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Statoil Uses New Method To Wring More Gas From North Sea

After years of drilling, the North Sea is beginning to run low on its gas and oil reserves, but Norway’s Statoil has begun using “subsea gas compression,” a new, less costly and more efficient technology, to get the most out of what’s left in the region’s gas fields.

Statoil is using the method, also known as “wet gas compression,” at its Gullfaks field in the North Sea’s Norwegian sector. The state-owned company says the technology will enable it to extend the profitable life of Gullfaks for about two years and extract an additional 22 million barrels of oil equivalent.

“We are very proud that we have been able to complete such a demanding pioneering project with start-up ahead of the original plan,” says Margareth Ovrum, executive vice president for Technology, Projects & Drilling for Statoil. “Subsea processing and gas compression represent the next generation oil and gas recovery, taking us a big step forward.”

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Energy extractors often use compression to compensate for the loss of pressure in an energy field caused by a depletion of its contents. Normally this compression is performed on the platform of an oil rig. Wet gas compression takes place beneath the water’s surface.

The technology not only leads to greater energy extraction, but also means the drilling platform doesn’t need to carry the compressor’s extra weight. As a result, drilling operations conducted onshore and from offshore platforms are more flexible.

Wet gas compression also doesn’t call for gas and liquid to be separated before compression before the product is compressed. This greatly simplifies the process and allows drillers to rely on smaller compressors on the offshore platforms.

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“The Gullfaks wet gas compressor is a unique, compact and cost-effective solution,” Ovrum said. “The concept may be standardized by applying well-known technology components.”

The subsea compressor can also be linked with other offshore wells through existing pipelines. Statoil said the Gullfaks compressor has already been fitted for such connections.

“Subsea wet gas compression is a game changer for subsea processing, and an important technology to increase recovery also on other fields,” said Steinar Konradsen, one of Statoil’s supervisors on the project.

Testing of the technology at Gullfaks, about 100 miles northwest of Bergen, Norway, began in July.

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Statoil began using the technology in a second field, Asgard, also in the North Sea, in mid-September.

The application of wet gas compression “is one of several important projects on Gullfaks for improved recovery and field life extension,” said Kjetil Hove, Statoil’s senior vice president involved in the company’s operations in the North Sea. “The recovery rate from the Gullfaks … may be increased from 62 percent to 74 percent by applying this solution in combination with other measures.”

Hove said the technology would benefit energy extraction at other small and medium-size fields off Norway’s coast. “We are searching for more candidates that are suitable,” he said.

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com

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