Society of Petroleum Engineers 2004 Houston ACTE

With a reported 10,482 in attendance (the largest since the early 1980‘s), 500 papers and 350 exhibitors, you would have though that the Annual Conference and Technical Exposition of the Society of Petroleum Engineers would have been buzzing. It wasn’t. Maybe it was the Houston location. Maybe, with oil breaking the $50/bbl barrier, folks were too busy. But a lot is happening in the PE space. Real time operations centers have come of age in drilling although production is proving a harder nut to crack. The components are already there, from sophisticated valves, multi-phase meters to optical sensors and actuators. Managing, and extracting useful information from the ‘data avalanche’ is a growing concern. In this space, marriage is back in vogue, with Landmark and Weatherford‘s E-Production Solutions teaming up in one corner and Schlumberger and Aspen Technology in the other. In the software field, we noted a brand new ‘seismic to simulator’ interpretation suite from JOA Jewel, a spin-off from Shell’s .NET migration. In the simulation arena there is interest in high-level surface/subsurface optimizing toolkits which run simulators from major vendors under the hood. Elsewhere independent vendors are applying techniques like streamline and network modeling to simulate various parts of the production system.

Real time

Ron Cramer (Shell Global Solutions), described work done in the Real Time Technical Interest Group (RT-TIG). Looking at published literature, case histories were compiled, analyzed and presented in the form of lessons learned. The existing RT toolkit is not very well understood, its value is hard to measure and there is too much of a focus on technology. Overall a saving of 4-10% of capex was observed from the application of RT.

According to Mike Mitchell (Data Horizons), an instrumented oilfield collects a million values every day from multiple sources and a variety of hardware and software. Communication protocols such as Modbus, SQL, OPC etc. are all deployed. Firewall complexities and data feed interruptions mandate careful planning for success. Mitchell believes most value lies in the marginal wells even if the data historian is an investment hurdle. SCADA is no big deal today, you can capture meaningful SCADA data with a handful of devices.

Carrie Popa described a semi skunk-works data mining project on ChevronTexaco’s century-old Kern River field. Kern River produces 95kbbl/day out of 8,000 producers and 1,200 injectors. With over 1,200 wells per engineer there was no time for in-depth analysis. Popa used Neural Networks’ NeuroShell along with in-house developed fuzzy logic tools to estimate oil production from all drainable sands. Cost and risk of workover type (clean, lower pump, add perforation, sidetrack) were also considered. 15 wells have been recompleted following the study. Production has typically risen from ~5bbl/day to 10 or 20. Such ‘lucrative’ preliminary results have triggered an expansion into a field-wide reservoir study.

Well testing

Sami Bustami described Schlumberger’s progress towards the goal of a downhole PVT lab. Well testing requirements vary with phases of operations. In exploration, testing provides fluid characterization for facilities design. In development it refines the reservoir model and in production, testing monitors water or gas breakthrough. The exploration phase will benefit particularly from technologies which enable downhole measurement of H2S, pH, dewpoint, density and viscosity. Schlumberger’s dream is to ‘put a PVT lab downhole’. A new behind casing testing tool was introduced at the show, designed for very low permeability reservoirs. Here Schlumberger’s goal is ‘continuous permeability measurement’. The FSI FlowScan Imager helps producers determine what flows come from which reservoirs.

David Kemshell’s (Shell Petroleum Development Oman) presentation showed how Smart Fields ‘link data asset to the value loop’. RT permanent monitoring with a permanent downhole gauge is used for hydraulic fracturing and seismic monitoring. Distributed temperature data from a steam flood pilot shows growing steam zone. IT is the key: web based data access gives a ‘holistic view’ of all aspects of field development.

Steve Norris (EnCana) described the use of Schlumberger’s cased hole dynamics tester (CHDT) to monitor pressure communication in tight fluviatile sands in the Piceance Basin, Colorado. EnCana uses science to identify economic plays in these discontinuous sands where inter-well communication is ‘a challenge’. The ingenious Schlumberger CHDT drills a little hole through casing, does a test and then plugs the hole. This typically produces 20ccs of fluid from a very tight formation—with permeabilityas low as 0.06 mD. CHDT has proved ‘an attractive tool for monitoring pressure in a timely manner’.

4D time lapse seismics

4D seismics has entered the reservoir engineering workflow as Steve Pannett of Shell’s Todd Oil demonstrated with a study of the Mari B reservoir in New Zealand. A synthetic seismogram was generated from the reservoir model and an impedance difference map compared with 4D seismics. 4D markers were imported to the dynamic model to create nine cases - gas/water, oil/gas, etc. Compaction was neglected in this well-consolidated sand with little or no pressure drop.

Hirofumi Yamamoto (Colorado School of Mines) is also leveraging 4D to monitor CO2 sequestration. CO2 from coal gasification in Dakota is piped 300km into the Canadian Williston Basin where it is sequestered in the depleted Weyburn field. Three 3D/4C seismic surveys were performed by EnCana.

Gioia Falcone’s paper described History matching Using Time-lapse Seismics (HUTS) on Total’s Girassol field. A 3D baseline survey was acquired in 1999 and repeated in 2002. Petroelastic modelling study from logs and cores was performed to predict the time lapse effect.

