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New tool helps curb oil cost blowouts

CSIRO : 17 December, 2001  (New Product)
CSIRO scientists have developed a new tool to help Australian and international oil companies drill more stable petroleum wells, and cut the cost blowouts associated with collapsing wellbores.
With Bass Strait oil production in decline, and the risks of having to import greater volumes of transport fuels, Australia needs to develop new oil fields as economically and efficiently as possible, says team leader Dr Chee Tan of CSIRO Petroleum.

'Australia's oil and gas production is currently worth about $8 billion, but if we wish to avoid spending half that on imports as Bass Strait runs down, we need to adopt the most effective ways of developing new wells and fields,' says Dr Tan.

'In spite of the fact that wellbore stability is a well-researched area, the global oil industry still loses about $A2 billion a year when holes fail in various ways.

'Technologies which lower the cost of drilling programs for both exploration and development of oil fields, and which can assist companies in meeting increasingly stringent environmental requirements for offshore drilling, will help the industry and the nation.'

The outcome of the research is a state-of-the-art technology for evaluating mechanical effects, drilling fluid-shale interactions and thermal mechanisms, and identifying solutions to mitigate problems encountered during drilling.

The technology has been applied to maintain mechanical and time-dependent stability of high-angle and long-reach wells in the Australian-led ventures in the Bayu-Undan and Sunrise fields in the Timor Sea.

The main parameters of the research have been to:

lower the cost of exploration and development
decrease potentially adverse consequences for the environment
enable increased recovery of oil at lower cost
improve drill hole conditions which improve assessment of the recovery potential of reserves.

'Wellbore instability is a key factor in drilling cost blowouts, and the technology will help industry to curb these by providing technical solutions based on knowledge of the stress conditions, formation properties, drilling fluid-shale interaction and operational constraints,' Dr Tan says.

Underpinning the new technology are novel scientific techniques and equipment for testing the interaction of drilling fluids with shales, and advanced software for analysing them.

This helps in the creation of 'designer drilling fluids' suited to specific locations and circumstances.

Among the equipment used to test various kinds of shale and drilling fluids are multi-purpose triaxial cells, which can subject shale samples to pressures up to 70 megapascals and temperatures up to 100 degrees Celsius.

'This enables us to test different shales and drilling fluid combinations to the point at which a wellbore would collapse, to measure the mechanical properties of the rock and to simulate in the laboratory what will occur down the hole,' Dr Tan explains.

CSIRO Petroleum's wellbore stability team has extensive national and international collaborations, including firms such as Petronas (Malaysia), Baroid Halliburton Energy Services and PDVSA INTEVEP (Venuezala).

Its latest results are presented annually to the Australian and international industry at national, regional and international conferences and forums. It also holds short courses and technical workshops for national and international user groups.

Dr Tan and his team of scientists from CSIRO Petroleum are now working at ARRC (the Australian Resources Research Centre), the South-East Asian Region's new centre of expertise for Petroleum, Mining and Minerals research. ARRC is located in Perth's Technology Park and also houses CSIRO's Exploration and Mining division and Curtin University of Technology's Department of Exploration Geophysics, Centre of Excellence in Petroleum Geology and Department of Petroleum Engineering.
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