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Technology Is Key To Unlock Unconventional Resources


Technology is a key for unlocking future resources, and oil and gas companies need to invest more on research and development in order to meet the increasing challenges, said speakers at panel discussion during the 7th edition of the International Petroleum Technology Conference (IPTC), which concluded Wednesday in Doha, Qatar.

“From the dawn of the modern petroleum industry, up to this moment, not only has technology been fundamental to ultimately finding, producing, and using oil and gas, it has time after time redefined and reinvented our destiny,” said Amin H. Nasser, vice president of upstream for Saudi Aramco. “When it comes to the big questions of about energy, from security, to supply, to sustainability, and all points in between, technology has always had the last word.”

Saudi Aramco is focused on high impact technologies to address specific challenges the company is facing. Among the highest priorities Nasser said his company is focused on include finding new ways to acquire quadruple the amount of seismic data, and at the same time reduce acquisition time and costs by half. In regards to petroleum engineering, the company hopes advancements in enhanced oil recovery technologies can increase its recovery rate by 20 percent.

Jakob Thomasen, CEO of Maersk Oil, said his company is developing new technologies and methods to increase the overall energy efficiency in its exploration and production operations, a reflection of the global effort to reduce energy consumption and lower carbon emissions. In a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum, Maersk Oil is producing 300,000 barrels of oil per day from the Al Shaheen field with technologies that have reduced its environmental footprint and eliminated nearly all flaring of associated gas at the field by routing it to onshore facilities for domestic consumption.

The company is working on a potentially even more environmentally friendly system that would be capable of using any type of gas, from clean dry gas to sour gas for energy use. The TriGen system includes combustion technology which was first deployed in space rockets. It burns hydrocarbon gas together with oxygen at very high temperature and pressure to produce electricity, pure water and fully captured carbon dioxide.

“We ought to be able bring that technology into operation in 2015 and right now we are finding the right places to go for the start,” Thomasen said. “There is almost no limit to how this technology can revolutionize power generation in a highly energy efficient and emission free way.”

Matt Fox, executive vice president of exploration and production for ConocoPhillips, said during the panel session entitled “Fundamentals of the Natural Gas Revolution,” that without a deep understanding of the complex geology of shale rock outside of the United States and Canada, it is too early to predict the potential of other country’s ability to replicate the North American experience.

“The evolution of the shale gas industry internationally is going to come over time, but people need to focus now on understanding the geologic characteristics of those shales,” said Fox. “What we do know is that not all of these shale gas resources are created equal. There is a fairly significant variability across North America in the shale plays that are being developed in terms of economic viability.”

The major factors that led to the birth of the natural gas revolution in the United States in particular are unique to that country, Fox said. Among those factors are an existing and growing gas pipeline network that spans more than 482,000 kilometers, the world’s largest inventory of onshore drilling rigs, a large base of skilled workers, private ownership of mineral rights, a predictable regulatory and fiscal environment, and an extensive road and utility infrastructure.

“Nowhere else has all these advantages at this stage in the game,” Fox said. “Other places in the world will eventually establish the capability, but it is unlikely to move as fast as it did in the U.S.”

Based on his knowledge of the energy markets in Europe and China, Didier Holleaux, chief executive officer of GDF Suez E&P International, said that the development of domestic shale gas production in those areas will come slowly, but surely.

“It will take far more time than anybody expects to develop significant production outside the U.S.,” Holleaux said. “But then after 10 or 12 years, then it may have a very significant impact, particularly if China decides to develop shale gas extensively.”

Saudi Aramco has launched several programs that it hopes will make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia one of the first countries outside North America to unlock its shale gas resources. Ibraheem Assa’adan, executive director of exploration for Saudi Aramco, said the company will need to produce from shale rock in order to meet surging demand for natural gas in Saudi Arabia, which is expected to double by 2035. For Saudi Aramco to achieve shale gas production at scale, Assa’adan said it will require patience, perseverance and a significant amount of trial and error.

“Even in North America, each play is different from another and it was learned the hard way,” he said. “When the Barnett (shale) was first commercialized, people took the same techniques and applied them in other places only to discover that it required major adjustments for the other plays to work.”

Assa’adan argued that at this point in time there is still a large amount of scientific data needed to know how shale gas can be optimally produced from shale rock in North America, despite surging production.

