The North Sea. Deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The South China Sea. In pursuit of untapped natural resources, the offshore industry ventures into increasingly remote and difficult to drill environments. These areas carry both opportunity and risk for operators, who are venturing into high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/HT) reservoirs. HP/HT environments are defined as reservoirs with bottomhole temperatures and pressures of greater than or equal to 350°F/15,000 psi. These environments historically were not considered economically viable or safe to drill until relatively recently. What is the change in existing technology and industry progress of these environments?
As operators explore the feasibility of drilling the HP/HT environments of their acquired leases, they must look into the design of existing equipment. The technology of equipment of HP/HT is not entirely new; however, it must be designed to operate within the limits of the anticipated working loads. Fields that are categorized as HP/HT may have high pressure but not high temperature, or high temperature, but not high pressure. The equipment must be verified and validated for the anticipated working loads. Currently, manufacturers of the equipment are undergoing design verification and validation per the requirements of the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).
ABS is a key participant as an Independent Third Party (I3P) in assisting in the design verification and validation of manufactured equipment, working with major participants involved in HP/HT operations and equipment manufacturers. ABS also works alongside BSEE to assist in the communication of the key areas of concern from the operators, manufacturers and rig owners. ABS Technical Team works intensively with American Petroleum Institute (API) to assist in developing standards for HP/HT equipment.
Given the technological advances of HP/HT today, is it feasible to anticipate future progress into environments with even higher temperatures and pressures? Advances in technology have made deepwater environments more accessible and reliable than ever before, and in more ways than could have ever been imagined decades ago. And while advances in technology and innovation are fundamental to success in harsher environments, safety and reliability will always be at the forefront of progress.
Tom Ayers is the Vice President of Global Offshore at ABS.