A huge prize in mature fields

Maersk Oil is improving the efficiency of its operations to ensure it gets as much as possible out of mature fields. One example is the Global Producer III in the UK North Sea, where production has more than doubled over the course of a year.

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Operational excellence is key to growing Maersk Oil’s production, and Global Producer III shows how it can be done.

Towards a top 5 North Sea producer

  • Maersk Oil aims to become one of the five biggest producers in the North Sea in the first half of the next decade, from its current ranking as the 9th biggest
  • It will achieve this by combining its existing portfolio, major capital investment – including the Culzean and Johan Sverdrup projects with more efficient operations

The Global Producer III has been riding the waves, storms and ­sunshine of the North Sea for the last eight years. But things have been a little different lately on board the Maersk Oil floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel.

In July 2014, the vessel was producing 16,500 barrels of oil per day. A year later, it was pumping out more than double that amount thanks to a concerted campaign to iron out inefficiencies.

Operational excellence is key to growing our production, and this shows just how it can be done.

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GRETCHEN WATKINS, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER AT MAERSK OIL

The Global Producer III

  • Maersk Oil has been operating the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel, Global Producer III since 2007
  • 60.8 million barrels have been produced since Maersk Oil assumed operatorship
  • It weighs 54,500 metric tonnes and is 217 metres long, located 140 miles north east of Aberdeen and accommodates 105 people
  • There are three operating production fields in the area: Dumbarton, Lochranza and Balloch. Maersk Oil UK owns 100% of all three fields

The success of the Global Producer III team shows how Maersk Oil can generate more value from its existing assets, complementing big projects like Culzean and Johan Sverdrup, and is an important plank in its strategy to become a top five producer in the North Sea, says Chief Operating Officer Gretchen Watkins.

“Operational excellence is key to growing our production, and this shows just how it can be done,” Watkins says.

“This is about getting our house in order in terms of cost and ­earning the right to grow even further. For any operator in the North Sea, a huge prize awaits, and that’s reliably and safely producing the most that we can from our existing operations,” she says.

Fixing the key issues

The improvements at Global Producer III contributed to a 30% growth in Maersk Oil’s production over a year, with a 33% reduction in operating expenditure per barrel produced. In addition, the number of safety incidents has dropped by two thirds since 2009.

Production efficiency is a ratio that compares actual output with the maximum potential production. It fell as low as 43% in 2014 on Global Producer III. The corresponding figure to date this year is well over 70% with a forecast of 85% in 2016. So what has changed?

One of the biggest factors was a change in mindset, bringing together the onshore and offshore teams across asset and function, says offshore installation manager Andy Maddrick. The onshore and offshore teams have also worked to improve maintenance planning, with a view to reducing the number of days the installation is shut down. In 2015, the team has managed to reduce the planned shutdown days by half to 30, in comparison with 2013.

A dedicated team worked so the vessel could have two operating gas compressors, so it can continue producing even if one is out of operation for some reason. Usually, it had only one compressor available. Production growth has also been supported by infill wells, which are drilled between producing wells to enable more
efficient recovery from the reservoir.

“In the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve really gone after the issues that previously made our production performance so unpredictable,” says Maddrick.

Care and attention

The higher volumes are also due to our having maximised the potential of the Balloch reservoir, which is situated in the North Sea, 225 kilometres northeast of Aberdeen. The well drawdown limits were changed and the ability to handle heavier gas was significantly improved, contributing to an increase in available gas
capacity and higher flow rates of wells, which allowed the vessel to unlock more oil, faster than expected.

“We’ve developed a plan that we all trust and that means we’re more confident when pushing for improvement and results,” says Global Producer III operations manager Chris Petrovski. “But we’re not complacent – this is still an installation that needs a lot of care and attention, so we recognise that we’re only as good as our previous day’s production.”

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Production on Global Producer III has more than doubled.

Boosting barrels

Maersk Oil’s Operations Excellence programme is reducing unplanned downtime and increasing production across the portfolio, says COO Gretchen Watkins. Across Maersk Oil, more planned shutdowns have been completed on time in 2015 than ever before.

The Global Producer III team started the process of planning ahead to iron out inefficiencies by focusing on the key issues that had been holding back operations and subsurface delivery, explains Brian Welinder, asset manager for the Quad 15 area of the North Sea, where the vessel is located.

“That means proactively planning ahead, raising the bar and enhancing our wells, reservoirs and facilities, and all the time we’ve been doing this, maintaining and improving our safety mindset and focusing on implanting a strong performance and safety culture,” Welinder says.