Partnership in Technology
KPO’s Production & Maintenance department is constantly assessing the latest developments in technology to help improve safety, reduce environmental impacts and maximise KPO’s production profile.
Over the last three years and in conjunction with leading service providers, a number of initiatives have been introduced which are enhancing the way KPO operates its facilities and pipelines.
Already highlighted as a major success for enhanced pipeline integrity and security is the introduction of a unique pipeline anti-intrusion system on the Karachaganak Atyrau Transportation System (KATS). This technology utilises the pipeline’s fibre optic communication cable to detect ground movement adjacent to the pipeline. Following a trial in 2008, the system has been further developed in 2009 with the expectation that it will provide greater pipeline security and operational cost savings from 2010 and beyond.
Plant ‘down-time’ due to corrective maintenance and prescriptive equipment inspections can have a significant impact on production and therefore it is essential to minimise both the number of interventions and intrusive vessel and piping inspections. To that end KPO has introduced two discrete corrosion and inspection databases. The software incorporates risk algorithms, helps to evaluate corrosion rates, track anomalies and calculate risk based inspection intervals.
In addition, the introduction of advanced non destructive testing (NDT) techniques such as Long Range Ultrasonic Testing (LRUT) using ‘guided wave’ technology can help reduce excavations on pipelines and the removal of insulation on process piping.
Kazakhstan experiences major ambient temperature swings throughout the year and this can have a major impact on both gas disposal by re-injection and process capacity, particularly during the summer months.
KPO is working closely with General Electric to re-power the three gas re-injection compressors to ensure that capacity is maintained during the summer months. Likewise, by developing and designing improved cooling capacity in the oil splitter overhead condensers, there has been significant improvement in the efficiency of the coolers such that the reduction in throughput capacity during the 2009 summer has been significantly less than previous years.
In summary, technological developments are playing a key role in KPO’s drive for continuous improvement.
Drag Reducing Agent (DRA)
Drag is defined as the frictional pressure loss that occurs over the length of a pipe during fluid flow. High pressure losses can be experienced in turbulent flow. These losses can lead to lower pump capacity and flow rates. Drag reducing agents are usually high molecular weight long chain polymers. These dissolve in the crude oil and lower the energy losses caused by turbulent flow resulting in lower pressure losses. With lower pressure losses, the same volume of crude can be pumped at lower pressures or more crude can be pumped at the same pressure.
Drag Reducing Agent (DRA) has been successfully applied to the Karachaganak Atyrau Transportation System (KATS) since 2005 and to the Karachaganak Orenburg Transportation System (KOTS) since 2007. This DRA has been specially formulated to be used in extremely cold climates and can still be pumped in the middle of a Kazakh winter where temperatures can fall to minus 40 degrees Celsius. At low parts per million injection rates its use has lead to improvements in the operating efficiency of both systems by allowing higher flow rates of fluids to be pumped.
The DRA is the same that is used in the CPC pipeline to Novorossiysk and has no impact on the quality of the crude oil or on refinery processes.
KPO has also drilled some of the most complicated wells in Kazakhstan, including multi-lateral wells with both two and three branches. The longest multi-lateral well has a main bore and two branches that are 521, 591 and 471 metres long respectively.
Because of the heterogeneous nature of the Karachaganak reservoir, drilling multilateral wells in Karachaganak enables a larger area of the reservoir to be contacted from a single well for relatively low incremental cost. This increases the productivity of the wells. Both selective and non-selective completions have been run, the selective completions enable independent well tests to be carried out on each branch of the multilateral well.
Eco-Centre (Waste Management Complex)
As part of our long-term commitment to health, safety and environmental protection, KPO has implemented a waste management process which enables waste reduction and reuse. KPO has completed construction of a new Eco-Centre which houses state of the art technology and enables the recycling, treatment and safe disposal of drilling fluids and wastes.
