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5 things I learned at PWME 2018

Operators will go to extraordinary lengths to limit their operating expenses…Here are 5 things to take away from the Produced Water Middle East conference in Abu Dhabi.

1. Operators’ top concern is minimizing OPEX.

Operators will go to extraordinary lengths to limit their operating expenses. Total and OMV, for example, will dramatically limit chemical usage for treatment, if not to remove it entirely. They are automating remote equipment to keep crews out of the field nights and weekends. They’re happy to take the hit on scheduled preventative maintenance rather than see surprise costs to fix equipment failures. NOCs, likewise, will put the money down for CAPEX if it means saving on OPEX later.

2. Successful waterflood programs will make or break operators in the Middle East.

The ADNOC keynote presentation and operators panel revealed that especially for the national operators in the Middle East, waterflood is mission critical for increasing production in coming years. While both NOCs and IOCs focus on low operating expenditures, they can rarely afford to compromise on keeping water within spec for flooding. Maturing wells and an increasing reliance on artificial lift mean higher water cuts. Treatment systems are expanding to handle higher volumes of dirtier water, so keeping the treated water within spec, while essential, is and more and more difficult.

3. Membranes are moving toward better chemical resistance.

Suez & TechnipFMC presented work on chemical resistant membranes. Suez showed results from accelerated testing for a new nanofiltration membrane formulation for use in sulfate removal, demonstrating higher pH tolerance and more cleaning robustness. TechnipFMC are developing a chlorine-resistant permanent coating for NF membranes, which are showing sustained sulfate rejection and considerable resistance to fouling. Dr. Reda Akdim, Technology Director, told the audience that TechnipFMC is in the process of a conducting a long endurance test with both CIP and continuous chlorination.

4. Volumes are forecast to increase dramatically.

  • Saudi Aramco is in the middle of a multi-billion-dollar project that will, among other things, increase their produced water handling capacity
  • ADNOC is expecting an additional 50-100 mbwpd per year for the next 15 years
  • Total, OMV, and ADNOC are installing more and more ESPs
  • PDO has some fields with a 90% water cut and growing with increasing salinity

There is no mistaking that operators are concerned about the produced water volumes they will find themselves managing, so those who can are planning ahead. At least two roundtable sessions dealt directly with improving produced water conveyance systems, but suppliers would do well to make their approaches to clients and prospective clients with an abundance of solutions to an abundance of water.

5. Suppliers have compounded uncertainties.

One thing covered at length in the operators panel was the uncertainties that water teams confront. Something that proved true for every single operator on the panel—and was echoed by operators who chimed up from the audience during Q&A—was that the surface teams get, at best, unreliable forecasts from subsurface teams. This means that in some cases, operators don’t know what they’re going to need from vendors, which doesn’t make for a tidy shopping list. If operators don’t know what they need, all that suppliers really have to sell is their ability to deliver on impossibly tight deadlines. A vendor needs to be certain they prove, rather than just claim, that they are a safe bet in an uncertain world.

The Produced Water Society held its second annual conference in Abu Dhabi on November 11th & 12th, drawing an audience from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and North American. Over 150 operators, consultants, and suppliers gathered to discuss strategies for handling the region’s growing volumes of produced water, the increasing importance of waterflood, and technical issues confronted by water specialists. With an average 90% water cut and a slew of E&Ps, Oman appears to be the leading destination for the third meeting.

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