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UK industry looks to tech collaborations

An Aberdeen-based group is encouraging tech-based solutions to maximise recovery from the UK continental shelf

The Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) opened in February 2017. Its brief was to help maximise economic recovery (MER) of resources through investments in better technology implementation and the development of new technology. The aim is to make the results available to the wider industry.

Backed by the UK and Scottish governments, along with regional authorities, the OGTC-armed with initial backing of £180m ($240m)-operates a joint-funding model, whereby the industry needs to at least match the Centre's investment in a given project. So far, the results have been positive. As of June 2018, a total of £50m had been co-invested in over 100 projects to develop and deploy new technology, comprising £21m from the OGTC and £29m from the industry.

The centre develops projects in three main ways. With "directed" projects, a technology developer goes to the OGTC with a concept and the centre puts them together with a "sponsor" firm prepared to test the technology on behalf of the industry.

Another approach is to set a challenge for the industry that needs solving and issue a call to the industry for solutions. "We'll get a number of ideas for solving that particular challenge and we'll then work with industry to validate the best," OGTC's Steve Ashley, digital transformation manager told Petroleum Economist.

Then, the OGTC also uses a "consortium approach, where it pulls together a number of firms into a group to pool resources and seek solutions to a given problem.

The OGTC also promotes two broad initiatives intended to stimulate technology investment.

The "Tie-back of the Future" initiative aims to halve the cost and halve the time to develop small pools-smaller-sized reserves-to make economic the development of an estimated 400m barrels of oil equivalent. The initiative brings together 25 operators, supply-chain firms and technology developers intended to change the industry's approach to developing marginal fields. The idea is to create a "circular economy", where subsea equipment is designed for disassembly and reuse.

"Facility of the Future" involves working with the industry to integrate existing technologies to floating facilities that are normally unmanned, with a focus on remote control and automation development; minimal manning opportunities; and decompact separation and processing.

Project portfolio

The OGTC has a fast-expanding portfolio of completed and "live" projects.
A typical example is a joint investment with Total E&P UK to organise three early-stage non-intrusive inspection (NII) technology field trials. NII simplifies and speeds up inspection processes.
According to OGTC, these trials showed the potential to "deliver significant cost, safety and efficiency benefits compared with traditional intrusive inspection methods". Working with engineering company ABB, OGTC also established that the use of NII technology for process pressure vessels could deliver increased production and lower maintenance costs worth up to £244m a year on the UKCS.

Other projects include working with Air Control Entech to develop an ultrasonic inspection drone and an onshore proof-of-concept trial of DeltaTek Global's SeaCure Cementing system.

Decommissioning technology is very much part of the OGTC's portfolio as it also helps MER. Efficient decommissioning makes end-of-life assets more attractive for potential buyers, and frees up cash for operators to invest elsewhere on the UKCS.

To that end, OGTC has been working with Interwell and Spirit Energy to carry out field trials of a well-plugging and abandonment technology that OGTC says could deliver up to £100m in cost savings a year.

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