Interventions in the digital age

Audrey Leon

July 1, 2017

Audrey Leon discusses the next game-changing intervention technologies with OE’s Deepwater Intervention Forum advisory board members ahead of this year’s show.

Onboard the Well Enhancer looking aft towards the moonpool and showing the CCTLF and riser section supported during operations. Image from Helix WellOps.

Every industry segment has felt the hurt from the downturn that began at the end of 2014. OE’s Deepwater Intervention Forum, next month (8-10 August 2017), will showcase how the intervention industry has adapted to the “lower for longer” lifestyle, and will feature new techniques and technology that aims to help reduce time and cost.

OE: There is plenty of buzz in the industry surrounding digitalization. What are some new advances that may change the way interventions are done?

Alex Lawler, Drilling & Completions Engineer, LLOG: The oil and gas industry can be slow to implement new technologies. Because of the high cost implications of permanently-installed equipment failures, companies are reluctant to incorporate emerging technologies into their portfolios. Digital technologies certainly have a role to play in the oilfield of the future. The industry still seems to be working through what data can be acquired and how to best incorporate this data in order to optimize well performance.

For example, digital slick-line is providing downhole information never before accessible. This is improving the success of long, challenging runs, thus eliminating costly re-runs. In production operations, fiber optics have intriguing applications to record high data volume along the entire wellbore at lightning-fast speeds. The incremental cost of these technologies must be properly evaluated against the benefits they provide.

David Carr, commercial vice president, Helix WellOps: Digitization and ‘Big Data’ have been buzz words in many industries for several years now. They are finally making an impression on the subsea intervention segment. The complex interaction of well and reservoir properties, combined with an ever-increasing suite of downhole technologies, as well as different well access philosophies (which themselves drive the selection of an increasing array of marine platforms) has resulted in a huge number of potential subsea well intervention options for any given operation. Helix has been supporting many of its clients in determining what are the most impactful parameters to consider in this analysis, but ultimately, the processing of ‘Big Data’ is becoming a factor that will determine the selection of methods in the future. In no segment is this more important than in the abandonment and decommissioning realm, where selection of the most efficient and cost-effective solution will drive dollars to the operator’s bottom line as new technologies drive down this looming burden.

Colin Johnston

Colin Johnston, director, SeaNation: Digitalization and corresponding data acquisition are the key issues of the moment. The ability to gather the data now seems to be the easy bit, but the challenge is two-fold; 1) how the data is analyzed for optimum value; and 2) how the data is shared across companies and regions for maximum value. The days of focusing on what information is needed have been replaced by massive information gathering capability. Such development provides opportunities for the ability to better risk assess operations and, therefore, make calls on probability of success during the planning stages. Thus, more desktop operations ahead of time can be utilized to better improve efficiency of the actual operations. In addition, better planning and utilization of assets should result in cost reduction. All of this is only possible based upon information sharing being the key.

OE: What are some of the intervention technologies you have an eye on right now?

Alex Lawler, LLOG: There are some exciting advancements being made with acoustic technology. This technology is enabling a wide array of data measurements along the work-string. Pressure and temperature data can be acquired throughout the work-string and annulus to calibrate density profiles, verify downhole tool movements, optimize frac models, as well as several other applications. Additional capabilities are being added, such as downhole weight and deflection. The challenge is to effectively understand and incorporate this technology so that it becomes a clear enabler of efficiency and value, as opposed to simply “nice to have, but not necessarily needed.”

David Carr, Helix: In my opinion, there are three technologies that are going to drive change in the industry in the next 18 months.

David Carr

The first is the emergence of the first rental 15K Intervention Riser System (IRS). This equipment will allow the numerous operators with high pressure, high temperature wells in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and elsewhere to access their wells efficiently and at low cost, allowing them to perform wells operations from the most mundane to the most invasive on their own contracted vessels, or aboard dedicated intervention vessels. This technology will allow production sustaining and production enhancing operations to be performed that would have otherwise have been economically unviable.