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24 Comments on "Technology Is Key To Unlock Unconventional Resources"

  1. Meld on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 12:16 pm 

    BREAKING NEWS – Technology is key to unlocking unconventional resources.

    Holy shit!, they solved it, they solved peak oil with technology! genius’

  2. Davy, Hermann, MO on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 12:31 pm 

    It is theoretically possible that every man, woman, and child, and maybe dogs too could have Mercedes-Benz’s. You know technology is the key!

  3. dsula on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 12:45 pm 

    What happened to BillT and Arthur?

  4. rockman on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 1:29 pm 

    Meld – And the US Navy is using a great technology that allows them to see the steel hulls of ships. They’re called portholes! LOL.

    I shouldn’t tease my cohorts. They are just trying to slap a little positive spin to counter all the bad press we lying bastards are always getting. But they make it so easy.

    First: “…and gas companies need to invest more on research and development”. The days of oil companies plowing money into major research ended more than 3 decades ago. Big Oil had shut down the bulk of their research groups long ago. It’s been the service companies, like Halliburton, that have led the way for a long time. And the goal wasn’t to expand fossil fuel production per se. It was, and still is, driven by competition with each other. In general ExxonMobil et al doesn’t own this high tech equipment or employee the folks that operate it. About 10 years ago I was drilling horizontal wells in Wyoming for ExxonMobil. Not one person on the location was an XOM employee and not one piece of equipment belonged to them. The “Suits” rarely leave their comfortable office. The Rockman Suit is an exception.

    “…new ways to acquire quadruple the amount of seismic data”. Despite all the hype about horizontal holes and frac’ng the huge gains in tech in the last 20 years has been 3d seismic. Since the beginning of seismic exploration we’ve taken 2 dimensional snapshots of the earth. With the tremendous increase in data density we can now display a 3 dimensional picture. As I’ve pointed out before now with a 3d data set and a computer work station I can generate as much mapping in one month as 5 geophysicist could in 6 months three decades ago. And not just more efficient but it has allowed for much higher success rates. In some areas it increased from 20% or less to 80%.

    That’s the good news. The bad news: there a lot less oil/NG left to look for…especially very large conventional fields. The one exception is the Deep Water plays which were delayed waiting for the engineering tech to catch up.

    “…from the Al Shaheen field with technologies that have reduced its environmental footprint and eliminated nearly all flaring of associated gas at the field by routing it to onshore facilities”. Difficult to let’s this massive pile of BS slip by. Some years ago I was offered a contract position to be a geosteering geologist for the horizontal work at Al Shaheen for Maersk. So they’re drilling 5,000′ long laterals in the Eagle Ford. They’ve been drilling 35,000′ laterals at Al Shaheen for quite a while.

    Great new tech utilized by Maersk to reduce their footprint: this is an offshore field using fixed platforms to develop to drill the wells in clusters. Fixed platforms…identical to the ones we’ve used in the Gulf of México FOR OVER 50 YEARS. And WOW! They are sending NG to the bank instead of flaring with this great new method: a PIPELINE! Well, double DA! LOL.

    But I’ll give them credit for a good explanation as to why it will be very difficult to export the “shale revolution” from the US to other countries. Even if a region has a lookalike to the Eagle Ford it will never be developed as quickly.

    The Halliburtons are always tweaking the tech. Again mostly to compete with each others marketing efforts. But in the world of horizontal drilling there’s been no big steep change in 20 years. We were drilling much longer and more complex hz holes decades ago then we are now in the Eagle Ford and Bakken today. And frac’ng? I did my first megafrac (several times larger than the typical EFS frac) in 1979. The same time George Mitchell (the “father of modern frac’ng”…LOL)was doing his first megafrac. And we were doing it 20years after frac’ng became common in Texas.

  5. robertinget on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 1:30 pm 

    The only enemies of advancing technology
    may be technology itself.

    Moore’s law states that approximately every two years, the processing power of personal computers essentially doubles, the once laughable fear of a Terminator-style machine takeover is becoming more and more justified.
    Rapid progression of technology is something of a double-edged sword; tech is cheaper and more powerful, but what were once incredibly sophisticated systems are quickly rendered obsolete.

    Most here in 20 years will look back on
    the beginnings of this century marveling
    at all those missed opportunities.

    Of course we need to spend now to avoid
    utter disaster. When Aramco spends however, it expects to get more oil for its research petro dollar.

