№ 9 (September 2008)
View from the SPE RO&G’08 Executive Committee
As First Prorector at Moscow’s Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas, Viktor Martynov is at the nexus of Russian oil and gas R&D, as well as the training of future generations of Russian oilfield specialists.
By Mark Thomas
As First Prorector at Moscow’s Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas, Viktor Martynov is at the nexus of Russian oil and gas R&D, as well as the training of future generations of Russian oilfield specialists. From this position, Professor Martynov has a unique view on the technology and personnel challenges faced by the global oil industry, and the role that Russia will play as its companies increasingly step out onto the world stage.
Professor Martynov is also a member of the Executive Committee of the SPE-2008 Russian Oil&Gas Conference and Exhibition (www.russianoilgas.com). In the following interview, he discusses with U.K. journalist Mark Thomas for Oil&Gas Eurasia, official publication of the show, how topics to be discussed at the SPE event (in particular, “Technologies of the Present and Future” on Oct. 28-30 at the All Russian Exhibition Center in Moscow) relate directly to the industry’s future both in Russia and worldwide.
Oil&Gas Eurasia: Professor Martynov, can you comment on the topics chosen for ROG’08’s three Plenary Sessions: “The Russian Oil and Gas Industry and Its Role in the Global Energy Market”; “The Role of Technology Today and Tomorrow”; and “Young Professionals and their Training – Realising Their Talent Today and Tomorrow.”
Viktor Martynov: The oil and gas industry of Russia has been appreciably modernized and already uses the most progressive global and Russian oil and gas recovery technologies. 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.
Stabilization of production in the old oil and gas regions and development of new fields on the shelf of Arctic regions, Sakhalin, 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. And without discussion of these problems and the possibilities for applied and developed technologies it is impossible to visualize the future progress. At the same time, the industry needs inflow of highly skilled young personnel possessing the competence required for development and use of the latest equipment and technologies.
OGE: Of course the conference and exhibition will highlight Russia’s large natural resources and the country’s outstanding tradition of technical achievements so far. But going forward, how important is the exchange of technology, knowledge and best practices with other countries and with companies, some of which we are already involved in Russia?
Martynov: The oil and gas business is inherently international. At present, specialists from many countries, including Russia, work in the world’s leading oil and gas companies. Russian companies have activities outside of Russia. And within Russia, you find most of the industry’s most well known companies: , StatoilHydro, Total, nPhillips, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes and many others.
The scale of investments and technical complexity of new oil and gas projects is such that even the largest companies cannot cope alone with such project. Take, for example, the Shtokman Project, and what is likely to follow: the need to engage in large scale deepwater drilling; development of the Arctic; the switch to appreciable sea depths, and development of non-traditional energy such as gas hydrates. This all suggests a need for Russia and Russian oil and gas companies to engage in the global exchange of technologies, knowledge and experience.
OGE: Russia's Arctic Offshore was highlighted at the last conference in 2006 as a key area of technical and environmental interest. This area has continued to capture international attention, with projects such as the world-class Shtokman field development now in the planning stages and set to utilize innovative new technologies.
The technical aspects of the development will be highlighted in one of the topical luncheons at this year’s event. Please discuss the main challenges and potential solutions in your opinion for the exploration and future development of Russia’s Arctic areas? Are there any particular areas of technology that you believe will be vital to the successful exploitation of the Russian arctic offshore: for example, how best to shoot seismic surveys in waters covered by ice, advances in subsea completion technology, drilling from moving ice and other issues?
Martynov: Gubkin University deems it highly important to participate in ensuring research and staffing for prospecting and development of the Arctic shelf. Therefore, the University, under the guidance of B. Nikitin, Doctor of Engineering, Professor, the winner of Prizes of the President and Government for Science and Technology, the chair for development of offshore oil-and-gas deposits has been established to train masters of sciences in this specialty. In 2008, the Institute of Arctic Oil and Gas Technologies was established. At present, the Institute is headed by A. Zolotukhin, Doctor of Engineering, Professor, a well-known specialist who over 15 years has worked with StatoilHydro.
The Shtokman gas-condensate field is the largest (3.7 bcm of gas) and the first in a series of 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. Among the factors complicating the development of Shtokman field are as follows:
appreciable distance from the coast – 550-600 kilometers.; this complicates transport of extracted production to the coast and makes it necessary to treat the production on the spot, i.e. calls for installation of one or several platforms in the field;
the possibility of the appearance of icebergs in the offshore area of Shtokmanovskoye field makes it necessary to find solutions to a number of problems relating to ensuring safe production (that is, the possibility of installing a platform and its withdrawal to a safe distance in case of the appearance of icebergs);
uninterrupted supply of the works with materials, delivery of personnel to and from the platform to the coast, etc.).
