More than three billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) remain in approximately 350 unsanctioned discoveries across the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), according to information released by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA).
Of the three billion, the majority are ‘small pools’, defined as less than 50 million boe technically recoverable, and are located within potential tieback and/or extended reach drilling distance to existing infrastructure. However, a number of these small pools lie further away from existing infrastructure and therefore could require stand-alone type solutions to recover hydrocarbons.
This analysis, completed by detailed maps of the discoveries, was developed by the OGA as part of the Technology Leadership Board’s (TLB) Small Pools Work Group, supported by The National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI), Centrica, EnQuest and The Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF).
Carlo Procaccini, OGA Head of Technology, said: “We recognise the challenges operators are facing to develop these marginal oil and gas accumulations. Small pools represent a very significant opportunity to maximise economic recovery (MER) from the UKCS.
“Technology has an important role to play to reduce the cost of development wells, design optimised subsea infrastructure to existing host facilities and develop efficient standalone concepts.
“We are committed to working together with the industry, the TLB and the new Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) which has dedicated one of their Solution Centres to unlock the small pools potential.”
The publication of the Information Pack by the OGA follows a series of small pool themed ‘hackathons’, facilitated by the NSRI, which took place last year with around 100 companies participating. From these, more than 100 outputs (ideas, technologies and efficiency measures), were generated that could assist with unlocking the small pools.
Among technologies short-listed for further screening were those that could reduce subsea tieback costs, including mechanical hot taps, mechanically connected pipelines and spooled pipeline products, as well as novel concepts for efficient standalone solutions such as subsea storage, unmanned production buoys and small, versatile floating facilities. In parallel, Oil & Gas UK’s Efficiency Task Force looked at near-term efficiencies in subsea installations, achievable through simplified design and standardised equipment.
Dr Gordon Drummond, project director of NSRI, said: “Small pools have a national importance in terms of achieving MER and they must be considered as an industry asset if they are to be capitalised upon.
“Following an extensive mapping exercise, we now know exactly where these small pools are located and what is required to unlock their potential. If the subsea industry can rise to the challenge of economically tapping into these pools, the North Sea could have a whole new lease of life.
“Technology is only part of the solution, the industry must be much more receptive to innovation – there must be a willingness to work more collaboratively on multi-field applications and on access to infrastructure.”