New technologies promote future oil and gas field development

The industry is moving toward more remote control of the production of oil fields, which are known by various names such as "future oil fields" and "e-fields". BP USA plans to connect its seven oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico using an 800-mile submarine fiber system.

BP believes the system will supply continuous bandwidth to its offshore oil and gas facilities, enhancing operational flexibility and allowing for long-term safe production as the hurricane enters the bay. The system also reduces the time it takes to resume normal production after a storm.

Advances in science and technology are critical for oil and gas resources with potential for development, such as deep water, Arctic regions, coal seams, localized oil layers, high-temperature and high-pressure ultra-deep dense layers, and heavy oil-containing asphalt layers.

There are existing and evolving alternative technologies in the industry, but applying these technologies to specific environments is not ideal. New technologies are often late for several years and are still widely used. High oil and gas prices and cost pressures have contributed to the application of these technologies. Using new technologies may outweigh the costs of traditional methods, but can reduce the cost of the entire project.

New technologies currently in use include intelligent completion technology, expandable tubes, multi-stage pumps and flow meters, and are moving toward subsea processing and compression. In 2007, the deepwater double helix subsea booster pump will be installed for the first time in the King's oil field in the Gulf of Mexico. The field is located on the sea floor over 5,000 ft deep.

The industry is also increasingly interested in enhancing oil recovery. The project includes steam flooding, gas flooding (such as CO2) and chemical injection. Most EOR technologies already exist, but the added cost of these processes has driven people to continue looking for ways to optimize these technologies.

Global CO2 sequestration has increased interest in CO2 enhanced oil recovery. CO2 enhanced oil recovery technology is being applied in oil fields in the Permian Basin and New Mexico in West Texas. Investment in ancillary facilities is currently underway. The industry has also explored the acquisition of CO2 from the Permian Basin and other parts of the world, such as the new integrated gasification combined cycle power plant.

Unconventional resources are still compelling, including gas hydrates and oil shale. The industry is experimenting with various processes to exploit these huge energy sources.

A recent paper discusses laboratory experiments showing that injecting CO2 into porous sandstone under high pressure and low temperature conditions can spontaneously displace methane from naturally occurring gas hydrates. Once this phenomenon is confirmed at the site, the process can produce methane while sequestering CO2, while water will be preserved in the form of hydrates. This technology and other oilfield tests for the production of methane from gas hydrates will be conducted in 2007.

Several companies conducted field trials in the Piceance Basin, Colorado, and considered their experiments promising, although large-scale commercial production would take several years.

In an experiment in Colorado, Shell Frontier Oil & Gas Inc. used downhole electric heaters to heat oil shale to convert organic matter and hydrocarbon gas from oil shale.

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