OTC 2015 in Review

OE Staff
Wednesday, June 10, 2015

There were many memorable presentations and product demonstrations at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston this past May. OE Staff reports on a few notable discussions.

Safety post-Macondo

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and it was top of mind for Brian Salerno, director of the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) during his Wednesday morning breakfast presentation at OTC. Salerno emphasized the social contract that both regulators and the industry hold with the public in order to operate.

“Five years after the tragedy, I would say we are all still on probation,” Salerno told the crowd. “True, Gulf of Mexico activity has returned to pre-spill levels, in some areas even exceeding pre-spill levels, at least until the recent global energy downturn. But, public unease with offshore drilling is still there. Expectations are high that industry must be safe and responsible. And as industry seeks to operate in new areas, these public apprehensions will need to be convincingly addressed.”

Salerno highlighted the industry’s sense of urgency, emphasized by renewed efforts to create safety culture post-Deepwater Horizon, but as with all things, there is always room for improvement, especially in the eyes of the public.

“Ultimately, we will not be judged by our good intentions, or the thickness of our safety plans – but on outcomes,” he said. “The frequency of deaths, injuries, and oil spills are the inevitable indicators of how the public views the industry, and they influence the public’s willingness to accept offshore activity.”

In a separate panel on Thursday, representatives from various companies discussed their approach to SEMS compliance.

Kathy Kanocz (pictured above), vice president of HSE, North America, Statoil, discussed how the Norwegian-headquartered explorer, now working in the Gulf of Mexico, changed its entire approach to safety not just locally, but globally.

“Every panelist will tell you their (SEMS) plan is the same,” Kanocz said. “But, the difference is the learning. We (Statoil) have made global changes to how we do emergency response. In Norway, what we do is industry best practices. We made a decision in 2013 that there was a better way to structure our emergency response teams.”

Kanocz said when she started with Statoil’s North American branch she had a staff of four people. Locally, they were dependent on third-party consultants. However in Norway, they had a whole staff for emergency response. 

Kanocz said Statoil did not have consistent job responsibilities and titles for the people involved in safety operations, and ultimately changed over to an incident command structure, which she said was a big change for the company. “To change a 40-year structure, the business case to change had to be quite strong,” she said.

“Now, we have trained, drilled and even responded to real emergencies,” she said. “We have in excess of 100 people. We were the first to have an unannounced drill from BSEE, to mobilize spill response equipment,” she said.

Steve Thurston, vice president of Chevron North America E&P, in charge of the deepwater exploration and projects group, discussed Chevron’s approach to assess competency among its workforce, a program that began in 2010.

Thurston told attendees that the program is designed to assess in real-time the work being performed, and to provide learnings for those activities and catch gaps. Thurston said that it is always done in consultation with person in charge of the facility. The program includes “competency coaches” who will go out and perform field assessments at various facilities, in order to assess, teach and train. Thurston said this allows for better and honest dialogue where both positive and negative feedback is welcomed by personnel being assessed.

Thurston said that in 2014, 4500 field assessments were performed with 19 different business partners to evaluate their employees at Chevron facilities. The assessments focused on safe work practices, and whether members of the workforce understood their jobs.

“In four years, we’ve made significant progress,” he said.

-Audrey Leon


NASA talks space technologies and offshore environment

NASA astronaut Michael Bloomfield speaking at OTC's d5 event. Photo from OTC's Facebook page.

Representatives from NASA discussed space-oriented technologies, and how they may be utilized by the oil and gas industry at a special panel at this year's OTC,.

“The Jet Propulsion Laboratory [part of NASA] is very conscious of its mandate to be a national resource so that it not only uses technology to explore space, but we very much want to service national objectives in defense, commercial areas and terrestrial applications” said Jeff Hall, supervisor of extreme environmental robotics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Robotics is a vital component in space exploration as it frees astronauts from repetitive or physically demanding tasks, and keeps them out of hazardous environments. NASA’s strides in this field are currently being applied on the International Space Station in the form of Robonaut.

“Robonaut is currently in orbit, and this anthropomorphic robot can perform a number of tasks alongside the crew. The technologies that were developed to actuate its limbs and fingers can be used in other environments as well,” said Gianluca Callini, senior test director and external pursuits liaison at Jacobs.

Building on those technologies, NASA is developing Valkyrie, a humanoid robot designed as an answer to a challenge by DARPA for accessing hazardous environment. It is designed for climbing ladders, operating vehicles or actuating tools and valves.

The offshore applications for robotics are numerous. It would not be unreasonable to see future rigs operated mostly or even solely by robots. As the technology develops robots will gain more functionality and utility. “Imagine being able to climb around an offshore rig and be able to work with your hands, handle tool, collect samples and perform some job,” said Robert Ambrose, chief of software, robotics and simulations at NASA Johnson Space Center.

Aside from robotics technology, current application of remote sensing technologies were also discussed. The technology utilizes the AVIRIS-NG (Airborne Visible-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer - Next Generation) hyperspectral imaging sensor mounted on a fixed wing aircraft, which maps the surface as it flies over it. However, the game changer is the ability for real-time detection whereby an algorithm can be programmed to pull out specific information which can then be displayed. Rather than collecting and processing the data over several months or years to get usable information, this technology allows meaningful data to be displayed and utilized on the spot.

“The typical use cases of airborne remote sensing is for surface interrogation and that’s mainly to do with surface geology mapping or detection of anomalies on the ground that may have a distinct spectral fingerprint in the visible or shortwave infrared” said Andrew Aubrey, JPL technologist.

