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Chemical Solutions for Deepwater Production

James Buis - Nalco Champion
District Manager Mexico
Home > Oil & Gas > View from the Top

Chemical Solutions for Deepwater Production

Virgil Little - Nalco Champion
orporate Scientist
Virgil Little


Wed, 01/21/2015 - 23:29

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Q: Which of your oilfield chemical solutions have truly made a difference for your clients in the last year?

JB: Our clients want us to keep cost-effectiveness in mind. They are making technically conscious decisions which will allow them to increase production and revenue, while looking into chemical options that require lower doses or are cheaper. Customers are also asking us for monitoring solutions to make sure the programs we have in place are covering their asset’s needs. They want to have control over the amount of chemical product being used in a field in order to avoid overapplication and to reduce costs. We usually provide such options but we are now being required to report more information than normal. In the North Region, we have optimized our demulsifier programs while keeping our overall costs down by introducing new technologies. We are working on several projects in the South Region revolving around cost-effective, advanced technology products like scale inhibitors and asphaltene inhibitors.

Q: What are the main technical challenges that you can help operators to overcome in deepwater processes?

JB: In the first place, hydrate inhibitors are one of our strong suits. Hydrates are bad news when gas is being produced offshore, so we provide hydrate inhibitors that prevent millions of dollars in capital expenditure from being invested in equipment and other chemicals to treat the equipment. We offer a chemical product package that is directly injected and removes the need to spend money on protecting the equipment. Several of our international customers deem our product to be the best in its class, as it produces great water quality and superior hydrate protection. It also means it has been tested in our clients’ labs, our labs, and in third party labs. We are constantly coming up with new hydrates. We are also offering flow assurance and have experience in this area in West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico. Asphaltene inhibition is important with Mexican crude types as they are heavy and mixed with lighter crude oil, making oil compatibility an issue  for flow assurance. Nalco Champion has new asphaltene inhibitors which are essential in differentiating the way we can help our customers achieve their productivity goals. These are the two main segments that we are focusing on, although we are also looking at flow management scale inhibitors that get into deeper and hotter areas. Developing products that work in environments that are extremely hot and highly pressurized is challenging, but we have products developed for such specific circumstances. We are really excited about the deepwater segment because we feel we have the technological dominance to secure that segment.

Q: Has Nalco Champion developed products for specific challenges in Mexico that later became useful worldwide?

VL: Mexico is different from what we see in most of the world. The conditions are much more severe here. Mexico has a lot of heavy crude oil with API gravity levels ranging from 9-12° with an average ambient temperature in most places, whereas the rest of the world uses heat from changes in different processes to support the treatment. Therefore, we have developed intermediaries that are functioning really well at treating areas with lower temperatures and low gravity crude oil challenges. Next, there are cases where operators bring completely different crude oils to one dehydration plant. We have developed a single demulsifier, instead of four or five, which treats the entire production stream and certainly saves money on inventory and pumps. This product really feels to us like a game changer in this specific area. Finally, our other strengths are shale chemicals, paraffin inhibitors, and dispersants. Paraffin seems to be the biggest problem in shale oil, so, when Mexico starts developing these fields, we will have many products developed and ready to go.

Q: What are the challenges you have to overcome to convince your clients that your chemical solutions work better than their traditional solutions?

JB: Our solutions are fully beneficial when we are involved in projects upfront. That way, we can offer advice on the equipment that is actually necessary and support the decision-making process. For example, companies often want to use ethylene glycol regeneration units as hydrate inhibitors, while our experience has shown us that these can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. In certain cases, the use of hydrate inhibitors does not make sense when considering the life of the field. However, if we are included upfront and treated as partners, we can help prevent the hardships of purchasing unnecessary equipment and later having to change toward a different chemical program. Being involved early also allows us to characterize the fluids and the system, understand how to work with the infrastructure that the client is planning to build, and advise on different criteria, like flow management and asset integrity.

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