By Sebastine Obasi
INTERNATIONAL oil companies, IOCs, appear to be experimenting with various technologies, from drones and drill design to data management, to drive down costs and weather the low price regime being experienced in the sector. Crude prices have traded below $50 per barrel for over a year now since the price decline started mid-2014, as against more than $100 per barrel before then, forcing companies to cut billions of dollars in expenditure.
Determined to shield dividends and preserve the infrastructure that will allow them to compete and grow when the market recovers, they are increasingly looking to apply smarter technology and design to make savings. Statoil, Norway’s national oil company, stated that its giant Johan Sverdrup field, the largest North Sea oil find in three decades which is due to start production in 2019, is a leading industry case study for cutting costs in the era of cheap oil.
The company explained that it has cut its development costs for the first stage of the project by a fifth compared with estimates given in early 2015, to 99 billion crowns ($12.2 billion).
“The savings have largely been made by focusing on the most efficient technology and designs from the beginning”, Statoil’s head of technology Margareth Oevrum said. Anglo-Dutch Shell paid to get over 200,000 airborne images from manned aircraft in 2012. Marine mammal surveys based on these images were said to have influenced Shell’s multi-billion decision to drill for oil. The company paid LGL Alaska Research Associates to analyse the images.
Manual image analysis took over three minutes per image,so long that the LGL team ran out of time and money. Product evaluation and refinement studies since then, commissioned by LGL and Shell, have shown that automated triage reduces analysis time to less than one second per image and yields detection rates up to 84 percent.
Shell has also developed a new type of pipe, called a steel lazy wave riser, to carry oil and gas from its deepwater Stones field in the Gulf of Mexico for processing. It bends to absorb the motion of the sea and the floating platform, which the company says boosts production at extreme depth. The company, however, could not say how much the pipes contributed to increased
The company, however, could not say how much the pipes contributed to increased efficiency, but said innovations at Stones had played a significant part in cost savings of $1.8 billion in its projects and technology division last year, equivalent to the 2015 core profits in its upstream division.
Also, Total, French oil and gas major said it was using drones to carry out detailed inspections on some of its oil fields following a trial at one of its Elgin/Franklin platforms in the North Sea. Cyberhawk, the drone company that led the trial, said this kind of work was previously carried out by engineers who suspended themselves from ropes at dizzying heights. It said the manned inspection used to take seven separate two-week trips with a 12-man team that had to be flown in and accommodated on site.
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