Society of Petroleum Engineers first R&D Conference

San Antonio event hears from BP, Saudi Aramco, Schlumberger on future of oil and gas R&D.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers’ first R&D Conference’s theme was ‘The Third Trillion* and Beyond—The R&D Challenges to Meeting Expanding Energy Needs.’ In the keynote, BP technology manager Tony Meggs considered the key technologies and skills required to access the next trillion barrels and how the industry’s R&D landscape needs to change to them. Meggs offered three routes to the Third Trillion—enhanced recovery of already discovered reserves, more conventional exploration and new, unconventional sources. The fourth way, energy conservation was considered off topic for the SPE. A conservative 5% hike in recovery worldwide would add 300—600 billion barrels. In Prudhoe Bay, horizontal and coiled tubing drilling, miscible gas EOR, and gas cap water injection have increased the recovery from 40% to over 60%.

Massive digitization

4D seismic surveying and ‘massive digitization’ will make the oil field a ‘digital virtual reality’ and ‘greatly enhance our ability to optimize reservoir depletion and field management. BP also expects that the novel technique of reducing residual oil saturation (for instance by lowering injected water salinity) may add up to one billion barrels to BP’s proved reserves. CO2 sequestration will help oil recovery as large scale carbon capture leads to massive supplies of CO2 for EOR purposes. Meggs sees the future as digital as ‘distinctions between classical science, engineering and the IT department will disappear as these skill sets cohabit in a digital world.’ The R&D landscape needs to change ‘to engage in cross industry collaboration to accelerate new solution development.’

Saudi Aramco

Muhammad Saggaf, Manager of Saudi Aramco’s EXPEC R&D described ongoing research into ‘extreme reservoir contact’—very long producing intervals in horizontal wells, the ‘i-field’—with smart wells and real time reservoir management. Aramco is also digitally extreme with ‘gigacell’ simulation. A current model comprises 172 million active cells, 3000 wells and 60 years of history. A match is achieved in a couple of days on a 340-node Linux cluster.


Schlumberger’s MEA chairman Mohamed Awad addressed the ‘people’ side of the R&D equation. With the current stretched employment situation, there is a ‘global need for people and education.’ ’ No country, nationality or gender has the monopoly on creativity and innovation.’ Schlumberger offers equal opportunity training and job progression and uniform compensation and benefits package for international careers.’ On the educational side, Awad cited the Middle East & Asia Learning Centre in Abu Dhabi, a $100 million investment and Schlumberger’s ‘Ambassador Program’ for university relations. This includes regular meetings with faculty and students, scholarships, hardware and software donations and R&D internships.

* The third trillion refers to current estimates that put world historical consumption to date at one trillion barrels with another trillion already found. The ‘third trillion’ refers to the remaining ultimate reserves that are believed to exist.

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