RPSEA suggests future US oil and gas research themes

March 5, 2018
The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) releases a technology roadmap to federal lawmakers and others outlining industry's needs for both onshore and offshore research projects in the coming decade.

Apache Corp., a RPSEA member, discovered oil in its Alpine High acreage in the southern portion of the Delaware basin, primarily in Reeves County, Tex. Analysts said Apline HIgh is a historically underperforming area. Photo from Apache.

Operator engagement, particularly from independents, is crucial for future research into increased production from existing wells, improved recovery, and prolonged well life, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) outlined in a technology roadmap.

The plan, "Keeping it going for the long haul-the easy stuff is gone," recently released to federal lawmakers and others, outlines industry's research needs for both onshore and offshore projects in the coming decade.

Independents and small producers are the most apt to quickly adopt technology, said RPSEA, which consulted with more than 1,000 people through surveys, advisory meetings, and industry meetings to write the roadmap.

The roadmap recommends prioritizing research investments on key targets, including onshore shale plays and offshore satellite fields.

It also calls for improving efficiency of onshore operations while increasing recovery rates. Currently, the average estimated ultimate recovery from US shale plays is less than 10% for oil and 15% for natural gas.

RPSEA recommends more research into ultradeepwater well construction. Shell's Perdido spar, the world's deepest spar, helped open Lower Tertiary-Paleogene reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. Perdido is moored in about 8,000 ft of water. Photo from Shell.

Marginal wells are a roadmap priority, especially research into how to prevent wells in unconventional plays from becoming prematurely marginal, RPSEA Pres. Tom Williams said. The plan identified research and development topics for which funding does not yet exist.

Working with the US Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory, RPSEA has managed more than 170 projects, several of which already are commercial.

Roadmap's onshore themes

RPSEA suggests these near-term to mid-term onshore program themes:

• Reduce cost and improve efficacy of well interventions and drilling. Recompletion of unconventional wells will extend recovery rates and well life.

• Extend mature fields' life through developing and demonstrating technologies to improve oil and gas recovery (including conventional and unconventional reservoirs).

• Carry out research that will assist operators in regulatory compliance.

• Minimize surface disruption associated with shale development, including well site construction, air emissions, noise, visual impact, and surface water.

• Ensure minimum fluid is used in hydraulic fracturing to completely stimulate the reservoir zone and minimize refracture treatments. This may include waterless fracturing or developing methods to reduce water use.

• Develop improved approaches for managing waste streams associated with shale gas development, including naturally occurring radioactive material and drill cuttings.

Offshore R&D

The deepwater Gulf of Mexico, key to future US energy supply contributions, faces growing competition from deepwater producers worldwide.

The US needs to remain the technical leader, but increasing research and development (R&D) investments in the North Sea and Brazil, coupled with decreasing R&D investments in the US, are causing the leadership balance to shift.

US Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke recently released a draft proposal for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program that would include areas unavailable to exploration for decades.

Much environmental, safety, and technical research will be needed to explore and develop these areas. RPSEA's offshore program advisory committee seeks to identify and develop technologies, architectures, and methods that ensure safe, environmentally responsible OCS exploration and production.

RPSEA's report notes technology improvements in offshore technology although reduced drilling activity and lower R&D investments since 2014 have meant some research projects did not receive industry funding. RPSEA lists these topics as a priority:

• Improve ultradeepwater (UDW) well design and construction. This includes research into the physical and chemical behavior of cement formulations during setting and post‐setting, with an emphasis on potential failure pathway identification.

• Improve subsea UDW measurement and monitoring instrumentation such as remote sensing or surveillance equipment and vehicles, including continued development of autonomous underwater vehicles.

• Identify and characterize high-resolution imaging technologies that can be used to observe subsea installations.

• Develop detailed descriptions and models of UDW conditions that can result in hydrate formation and blockage during production.

• Improve the ability to predict hydrate behavior based on advanced modeling of hydrate plug formation and dissociation in natural gas-dominated systems.

• Use models to predict behavior of two-, three-, and four-phased systems under a wide range of extreme UDW pressure, temperature, and equipment architecture conditions.

• Develop an improved understanding of complex pressure‐volume‐temperature relationships for mixtures of water, gas, and oil under extreme bottomhole temperatures and pressures (>19,000 psia and >250° F).

• Study variations in fluid behavior when these fluids include brine, hydrogen sulfide, or carbon dioxide.

• Conduct experiments to forecast petroleum fluids behavior under UDW pressure and temperature, including extreme high pressure-high temperature (HPHT) conditions.

• Develop and validate advanced fluid mixture models for extreme HPHT well and reservoir conditions.

• Research sensors, instrumentation, command electronics, and advanced data interpretation technologies, including controls for UDW subsea production equipment.

• Address risks associated with installation and operations of long flowline tie‐backs and develop tools and equipment to reduce or mitigate such risks.

• Develop long flowline tie‐backs that incorporate a high-integrity pressure protection system with isolation valves capable of operating with both a failsafe position and multiple sensors that can use hardware to make shutdown decisions from topside.

• Verify the limits under which this system can be maintained in optimum modes.

• Identify, characterize, and quantify the limits under which currently existing subsea electrical connection technologies can be maintained in optimum operating modes.

• Develop technologies that will improve both the failsafe integrity and reliability of electrical connectors and penetrators in UDW architecture and technology.

• Improve reservoir characterization, simulation, and recovery methods that result in lower dependence on new field developments and new wells.

• Improve seismic subsurface imaging to reduce the need for appraising and characterization through drilling.

• Develop low environmental-impact testing techniques for characterization.

• Improve reserve recovery methods and technologies specific to the deepwater GOM.

• Develop technologies to increase recovery from existing UDW reservoirs.

• Develop safe, reliable dry-tree floating systems capable of drilling and producing in up to 10,000 ft of water.

• Improve corrosion control technologies for subsurface and subsea equipment to prolong equipment life and reduce the possibility of spills.

• Improve methods of providing power and develop step changes in power efficiency for subsea and subsurface applications, resulting in more reliable transmission, control, and measurement.