business with flow assurance at its core.

    Unless chemistry and engineering are combined, the value that can be achieved will never be fully realized. A simple example to this is illustrated by a field with a high GOR and an oil that has a propensity to foam – the consequence of which is liquids that carry over with the associated gas and fouling of the gas compression train, knocking over the plant, resulting in full-field shutdowns and millions in lost or deferred oil. The traditional solution to this flow assurance challenge has been the application of oil-based, siloxane and fluoro-siloxane antifoam agents at great cost, but significantly reducing the likelihood of a shut-down. However, when combining engineering with chemistry, the operating costs can be minimized in chemical applications, and the likelihood of liquid carryover significantly reduced by simply installing a gas augur separator upstream of the main train.

    It is the combination of chemistry and engineering that must prevail if we are to deliver the step change in performance required, and technology is only part of the solution, as without knowledge management, the technology cannot be adequately utilized. Understanding the complexity in flow assurance requires volumes of information to be acquired, collated and information reported such that the right information is available to the right person to make the right decisions at the right time. Accepting that competent personnel are critical, then managing the enormous amount of data and work flow is the link between the people and the technology, and only when all three elements come together can success be assured. For this reason, the development of a web-based, flow-assurance knowledge management and work-flow solution, such as KEM-TRAX*, is required.

    As we move forward, it is our goal that all input data will be automatically collected, linked to condition-monitoring services to deliver a true real-time solution. This way platform managers see what they need to see, production chemists the same, getting the right information to the right person at the right time to enable the right decision to be made. The future is bright, the challenges ahead significant, but with a clear strategy to deliver solutions, the future is assured, and, as an industry, breaking new ground is what we do best.

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