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Technology from ITF

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The ITF (Industry Technology Facilitator) annual meeting in Aberdeen in March included new technology to drill holes by laser, remove sand with cyclones, and communicate subsea with light.

Drilling by laser

ZerLux Laser Institute is developing subsurface laser applications which can be used to drill rocks.

The company was experimenting with the idea of using lasers for removing hard scale from pipe.

Then it realised that the lasers could also be used to cut the well casing to develop laterals, drilling a 2 inch borehole which can go 5-10metres in the rock, and improve hydrocarbon flow into the rock.

The laterals could be drilled in a fishbone structure. Ultimately an oil well could look more like a tree root, collecting fluids from a large volume of reservoir, said Peter Bajcsi, COO of Zerlux.

"Lasers have been around for 30 years, but they are getting cheaper, better and more scaleable," he says. This all makes it more viable for using them for drilling.

The laser does not need any power supply at the bottom of the well. The power is delivered to the laser in the form of light, along a fibre optic cable. Typically 100kW power would be generated at the surface, and of that some 70 kW would be lost as heat, and 30 kW reaching the laser.

Laser perforations have a different shape to perforations made by explosives from in the well, because they create a cylindrical hole, not one which tapers to a point. The borehole wall remains highly porous, too.

The company's main office is in Budapest, Hungary, with an office opened in Houston 2 years ago, and one planned in Aberdeen.

Optical subsea

Underwater Optical Technologies is a new Latvian company with an American backing. It has developed an optical underwater communications system (communications using light) for the seabed.

The communications can carry 'hundreds of megabits per second' with a typical range of 15m to 150m, while being stable against daylight and external ROV illumination lights', says chief technology officer Michael G. Solonenko.

The communications can carry over 1 gigabyte per second over short range (10m to 20 m), 100+ mbps at up to 100m and 10 mpbs over longer distances, he said.

It is 'easy to deploy and reconfigure, inexpensive to operate and maintain.'

The technology should make it possible to create wireless 'tethers' between a vessel and AUVs. 'Tethers connected to ROVs pose a navigation hazard and restrict motion of the vessel.'

The technology could be used for exfiltrating seismic survey data from a subsea node via an AUV, he said.

It could be used for pipeline inspections, as well as a stable, durable and reliable data transfer conduit inside standard casing pipes. These are currently done with less reliable and more expensive fibre optics cabling, or outright impossible.

Underwater surveys could be done with an autonomous underwater vehicle traveling a 4 knots along the pipeline, communicating with a nearby subsea receiver device attached by cable to a vessel, with the AUV communicating with the subsea receiver device via light. This would mean a faster survey and a less expensive vessel required on the surface.

The underwater communications are hemispherical, although an omnidirectional version or a long range directional communication are an option, he said.

Separating sand from fluids offshore

FourPhase, a company based in Bergen, has developed a system for reducing sand from production fluids, which can be installed on offshore platforms or well heads.

The traditional way to separate sand is to pass fluids through a separator, which needs to be regularly cleaned to remove the sand. The flowrate gradually declines as it gets full of sand.

The FourPhase system uses cyclones to remove the sand.

It has two sand tanks. While you are removing sand from one tank, you can re-route the flow to the other, so there is no interruption in flow, says
Giedre Malinauskaite, marketing manager of FourPhase.

Sand is a problem in 70 per cent of oil fields, especially mature basins, she said.

It has already been installed in two wells for Statoil. These wells would normally require coiled tubing equipment to unclog the well. 'We managed to restart the well without coiled tubing,' she said.

The production ended up 4,500 barrels of oil per day higher than it would have been without the equipment, she said.

So it achieves savings in two ways - from making it less expensive to get a well re-started, and maintaining higher production rates once it is operating.

Altogether, it has been used in Norway, UK, Saudi Arabia and UAE so far, with Statoil (Gullfaks C), Saudi Aramco (Hasbah), BP (Ula and Valhall), ConocoPhillips (Eldfisk and Ekofisk), and Wintershall (Brage).

It does not take up much space on the rig or well head - a 2m x 2m footprint, and it is 3.2m high.

The company was established in 2012.

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