The second is the emergence of coiled tubing operations from smaller, lightweight intervention vessels of the type that typically operate in the British and Norwegian sectors of the North Sea. The addition of this capability (albeit presently only in the calmer summer months in that latitude) has allowed previously uneconomical operations to be planned and executed, helping to fulfill the UK industry’s goal of Maximum Economic Recovery.

The third game-changer is the arrival of a host of new Riserless Abandonment and Abandonment-in-Place technologies. Among many interesting new technologies, these include the Subsea Services Alliance’s Riserless Open-Water Abandonment Module (ROAM) [See page 53 for more detail] that will facilitate open-water tubing pulling, as well offering full-bore access for a range of downhole, upper abandonment technologies.

Colin Johnston, SeaNation: Technologies that are going to have impact are based around material developments and increased subsea technology capability. One such area that will benefit from both of these is subsea coiled tubing (CT) operations for well intervention. Applying smaller vessels via improved technology capability as a result and combined with improved CT material technology provides a new niche of subsea well intervention capability.

OE: What does the future of the intervention industry hold?

Alex Lawler

Alex Lawler, LLOG: Though the effects of low oil prices are being felt throughout the industry, intervention service providers have used the depressed market as an opportunity to tout the efficiency of their capabilities. There is an uptick in demand for intervention services because they have proven to be a cost-effective means to address well productivity issues and execute most plugging and abandonment work. Data suggests this trend will continue well into 2018. Because of the depressed market, the cost difference between riser-based and riserless solutions is shrinking. Riserless providers will be asked to increase capabilities, such as in-well coiled tubing, and expedite mobilization timing to compete with their riser-based brethren.

David Carr, Helix: Integrated service offerings will have to play a significant role in this industry in the near future. The traditional model of contracting a mobile offshore drilling unit with discreet services on board does not fit with the leaner, fitter, lower cost reality of the industry today. This model misaligns the incentives of the marine operators with those of the services providers, which are in turn misaligned with those of the operator. Nothing can be more frustrating for an operator than paying the full spread cost of a rig, ROVs and services when the whole package is unable to work due to the failure of a $10 widget provided on a separate, discreet contract. Only by fully integrating the entire spread and sharing risk can the incentives of all parties be aligned with those of the operator footing the bill.

In terms of projects, P&A has been considered the ‘next big thing’ in the subsea industry for many years. However, operators, while taking care of their regulatory obligations, are naturally going to postpone this process for as long as possible to delay the expense and also to anticipate new technologies that will reduce this liability. So, in the leaner, lower oil price mid-term future that we face, I believe that stimulation and flow assurance projects will play an important part of the subsea operators’ strategy of maintaining and enhancing production.

In the last 12 months, coiled tubing conveyed acid stimulations from Helix’s semisubmersible fleet in the GOM have helped operators in that area to increase production at a time when adding reserves from new exploration is unviable. Equally, we have seen our trenchers increasingly utilized in the Brazilian basins and elsewhere to bury flowlines for thermal advantage and improved flow assurance. All of this points to a bright future now that both operators and service providers have scaled their businesses and cost bases to reflect the new reality in the industry. In recent years, it has become a cliché to note that there is no ‘easy oil’ available anymore; in fact, the ‘easy oil’ is being found in the existing well stock and the subsea infrastructure that continues to convey this important resource to market.

Colin Johnston, SeaNation: Future intervention will see more specialized service providers and a more efficient capability for operators to mix and match what is required across the full gambit of tools covering surface (vessels and handling systems), subsea (technologies and interface capabilities) and subsurface (well services and downhole tools and techniques). The ability to select what is required along with the capability to marry the different aspects needed will improve overall intervention operations. Increasingly the operator will be comfortable to assign the management of this to those who provide such service day in and day out and rely on dedicated operational experience and expertise.

The 13th Annual Deepwater Intervention Forum takes place 8-10 August 2017, at the Galveston Island Convention Center, in Galveston, Texas. For more information, including the full agenda, and registration and hotel details, please visit: