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Dr Richard Moore, BG Group chief technology officer, on its leading R&D role offshore Brazil
Dr Richard Moore, BG Group chief technology officer, discusses BG’s challenging role as the leading private oil and gas producer offshore Brazil
How important to BG Group is its Brazilian arm?
Brazil is a strategically important operation in BG Group's portfolio, providing significant reserves of oil and gas. Present in Brazil since 1994, we are committed as a long-term partner and investor in the country, its people, its resources and its future. To date, we have invested over UD 8bn in Brazil’s oil and gas sector and we are currently investing around USD 3bn a year.
What assets does BG Brasil currently hold and what are its operations?
BG Brasil has interests in three blocks in the pre-salt Santos Basin, including the major discoveries in BM-S-9 and BM-S-11, including Lula-Iracema, Iara, Sapinhoá and Lapa, where together with the operator - Petrobras - and our joint ventures partners we are drilling best in class wells, with production rate above 30 000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.
In the Barreirinhas Basin, in the Brazilian Equatorial Margin, BG Brasil is the operator in ten blocks, acquired in the 11th Licensing Round of ANP. We are the 100 per cent equity holder in two blocks, 75 per cent in four blocks and 50 per cent in other four blocks.
What have been BG Brasil’s most recent achievements?
In 2014 BG Brasil celebrated its 20th anniversary and our growth is to become the leading private oil and gas producer in Brazil, achieving record production in excess of 125,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BG net) in January 2015.
In 2014 Cidade de Ilhabela and Cidade de Mangaratiba, the fourth and fifth FPSOs respectively came on-stream with another one expected this year.
What new technologies have enabled these developments to happen?
The discovery of the pre-salt play and the technical challenges imposed by the exploration and production projects in such frontier areas create the need to develop new technologies that benefit the entire oil and gas sector in Brazil.
From BG Brasil’s perspective, our approach to technology development has been to support the operator, Petrobras, by providing our experts to conduct studies and to engage in university-led research, complementing the operator’s own R&D activities.
For example, last December Petrobras installed a Wet Xmas Tree (WCT) on wire from a vessel, in the Sapinhoá field, at a depth of 2,130 metres. A WCT is a device installed at the oil wellhead on the seabed, comprising a series of remotely operated valves to control the flow of fluids (oil, water and gas) from the reservoirs to the surface.
The technology which enables deployment from a ship adds value through cost savings arising from the lower charter rates compared to drillships previously used, and the redeployment of drillships for acceleration of well delivery.
A proprietary project BG commissioned to help pre-salt development was conducted in partnership with Schlumberger to develop workflows for evaluation of pre-salt carbonate reservoirs using data from wells. These optimised workflows help constrain estimates of the volume of oil that can be extracted from the reservoir and inform critical decisions such as the number and location of production wells. In this particular work, BG’s proprietary technology development complimented the operator’s studies.
Another example of successful joint technology development with Petrobras is an academic study of Lula field data to better understand the reservoir characteristics to optimise oil recovery, engaging researchers from Edinburgh, Heriot Watt and Oxford Universities in the UK in the International Centre for Carbonates Research (ICCR).
Petrobras has successfully developed and deployed award winning deepwater technology in the exploitation of the pre-salt geology, such as the new buoyancy-supported risers (BSR) technology – the prototype of which won the Technology Innovation Award from Brazilian National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) in 2013. The BSR allows the production risers to be separated from the platform movements, for a safer the oil lifting system.
What is BG doing in Brazil now that it couldn’t do five years ago?
BG Brasil is now the largest privately owned oil and gas producing company in Brazil. Together with the operator Petrobras and our partners in pre-salt, we currently have five FPSOs producing, with three at capacity (Cidade de São Paulo, Cidade de Angra dos Reis, Cidade de Paraty) and two ramping-up production (Cidade de Ilhabela and Cidade de Mangaratiba). Also, of the 10 most productive wells in the country, nine are located in Lula and Sapinhoá fields, where we have equity in participation and operating at 2 000 metres deep and 200 kilometres offshore.
To contribute technology to that production effort, BG Brasil is investing in a state-of-the-art laboratory for investigation of Enhanced Oil Recovery techniques at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). The laboratory is called L-Rap. The laboratory partners and utilises the technology research from Heriot Watt University, which will be used to study the pre-salt reservoirs.
Additionally, we are currently studying carbonate rocks exposed in Sergipe and Alagoas states that are analogous to the pre-salt, in a research project in partnership with UFRJ, which involves drilling shallow wells to continuously core rock formations to provide samples for study in the laboratory.
