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The task of developing the equipment and capability to safely produce oil and gas at 20,000 psi in deep water, with greater pressures and higher temperatures, is a challenge that BP is up for.
As the UK major continues to reinvent itself post-Macondo, BP is impressing a growing number of observers with its plans for tackling its next generation of fields in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and elsewhere in the world.
While talking to some of its leading deepwater experts at an informal briefing during the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, it became increasingly clear that the company is driving itself hard to get to grips with the challenge.
Its internal 'Project 20K' program is all about increasing its capability to 20,000 psi and being able to deal with temperatures of 176°C to 204°C (350°F to 400°F) – "In many ways the next chapter in deep water," according to Bernard Looney, its executive vice president, development.
With BP seeing the big new play as the Palaeogene, or Lower Tertiary, this means being able to safely enter and tap resources such as the Kaskida and Tiber discoveries in the GoM. "Each of these fields has accessible hydrocarbons today but each also has resources that lie beyond our industry's current limit of 15,000 psi and 135°C(275°F)," he admitted. The intent is to develop a 20K system within the next decade that can be deployed around the world.
Looney is the first to admit that making this vision a reality will require the pooling of brain-power and unprecedented collaboration across and outside of the industry, involving not only operators, vendors, and contractors but also academics and regulators. This will be necessary to define codes and standards for the design, operation, and reliability of the new technology, he said.
It also will not be cheap, requiring huge multibillion dollar investments not only by BP but the offshore industry as a whole. It will, however, be a price worth paying. Few can deny that the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term costs – it is estimated that between 10 Bbbl to 20 Bbbl of oil globally lie beyond the existing technological limit of 15,000 psi and 135°C.
But the industry must be entirely confident and capable of safely entering and tapping those resources the day it attempts to do so. BP's 20K program will play a key part in the industry's progress toward that day.