The mission of the RPSEA Ultra-Deepwater (UDW) Program is to “maximize the value of natural gas and other petroleum resources of the United States by increasing the supply of such resources, through reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of exploration for and production of such resources, while improving safety and minimizing environmental impact.” This is to be accomplished by facilitating a cooperative, focused effort to identify and develop economically viable (full life cycle), acceptable risk technologies, architectures, and methods to explore, drill and produce hydrocarbons from UDW and formations in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) deeper than 15,000 feet. Relevant EPACT definitions include:
Resource Opportunities and Priorities
There is significant ultra-deepwater resource potential in the United States. The Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) indicates that there is more than 50 billion recoverable BOE remained to be discovered in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in both deepwater and UDW regions. Figure 1 illustrates continued growth in proved reserves and discovered volumes (which include proved and unproved reserves, resources, and industry-announced discoveries), the progression from discovered to proved reserves, and the growing differential between discovered volumes and proved reserves. Clearly, the most dramatic potential for increase lies in development of new enabling and enhancing production technologies that will allow industry to move large volumes of resources into the proved reserves category and ultimately into actual production.
*Figure 1 (MMS Report Figure 78) Illustration of the dramatic increases in proved reserves and discovered volumes since 2000
RPSEA’s UDW Program
Transforming ultra-deepwater discoveries into producing fields requires huge capital investment and new technologies. RPSEA will focus on:
developing new enabling and/or cross-cutting technologies that will allow industry to safely, and in an environmentally friendly manner explore and transform these discoveries into producing properties in ways that are impossible with existing technologies
enhancing technologies to help lower the overall cost and risks and reduce the field development cycle time by improving existing technologies resulting in higher recoveries, lower thresholds of abandonment, and development of currently uneconomic resources. It is instructive to note that even in today’s commodity price environment; many large (100 MM BOE plus ) fields are not economic due to the current cost of existing technologies and the high level of risk involved with development
grand challenges – transformational technologies which, if successfully developed, are capable of “leapfrogging” over conventional research and development pathways
- extending basic scientific understanding of the many UDW challenges as well as developing modeling and predictive tools to help industry better define and ultimately manage the risks associated with field development and physical regimes of the resource base to support efforts in the enabling and enhancing categories
UDW Goals and Metrics
The primary goal of the RPSEA UDW Program is to increase and produce UDW reserves while protecting the environment, providing the U.S. consumer with secure and affordable petroleum supplies. The RPSEA UDW Program will carry out appropriate activities as delineated in the following sections of this Plan to maximize the value of these resources in order to support America’s economic growth, job creation, and its international leadership in energy science and technology by:
- Increasing the supply of such resources,
- Reducing the costs to find, develop and produce such resources,
- Increasing the efficiency of exploration for such resources,
- Increasing production efficiency and ultimate recovery of such resources,
- Improving safety, and
- Improving environmental performance, by reducing any environmental impacts associated with UDW exploration and production.
DeepStar is subcontracted to RPSEA to assist in managing the UDW program element; DeepStar is the world’s largest UDW stakeholders group and has a 15 year history of managing collaborative research in the relevant domain. Through this arrangement, RPSEA has access to 700+ technical and management committee experts as well as a process of technology research, development, and commercialization. In addition to providing high level direction from the operators, who are ultimately responsible for the production of energy resources, this highly developed process strongly supports universities, regulatory bodies, and other key stake holder groups and formally facilitates their direct input. Through this process, over 50 universities, not-for-profit and other research institutes, and other organizations have received over $50M in research and technology development funds to extend the boundaries of deepwater from less than 3000 feet to nearly 10,000 feet.
From actual industry results in the UDW as identified in Figure 2 below, a systems engineering study was performed, and high-level design basis information was generated for the four base case scenarios identified. Currently the design basis consists of the following information:
- 4 base case scenarios that illustrate the general arrangement of development facilities.
- Reservoir and well information for each base case.
- Flow Assurance Strategy for each base case.
- Met-ocean data using a typical GOM UDW location.
*Figure 2 Technical challenges for identified basins
Walker Ridge / Keathley Canyon
- deeper wells
- tight formations
- viscous crude
- lacking infrastructure
Eastern Gulf – Gas Independence Hub
- higher pressure & temperature
- CO2 / H2S
- higher drilling costs
- challenging economics
The identified four (4) reservoir trends represent in a generic sense the majority of the anticipated UDW resources. Technical challenges associated with these trends give rise to 32 themes summarized below in Table 2. From the themes, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on the various Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) with guidance from the UDW Program Advisory Committee (PAC), other RPSEA groups, and NETL will develop Request for Proposals (RFPs) which will be aggregated into two (or possibly 3) solicitations to call on the nation’s research universities, national labs, industry and others to generate proposals targeted at addressing and solving the many challenges facing operators in the UDW GOM. Solicitations will reflect the desire to establish a balanced portfolio to reflect an appropriate mix of science, enabling, enhancing and “Grand Challenge” projects. It is anticipated that the UDW program, in the initial year, will recommend 10-30 projects ranging from $250K to $3 MM having an average RPSEA contribution of $750K.
|Field / Resource Area
||Low permeability reservoir
||Completion of long reservoir sections
Deep reservoir stimulation technology
Formation Integrity at Commercial Production Conditions (fluid rates, differential pressures)
||High Viscosity Oil
||Intervention strategies and well architecture for downhole equipment maintenance (pumps for example) + viscous oil technologies
||Small Reserve Fields
||Drilling with small margin between overburden and fracture pressure (dual density drilling is a potential solution for this issue)
||XHPHT (22.5 ksi x 350+oF)
|Optimized UDW Field Development Concepts for Improved Economics
Materials Sciences for UDW Risers and Moorings, tubulars, tools, instrumentation, and completion equipment
Improved Design and Analysis Methods
Mooring and Riser Integrity Management + HPHT Flow Assurance Technologies
(Environmental, Safety & Regulatory Themes)
||Optimized UDW Field Development Concepts for Improved Economics
Materials Sciences for UDW Risers and Moorings
Improved Design and Analysis Methods
Mooring and Riser Integrity Management
Geoscience (Subsalt Imaging, Reservoir & Fluid Characterization, HPHT, Geo-Mechanics)
||Effect of changing weather patterns on hurricane severity
Operational 3-D current forecast model capable of simulating the Loop/eddies
Modeling for strong near-bottom currents along the Sigsbee Escarpment
Production and Reservoir Surveillance
||Subsea Production Equipment Enhancements
Mature Subsea Processing Technology
Pipeline, Flowline and Umbilical Technology
Subsea Well Intervention Technology improvement
|Systems Engineering and Architecture
||Design Criteria for the Base Cases.
System impact of proposed technologies on the field development scenarios.
Grand Challenge projects
Small Business Initiatives