In addition to the difficulties of commissioning the Shtokman gas-condensate field, there are a number of problems connected with the development of deposits on the Arctic shelf, for example:
drilling in the severe ice conditions in shallow waters;
evacuation of personnel in the ice conditions;
development of the coastal infrastructure with a view to efficient and safe development of shelf oil and gas reserves.
OGE: Advances continue to be made in production enhancement, as companies strive to find better ways to increase recoverable reserves and to optimize production in mature fields such as those in West Siberia and the Volga-Urals basins. What technologies do you believe will benefit Russia most in this area?
Martynov: Control of oil and gas resources is an urgent issue for Russia. The scientific approach to the development and monitoring of oil and gas deposits, reserve replacement, and resource management at regional and federal levels is one of the most important tasks.
The Volga-Urals basin possesses enormous resources of heavy oils and bitumens. On the territory of Tatarstan alone these resources are estimated at 7-8 billion tons. New technologies are required to develop these resources, and without intensive international co-operation development of these technologies could take many years.
OGE: Will rising company revenues from consistently high oil prices lead to increased and earlier investment in new technologies and, as a result, accelerate the development of new Russian fields and the implementation of improved oil recovery schemes? Should this be a priority for stakeholder companies with upstream activities in Russia?
Martynov: New technologies are often costly to develop and to implement, and so the growth in revenue from rising oil prices should stimulate investment into science and the training of specialists in new technologies. This in turn, should lead to a wider scale implementation of high technologies to develop unconventional and hard-to-recover reserves. Reserves I call “hard-to-recover” are those that become non-commercial as oil prices fall.
OGE: Please highlight what you see as the most important existing “technology gaps” to solve both on and offshore. Also tell us what new engineering solutions are emerging from the global oil industry, that can best be applied in Russia?
Martynov: Russia should – as soon as possible – concentrate its efforts on finding solutions to the technological problems of developing the offshore. Among the most important issues are the following:
underwater (and under-ice) modules for production, treatment and transport of production;
transport of multiphase flows over appreciable distances (500-600 km);
drilling in severe ice conditions and, in particular, in shallow waters;
seismic prospecting on the shelf in ice conditions;
health and safety of personnel working on the Arctic shelf;
evacuation of personnel in severe ice conditions;
development of “rapid deployment forces” – coastal fast alerting systems, escort of transport fleet and control of oil spills;
coordination of activities of inter-related industries, such as heavy manufacturing, with respect to shelf development.
To resolve these issues, specialists in all of these areas should be should be trained, and this calls for wide international co-operation.
OGE: How important is it for Russian companies to expand their holdings to include international assets in emerging provinces elsewhere in the world?
Martynov: Acquisition of assets in developing oil and gas regions is necessary to expand business, diversify risks, and expand the resource base. These activities raise the capitalization of companies.
Therefore, it is important for Russia’s leading companies to participate in international oil and gas projects if Russian companies are to take their place among the world’s leading energy companies. At the same time though, they should remain interested in Russia’s own Greenfield developments.
OGE: The issue of attracting “new blood” to the industry, and motivating and training engineers of the future, remains an ongoing source of discussion and debate worldwide. ROG ’08 in fact recognizes this with its student paper contests for both undergraduates and post graduates, and its “Young Professionals Workshop”. With the workforce maturing both in Russia and globally, what must the oil and gas industry to attract and to retain the right specialists? What technological skills do you feel will be crucial for them to learn so they can develop the next generation of fields, both within Russia and elsewhere?
Martynov: To attract and hold youth, oil and gas companies should raise the prestige of the oil engineering profession in the society, and ensure that young people are giving opportunity for career and professional growth.
Work in a world of “intelligent wells” and “smart fields” will require education and practical training in not only the fundamentals of geology, physics, and oil and gas engineering, but also expertise in modern computer technologies for the acquisition and processing of data, and knowledge of professional software products and communications. The ability to work in teams will also be important.
OGE: What would you say to those that are as yet undecided about whether to attend this years SPE Russian Oil&Gas Technical Conference and Exhibition?
Martynov: SPE is the leading professional engineers’ organization which unites professionals throughout the world. Therefore, visiting and participating in the SPE Russian Oil&Gas Technical Conference and Exhibition in October offers a unique opportunity to familiarize oneself with new ideas and technologies, and to exchange experience with the most authoritative specialists.
(OGE Editor’s Note: To register as a delegate or book exhibit space, visit www.russianoilgas.com; for information on marketing including opportunities in the Official Show Catalogue and Show Daily Newspaper and the Official Publication, visit www.oilandgaseurasia.com.)