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Technology Where high-tech meets hard work

Technology plays a key role at every stage of the production of oil and gas, as successful production can only be ensured through many years of know-how and state-of-the-art technology. With 80 years of experience in oil and gas production, Wintershall has established an extensive technical expertise that ranges from exploration to enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

 

Exploration Peering into the Earth with sound waves

Oil and gas reserves are hidden below the Earth’s surface. Discovering them poses a challenge that can only be mastered with the latest technology. The first indications of a possible reservoir are provided by aerial photographs. Seismic measurements using vibro-trucks, such as those deployed during our seismic campaign in Argentina, provide additional information about the underground rock strata. If the seismic studies show promising results, the last step of the exploration is to carry out test drilling to confirm whether oil and gas actually do lie beneath the site being investigated.

 

Development From developing a field to production

It generally takes several years from the discovery of a reservoir until the first oil or gas is recovered. This period is known as field development: the development of a field up to the production stage.

The field is evaluated and the technical and commercial viability of the project is examined. Once a development concept has been drawn up, the concept gets planned in detail – from the smallest screw for the plant facilities to the drafting of all necessary contracts. Afterwards the execution phase follows, during which the plant facilities are built and tested – until they successfully produce oil & gas.

The Maria project in Norway Smart & innovative development

For the Maria Field, Wintershall opted for a smart and innovative development solution. The development concept consists of two installations on the sea bed ("subsea templates"), which are connected via an underwater link to existing installations. This therefore enables Maria to be connected underwater to the Kristin, Heidrun and Åsgard B production platforms. The volumes recovered are transferred to the Kristin platform for processing. The Heidrun platform provides water for injection into the reservoir.

Åsgard B provides "lift gas" required for the production via the subsea installation used for the Tyrihans D field. The processed oil is then transferred to the Åsgard platform for storage and offloading onto tankers. Via a pipeline, the natural gas produced is transferred to the Åsgard gas transmission pipeline to Kårstø. Because of this use of existing infrastructure, cost-efficient production is also possible under challenging conditions.

Factsheet North Sea

Learn more about Maria on Wintershall.no

Production How oil is produced

The production of oil is divided into three phases: in the first phase, the natural pressure in the reservoir enables the hydrocarbons to flow almost by themselves to the surface.

This enables around 10 percent of the reservoir to be recovered and only a few aids are required, such as the famous horsehead pumps that are responsible for transferring oil to the surface. The production then enters the second phase in which, for example, water is pumped into the reservoir via one or more wells on the edge of the oilfield. This increases the pressure in the reservoir and the oil once again flows to the well, enabling an additional 15-20 percent of the oil reserves to be recovered.

In the third phase, conventional techniques are no longer sufficient – this is when enhanced oil recovery (EOR) comes into use.

Enhanced oil recovery Innovative technologies to produce more oil

Worldwide, only about one third of oil from each reservoir is recovered on average. Using the latest technology and constantly enhanced recovery methods, this figure can be improved.

Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) methods also enable oil to be recovered, when conventional production techniques are no longer sufficient. EOR techniques include, for example, thermal methods such as flooding the reservoir with steam. Wintershall is applying this technique in Emlichheim, Germany, to make the oil less viscous and therefore easier to recover. In addition, substances such as polymers and surfactants can help improve the oil recovery from the reservoir. Using a biopolymer derived from a fungus, Wintershall is currently researching a new method for enhancing the oil recovery in an environmentally friendly manner.

EOR methods increase the efficiency of production. This enables existing infrastructure and mature fields to be economical for a longer time. Overall, approximately 50 percent of the crude oil in a reservoir can be brought to the surface thanks to EOR.

Steam flooding Wintershall gets the oil steamed up

An example of EOR is steam flooding (Wintershall uses this method in Emlichheim, Germany): hot steam, which is injected into the reservoir under high pressure at a temperature of 300 degrees Celsius, heats and liquefies the viscous oil trapped in the rock, so it flows easier to the production well. This requires considerable technical effort – which is worthwhile.

Thanks to constant improvements in the production techniques, Wintershall has managed to maintain the yield from one of Germany's oldest reservoirs at a constantly high level of 140,000 tons per year for more than 55 years. And that is expected to remain so until at least 2020.

Learn more about steam flooding on Wintershall.com

Schizophyllan A mushroom helps to recover oil

Another method of enhanced oil recovery is the use of polymers, which are mainly deployed as thickening agents. These thicken the water, so that it no longer flows past the oil but pushes the oil upwards ahead of it. Using Schizophyllan, a biopolymer derived from a fungus, Wintershall is currently researching a new method for enhancing oil recovery in an environmentally friendly manner.

The water thickened with Schizophyllan can bring more oil from the reservoir to the surface because the thickened water cannot flow past the precious commodity so easily. This significantly increases the amount of oil that can be recovered from the reservoir.

Factsheet Schizophyllan

Learn more about Schizophyllan on Wintershall.com