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Growing political turmoil and record-breaking gas prices are reigniting the demand for responsibly produced domestic oil and gas. New technologies are helping the energy sector answer that call. Many of the products being launched are paired with existing equipment or infrastructure to help companies optimize production economically while meeting ESG goals.
Whether it’s a technology that is lowering carbon emissions from chemical management programs or optimizing production with artificial lift systems, innovative products throughout the industry are helping operators do more with less.
“The key to creating real, adoptable change within the industry is to recognize the importance of steady, iterative improvements to existing technologies,” said Julie Fidoe, director of marketing for production chemicals at ChampionX, a global oilfield service company. “One of the things the chemical technologies business has always been focused on is partnering with our customers to honestly evaluate current operations and products to focus innovation on immediately employable enhancements that move all of us closer to our future goals.”
Lower costs, lower carbon
ChampionX is among the companies committed to sustainably focused innovation. After acquiring Tomson Technologies in late 2021, it launched a nanotechnology platform to enhance the performance of existing production chemistries. When applied to its Total Scale Management Program, the technology has demonstrated a 300% extension to the historical scale squeeze lifetime in more than 150 applications to date. As a result, the XR (extended release) portfolio provides a reduction in required well intervention, and with that, a decrease in associated operational maintenance expenses and carbon footprint.
“While we have been working on these developments for decades, this is worth talking about right now, because it shows how we are helping companies do more with less—and that’s a fundamental of true sustainability.”—Julie Fidoe, Production Chemistry Marketing Director, ChampionX
“That means operators benefit from reduced TCO [total cost of ownership] and carbon footprint associated with three times fewer chemical injection requirements over the lifetime of the well,” Fidoe said. “Additionally, by enhancing scale control, we are increasing the amount of protected oil produced. Ultimately, this technology drives all our ESG goals by supporting efficiently and responsibly produced oil and gas reserves while maintaining profitability.
“While we have been working on these developments for decades, this is worth talking about right now, because it shows how we are helping companies do more with less—and that’s a fundamental of true sustainability.”
Pumping up the progress
To help those working in unconventional plays operate more efficiently, ChampionX has introduced several technologies for electrical submersible pumping (ESP) systems. The Woodlands, Texas-based company launched its new High Rise series pump line this year. The line achieves up to 33% greater lift per pump, helping to minimize rig time while reducing carbon footprint.
“The Oculus technology that’s integral to the High Rise hydraulic design provides greater lift with fewer actual pumps,” said David Baillargeon, engineering supervisor for ChampionX’s Unbridled ESP Systems. “Wells that previously required five or six pumps now need just three or four to achieve the same amount of lift. There’s a benefit to that: a 1-ton reduction in carbon emissions and 20% fewer heavy metals per ESP install with the High Rise pump line versus previous technology.”
Another advantage of the new pump series is greater gas handling capabilities, he said, adding: “Gas interference in ESPs is a significant challenge, and based on extensive testing, we have documented that High Rise pumps can handle up to 52% free gas.”
Baillargeon also noted that the new pump line has a wide operating range—200 bbl/d to 7,500 bbl/d—and improves pull strength by 40%.
“This is important in the unconventionals where the flow rate changes rapidly,” he said. “A wider operating range helps avoid system changeouts as production declines. And, greater pull strength helps mitigate the potential to part a unit downhole while extracting an ESP from these deviated wells.”
ChampionX’s new technologies often focus on helping customers achieve performance gains through incremental design improvements and application engineering. For instance, through its plunger, lubricator and bumper spring designs, ChampionX plunger lift tools now extend to wells capable of producing up to 300 bbl of fluid a day—an increase that expands the plunger lift’s application range.
The boost is especially impactful in tight oil plays such as the Permian Basin and Bakken Shale, where plunger lift can help optimize production economics as horizontal wells mature and production output naturally declines.
“Solutions like this can be very significant when you multiply it across a number of wells in an operator’s field,” said Brent Cope, plunger lift product line manager at PCS Ferguson, a ChampionX business unit. “Production from each well is more consistent, and the plunger reduces flowing bottomhole pressures to sustain maximum daily rates.”
In April, ChampionX’s Edmonton, Alberta-based business unit, Pro-Rod, launched another such potentially impactful technology: AnX coiled rod. The technology features a continuously applied, patent-pending coating that actively prevents corrosion to the underlying steel coiled rod.
The results are improved rod string run times in challenging well conditions, keeping production online and reducing the frequency of workovers to mitigate corrosion-related damage to the rod string and other downhole equipment, said product line director Alex Perri.
“The early results have been very promising in wells with corrosive and abrasive conditions,” Perri continued.
Locus Bio-Energy Solutions manufactures biosurfactants—fermentation-produced, zero-carbon chemistries used in numerous upstream and midstream products. Considered more versatile than traditional surfactants and other bio-based surfactants, biosurfactants today represent a $4 billion-a-year global oilfield market.
