James Buis
Manager and Service Technician
Nalco Champion

Chemical Solutions for Deepwater Production

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 15:49

It was two years ago when Ecolab, interested in investing in the energy services market, decided to purchase Nalco, a company devoted to energy, water, and other natural resource efficiency to improve productivity, and merged it with Champion Technologies to become a provider of specialty chemistry programs and related services for upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas operations. Nalco Champion can now boost greater R&D and engineering capabilities in its quest to provide better chemical solutions to oilfields. Nalco Champion has added 12 technology centers and 950 patents to its parent firm, which has 49 manufacturing facilities in over 160 countries today. The merger was a runaway success for Ecolab and now comprises 27% of its total business portfolio.

Nalco Champion is currently targeting the Mexican offshore and deepwater markets. James Buis, its Mexico Business Manager and Service Technician, explains that these are the areas where the company can provide the best resources to clients. The deepwater sector is relatively new in Mexico and the firm could put its substantial chemical experience to use. Nalco Champion feels it is already well aware of the challenges facing the Mexican deepwater industry, given its work on the US side of the Gulf of Mexico. “Deepwater is challenging for any company and this is no different for PEMEX, particularly when considering it is so new to this area,” says Buis.

Usually, when a new field is discovered, Nalco Champion does not get involved until the engineering phase, once its clients decide how the platforms are going to be built, which equipment will be used, how wells are going to be designed, and what will be required to extract hydrocarbons. At this point, Nalco Champion evaluates the fluid characterization and assesses the obstacles that might be encountered as well as the possible solutions. “It is common for the engineers in our team to predict possible risks and concerns with production and design customized technical strategies,” says Buis. When beginning a project, Nalco Champion implements its Total Chemical Management Program, which encompasses all operations within the FEED stage of the process. As soon as the company obtains information on the characteristics of the reservoir fluids, it performs in-depth laboratory evaluations and modeling schemes. The result is a tailor-made solution, aimed at maximizing efficiency and production.

As a significant provider of chemical solutions for deepwater projects, Nalco Champion has a catalogue that includes products that have become popular with numerous IOCs. “The products used in these harsh environments use Sur-Flo technology that can deliver results even in extreme conditions. For instance, these products can withstand being injected in the umbilical delivery system to protect subsea applications,” explains Buis. The phase separation solutions offered by Nalco Champion can in fact enhance the performance of some upstream operations in Mexico. The merger of the two firms has strengthened the range of demulsification techniques on offer. “We now have more intermediates to choose from. This is an important factor in deepwater and offshore markets as oil needs to be dehydrated and water cleaned up quickly due to the limited space in the production facilities,” explains Buis, adding that disposing of water overboard, or reinjection into the field, must comply with environmental standards and required specifications for discharge.

Integrity management services are one of Nalco Champion’s strongest R&D areas as far as laboratory work is concerned. “We have a multimillion dollar laboratory, just in terms of the space and safety measures, excluding the costs of equipment,” says Buis. “We have a walk-in H2S lab used to test extreme sour conditions. This is a unique feature we offer, enabling us to emulate high-level H2S environments and evaluate our products’ corrosion performance.” Ecolab was partly founded upon corrosion inhibitors, giving the company plenty of experience in this field while the merger of Nalco Champion added a century of combined experience in this area.

Ecolab already has three plants in Mexico and is supported by two state-of-the-art technology centers located in the Houston area. However, Buis is fully aware that local manufacturing offers a cost advantage and Nalco Champion is planning to establish a regional technical facility in Mexico to support its projects. Being a top-tier firm in corrosion prevention technologies, Nalco Champion is aiming to become an active player in the Mexican midstream sector. The company intends to use its experience treating numerous pipelines around the world to protect and extend the lifespan of these same systems in Mexico. Additionally, the merger of the two companies brought along a strong partner in the downstream sector. Nalco has a tenacious technology team specialized in downstream activities. The availability of unique in-house technologies can be used to make custom products for hydrocarbon treatment in Mexican refineries.

“The Mexican market involves just about every type of production challenge that exists on the global level. The boom of shale reserves in the US and the development of its deepwater sector have given Nalco Champion the experience it will need in the Mexican market,” says Buis.