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Maximising oil recoery from maturing oil fields

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is set to enhance its crude oil recovery from its maturing oil fields through the Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technology using its own expertise in petroleum engineering.

Works are already underway to implement EOR at the Tapis oil field located about 200 kilometres off Terengganu that produces extra-light and low-sulphur crude oil.

Tapis is one of seven mature offshore fields that ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Malaysia Inc. (EMEPMI) and PETRONAS Carigali Sdn Bhd (PCSB) have agreed to develop as part of a 25-year production-sharing contract that was finalized in 2009.

The EOR is a major engineering milestone for the country as local companies like SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd and Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering Holdings Bhd (MMHE) are involved in fabricating the jacket and deck respectively.

It is also one of the largest offshore EOR projects in Southeast Asia which will extend the production lifespan of Malaysia's maturing oil fields.

New lease of life for oil fields

Through EOR, also known as the tertiary recovery process, fluids including water is injected under high pressure into the production wells to maximize oil recovery.

Petronas Exploration & Production Technology Division's Head of EOR Programme, Dr Nasir Darman says EOR is an advanced process that requires a huge sum of investment and the technologies used are costly.

"EOR cannot be applied to every oil field. PETRONAS as the custodian of Malaysia's petroleum resources is currently studying suitable fields for the technology to be implemented," he says.

For example, Tapis is considered an old field that first started production in 1978 and has since produced approximately 400 million barrels of oil.

Like any new oil well, the oil pressure in Tapis was great then and this made the hydrocarbon extraction process easy but over time the pressure dissipated and maximizing oil recovery now is challenging.

Tapis' EOR on the right track

Implementing the EOR calls for lots of heavy engineering work including the gigantic 70-metre tall Tapis R jacket that was fully fabricated at SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd's yard in Lumut after being awarded the contract in January 2012 by EMEPMI.

Weighing a total of 5,500 metric tonnes, the Tapis R jacket is the heaviest jacket to be installed by EMEPMI.

EMEPMI Project Executive Douglas C. Smith notes that the eight-legged jacket to be piled on the seabed in 64 metres water depth in the South China Sea will support an estimated 18,000 metric-tonne integrated deck.

The deck built at Malaysia Marine and Heavy Engineering Holdings Bhd's (MMHE) yard in Pasir Gudang will provide the space for gas compression, water treatment and injection facilities, production-processing equipment, utilities systems and living quarters for 145 personnel.

"We will install the deck using the float-over method. The whole deck built in Pasir Gudang will be loaded out on a large heavy lift vessel.

"The vessel will then float-over the jacket, and position the deck on the jacket before moving away," he says.

Smith notes that the biggest challenge for EOR has been finding the right EOR technique and the right location for implementation.

Safety and benefits

The jacket that has begun its journey to the site at the Tapis field is seen as a major achievement as it involved more than 600 workers at the peak of fabrication activity.

According to Tapis EOR Project Manager Zaba Abdul Rahim, a total of 800,000 hours without lost time injury was achieved..

"We are proud that the structure was built without a lost-time incident despite the significant workforce and work hours required," he says.

The Tapis EOR project is among the 12 Entry Point Projects (EPPs) identified by the Oil, Gas and Energy NKEA Lab in 2010 in creating business and revenue opportunities.

 

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