Locus produces biosurfactants at scale that are tailored for a multitude of applications, including completion and stimulation formulations that can release more trapped oil. The biosurfactants, which are the size of human DNA, are injected into conventional or unconventional reservoirs, lowering interfacial tension and contact angle, which enables production of residual oil. Their nanoscale molecule size allows them to reach the nanopores and fractures of reservoirs that typical surfactants could not.
“This is absolutely unique,” said Locus CEO Jonathan Rogers. “These biosurfactants were known for about 50 years-plus, but previously they were only viable commercially for the personal care industry or high-end cleaners. Now, at Locus, we have a lot of intellectual property rights around novel fermentation processes that can produce these at volumes needed for use in the oil and gas industry. And we can make them at the price point that allows us to design truly innovative oilfield chemistries with results you just can’t get with other surfactants.”
The chemistries also help companies achieve their ESG goals, as the biosurfactant ingredients are fully biodegradable, zero-carbon, sustainable (made from sustainably produced agricultural products) and can boost the amount of production at a given shale well, Rogers said. Since companies can yield more production from a single well with the product, they would be required to frac less wells to meet production goals, he added.
“It’s a very low-carbon way of getting more out of existing assets,” Rogers said. “It’s a game changer. One of the things people don’t realize is that these types of solutions are out there. With all the crises we’ve got in the world now, the realization is we can have domestic security and also have the lowest carbon barrels anywhere in the world.”
The company has treated more than 300 wells since launching the biosurfactant-based products in 2018, and their customers have realized significant production increases and returns on investment. In some applications the biosurfactants require lower dosage rates (as little as two-thirds in frac fluids, for example) to work, Rogers said.
“One of the things people don’t realize is that these types of solutions are out there. With all the crises we’ve got in the world now, the realization is we can have domestic security and also have the lowest carbon barrels anywhere in the world.”Jonathan Rogers, CEO, Locus Bio-Energy Solutions
Locus biosurfactants are also helping companies with the ever-growing challenge of saltwater disposal. Every barrel of oil that is produced is accompanied by about 7.5 bbl of saltwater as a byproduct. Finding ways to dispose of this water safely and responsibly has been a challenge for many operators, and Rogers said his company has developed biosurfactant-based products to help address these issues.
While producers are continuing to increase water reuse and recycling, there will continue to be a large need for sequestration of produced water in saltwater disposal wells. Locus has developed a product that Rogers said can reduce injection pressures by up to 20%, with 70% faster filtration in laboratory testing. The technology, he said, has proven to be an effective way of sustainably and affordably disposing produced water and can also provide benefits to saltwater disposal well operators by reducing oil carryover and recovering more skim oil.
It all comes back to using new biosurfactant-based products in existing assets to meet or exceed ESG goals, Rogers added.
“We want the oil and gas industry to know that you don’t have to sacrifice cost or efficiency,” he said. “In fact, you can reduce your cost, increase your efficiency and profitability and be sustainable at the same time. It’s a win-win situation.”
The energy evolution
Deloitte’s “2022 Oil and Gas Outlook” report highlighted how emerging innovations are playing a role in reshaping oil and gas companies as the energy transition continues. It noted how some industry giants, such as Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Co., are working to accelerate groundbreaking technology as part of wider diversification efforts.
“However, digitalization will only help to a certain extent,” the report noted. “The sector needs to get even leaner and greener. Providing integrated solutions for decarbonizing upstream projects, implementing subscription-based revenue models or diversifying into the low-carbon space could be key enablers of the future [oilfield service] strategy.”
Artificial intelligence is playing a significant role in the energy shift, with some industry companies utilizing them as part of a wider commitment to eliminate emissions and identify efficiencies.
“Companies like BP [Pl] and Shell [Co.], which have both pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, are under increasing pressure to minimize their carbon footprint in compliance with the Paris Agreement,” according to a Report Linker report. “Shell is employing AI [artificial intelligence] technology to do predictive maintenance of individual pieces of equipment or entire systems to reduce their carbon footprint. This allows the corporations to foresee and handle probable equipment faults before they occur.”
Upstream companies in the market for new products are often searching for technologies that solve one of three problems, said Sriram Srinivasan, senior vice president of global technology at Halliburton. A top priority for operators has been discovering technologies that will reduce the extraction costs of hydrocarbons, he told Hart Energy.
“Drilling automation technologies will allow Halliburton to drill faster and better quality wells, which will reduce costs during drilling and subsequent completion activities.”Sriram Srinivasan, Senior Vice President, Global Technology, Halliburton Co.
“This will allow oil and gas to remain a competitive option in the energy mix for years to come,” he said. “I’m especially excited about technologies that reduce extraction costs where digital technologies will play a key role. For example, in drilling, technology that will allow us to improve efficiencies in well design and plan better wells using past data or experience. Drilling automation technologies will allow Halliburton to drill faster and better quality wells, which will reduce costs during drilling and subsequent completion activities.”
Hydraulic fracturing is another area where automation can be used to reduce costs for both service companies and operators, he added.
Companies are also on the lookout for technologies that help operators increase production from existing assets, and technologies that will help lower the cost abandonment of declined wells.
“As the portfolio of declined wells becomes large, operators must deal with them at lower cost,” Srinivasan said.
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