The oil and gas industry has already experience firsthand the application of this technology in support of emergency response and ecological assessment. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the technology was deployed to help determine where the oil was dispersing to, as well as measuring the thickness of the slicks.

Furthermore, by removing the ground surface as noise, atmospheric signals may be targeted allowing the tool to be a robust method of detecting plumes such as methane. Recent application of the technology in Colorado resulted in the detection of a large methane plume which was later discovered to be from pipeline leaks.

NASA has been a constant source of amazing and innovative technologies. However, without greater collaboration between the two industries, the oil and gas industry will not be able to fully realize the potential applications of those technologies.

-Jerry Lee


Products in action

Hammerhead makes its debut

Baker Hughes introduced its Hammerhead system—a fully integrated wellhead-to-reservoir ultra-deepwater completion and production system, at this year’s OTC.

Hammerhead is the first product created by Baker Hughes’ Lower Tertiary Integrated Project Team (IPT). The system was developed to withstand extreme environments, such as the Gulf of Mexico’s Lower Tertiary trend, and is designed to enable reliable long-term, high-rate production.

Robbie Pateder, IPT director, completions and wellbore intervention, Baker Hughes, told OE that the Hammerhead was driven by customer opportunity. “We were getting a lot of requests for ultra-deepwater completions targeting the new frontier, the lower tertiary,” he says. “It’s the last frontier in deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

“Chevron has led the pack with a lot of big discoveries (Jack/St. Malo, Buckskin/Moccasin). These are characterized by gaps of 5,000-10,000ft of water in the areas there (Keathley Canyon, Walker Ridge, Alaminos Canyon). These are ancient plays…massive formations. The P50 resource potential is 140MMbbl of oil per field. It’s a huge opportunity. However, the gaps in pressures/temperatures are at the bleeding edge of what abilities have been from a completions point of view. We can drill these wells but how do we economically develop them,” he asked.

Pateder says with current technology, the industry isn’t expected to produce more than 6% of oil recovery. He says Baker Hughes’ goal was to come up with a completions technology that could meet the challenges of 300°F and 25,000 psi, while also equipped with the stimulation capability to break low permeability rock and release hydrocarbons. Baker Hughes created the IPT with a long term mission to develop completion technology and solutions for lower tertiary, Pateder says.

Hammerhead encompasses the lower completion, multizone frac pac system and ties together with intelligent production system capabilities (intelligent wells with surveillance and monitoring, fiber optic, electric pressure gauges, flow control capabilities) and ties together with isolation assembly for well control and then upper completions, he says.

Pateder says the intelligent components give the engineers more information about the wells so they can take action to ensure continued production.

“We also have flow assurance technology built into the system so engineers can monitor asphaltenes and address those situations,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of customers say they have had problems with asphaltenes,  these waxes and paraffins come out of the hydrocarbons as they are produced. And as temperatures and pressures change, they coalesce; that was one concern.

Pateder says another concern is scale. “The cost of intervention on these wells are so expensive, but also, how long will it take to get an intervention vessel and get it out to that location? That represents delays and possibly lost production.”

He continues: “Interventions can cost up to US$75 million. These wells themselves are also very expensive, $300-400 million for drilling and completions cycles, not including the capex to build out the infrastructure to get to it.”

With the Hammerhead system, Baker Hughes ultimately aims to boost production and increase recovery rates.

-Audrey Leon


Baker/Aker alliance unveils POWERJump

The new subsea production alliance formed by Baker Hughes and Aker Solutions launched its first collaboration: the POWERJump flowline booster system at this year’s OTC.

The alliance’s director of business development, Ian Ayling, called the solution a true collaboration, with the aim of making production from smaller fields economical, an interview with OE. “Every customer has a field with satellite oil that isn’t economical to produce by itself,” Ayling said. However, with the POWERJump system, that could change that.

The system places a standard electrical submersible pump (ESP) system inside a subsea jumper, making intervention accomplishable in hours, not days, Ayling says. All of the components of the POWERJump, Ayling says, are standard and have been proving separately, but not together.  And in the event the ESP system needs to be replaced, Baker Hughes says a light intervention vessel with standard jumper change-out tooling can retrieve the system.

Ayling and the alliance believe in the system, saying that it is cheaper than any other form of subsea boosting. “It’s elegant, and simple,” he says. “It will pay for itself in 6-9 months.”

-Audrey Leon


3M’s fall protection

3M had several personal protection products on display at its booth again this year. The one catching everyone’s fancy was the DEUS Escape and Rescue Protection controlled descent device, which featured a 3M fall safety specialist, Steve Kosch (pictured, right), rappelling from a 16ft tower inside the company’s booth on the OTC show floor.

“Legacy products like a zip line are not as safe, it has short comings,” Ross Glynn, sales and marketing manager with 3M's Oil and Gas, told OE on the show floor. DEUS is an alternative because 3M says no matter the height and weight, the product will get the worker down safely.

Glynn said that the oil and gas industry tends to want to go faster, 3m/sec. The DEUS also comes with four breaking systems, double washers.  And it it’s not just for use in escapes but also other applications such as painting.

In terms of maintenance, it is easy to replace the rope, there’s no need to send out for service, Kosch said. Additionally, the system is able to carry two people down in the event of a rescue situation.

Watch a video of Steve Kosch in action on the OTC showroom floor here.

-Audrey Leon

Categories: Equipment Technology Deepwater Drilling Subsea Robotics NASA North America Gulf of Mexico Completions Hardware Drilling Hardware Flow Assurance Safety & Security Geology

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