Recovering the remaining more-difficult-to-develop hydrocarbon resources will require new technologies and innovations, Matthias Bichsel, member of the executive committee of Royal Dutch Shell PLC and director of projects and technology told a topical breakfast audience May 4 at the Offshore Technology Conference.
Bichsel said the remaining prize is large, for instance a Wood Mackenzie analysis estimated that 105 billion boe was yet to be discovered in the next 20 years from 46 deepwater plays in the Gulf of Mexico and off Brazil, Angola, Nigeria, and Australia.
Another region of interest is the Arctic that according to the US Geological Survey still holds 13% of the world's undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered gas, Bichsel said.
Besides the undiscovered resources, Bichsel said Shell is also looking at improving recovery from developed fields with such technologies as the injection of smart water for modifying reservoir rock wettability. He said this low-cost approach of using lower-salinity water improves waterflood efficiency and could increase oil recovery by more than 10%.
Shell is using low-salinity water injection in fields in the Middle East and the company has plans to inject low-salinity water in Ursa field in the Gulf of Mexico, Bichsel said.
Shell's floating LNG (FLNG) is a technology that can monetize stranded gas in fields far offshore, Bichsel said. The Shell-operated Prelude field off Australia will be the first field developed with an FLNG, and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. may employ one on the Greater Sunrise gas development in the East Timor-Australia joint petroleum development area in the Timor Sea.
Bichsel noted that the cost of FLNG vessels with decrease in time due to Shell's approach to "design one, build many." New hull designs for production facilities are another way for lowering costs. For instance, Bichsel said, the size of a spar platform can be reduced through the use of tender-assisted drilling that would remove most drilling equipment except for the derrick and drawworks to a separate vessel.
Also Shell has plans to lower costs by reducing the hull size for production facilities such as its design for the Mars B tension-leg platform, Bischel said.
Shell working together with Frontier Drilling, Huisman, and GustorMSC also has developed the Bully-concept for ultradeepwater drilling. Bichsel noted that the Bully drillship is 25% shorter and 60% lighter than comparable capacity drillships and has the potential to cut deepwater drilling costs to less than half the current market price.
Bichsel said early next year one Bully rig should be in operation in the Gulf of Mexico with a second Bully rig to follow in 4-5 months.