On August 12, 2000 crude oil from wells at the Al Noor field of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) began flowing to a brand new production station in south Oman.
The production of that oil culminates a 2nd-year, $140-million effort that opens the way for further developments of deep oil reservoirs in the area.
The light Al Noor oil will mix with the heavy oils generally produced in south Oman before beginning a two-week journey down the Main Oil Line to the oil tankers moored off Mina Al-Fahal.
The Al Noor field is the third new PDO field to be brought on stream during 2000.
To bring the field into production required a number of operational and technological innovations. For one thing, the Al Noor wells had to be "stimulated" into production with massive hydraulic fracturing of the reservoir rock - the largest such treatments in the Middle East.
Other innovative techniques applied include: gamma-ray measurements of rock cuttings to monitor drilling progress through the reservoir; installation of down-hole sensors in wells to continuously monitor production performance; the laying of glass-reinforced-epoxy rather than steel pipes from the wellhead to the production station; and the combined rather than separate metering of both gas and liquid well fluids.
"The key to this success," says Asset Manager Bob Turner, "was our ability to rapidly implement technology during the development stage of the project.
The core team at PDO were assisted by a global 'virtual' network of researchers and developers working in over 25 locations around the globe."
"Moreover", adds Turner, "since the reservoir is absolutely unique, we had to set a number of precedents - for PDO, for the Middle East, and indeed for the world." The innovative approach - particularly to the drilling of the wells - also enabled the development costs to be kept in check.
Team leader Mike O'Dell points out: "Substantial reductions in the costs of these very deep wells, which typically reach 4,500 meters underground, were achieved through the application of what we call 'Drilling the Limit' - the process by which the whole drilling team is focused on continuous performance improvement."
The Al Noor production station, whose capacity is 1,500 m2/d (9,435 barrels per day), is not only the newest of PDO's production stations but also one of its most complex ones.
At its core is a "gas sweetening" unit that removes the toxic hydrogen sulphide gas that is produced with the oil while meeting the highest environmental standards.
In spite of its complexity, close teamwork within PDO and between PDO and its contractors made short work of the project.
"The support and cooperation of the many PDO staff and contractors involved in the project enabled the detailed design, procurement and construction of this relatively complicated facility to be completed quickly," says Turner.
Many components of the station were constructed by Omani companies, including M.I.S., Arabian Industries, Elco, STS, Bahwan Engineering, Civilco, Al Harsusi and Al Nahada. All pipeline work was completed by Desert Line Projects, and Schlumberger Drilling Services drilled the development wells.
The many coordinated tasks involved in commissioning the facilities are being carried out by PDO and contractor staff who are being assisted by a "crack" team of young Omani operators who have been specially trained to operate this type of facility.
"These guys have done a tremendous job in getting the plant up and running over the last few weeks" comments Ahmed Al-Ismaily, Production Supervisor.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)