New software

Advantek’s @Frac package models frac jobs in soft rocks—notably for waste disposal. The tool was developed for BP to monitor grind and injection (a.k.a. crush and flush!) of over one million lbs of waste during Prudhoe Bay pit closure. @frac will model sulfur sequestration in the Kashagan supergiant.

EnSight’s Cyclops uses CAD and VR to visualize and manipulate reservoir data. The tool was developed for Petrobras using EnSight’s Harpoon mesher and visualization engine. Shell, Chevron and Exxon use EnSight to visualize chemical process simulations.

DPT’s NetTool extends network hydraulic modeling to the formation. Users can create and investigate wellbore hydraulic in extended reach laterals and multi-laterals.

Enersight’s Production Planning software applies a holistic approach to combined modeling of reservoir and surface facilities to show where wells are able to produce to capacity. Working from a base case, users can add incremental components and see how they affect the network. Enersight uses a linear programming engine to optimize project and networks.

Exploration Consultants has begun commercialization of TechSIM, a black oil/compositional reservoir simulator originally developed by AEA Technologies. TechSIM has been used in house for some time. TechSim supports black oil and IOR simulation on large field models, cross-sections, pattern floods and radial coning problems. Local grid refinement allows for the representation of complex reservoir structures. The simulator supports naturally fractured reservoirs with a dual porosity, dual permeability model.

CSIRO spin-off Genesis Petroleum Technologies’ Analyzer uses the best composite cost (BCC) methodology to analyze drilling performance. The goal is to define a best practice for each component of the drilling process. Genesis Designer applies similar methods to perform predictions for new wells from historical data.

Sciencesoft was also showing a reservoir to surface network link with S3 Graf/Connect which allows for the simultaneous use of GAP and Eclipse to model rate constraints of surface network on production. The software also optimizes Eclipse license use during simulation.

New interpretation suite

Our star of the show award goes to JOA’s ‘Jewel’ .NET-based, componentized suite to perform static and dynamic modeling from seismic to the flow simulator. Jewel uses web services for machine-to-machine interaction. Custom ‘Jewels’ can be added such as proprietary algorithms, data base connections or complete applications. Jewel is used by Shell to interact with proprietary fault cleanup applications – particularly JOA’s patented orthogonal grid technology. JOA was also previewing a .NET framework that leverages ‘software-based data clustering’ prior to rendering with OpenGL.


Schlumberger’s Real Time offering now extends from the wellbore to surface facilities and promises standard workflows spanning different technologies. RT is considered mature in well construction and fracturing. Production applications are now available as ‘web enabled’ services—so a well’s productivity index can be monitored to see if it degrades over time. Schlumberger is working on ‘closing the loop’ from Electric Submersibe Pumps (ESP) to downhole control valves. The association with AspenTech has introduced a dynamic link from PipeSim to HySys. SIS and AspenTech are to further develop integrated solutions leveraging Eclipse, HySys and economics.


The Weatherford EPS and Landmark joint venture was showing how material balance and nodal analysis can be leveraged with Landmark’s application software. Subsurface data captured in EPS’ ReO is imported into the Engineer’s Desktop. Also on show was the EPS controller for CIDRA intelligent completion with optical sensing of distributed temperature, pressure, flow and seismic measurement. Weatherford has ‘built a whole company built on production optimization’. EPS’ PanSystem is also tied to Aspen Tech‘s HySys. Pan System is integrated with fiber DTS gauges to drive a hydraulic sliding sleeve on a flow control valve. To counter the ‘no jewelry down hole’ complaint, Weatherford’s downhole devices are designed for robust operations with control via hydraulics and data capture over passive fiber.


Ahlbrandt of the USGS described the United Nations attempts to harmonize reserves classifications from SPE, World Petroleum Congress and the AAPG. The plan is to migrate these to the UN‘s framework classification for solid fuel and mineral resources (UNFC).This would align oil reserves with reserves for uranium, coal and other minerals.

Zebra Imaging provides ‘glasses-free’ 3D for the boardroom or reception area. The digital holographic images contain 1 TB of data. The 3D is compelling but it hard to see how the technology could be used in other than a presentational environment. Zebra recently received $12 million venture capital to develop speedier printing.

Google was showing off its search appliance - a colorful Linux box that plugs straight into the corporate network. Web browser-based configuration tells the appliance what directories to spider. An in-house Google catalog results. Auto language detection - works with HTML, PDF, MS Office, IBM Office Suites and ‘200 other formats’. Clients include ConocoPhillips and Grant Prideco.

IHS Energy’s iNodes are self contained devices for data capture in the field. Devices are self-powered, wireless and come with a solar panel, bi-directional radio/satellite transmitter, and back-up battery. iNodes products include pressure monitors, flow meters and tank level monitors. Communications devices include a compact flash radio and ModBus concentrators.

At the end of the proceedings, the SPE itself drew the biggest crowd of the show—with a $1,500 cash giveaway. No competition, just enter the draw and wait for your cash. We’re not sure how this raises awareness of petroleum engineering, or advances any of the SPE’s lofty aims. But it does qualify as the silliest thing we have seen at a tradeshow since the SEG unveiled its Doodlebugger statue.

This article has been taken from a 26 page illustrated report produced as part of The Data Room‘s Technology Watch Reporting Service. More from

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