    Most technology today is misdirected.
    So called ‘defense’ gets biggest bucks.
    War, despite constant failures always seems to be a permanent solution to temporary problem.

    Then pharma in search of the next blockbuster multi billion statin or anti aging formula.

    Energy may come next; cheaper,maybe, even safer, ultra deep water drilling.
    Arctic oil the next great challenge for principal financiers of AGW denial propaganda.

    It would be strange indeed for folks to bash technology while posting here on this 20th century marvel, the Net.

  6. RICHARD RALPH ROEHL on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 2:00 pm 

    Okay! Fine and dandy. Another technological vector for increasing humanity’s energy consumption footprint in the Earth’s fragile biosphere. Hooray! We’re saved!

    Butt… Old Coyote Knose differently in lieu of different-lie.

    In 1900 there were roughly ONE BILLION baboonies on the surface of the planet. Today… there are SEVEN BILLION+ baboonies, and all of them want eat $teak, live in air conditioned houses… and drive fast-ass $ports cars.

  7. Calhoun on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 2:46 pm 

    Medical science has incredible technology for extending life. But none of that technology comes close to actually being young again. So as we age, we rely on ever more expensive treatments to stay alive and, hopefully, reasonably healthy. Personally, I’d rather be young again and not need the technology.

    The fact that oil companies need to deploy this technology doesn’t debunk peak oil — rather it is the clearest sign that peak oil is here.

    Recommended read:

  8. Northwest Resident on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 3:44 pm 

    OK, that “technology will save us” rendition felt good and left me temporarily feeling as if everything in the world is Just Fine. The technology that has “conquered” Mother Nature will save us from the mess we have created for ourselves. Whew! But then, I made the mistake of clicking on a link that brought me back to reality.

    1.High decline rates. It is becoming better known that hydraulic-fracturing oil and gas wells, on which ride the hopes of the United States energy industry, have extremely high decline rates and useful lives of only about five years. Even less well known is that, according to International Energy Agency numbers, the world’s leading conventional oil fields are declining at over six per cent a year. This decline rate makes it very difficult to maintain, let alone increase, world production to meet rising demand.

    2.Rising investment costs. Whether in fracking or in conventional fields, wells are far more expensive than they used to be, because they are in deeper water, more remote areas or require more complicated technology. IEA numbers show that since 2000, the global oil industry has increased its investment in production by 200-300 per cent, but has managed to increase production only by 12 per cent — in 14 years! The trend, said Lewis, is clear; ever more money chasing less and less oil.

    3.Decreasing exports. Exports are falling faster than production, for the simple reason that the population of most oil-rich countries is increasing (in OPEC countries, at double the global average rate) and consuming the oil at home. The trend is amplified by the fact that countries from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Iran subsidize oil consumption by their people with the income from oil exports, which are being substantially reduced by the consumption. Vicious circle.

    But nothing that new fracking technology won’t solve — right???

  9. Meld on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 4:10 pm 

    You know the whole moore’s law thing. Well hasn’t that been invalidated seeing as they now can’t really increase the individual power of CPUs by much, rather they are just putting more CPUs onto a board. I know that is kind of the same thing but it sounds like a cop out to me. Like putting a man in a room and saying “this man will double in size every 2 years and then when he doesn’t they just put extra people into the room and say! see the room is still filling up.

  10. rockman on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 5:19 pm 

    Meld – For almost 4 decades I’ve watched the oil patch version of Moore’s Law. But it needs to be broken into several subcategories to make sense.

    Geophysical exploration: First half of the 20th century – primarily magnetic and gravity measurements…extremely crude but helped find some the megafields. After 1950 – 2d seismic. Advanced quickly…30 years being “quickly”. Mid 80′ to now – 3d seismic took about 20 years to max. Not very much advance since then. Not much need for any big advances now IMHO. If the oil/NG is there and we shoot it we’ll probably see it. What drives seismic exploration now is the price of oil/NG. And our budget for seismic for NG has gone to $zero compared to the $10+ million we spent when NG prices were higher 4+ years ago. We really couldn’t make better use of more advanced seismic today if it were created. Essentially Moore’s Law in the seismic has just about hit the end.

    Horizontal drilling: we are routinely drilling 35,O00′ long laterals now. Drilling efficiency of 5,000′ long laterals in the Eagle Ford topped out a year ago. Again, Moore’s Law has hit a brick wall.

