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UpstreamOnline.com: Shell in Brazil leap: Consortium targets solution for two fields inSantos basin

Upstreamonline.com image Malcolm Brinded

Malcolm Brinded: Executive Director Shell EP

By Gareth Chetwynd

A Shell-led consortium has opted for a tension-leg platform solution to develop two heavy oil fields in Brazil’s Santos basin, and regulatory approval for the develoment plan is understood to be close.

Shell declared commerciality on the Atlanta and Oliva fields in December 2006 and was given up to 180 days to present its development plan to Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency (ANP).

“This plan has already been presented and studied and we are now waiting for Shell to respond to some observations that we made. The project is moving along toward approval,” said a source in the ANP’s technical department.

The development plan includes a floating storage and offloading unit, but opts for a TLP solution with full processing capacity using dry completion units.

The choice is highly significant for Brazil as it is the first time that dry completion has emerged as the solution for a major field development in its waters.

Project partners Shell, Chevron and Petrobras have carried out extensive studies before accepting this choice, focusing on the challenges of extracting the heavy 14 degrees API crude at water depths ranging from 1800 to 2000 metres.

At one time a solution involving a tension-leg wellhead platform and floating production, storage and offloading vessel came to the fore, then a horizontal well test carried out in mid-2006 posed as many questions as it provided answers, reviving thoughts of an alternative solution involving an FPSO.

Shell nevertheless settled on a TLP-based development, pointing to overall production capacity of about 100,000 bpd.

The fields hold estimated oil in place of more than 1.6 billion barrels.

The development plan indicated that the final field layout would include between 10 and 15 horizontal wells.

However, there is unlikely to be any rush to market because Shell, for which Malcolm Brinded heads up the E&P unit, is planning to drill and test another appraisal well on the Atlanta field and may yet carry out a similar additional appraisal on Oliva.

It is understood the Atlanta well is only likely to be spudded in the second half of 2009, so invitations to tender on the main project are unlikely before 2010.

“The toughest challenges posed by this project relate to drilling and flow assurance, so attention has focused on the need for a full-time drilling unit on the platform and optimising flow assurance though the vertical sections,” said an industry source with close working experience on the project. Despite these concerns and a focus on slow-moving reservoir issues, sources in Brazil and Houston stressed that Shell has been busy researching potential locations and suppliers for carrying out construction services.

While Shell and Chevron have extensive experience of dry completion projects on field developments such as Captain in the North Sea and numerous examples in the Gulf of Mexico, Petrobras is also moving forward with a landmark project. The Brazilian company is close to finishing the functional specifications for developing the Papa Terra field with a tension-leg wellhead platform and FPSO.

The race to provide Petrobras with a first TLP structure is likely to be led by Modec, Atlantia and Floatec.

It is understood Petrobras is offering an EPCI contract for a large TLWP and FPSO for Papa Terra, with a three-year operational service period.

Plans for Papa Terra, where Chevron is also a partner, point to a TLWP and FPSO system that can produce up to 180,000 barrels per day of 14 to 15 degree API crude, and handle between 300,000 and 400,000 bpd of liquids, with high volume water injection.
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28 March 2008 00:01 GMT  | last updated: 28 March 2008 04:02 GMT

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