Securing the future of Danish oil production

New ideas and technology is needed to extend the productive lifetime of oil and gas in the North Sea. Denmark is no exception, and this is why the Danish Underground Consortium (DUC) has high expectations for its DKK 1 billion investment in a new research centre. 

There are high hopes that ideas generated at the new research centre at the Technical University of Denmark will lead to new technology, which can help extract a larger potential from Danish North Sea.

100 researchers, 10 years and DKK 1 billion. Just some of the impressive numbers behind the newest research centre, soon to open its doors at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). There are high hopes that the ideas generated here will lead to new technology that can help extract a larger potential from the Danish North Sea.

“The centre is an investment in extending production from the Danish sector of the North Sea. We have already been producing oil for over 40 years, and there is a need for innovation to continue for many more years to come,” says Troels Albrechtsen, Head of Corporate Technology and Projects in Maersk Oil and Chairman in Danish Underground Consortium, Operations Committee.

“If we manage to find new methods which will increase recovery, it will be beneficial to both the industry and the Danish government,” says Troels Albrechtsen.

“Our expectations for the centre are high; otherwise we would not have invested in it. By providing security for the researchers with a long grant period, and close cooperation with the industry, we want to create the best conditions for achieving results that can come into practice. However, we also know that all research is attached to uncertainty,” he says.

Connecting industry and research

An important part of the equation is the director, Bo Cerup-Simonsen, a former DTU academic and career engineer. He previously headed Maersk Maritime Technology, where he most recently worked on the boundary between research and application of technology with one of the world’s largest vessels, Triple-E. His new assignment at the oil research centre is in many ways similar and just as big.

“Researchers and operators in industry normally have very different cultures, languages and mind-sets. One of my tasks will be to help get the two different worlds to collaborate. I believe that if we can get these two groups of extremely resourceful people to work towards the same goal, we can achieve great results,” says Cerup-Simonsen.

Billions at stake
Even though the goal for the centre is simple, it is not easy. Even after 40 years of production there is still a high potential in the Danish North Sea; however, it is complicated and can be expensive to improve production from the mature fields. Today, recovery rates in the Danish sector of the North Sea are anticipated to level off at around 26% of the total volume of oil in place. The recovery level was made possible by Maersk Oil’s innovative approach to horizontal drilling and water floating. If the new oil research centre can find new methods to increase this, it can contribute to billions of kroner of additional revenues. According to figures from the Danish government, each single percentage-point increase in the recovery factor translates to around DKK 70 billion in additional production value.

“The subsurface is complex and therefore innovative thinking is needed to help increase the recovery factor. Every additional barrel of oil that can be recovered from the North Sea creates more tax revenue for Denmark. At the same time, it can help to prolong Denmark's energy supply independence for a longer period than previously anticipated,” says Cerup-Simonsen.

In order to succeed in its goal, the new centre will attract scientists at the highest levels from Denmark and abroad, while also contributing to the education of tomorrow's top oil engineers.