Aberdeen initiative to unlock 3.5bn barrels of oil

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An Aberdeen-based not-for-profit organisation is launching a new initiative that could unlock more than 3.5 billion barrels of oil on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS).

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) is leading the industry-backed “Facility of the Future” initiative that could halve the cost of developing and operating an oil and gas facility and help to access the equivalent of more than 3.5 billion barrels of reserves in so-called marginal discoveries.

A discovery is classed as marginal when the risks or technology involved make it too challenging to develop economically, for instance because of its geographical location or the specialist equipment needed.

The project wants to design a new approach that will make this process more efficient than traditional methods, such as fixed platforms.

It aims to develop lower-cost, reusable facilities that can be remotely operated from onshore control centres, thereby increasing reducing the requirement for staff to work in the hazardous offshore environment and creating skilled onshore jobs.

Chris Pearson, the OGTC’s small pools solution centre manager, said: “Oil and gas is playing catch-up with many industries when it comes to automation and remote operations. We’re exploring how the combination of existing and new technology can be best used in the offshore environment to improve safety, reduce life cycle cost and increase efficiency.

“New, smarter and more automated ways of developing oil and gas fields are required if we’re to fully unlock marginal discoveries and maximise economic recovery from the UKCS.

“The Facility of the Future initiative will help to significantly reduce life-cycle costs and strengthen the investment case for both marginal discoveries and more traditional reservoirs.”

The initiative will kick off with a study led by Crondall Energy and Buoyant Production Technologies to develop a floating facility adapted from the type of installations currently used for shallow water gas fields, known as NUIs, to make them suitable for oil discoveries.

It hopes to design an NUI concept that will function at any water depth and uses a minimal manning approach by involving remote control and automation technologies.

Niki Chambers, project manager at the marginal development solutions centre, said: “This study is looking at unlocking the capabilities of these floating facilities to work across any kind of discovery. It is opening up the whole of the UKCS.”

The OGTC is supported by the Scottish and UK governments, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils and Opportunity North East. It also generates funding from industry and university partners, and is currently in the process of securing further funds for subsequent studies as part of this initiative.