Identifying economically viable wells for a recovering Brent crude price
With Brent crude futures having recently risen above the $40/bbl level, many operators are turning their attention to whether, and when, they can return to full production. However, despite the relative rebound, the fate of many North Sea operations appears to hang in the balance, with a 20% reduction in economically recoverable oil warned by Rystad Energy, due to Covid-19.
A return to good fortune will require a considered approach, underpinned by a detailed assessment of the viability of each well or field at any given futures price. With thousands of unique well characteristics to consider against a substantial range of somewhat uncertain market scenarios, operators have quite the task on their hands. And the challenge of collaborating across teams remotely will not make it easier.
Vastly improved well reviews. One of the things that the 2020 oil price crash does have over that of 2014 is dynamic visualization technology. Operators have more data than ever before on which to base their recovery plan, and with the right platform, they can do so much more efficiently. Back in 2014, it might have taken an operator weeks to put together a series of manual well reviews. Now, it only takes a day with innovative solutions, such as Lloyd’s Register’s IC subsurface data visualization technology.
Backed by a vast data repository, operators can now visualize the recent, or even the entire lifetime of data to learn everything that there is to know about a specific well or field. From mapping water cut ratios (Fig. 1), to ascertaining whether there is a heightened risk associated with its re-start, digitalization has moved the industry on from simple snapshot views.
Well data can be dropped in from anywhere, too, be it the solution’s native repository, or an Excel sheet saved to the company drive. By updating in real time, based on the source, valuable staff time is saved in recreating displays, as data and forecasts move—a real necessity for those operators that have had to furlough staff. Further, if a segment of well data is missing, this is flagged for investigation, but the data also can be inferred from the surrounding field; that’s handy, if it is difficult to obtain the missing files.
A single, confident answer for well re-starts. With the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, the decision to bring back a shut-in well, or begin producing a drilled-but-uncompleted well, will require a heightened level of analysis. It is one of the few times you might get a geologist, a finance professional and a drilling engineer all working together to uncover the best path forward, with the least risk and highest confidence possible. The most advanced digital platforms, like IC, create the ability to view all their data in one place. Whether that’s historic reservoir performance, staff and transport costs or market forecasts—all the data that operators need, to make a decision, is available in one place.
Using a montage style for visualization, a single user-controlled interface, akin to a real-time PowerPoint slide, the whole team can merge their evidence to agree on the best way forward, Fig. 2. From that top layer, the data can be mined down into days, months, or the lifecycle of the field or well as needed, and, of course, it also can store forecasts. By combining the costs and risks into the well data in one place, operators can be even more confident in deciding which wells to return to full capacity, and which make economic sense to be abandoned, Fig. 3. Further, if market dynamics change again for the worse, the interface can be used just as easily to assess the most economical way to implement further shut-ins or curtailments.
Advanced digital platforms that are engineered to be open will naturally encourage greater collaboration across an organization and contribute to the breakdown in silos. In turn, these platforms will drive digital transformation in a way that we have not seen previously. The economics and business necessity are two pillars on the road to a sustainable recovery, but it is the choice of technology platform that will accelerate digital transformation in an evolving Covid-19 environment.
More knowledge for everyone. This is how traditional subsurface data visualization solutions are evolving to become something else—after all, the physicality of the well is only one consideration for operators deciding where to concentrate their resources. The evolution of these solutions also provides a route for savvy geologists to upskill themselves and their teams, and gain even greater insight into what will make the most viable wells, in the face of depressed oil prices. And it’s also a good way to capture the knowledge of colleagues, who may decide to retire or move on.
It is clear that digitalization will play a lead role in assessing the road back to recovery in real time. By keeping track of production data, the platform can analyze the whole reservoir, to review and monitor well performance. Many operators are still on the path back to pre Covid-19 operations. However, with dynamic visualization on their side, deciding which wells are profitable, at which price per barrel, need not be so complex.
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