Martin Bachmann, Member of the Executive Board for E&P, Europe and the Middle East Wintershall spoke exclusively to Pipeline about how the German firm’s technology can help Abu Dhabi unlock its sour gas fields.
Germany’s Wintershall has always had an eye on the Middle East region’s oil and gas market and in 2010 set up a representative office in Abu Dhabi and two year laters in 2012 Wintershall took over the technical evaluation of the Shuwaihat sour gas and condensate field as an operator.
“The Shuwaihat filed is our entry into the Middle East market,” said Martin Bachmann.
The Shuwaihat field is situated in the Western region of Abu Dhabi, about 25 km west of the industrial town of Ruwais.
Last year Wintershall embarked on its second appraisal well (SH-6). Drilling began In November 2016.
“This is our first offshore well in Abu Dhabi. This will mean we will have covered the whole spectrum in a short time from 2012. We have moved a long way over 5 years that has seen us drill onshore and offshore,” said Bachmann.
The SH-6 well is of great importance for the project. It will be drilled in the crest of the field and will tell more about the productivity. The results will drive the future development concept of the Shuwaihat field.
Bachmann explained: “We are drilling at the moment and it will then move into the testing phase. There is quite an extensive data collection phase to come. We will then have to take the decision together with ADNOC on whether we drill a 3rd appraisal well.”
He added: “In parallel with the drilling we also doing intensive planning of all the different developments scenarios which partly will depend on the results from the appraisal but it is basically a way to fast track development. So I think in the second half of this year we will take some important decisions regarding the field on do we drill another well, where would we drill it and which development options will we pursue.”
If the positive expectations are confirmed then Shuwaihat could go into the production as the first offshore field in Abu Dhabi which contains very sour gas.
During the planning for the offshore well and in response to the low oil price environment Wintershall has looked at ways to minimise the downtime and optimising the logistics costs, according to Bachmann.
“So if you look at what we have done for the Shuwaihat field we can actually say that we are doing everything to minimise the downtime.”
Wintershall has decided to use the local port of Mugharraq in the Western region, which is nearer the Shuwaihat field than using the historical port of Mussafah (around 250 km away). This way Wintershall has significantly reduced the sailing time of the supply vessel.
Sour gas experts
The Shuwaihat field places particularly high demands on the exploration and production. The sour gas within the reservoir contains 23 per cent hydrogen sulphide and about 7 per cent carbon dioxide. Each sour gas production programme therefore requires a high degree of safety and high-tech equipment.
Wintershall can draw on more than 40 years of experience in producing sour gas in Germany. The company has already developed 16 fields in Germany and recovered about 30 billion cubic meters of sour gas.
“The field straddles onshore and offshore, which we have dealt with before in Germany. We are very active in shallow waters in Germany. We certainly understand what needs to be done. It is now about getting a good view of what we find subsurface,” said Bachmann.
He explained that the biggest difference in the case of Shuwaihat is the drilling technology.
“If you go back to the initial drills that discovered the wells in the 1970s and 80s these were vertical wells drilled into the reservoir. Now we can drill very targeted slanted and horizontal wells. We can now target the thin reservoir levels found in the Middle East. We can design wells with technologies for testing later, which in the past couldn’t be done. This is making the biggest advance.”
Wintershall has been producing natural gas in Germany since the 1960s. During Pipeline Magazine’s trip to Germany Wintershall took journalists to the firm’s sour gas project Staffhorst Nord (Lower Saxony).
“In Staffhorst we now are going back and drilling horizontal and very targeted wells we can now reach new areas. We had a good discovery recently at Pabsen Z2 with the new drilling techniques. It was a good discovery in a very old field by simply drilling such a new well that wasn’t possible 25 years ago.”
Bachmann said that this is exactly the attitude they are bringing to their work on Shuwaihat.
The Shuwaihat field is seen by Bachmann of being indicative of what lies ahead for the untapped fields in the Middle East region.
“What we are seeing in the Middle East now is that the easy oil and gas is increasingly coming to an end. So the region is now facing more technologically challenging reserves that need to be developed. Shuwaihat is good example of this. It was discovered in the 80s but because it was sour gas with a high amount of H2S it was not very high on the priority list for ADNOC. But slowly but surely we are coming to the point when for the Middle East this is going to be the order of the day.”
He reiterated: “In Germany we have had to do that for a long time already as it was always harder to find reserves in Germany than in the Middle East. Very early on we had to go to technically more challenging fields. We have a long history working with sour gas and safely producing sour gas fields in Germany, dealing with the sulphur and using it. This is a clear example that what maybe new for the Middle East we have been doing for many years.”
Bachmann noted: “Our work on the Shuwaihat field is not just about drilling well. It is about the whole infrastructure of it. We are also working on a lot of research and training with ADNOC. This is what we are bringing here with our work with ADNOC.“
Wintershall further expanded its partnership with ADNOC in 2015 with the signing of a MoU on joint research into EOR methods. The MoU aims to contribute to Abu Dhabi’s strategic target of reaching a 70 per cent ultimate recovery from its oilfields in the future.
“You can only achieve that with EOR. That is a technology that we have been pursuing for a long time. We feel that Chemical EOR could be a game changer in the region.”
The MoU it focused on EOR using specialised chemicals for the oil and gas industry. The main goal of the project is to jointly develop customised solutions to meet the subsurface challenges that are characteristic for the local fields - high temperature and high salinity in the carbonate reservoirs of Abu Dhabi.
“We are working on different methods of chemical EOR in our MoU with ADNOC. It is very specific to the rocks and reservoirs of Abu Dhabi. We have learnt from experience that one EOR project is never like the other. You need very good understanding of your rock and reservoirs, water and oil. Only by bringing this all together can you find the right chemical that works. You really need tailor made solutions for each reservoir and that is what we offer,” he said.
Bachmann added: “We are working hand in hand with BASF on this EOR MoU. We are bringing our parent company’s R&D capability in chemistry into the project which gives us a big advantage over other E&P firms. In the Middle East region in particular, new technologies for reservoirs that are difficult to access and for mature fields are becoming increasingly important in order to maintain high production levels.”
He concluded: “Yes the Middle East has the resources but we can actually bring the technology to bring their fields to the next stage of technological development.”