What do the scale that forms on the inside of a kettle and the natural gas at the bottom of the Earth’s deepest oceans have in common? They are both cause problems when we try to produce oil and gas. The calcium carbonate scale that forms in the kettle also forms in production equipment and is a significant cause of ESP failure. When natural gas is combined with water at high pressure and low temperature a solid ice-like structure forms – conditions that are present not only at the bottom of the sea but also in some of our pipelines where these "gas hydrates" have caused blockages and caused pipes to rupture.
These are two issues in the subject of production chemistry – application of chemical principles and/or chemicals to facilitate hydrocarbon recovery – which also includes wax, separation and asphaltenes. After a visit to many of our facilities it will quickly become apparent that these are causing problems and prevent us from maximizing production further, but introduction of new technology may be able to overcome them.
The responsibility of introducing this technology falls to the pipeline integrity and production chemistry team, which often finds its members focusing on the many challenges of pipeline integrity to the detriment of production chemistry. In order to kick-start the production chemistry activities the team decided to hold a training course.
But why would a training course help to enable the Technology Block to start providing support to the BUs? Clearly there is a mistake in the logic here! Yes, there would be if it were just a training course, but it is a course with a difference. It is more of a workshop held in two parts where the second meeting was focused on determining the number of tons of oil that production chemistry could deliver to TNK-BP.
In January the training section of the workshop was provided in Nizhnevartovsk to specialists from every PU in the company. The training focused on the following areas:
Rheology and flow behavior
Scale & water chemistry
Separation emulsions & foams
It was delivered by two specialists who visited from BP – Ian McCracken and Taras Makogon, a Russian based in Houston. Feedback was collected from all attendees and all responses were positive. Particularly pleasing to the instructors was the number of attendees that said that the course would directly affect the manner in which they performed their tasks.
The competency of those that attended the course was assured by holding an examination at the end of the three days. All attendees passed, which was no mean feat given the specialists holding the course could not agree on a couple of the answers! Prizes were awarded to the best performers with Andrei Shtol from the Rospan project attaining the best mark. But after finishing the exam the work for the delegates was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning.
Following the first part of the course the delegates were sent back to their BUs with questionnaires on production chemistry.
Using the knowledge they had gained or shared with others at the course they were tasked with filling these in for the production chemistry issues which they felt were the biggest issue for their PU. Two weeks later these had all been submitted and a second meeting was held to determine what the biggest issues for the Company were and what the Technology Block in particular could do to help.
Using the expertise in the room it was possible to draw a picture of the potential impact that production chemistry issues – the production chemistry baseline. The 27 questionnaires returned covered all subjects, but the biggest two issues were undoubtedly wax and scale. Many delegates shared detailed data describing the indirect losses that they were encountering due to the production chemistry problems, one delegate even bought in a wax deposit from Samotlor!
This baseline was refined and shared with the Technology Block management who agreed that the opportunities in this area of work were large enough to require an extra resource to ensure that more adequate support was given to the BUs – and the phone to Houston was picked up and Taras was interviewed for a position back in his homeland!
The training course was successful in a number of different ways: It helped improve the capability of the Company in this area, shown by the performance in the examination and the number of individuals that said they would be more able to deal with their challenges efficiently.
It helped to build the baseline that has provided a clear understanding of the biggest production chemistry challenges facing our company so we know where best to focus our efforts.
It has opened a place in the organization for a production chemistry specialist. Earlier efforts of production chemistry experts had helped deliver 250 tpd for TNK-BP by providing hydrate solutions over the winter period. Now it is likely that more tons of production will follow shortly.