The major treatment facilities include a liquid mud plant (LMP), thermo-mechanical cuttings cleaning plant (TCC), liquid treatment plant (LTP) and a rotary kiln incinerator (RKI). The recent upgrade of the LMP has enabled the use of oil based mud (OBM) on Karachaganak wells. This has resulted in a significant improvement in drilling performance and represents KPO’s commitment to environmental protection and the application of advanced technologies.
The Centre is located within the field boundary some 1,500 metres from the Karachaganak Processing Complex (KPC).
Eco-Centre photos can be viewed here.
Flareless Well Testing & Clean Up
It is common oilfield practice to test new wells so as to evaluate their capacity to flow before connecting them to the surface production facilities. This serves several purposes which include measuring basic parameters that are needed to model the initial performance of the well, evaluating the drilling efficiency and comparing actual to predicted productivity.
The test involves flowing the well at several stable rates which are measured by a portable test separator attached to the well. In the separator the effluent from the well is subjected to a large pressure drop which allows the individual phases to be separated (oil and gas in the case of Karachaganak) before the phase rates are measured. Historically the products of the separation process are flared using highly efficient burners which limit liquid dropout in the area around the well.
Given the need to ensure environmental protection, operators, together with leading service companies, have development methods to reduce and eliminate flaring during these well tests.
In March 2008, the Mega Flow separator, developed by Expro, was mobilised at Karachaganak as part of KPO’s efforts to minimise environmental impacts. This unique piece of equipment allows the phase separation to take place at higher pressures which means the rates of the oil and gas can be measured and then recombined and redirected into the production flow line. Not only does this avoid all flaring but the hydrocarbon recovery helps mitigate the cost of using the equipment.
More recently, following numerous upgrades to the metering of the separators in the surface facilities, these tests are carried out directly in the processing plant after the well flow line has been connected to the production facilities.
Flareless well testing with Mega Flow separator can be viewed at this link.
Unit 2 at Karachaganak is home to an innovative high pressure gas injection system. It processes and re-injects sour gas (H2S content of 4 per cent) at pressures of up to 550 bar and produces oil for stabilisation within the Karachaganak Processing Complex.
Oil and gas reservoirs primarily deliver oil, gas and water under pressure to the surface for processing and onward sale. The gas content of the reservoir stream is the driving force which allows for the extraction of the liquid hydrocarbons. Once the gas reaches the surface and is separated from the liquids, it reduces in pressure. In order to be able to return that gas to the reservoir, the pressure needs to be increased to a point where it is greater than the pressure of the reservoir. Gas injection is essentially the series of plant processes that increases the pressure of the gas and allows it to be returned to the reservoir.
Employing gas injection technology at Karachaganak brings a number of significant benefits. Firstly, given Karachaganak’s commitment to environmental protection, gas injection enables us to return the gas to the reservoir as opposed to flaring it or processing it on site. It is also supports prudent reservoir management, delivering the gas back to the reservoir maintains pressure and effectively, extends the life of the field. This allows optimal hydrocarbon recovery over the life of the field which means that the Venture is able to produce more hydrocarbons for high value Western markets.
Unit 2 is part of a complex, integrated, interconnected and interdependent group of facilities which make up the operations of Karachaganak. The Unit has incoming production wells which feed into slug catchers where three phase separation takes place. The gas phase feeds dehydration trains which dry the gas for compression. The Unit’s compression systems comprises of three, re-injection compressors which have a combined capability to take 22 million standard cubic metres per day of sour gas from a 70 bar inlet pressure to a discharge pressure of 550 bar, returning it to the reservoir via a number of reinjection wells.
The Digital Oilfield project, which has recently been initiated by KPO, will provide an integrated platform from which various departments can virtually interface on issues related to the operations of Karachaganak. Teams involved in day to day operations will have access to real time data which will enable more efficient and productive operations.
The Drilling Support Centre (DSC), opened in April 2009, is a key part of the broader Digital Oilfield project. The DSC facility is a self contained control centre with real time collaborative working environment for the operations engineers and other stakeholders. The advanced software used in this facility will help to implement drilling optimisation and monitoring services in real time. Live data from each rig is streamed to the centre allowing online communication and effective performance management.
Drilling Support Centre photos are available here.