Fluid thinking

​​​​​​​​​​​Woodside has teamed up with Chevron and the University of Western Australia (UWA) to tackle a common and troublesome problem that has bedevilled oil and gas developments for many years. 

The collaborating group is working to package and use Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)-based technology to accurately detect minute levels of hydrocarbon in processed water streams. If proved up, the technology would unlock the possibility of seafloor processing and accurate oil-in-water measurement topside, as well as subsea. 

The importance? For the first time we would be able to confirm with confidence if the topside and/or subsea processed water were safely recycled back into the oceans, eliminating the need for slow manual testing techniques and offering the opportunity to simplify processing systems. “The technology in metering applications has the potential to be a key enabler and catalyst for the progression of seafloor liquid processing and the next generation of subsea tie-back solutions,” says technology development manager Hosi Sabavala. 

The research work has been conducted by UWA staff at the Australian Resources Research Centre (ARRC) in Perth. Chevron is the technology owner and Woodside is providing support from the upstream technology group and the Pluto asset and on site operations teams. 

Chevron was seeking a site to field test the technology, and Woodside was able to offer an opportunity in Pluto LNG plant for a two-week trial in October. “This collaborative effort between Woodside, UWA, and Chevron represents a significant step forward in assessing this technology,” says Mark Titley, Chevron’s energy technology manager. “Being able to compare the NMR results against other measurements taken simultaneously from Pluto helps mature the technique.” 

This small milestone trial has been facilitated and is seen as an incremental element of the upstream technology team’s work efforts on the journey to lower-cost gas/condensate field concepts. The UWA team spent two weeks doing MRI-like analysis of Pluto-produced water and testing new sampling and analysis equipment against standard equipment and operational processes. They now have valuable experience and data to analyse and take to the next steps towards an instrument prototyping. 

“The team’s aim is to develop a reliable oil-in-water analyser for deepwater gas fields like those in the remote basins on the North West Shelf,” explains development lead Andrew McCormack. “Most fields are remote and frequently marginal if developed with conventional floating platforms and processing technologies. Alternate subsea approaches can reduce capital expenditure by up to 50% and make these fields economic.” 

Hosi notes that although the research is still early in the development process, “we are all thinking big, prototyping small, and now seeking to learn and scale quickly into service applications. “To satisfy the regulatory authorities that the water is safe to recycle at sea, we need to have a robust system for measuring and controlling the quality of the water.” Hosi says if the work is successful, the rewards could be impressive. “There is great potential to deliver significant value to our subsea solution portfolio and unlock the next generation of long subsea tie-backs to deliver future gas production for our onshore LNG plants,” he says.

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Trunkline Q4 2017