OTC: Artificial island projects off Abu Dhabi expand field operations

Guntis Moritis
OGJ Production Editor

HOUSTON, May 3 -- The UAE has turned to artificial islands for facilitating oil-field operations off Abu Dhabi. The three projects currently under way include building one island off Das Island to accommodate oil and gas workers, in compliance with a new UAE camp regulation; two islands for developing the Satah Al-Raaz Boot (SARB) oil field; and at least four islands for expanding production from the Upper Zakum field.

Sherif El-Gharbawy, of Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Co. (ADMA-OPCO) explained the concepts for building the islands in a presentation, "Application of Land Reclamation and Artificial Island Technology in the Arabian Gulf Petroleum Industry," on May 2 at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Das Island lies about 160 km northwest of Abu Dhabi and is home to storage and processing facilities of ADMA-OPCO oil and Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Co. Ltd. (ADGAS) LNG. From 6,000 to 9,000 personnel operate the facilities.

The planned accommodations island will have a 195 ha area and lie in as much as 18 m of water. Target completion date is 2014, according to El-Gharbawy.

The two normally unmanned artificial islands planned for the ADMA-OPCO operated SARB field will each have 42-44 wells for producing about 100,000 bo/d.

SARB lies about 120 km off Abu Dhabi and is 7 km from Zirku Island that is already the site for the processing facilities for the Zakum Development Co. (Zadco) operated Upper Zakum and Satah fields. Production from SARB will flow to new facilities on Zirku Island.

Currently Fluor Corp. is doing the front-end engineering and design for SARB (OGJ Online, May 5, 2010). SARB production is expected to start in 2014.

Upper Zakum field
The artificial islands for the Zadco-operated Upper Zakum field will provide more flexibility and robustness, reduce development costs and improve recovery factors compared with conventional steel platform well towers, according to El-Gharbawy.

Planned for the Upper Zakum are three 0.65 km by 0.45 km satellite islands and one central 1.2 km by 0.6 km main island in 5-15 m of water. The main island will accommodate up to 400 wells, while the smaller islands will have slots for up to 200 wells each.

Upper Zakum field lies 84 km off Abu Dhabi and in March Zadco let to Technip a FEED contract for process units on the four artificial islands, including gas separation, gas lift compression, booster gas compression, as well as power generation, utilities, interconnecting pipelines, and modification of existing facilities, as well as procurement services for long lead items (OGJ Online, Mar. 29, 2011).

A. Modavi of ExxonMobil Upstream Ventures in the OTC presentation "A Super-Giant Offshore Development Plan Change from Steel Structures to Artificial Islands," provided additional details on the Upper Zakum redevelopment.

Currently the field produces about 550,000 bo/d through one central complex, three satellite gathering platforms, and 90 wellhead platform towers. Zadco plans to expand production to 750,000 bo/d by 2015 through the drilling from the artificial islands of new extended wells with up to 30,000 ft displacements and up to 10,000 ft horizontal sections.

Construction of one of the smaller islands started in August 2010 and is nearing completion. Modavi said that drilling wells from the island should start by yearend.

As wells are completed on the islands, Zadco plans gradually to retire the steel structures.

Modavi said the artificial islands may allow the recovery of up to 70% of the 50 billion bbl of oil initially in place in the three upper reservoirs that Zadco operates.

Contact Guntis Moritis at guntism@ogjonline.com.

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