January 29, 2019
The search for self-sufficiency in oil production and the discovery of the pre-salt catapulted Brazil to the frontier of innovation in the sector. Overcoming technological and logistical challenges in large-scale oil and gas extraction has resulted in world production records. In December 2018, for example, Petrobras broke the monthly record of production in the pre-salt, with 1.85 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
“We can only overcome challenges and prepare for the future because we have a highly qualified technical staff and technological resources that allow us to anticipate scenarios,” says Roberto Castello Branco, president of Petrobras.
By 2023, the oil company should invest R $ 13 billion in research and development (R & D) in order to streamline well placement and production, reduce unit costs involved with production and accelerate financial returns.
To give an idea of the learning curve, the president points out that the construction of a well in the Santos Basin today takes about 120 days, compared to 300 days on average in 2010. That year, the expectation was 20 thousand barrels per day per well. “In 2018, we made an average of 26 thousand barrels per day / well.” This productivity is at least twice the international average in marine wells, according to Petrobras.
The set of innovative technologies behind this performance, developed in partnership with universities, research institutes and suppliers, include artificial diamond drills and special steel to resist corrosion from contaminants in the pre-salt oil – such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) – to unprecedented systems of carbon dioxide reinjection (a method that facilitates the recovery of oil in the reservoir), among many others.
Eduardo Chamusca, president of the Brazilian operation of SBM Offshore, a Dutch company specializing in floating production solutions, underscores the advances in technologies for the construction of floating production, storage and transfer units (FPSOs) capable of withstanding high productivity of the pre-salt. “To give you an idea, the ‘topside’ of the platform, as we call everything above the hull, supported between 4,000 and 5,000 tons of weight. In recent years, the FPSOs we deliver to the pre-salt are in the range of 24 thousand to 25 thousand tons “.
SBM targets R & D between 3% and 5% of its overall revenue. The Brazilian operation consists of a fleet of seven FPSOs – six from Petrobras and one from Shell. At the moment, the company invests in standardized hulls that allow the evolution of systems. “The standardized hull fits any project because it has the technology to handle much more weight.”
In 2018, SBM and Shell entered into a partnership in deep-water cooling water collection system design for floating platforms, expected to be implemented in FPSOs within three years.
With investments of US $ 2 million, the new technology will be financed with resources from the R & D clause of the concession agreements of the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) – the clause determines that concessionaires should invest in R & D in Brazil 1% of the gross revenue obtained in fields with large production volume.
Another strong trend in the oil and gas sector is digital transformation, as mentioned by Anderson Marinho de Lima, head of digitization at Equinor Brasil, which operates three assets in the Brazilian pre-salt (BM-S-8, Carcará Norte and BM-C -33). “There is a growing use of technologies such as cloud and mobile devices for integrated data sharing and access for processes such as operation, maintenance, distribution logistics and remote collaboration.”
Lima also highlights the use of artificial intelligence and advanced data analysis for proactive monitoring and real-time decision making. In the security area, he mentions gains with the application of physical robots and standalone devices that reduce the exposure of professionals to risks.
Maurício Cunha, oil, gas and chemical manager at ABB Brasil, who develops and implements technologies for oil extraction, also focuses on the digitization that, according to the World Economic Forum, has the potential to generate US $ 1 trillion worth of companies in the segment all around the world. “Digital solutions to remotely control processes and equipment that operate on the seabed are capable of reducing commissioning costs by 50%, engineering costs by 30% and capital costs by 10% to 20% (Capex), “says Cunha.