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№ 8 (August 2008)

Rising to the Challenge at SPE Russian Oil and Gas 2008

The challenges facing the Russian oil industry today and the role that technology and new techniques will play are amongst the central issues to come under the spotlight at a major event taking place this October in Moscow.

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The challenges facing the Russian oil industry today and the role that technology and new techniques will play are amongst the central issues to come under the spotlight at a major event taking place this October in Moscow.
The SPE Russian Oil and Gas Technical Conference and Exhibition is the second in the series, building on the encouraging success of the inaugural event in 2006.
With oil and gas remaining the primary fuels underpinning continued global economic growth, Russia is the world’s second largest oil producer and the largest holder and producer of gas reserves. This sees it play a leading role in the global energy supply chain, as evidenced by the fact the country provided fully 40 percent of the growth in global oil production between 2001 and 2005 alone.
As one spokesman for the SPE event said: “As the Russian oil and gas sector transitions to higher operational and environmental standards, the roles of technology and advanced petroleum engineering will assume even greater significance in husbanding and producing these resources as efficiently and responsibly as possible. This is true both for Russia’s mature producing regions as well as for its new and developing greenfield areas. This year our conference will focus on the fundamental role which technology and know how must play if Russia is to maintain its current vital role in world energy markets and realise its full production and reserves potential.”
The theme for this year’s conference is: “Technology for Today and Tomorrow”. “While the Russian oil and gas industry hosts many conferences each year, the success of the inaugural SPE Russian Oil and Gas 2006 Conference and Exhibition demonstrated the benefit of this conference, dedicated to the dissemination of technical information,” the spokesman said. “This year’s conference will be attended by an estimated 5,000 industry professionals from throughout Russia, as well as numerous other countries, demonstrating the global nature of our industry.
Russia will continue to play a leading role in the global energy balance and world economics. The high level of interest in this year’s conference is based on the many technological challenges we continue to face in Russia as we strive to improve overall reserve recovery in the many mature producing regions across Russia, develop new greenfield areas, and continue exploration across this vast country. To continue meeting these challenges will require the best of Russian, as well as global, technologies and know how.”
The Chairman of the Conference Program Committee is Adil Mukhitov of Schlumberger, who revealed that 18 technical sessions will be held to review 168 oral and poster presentations. Mukhitov said the committee had received a “fantastic response” to its call for abstracts, receiving 689, “The main criteria for selection were innovation and applicability to existing technical challenges. Another important criterion was the potential economic efficiency of the use of proposed innovations for subsoil users. As a result the programme now includes papers from specialists from over 65 companies representing 26 countries around the world.”
He continued: “The theme ‘Technology for Today and Tomorrow’ will set the stage for discussion about what the challenges are for the industry today – how we are tackling these in our daily activities, what we see in the future and how we are preparing for these today. This will include the challenges of today and the future, such as the following: new frontiers such as extreme Arctic and ultra-deepwater; attracting and further development of human capital; and exploring, developing and producing complex and deep reservoirs. Today, the Russian oil and gas industry is facing these challenges and the conference will provide a great opportunity to share the successes and experiences between professionals.”
Another member of the Executive Committee is Professor Viktor Martynov, First Prorector of Gubkin Russian State Oil and Gas University, who will participate in Plenary Session 3.
Prof Martynov also commented on the main conference themes, saying that Russia’s industry had been “appreciably modernized” and uses the most progressive global and Russian recovery technologies. He continued: “Simultaneously, the role of Russia as one of the leading suppliers of energy resources to the European and world markets effectively grows and will grow in the foreseeable future. Stabilisation of production in the mature oil and gas regions, and development of new fields on the Arctic shelves – off Sakhalin and in Eastern Siberia – on the basis of existing and developed technologies, in many respects determine the stability of deliveries of oil and gas to the markets today and tomorrow. Without discussion of these problems and the possibilities for applied and developed technologies it is impossible to visualise future progress. At the same time, the industry needs the inflow of highly skilled young personnel possessing the competence required for development and use of the latest equipment and technologies.”
Mukhitov, concerning Russia’s Arctic offshore, outlined key areas of technology of high importance for the future successful exploitation of this area, including subsea completion safety, long-distance multiphase transportation, and other specifics of the arctic environment, such as shallow gas and perma-frost.