    Frac’ng: some major advances 10 years ago. Not much since then other than some better efficiency in doing multistage fracs. But even that tech has topped out now. Moore’s Law in neutral.

    Deep Water drilling/production: Huge tech advances in the last 20 years. But that’s a result of moving into DEEPER water. The DW GOM fields actually began being developed over 30 years. Drilling in DW isn’t new tech…just drilling in deeper water is. And we don’t need much more tech advances. When we move further away from the continents not only does the water get deeper but the sediments needed to trap oil/NG diminish to the point where they are completely absent: no sedimentary rocks = no oil/NG fiekds

  11. rockman on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 5:32 pm 

    Accidentally clicked: To continue: being able to drill/produce in 20,000′ of water won’t be of much help with little to no potential out there. The engineers continue to tweak but we pretty much have all the tech we need now to develop any of the DW plays on the planet. Even the tech needed to drill/produce in the Arctic was created many years ago when they figured out how to keep the icebergs from destroying the platforms at Hibernia off the east coast of Canada.

    More tweaking to be done for sure. But we have all the basic tech we need to develop all the oil/NG left to develop. The only big prize left that needs a huge tech advance is the methane hydrates. And I suspect this will require a huge step change that might not be practice even with much higher priced NG.

    The future development of the vast majority of fossil fuels remaining will be dependent upon pricing and geopolitics much more then technology IMHO.

  12. Meld on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 5:41 pm 

    Thanks rockman, very informative.

  13. Northwest Resident on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 6:12 pm 

    Thanks again, rockman, for setting the record straight and for destroying all the illusions of “technical advancements” that will supposedly save us from the cold reality of peak oil. Tonight, cornucopians all around the world will be tossing and turning in their beds, the words of rockman sneaking into their blissful dreams to disturb and frighten them — to rub their lying faces in the cold harsh pile of stinking reality that they refuse to recognize (at least, publicly).

  14. Arthur on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 6:46 pm 

    What happened to BillT and Arthur?

    BillT changed his name into Makati1 and Arthur is working his *** off for a client in Vienna until end Feb. and has no time until then.

  15. rockman on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 7:48 pm 

    Arthur – Stop screwing around and get back to work. But do try to get around some and enjoy yourself, you lucky bastard.

  16. rockman on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 8:02 pm 

    NR – That was the long winded explanation. When I don’t have the time I just slap the cornies with the Austin Chalk unconventional oil play. It was the hottest play on the entire planet in the 90’s when I was drilling it horizontally and frac’ng it. The play eventually covered an area at least 4X the current size of the Eagle Ford play. And it boomed because oil prices reached $30+/bbl. Some tweaking since then but we’re essentially using the same tech today. So why didn’t the EFS boom 20 years ago? Easy: $35/bbl didn’t make it worthwhile. Technology didn’t make the EFS and Bakken viable…it was $90+/bbl.

  17. mike on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 8:13 pm 

    Wien! Seyss-Inquart zu Ostmark.

  18. Northwest Resident on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 8:21 pm 

    rockman — I’ve been wondering… I guess it goes without saying that associate with and/or fairly well-acquainted with quite a few individuals who like yourself are deeply involved in fossil fuel exploration and extraction. Taking that as a given, what is your perception of how the folks working in the oil industry are handling “the situation” — that situation being where we are today in terms of global finance and approaching fossil fuel shortages? Are they all digging hardened silos in their back yards and stocking up on provisions (and ammo)? Are they getting nervous, or are they collectively doing what most people are doing — putting their faith in “technology” to save us from what otherwise looks like a pretty dark future?

  19. rockman on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 10:27 pm 

    NR – Save us? LOLLLLLLLLLL. Even the newbies with 5+ plus years understand there is no “saving us”. Seriously. But I know where those ideas come from: the PR folks working for Big Oil. And while they tend not to be geologists or engineers they typically don’t swallow that Kool-Aid themselves. If you haven’t heard it before: almost 40 years ago my first mentor at Mobil Oil lectured me about PO and the problems coming down the road. He didn’t call in PO of course. Then, and even now, it’s the “reserve replacement issue” for the public companies. What’s happening now is what the folks who actually look for oil/NG have anticipated for decades.

