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Developing small pools

Friday, September 2, 2016

If the industry could reduce the cost of developing small discoveries, or 'small pools', it could make a massive difference to the overall viability of the North Sea, said Centrica's Matt Nicol.

There are 210 'small pools', discovered reservoirs of between 3 and 15m barrels of oil equivalent, in the North Sea, said Matt Nicol, ?director, Production & Non-Operated Assets at Centrica (previously UK operations manager for CNRL).

'These are not exploration plays, they are discoveries,' he said, speaking at the plenary session of Subsea Expo 2016 in Aberdeen on Feb 5, an event organised by UK trade body Subsea UK.

A study has been carried out into what could happen if the capital cost of developing 'small pools' could be reduced.

It found that a 50 per cent capital cost reduction would lead to a big reduction in the minimum economically viable field size, and 150 of the 210 'small pools' would be accessible. This would lead to a billion barrels of new resources in the North Sea.

By comparison, 100m barrels of new resources were discovered during 2015 which were in larger pools.

It would also make $20bn of investment a viable proposition, and extend the life of many existing assets, and have positive impact on suppliers and employment.

The majority of the small pools are in the Central North Sea and the Moray Firth (an inlet of the North Sea, North and East of Inverness).

The UK North Sea Technology Leadership Board, set up by Oil and Gas UK, has identified 'small pools' as one of three main technology priorities for the entire industry, with the other two being innovations in well construction, and advances in inspection methods to manage integrity of aging facility. It has set up a small pools group, chaired by Centrica and Enquest.


The National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI) recently organised a 'hackathon', bringing people from a range of different industries to come together to try to work out ways to solve the problem of making small pools viable from a subsea perspective. 160 delegates from 80 companies attended, including from academia.

The solutions were divided into 'facilities', 'subsea', 'process and flow assurance', and 'free radical', meaning anything goes.

The solutions were put together in a report, where the solutions were split into short term efficiency, potential joint industry projects, strategic initiatives, and long term projects.

Ideas for joint industry projects included 'hot taps' (methods to plumb a subsea pipeline into an existing pipeline without closing it down); new connectors, and subsea boosting (pumping).

'Strategic initiatives' could include subsea storage and subsea processing.

Long term projects could include separation, flow assurance, biological cleaning and some kind of 'downsized EOR'.

The group is aiming to match technology suppliers with where the technology can be used.

'2016 will be an incredibly important period,' Mr Nicol said. 'We've identified a huge potential opportunity, if we can bring some of these technologies to bear.'

Bringing small pools could also bring efficiencies in other ways, for example the cost of running infrastructure per barrel will be lower if there is more production, and the costs of decommissioning can be pushed into the future.

Associated Companies
» Centrica
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