With advances also continuing to be made in the production enhancement sector, as companies strive to find better ways to increase known and recoverable reserves and optimise production levels in existing brownfield areas, he also flagged up further technological advances needed to help with the understanding of unswept areas, connecting to unswept (fully or partially) reservoirs, and knowledge transfer between generations.
Prof Martynov also stressed the importance of technology transfer in an inherently international business such as the oil and gas industry. “At present, the representatives of many countries, including Russia, work in the world’s leading oil and gas companies. This also applies to the Russian companies and the Russian sector where the majority of the world famous companies successfully work: ВР, StatoilHydro, Total, СоnосоPhillips, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes and many others.
“The scale of investments and the technical complexity of new projects is such that none of the largest companies can cope alone with such projects as, for example, the Shtokman Project and subsequently the number of such complex projects will grow due to the move into large scale deepwater drilling, including in the Arctic regions, due to switching over into appreciable sea depths and the development of non-traditional sources, for example, gas hydrates. All these also emphasise the necessity for the involvement of Russia and Russian oil and gas companies in the process of exchange of technologies, knowledge and experience.”
Focusing on the Shtokman project in more detail, Prof Martynov described the 3.7 bcm gas condensate field as the first in what will be a series of new developments on the Russian Arctic Shelf. “The geographical position of the field and severe natural and climatic conditions make the development of this field, by the unanimous opinion of the specialists, one of the most complex in the world,” he said.
Among the factors complicating its development are the following, he said:
Appreciable distance from the coast (550-600 km). This complicates the transport of extracted products to the coast and makes it necessary to treat it on the spot. Thus it calls for the installation of one or several platforms in the field.
The possibility of icebergs appearing in the field area makes it necessary to find solutions to a number of problems relating to ensuring safe production (the possibility of the installation of a platform and its withdrawal to a safe distance in case of the appearance of icebergs).
An uninterrupted supply of the development work with materials, delivery of personnel to and from the platform to the coast.
Prof Martynov added that in addition to the difficulties of commissioning the Shtokman field, there are a number of generic problems connected with the development of deposits on the Arctic shelf, for example:
drilling in severe ice conditions in shallow waters;
evacuation of personnel in icy conditions;
development of coastal infrastructure with a view to the efficient and safe development of shelf oil and gas reserves.
In today’s current high oil price climate, he also acknowledged the importance of investing sufficient funds into the research and development of new technologies in order to accelerate the development of fields in Russia and elsewhere. “New development technologies are often connected with substantial expense related to their development and implementation and, therefore, the growth of income due to rising oil prices should stimulate investments into science and personnel support for new technologies. This in turn should lead to a larger-scale implementation of high-end technologies for the development of non-conventional and difficult to recover – unprofitable at lower prices – oil reserves,” he said.
Prof Martynov went on to flag up some of the most important technology gaps that he feels will need to be addressed both on and offshore, saying that Russia should, immediately, concentrate its efforts on finding the solutions to the technological problems it faces in the development of its shelf deposits.
The most important of them were as follows:
Subsea (and under-ice) modules for production, treatment and transport of extracted produce.
Transport of multiphase products over extreme distances (500-600km).
Drilling in severe ice conditions and, in particular, in shallow waters.
Seismic prospecting on the shelf in icy conditions.
Ensuring safety of personnel in the course of work on the Arctic shelf.
Evacuation of personnel in severe ice conditions.
The development of ‘rapid deployment forces’: a coastal fast alert system, the escorting of a transport fleet and control of oil spills.
Co-ordination of activities of all industries on the rational use of natural resources on the Arctic shelf.
“To provide prompt and qualitative solutions to these issues, the specialists in all specified areas should be trained and this calls for wide international co-operation,” he concluded.
Russian Oil & Gas 2008 will be held from October 28-30, at the All-Russia Exhibition Center, close to the center of Moscow. Online registration is available now at: www.russianoilgas.com/register.
The 2008 conference will be conducted using simultaneous translation, with CD-ROMs of all papers to be produced for the delegates in both Russian and English. 
The event is organised by Reed Exhibitions and the Society of Petroleum Engineers – who jointly organise exhibitions and conferences including Offshore Europe in Aberdeen, Scotland; Intelligent Energy in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Indian Oil and Gas in Mumbai.

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