Deepwater Exploration and Production – Minimizing Risk, Increasing Recovery Minimizing Risk, Increasing Recovery
Posted by D Nathan Meehan May 26, 2012

Deepwater exploration, development and production present unique challenges to operators. Safe operations and protecting the environment are primary requirements. Minimizing risks and maximizing recovery are also among their top priorities. With average worldwide rig day rates remaining higher than $300,000 (drillships and semisubmersible rigs), there is no room for unexpected costs resulting from nonproductive time. Much of this blog entry is from a Baker Hughes white paper located here.

Hydrocarbons are found in much of the world’s offshore basins

Developing a deepwater reservoir requires planning and proven, dependable expertise to achieve efficient and flawless execution in some of the most difficult formations and complex wells. When savings of millions of dollars can be gained, operators look for solutions that work and the people that can provide them.
Baker Hughes’ deepwater experience is comprehensive, built upon provision of drilling and evaluation services, bits, drilling fluids, completion services, artificial lift and chemicals.

In the Gulf of Mexico alone, Baker Hughes has:

  • Conducted more than 172 fracture and gravel pack treatments
  • Installed more than 250 liners
  • Drilled more than 127,000 feet of salt with its bits, motors and rotary steerable systems
  • Drilled more than 270,000 feet of salt using Baker Hughes drilling fluids

Reducing Risk, Increasing Confidence

Planning often determines the final outcome of a project. The quality of the planning process affects drilling and completion costs and ultimate recovery.
Proper planning requires global experience in deepwater and ultra-deepwater projects. Such experience enables knowledgeable identification and mitigation of risks/hazards associated with varied projects. For example, Baker Hughes has developed the OASIS process, which captures the professional experience of its certified engineers to plan details of drilling an operator’s well. From matching the best drill bit to an optimal bottomhole assembly, to modeling complete well paths and pore pressure trends using offset and target well descriptions, detailed recommendations are based on best practices developed through hundreds of other deepwater projects from all around the world.

After a well has been drilled, the same planning expertise is applied to the evaluation and completion phases. The deployment risk management process quantifies, communicates, and mitigates risks in deepwater wireline logging operations. Getting stuck or not being able to get a wireline tool string down in a deviated hole are the types of challenges for which contingency plans are developed ahead of time, minimizing nonproductive time at the wellsite.

Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown in Salt Drilling

Since the earliest days of exploration, salt has been associated with hydrocarbon deposits in onshore and offshore basins. In the 1920s, early seismic and gravity methods helped in delineating salt domes. Operators usually drilled around these structures because there was a lack of understanding and, considering the available technology and limited experience at the time, a well-founded fear of the unknown.

Today Baker Hughes can deliver an integrated plan that matches the right bit with the right fluid with the right drilling systems. This ability improved drilling time and lowers costs by decreasing nonproductive time or increasing the rate of penetration.

Baker Hughes’ experience are shown in the following key performance indicators from an exploratory well in the Gulf of Mexico Mississippi Canyon:

  • 11,530 feet total vertical depth of salt drilled
  • 79 feet per hour average rate of penetration
  • 34-percent improvement over AFE
  • degree of inclination maintained to simplify casing and completion runs
  • $5.27 million savings, as estimated by the operator

Another deepwater challenge is tight pore and fracture pressure margins. Baker Hughes Reservoir Development Services models pressure and fracture gradients using highly advanced software tools and techniques. Our logging-while-drilling capabilities allow real-time updating of these models to anticipate and correct for dangerous changes. Operators avoid surprises while maximizing wellsite safety.

Maximizing Production and Return on Investment

The wellbore meets the reservoir at the completion. Optimizing completions for high rate wells can make an enormous impact on the commerciality of offshore projects. The best completions allow operators to capture stranded assets that would often be left in place, or to gain incremental revenue by accelerating their existing production rates.


For example, the deepwater-proven, exclusive InForce™ hydraulic intelligent well system allows the management of multiple production zones with fewer control lines. The operator can extract more reserves from zones that pay, while isolating those that don’t, at the push of a button without intervention. Avoiding the shutdown of production for intervention saves operators, on average, $10 million.

Another problem causing drop-offs or shutdowns in production rates are gas hydrates. Baker Hughes FATHOM™ Certified production chemicals treat the flowline and help the operator avoid costly surprises in the production phase. Pre-qualification for umbilical service and testing for material compatibility ensure that you get the right chemicals for the project. As part of its comprehensive technologies, Baker Hughes also provides its in-house artificial lift capabilities for improved deepwater production.

Artificial lift is often necessary in green fields where the flowing wellhead pressure equals the system resistance. By boosting or assisting the wellhead pressure, Baker Hughes can help the operator realize additional and faster production in a new field. In a mature field, Baker Hughes subsea Electrical Submersible Pumping (ESP) System boosting can help you achieve incremental production.

Whether you are interested in mudline boosting applications, in-well dual ESP completions, or even increasing your flow from inside your production risers, Baker Hughes has a variety of proprietary tools and systems to help you increase your return on investment.

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