These technologies aim to improve understanding of the behaviour of fluids in the reservoir under production conditions, reduce uncertainties on the volume of oil to be recovered and to inform decisions on the best placement of production wells.
Implementation of technologies has already led to considerable improvement of our pre-salt field development plans. Improvements have been made in terms of reducing well count and costs, increasing the recovery of oil and gas and improving operating efficiency.
How will Brazil’s exploration and production sector develop in the future?
The pre-salt oil and gas discoveries play a key role in Brazil’s plans for economic growth. It is unique play. Its development began just a few years ago, although production has already surpassed 669,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day and is increasing for the entire pre-salt area operated by Petrobras. There is room for further improvement in drilling and subsea technology. There are many aspects of the pre-salt exploitation that will be impacted by new technology, so Brazil is a natural laboratory.
How will this affect BG’s operations in the country?
As one of the main partners of Petrobras, BG Brasil is focused on ensuring that we develop and pursue solutions that can be tried and tested in the field operations. We participate in the decisions of the consortium, contributing technical expertise and innovative solutions, prioritising the establishment of strong partnerships.
Moving forward to the pre-salt operations, we are also operator in 10 blocks in the Barreirinhas Basin, a new frontier to be explored.
What role will technology play in unlocking more of Brazil’s offshore oil and gas potential?
New technologies will be essential to unlock Brazil’s potential. BG is developing technology to improve acquisition, processing and interpretation of seismic data in Brazil, which will advance the exploration efforts.
To acquire better seismic data, we are developing the Surdo project in partnership with PGS and the Brazilian universities Senai Cimatec and USP, which seeks to build a prototype seismic source to generate sound waves with optimal characteristics for improved seismic imaging;
To better process seismic data, the International Imaging Initiative is a partnership with UFRN, Senai Cimatec, the University of British Columbia and Imperial College London. It will develop and test code for processing seismic data using high performance computing and a new supercomputer - one of the fastest in South America - located in Salvador, Bahia; and,
To better interpret seismic data, BG experts have developed a workflow in Brazil called DIGI, which is being used to undertake automated evaluation of seismic data to rapidly identify features indicative of hydrocarbon accumulations. A paper on the subject was published at EAGE 2014, and DIGI has also won The Edge Award.
Also we have created a research group at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) to address interpretation of seismic stratigraphy to better understand the Santos and Campos basins, and we are commissioning a laboratory for petroleum geochemistry research at UFBA with students studying the oil and gas potential of source rocks in several Brazilian basins.
How does BG Group invest in technological development in Brazil?
In BG, we have an open innovation, collaborative model, based on partnerships with academia, research centres, industry, start-ups, and where appropriate in partnership with operators, e.g. Petrobras and IOCs.
By 2025, BG Brasil plans to invest around USD 1.5bn in RD&I in the country.
BG Brasil complies with Brazil’s concession terms which require 1 per cent of gross revenue from large fields to be spent on RD&I for the oil and gas industry. Today we have the largest investment in RD&I amongst oil and gas companies in Brazil (apart from Petrobras).
Our RD&I programme is focused on five key challenges of Enhanced Oil Recovery from Carbonate Reservoirs, Sustainable Gas and climate change, geoscience, subsea processing and asset integrity. Prioritising technological solutions in those areas allows us to make better investment decisions and that is what drives the performance of the company.
What challenges are involved in doing business in Brazil’s oil and gas sector?
The ongoing challenge in Research, Development and Innovation, is to find the right experience among suppliers and universities in order to develop technologies. We encourage partnerships of companies with universities, and encourage international contributors to transfer state-of-the-art technologies for continued development in Brazil.
How could these challenges be overcome in the future? Are there any other examples (Mexico)?
Stimulating innovation and the supply chain is key, so changes in the regulatory environment to further support RD&I would be very beneficial.
Dr. Richard Moore – Chief Technology Officer, BG Group
Based in Rio de Janeiro, Richard leads a team of 40 professionals across four countries, pursuing R&D and innovation for the benefit of BG Group’s worldwide assets. His team is responsible for the company’s R&D investments in Brazil.
Rick has 22 years of experience with BG Group, in diverse managerial and technical roles including Chief Geologist, Subsurface Team Leader Brazil, and as an exploration geologist in Italy and the UK. He gained a PhD in Sedimentology from Leeds University in 1992, and holds a bachelors honours degree in Geology from University of Oxford.