    To be honest we almost never chat about that dark future. It would be like you tying to stir up a intense discussion about whether the sun will rise tomorrow. I do think about the world my 13 yo daughter will face during her adult years. Won’t be my problem…I’ll be dead by then. LOL. All I can do is make sure she’s well educated and has some useful skills. Growing up in the country she knows how to grow veggies and hunt. This summer I have a small solar power project planned for her. Hopefully her education will minimize such necessities.

    Don’t take this wrong but screw up and everyone else. LOL. But really. I’ll just speak for myself: I have a fair bit of resentment for the public as whole when it comes to energy. Some folks get upset when the see the inefficiency and waste today. But it’s been gnawing at me for decades because I appreciated where we’ve been heading for a long time. This conservative TBC (Texan BY Choice) voted for President Carter on the foolish hope that an engineer could alter our course at least a tad. Stupid geologist me. More things bother me than just seeing Houston’s empty streets lite up at 3 am. Like watching those shiny metal boxes arrive in Dover even though the DOD doesn’t allow it any more.

    So yeah…between the wastefulness and blaming us for the problems the public causes by burning fossil fuels the oil patch has little empathy for the public. So, excepting our children and friends, the more or less feelings in the oil patch towards the public is: eat sh*t and die. Nothing personal…”Resentment Street” runs both ways. I’m pretty sure that attitude doesn’t come across in those Chevron TV spots. LOL.

    Folks might not like hearing me say that but you’ve probably figured out my primary goal in hanging out here isn’t to make friends. That’s just a nice accident when it happens. LOL. I think folks expect honest answers…warts and all. Besides no one knows my address.

    As far as arming ourselves and hunkering down this is Texas…that would be the same if fossil fuels were limitless. We would still have to be ready to fight off those commies in D.C.

  20. Northwest Resident on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 11:11 pm 

    rockman — thanks for the totally honest appraisal. Quick notes: My son is 14. I moved a lot with my parents as a kid, but actually went through grades 6 to 10 in Houston (Scarborough Elementary, Patrick Henry Jr High and Sam Houston High), then moved to West Columbia for grade 11 and then to Hearne for my final grade 12. Then I joined the Navy to GTFO of Texas!! But it had nothing to do with Texas, just my relatives. I still have a lot of relatives in TX. I know all about y’all…:-)

    I totally appreciate your answer. I’m floored. Still trying to get a project done at work — gotta keep the websites up and running while the servers still got power, you know. F’n A! Don’t die on us, rockman — stick around. You won’t want to miss the show when it all comes down.

  21. rockman on Fri, 24th Jan 2014 11:41 pm 

    NW – Yeah…if it wasn’t for our damn kids we could just sit back with a bottle of Islay single malt and watch the coming train wreck without a care in our hearts. Well, at least if you’re still around when the really serious sh*t hits the fan you’ll still have enough local connections to get thru the check points at the border.

  22. rollin on Sat, 25th Jan 2014 3:29 pm 

    Now the president wants $15 a ton CO2 tax. Guess coal is going to get expensive, expect electric rates to go up because it’s all public utilities with guaranteed profits. Gasoline might go up a nickel a gallon, less than the weekly drift in price so no one will notice the difference.

  23. rockman on Sat, 25th Jan 2014 10:12 pm 

    Rollin – As you point out the CO2 tax is essentially a consumer tax. The plants will pass that expense on to the rate payers just the same as it were a result of an increase in coal costs. So, regardless of the source of the increase in cost, higher prices will reduce demand to some degree.

    But remind me: is this a tax on all power plants or just coal-fired ones. Regardless it’s kjust an effort to Crete price driven demand destruction. Given the price of oil increasing 300% has produce some reduction in consumption the US remains one of the largest sources of GHG on the planet. The tax may be a handy way to suck more money to the gov’t it doesn’t seem like it could reduce GHG to a meaningful degree without creating a great of demand destruction…much more than the public would accept without voting those politicians out of office.

  24. GregT on Sun, 26th Jan 2014 3:56 am 

    The only way that ‘technology’ will save us, is if our ‘technology’ finds a way to reverse the damage that our ‘technology’ itself has already done to our biosphere.

    Maybe it would be smarter, if we just stopped believing that the very thing that is causing all of our problems, is the thing that will fix them.

    Maybe we really aren’t as smart as we think we are. Maybe we deserve our own extinction.

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