Risk and Reward: Going Deep: Is Deepwater Experiencing a Resurgence?
- Janeen Judah (2017 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 2017
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 10 - 11
- 2017. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Across a single-week period this spring, I spent time in three very different basins and business environments: Saudi Arabia, the Midland/Permian basin, and at the Offshore Technology Conference. What a difference you see among these three areas, and each has a vastly different future predicted.
Saudi Arabia and Aramco are operations unlike any other. If “everything is bigger in Texas,” it is much bigger in Saudi Arabia. Aramco approaches business differently from international oil companies and independents—not always looking to maximize net present value, but always taking the long-term view. Reservoir management is key, and the most sophisticated tools are used to maximize ultimate recovery from the stunningly prolific reservoirs. Everything takes a long-term view, from training and developing national staff to managing reservoirs to building infrastructure with future development in mind.
While in Saudi Arabia, I was fortunate enough to get a brief but memorable tour of Aramco’s Manifa field, which is located both onshore and in very shallow water, roughly 15 m deep.
Perhaps most remarkable about Manifa is that Saudi Aramco created 27 artificial islands and 42 km of connecting causeways. This infrastructure is used as shallow-water development platforms, all while preserving the delicate coral reefs and fisheries in the shallow bay. It is a remarkable story of developing a characteristically huge Arabian field. The Manifa Crude Oil Increment has a capacity of 900,000 B/D, 90 million scf/D of nonassociated gas, and 65,000 barrels of condensate per day. Massive and massively remarkable.
The Permian Basin churns on and is the hottest area in the world. A professor of mine at Texas A&M University (who also taught at Texas Tech University in the 1970s), J.T. Rollins, told his eager students, “The best place to find oil is in an oil field.” The Permian Basin continues to prove that adage. Many times, the Permian Basin has been written off, properties sold off, and portfolios rebalanced. Then someone comes up with a new approach, and the race is on again.
As I flew to Midland on a perfectly clear day, I could easily see the changes and activity in the oil fields below. I was reminded of my first flight to Midland on long-gone Texas International Airlines in the fall of 1980. I also remember looking down at the “roads to nowhere” without realizing they were well locations. I had never seen Texas west of San Antonio; all of my oilfield experience was in east or south Texas. I stepped out from the airport that fall afternoon to see 360 degrees of horizon for the first time. I went on to spend most of the 1980s in Midland, learning the oil field from the bottom up. I still find the topography of west Texas fascinating, where you can see the contours from the air and the geology on the ground.
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