Adrien Cuadron
Director General
View from the Top

E&P Software Editor Programs How to Overcome Challenges

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 11:51

Q: What has been Beicip-Franlab’s principal contribution to the development of the Mexican oil and gas industry?

A: Around ten years ago, PEMEX asked Beicip-Franlab to model the evolution of the production at Cantarell. Our model results were confirmed to be accurate by the subsequent evolution of the production. We have refined the models together with PEMEX’s teams, and helped manage the decline of production in an optimal way. Today, we help PEMEX in other key areas such as deepwater exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, the implementation of EOR strategies in key oil fields or the evaluation of Mexico’s unconventional hydrocarbon potential.

Q: How does Beicip-Franlab combine its expertise as a consultant and E&P software editor to create synergies?

A: Maximizing synergies between both of these activities forms the very basis of our business model. We believe that the market needs innovative technology providers with considerable hands-on experience. For a software editor, there is no better way to develop hands-on experience and understand market needs than by carrying out technical studies for your customers, which is consulting essentially. Both activities therefore work side-by-side and define us as a solutions company. Independent consulting has been Beicip-Franlab’s main focus since its creation in the 1960s. As an exploration consulting company, we help our clients to discover new oil and gas reserves, while on the production side we are reservoir specialists. We help our customers optimally develop production strategies for existing oil and gas fields and make the right decisions in field development with IOR/EOR applications. For this, we use our own software but also other types of commercial software, which gives us a good idea of current technology limitations and market needs. As software editors, we directly benefit from the research and innovation capability of our mother company, IFP Energies Nouvelles (IFPEN) and from our hands-on experience as consultants. Our software contains algorithms and concepts developed by IFPEN R&D teams and benefits from this sound scientific background. Our software for basin modeling, reservoir characterization, and reservoir simulation contains cutting-edge geological and physical concepts, along with advanced mathematics and innovative IT. At the same time, our daily experience as consultants helps us to understand the practical limitations of today’s technology and propose data flow, workflows and functionalities that are both field-proven and supported by the broad expertise of our users. Our consultants develop a daily understanding of how to apply innovative software and help design workflows that perform better than existing solutions. In other words, our consulting activity helps us develop more efficient software and our software activity helps us perform better studies.

Q: How do your software solutions help to improve productivity, cost-efficiency, and safety?

A: We know that flexible workflows are the key to productive and cost-efficient use of software technology. No single software functionality has the capability to provide an answer for complex E&P challenges. It is the multidisciplinary integration of various tasks along customized workflows that is the key to successful exploration or reservoir development. This is why we created OpenFlow, which offers numerous technical functionalities and provides users with a unique capacity to build multidisciplinary flexible workflows. The environment provided by OpenFlow is safe, robust, and fast, while it is wide open to other vendors’ environments. Another key aspect of OpenFlow is the importance given to rigorous uncertainty evaluation. The predictions of exploration and reservoir teams always include some uncertainties. In most cases, the level of uncertainty is vaguely described by some min/mean/max values, which have little more than empirical justifications and can be misleading. In most cases, a lack of time availability does not allow a rigorous evaluation of uncertainty with existing technology. Through OpenFlow, we offer simple but scientifically rigorous ways to quantify uncertainties along the E&P cycle: from play and prospect assessment to field development and production forecasts. This is why we developed the CougarFlow approach, which is based on experimental design theory and allows non-expert users to rigorously evaluate the consequence of uncertain parameters in combination with Beicip-Franlab software and with other vendors’ software. Parallel computing at its best is also, we believe, a distinct advantage of OpenFlow.

Q: Which current applications does the OpenFlow platform have in Mexico?

A: All our software solutions are available through the next-generation OpenFlow platform. OpenFlow applications are widely used in Mexico, within PEMEX E&P but also at IMP. OpenFlow is composed of multiple modules for exploration and production workflows such as TemisFlow, DionisosFlow, FracaFlow, Interwell, EasyTrace, CougarFlow, and PumaFlow.

TemisFlow and DionisosFlow have been used by PEMEX for five years to study the offshore exploration potential and evaluate prospects before drilling. The TemisFlow software is designed to model the processes of oil and gas generation and migration towards the traps along geological eras. It uses seismic and well information and allows the exploration geoscientist to evaluate all the components of a petroleum system. The model predicts the location of possible prospects, jointly with their size, GOR characteristics and their uncertainty. It is a precious tool to guide exploration strategies and reduce risk in exploration, as shown by its recent applications in deep offshore basins of Mexico and Brazil. On the reservoir side, tools such as FracaFlow, CougarFlow, and PumaFlow have been used for more than a decade, including at the Cantarell complex and in RMSO fields.

PumaFlow offers the possibility of simulating production from all types of reservoirs, such as faulted, fractured, vuggy, carbonate or clastic, and all kinds of hydrocarbon fluids. It allows simulating all kind of production mechanisms, including IOR, gas injection, thermal methods, and chemical-based EOR. It offers a smart user interface which facilitates the task of reservoir teams. Its best-in-class parallel computing solvers allow the simulations of large models in unprecedented short time. It helps to rigorously assess the current situation of mature oil fields and select the optimal IOR/EOR development strategies. The benefits are more reliable prediction profiles and thorough evaluation of uncertainties. It is important for users that the same simulation tools can compare all kinds of development options without having to change simulation tools.

FracaFlow is another cutting-edge software tool designed to model natural fracture networks of all scales. It is a superior integration tool that allows the user to combine geological, seismic and dynamic data. FracaFlow is widely used around the world to better study production from naturally fractured oil and gas fields. Combined with PumaFlow, it is a widely recognized technology to develop mature, fractured oil fields. It is currently widely used to study the production of oil fields in the Antonio J. Bermúdez complex. 

Q: How important will EOR technologies be to help increase Mexico’s oil production to 3 million b/d?

A: EOR techniques are considered all around the world as a key area that is expected to gain more and more importance as existing oil fields become more mature. Today, several EOR methods have potential applications in Mexico. This includes gas injection or chemical methods such as the injection of polymers or surfactants. Evaluating the most appropriate EOR techniques applicable in a given oil field requires a rigorous technical and economic evaluation. The geological and production mechanisms prevailing in the oil field need be understood. Potential techniques need be evaluated using screening methods. Then, carefully designed laboratory tests need to be implemented, followed by field pilot tests.

Q: Which are the biggest technical challenges that BeicipFranlab foresees as Mexico seeks to become a shale gas producer?

A: As long as Mexico’s shale gas production potential is not documented, it is difficult to predict the capacity of shale wells to produce under economic conditions. Fortunately, proven shale plays in the US extend all the way to Mexico, and there is a large consensus that Mexico will become a shale producer. This question to be asked is not if Mexico will produce shale oil and gas, but how much money it will cost and how long it will take. As in any frontier area for shale development, a learning curve will be required for Mexico to know where to drill, how to drill and how to frack. Well-documented pilots will help speed up the adaptation and technology can certainly play a crucial role in making this learning phase shorter. In order to reduce risk in this early phase of development, Beicip-Franlab is introducing an innovative solution called TightFlow, which provides a way to simulate production from fractured shale wells. We hope to soon be able to test this technology on Mexican datasets, as we successfully did in the US.

Q: Which opportunities do you see in the deepwater sector in Mexico?

A: Recent discoveries have demonstrated the petroleum potential of Mexican deepwaters. In this segment, exploration wells are very expensive, and minimizing the number of exploration and delineation wells is thus of paramount importance. On the geoscience side, the main challenge is to understand the functioning of the petroleum systems, so that one discovery will help guide the successful drilling of the next exploration well. Reservoir quality but also the conditions of traps, sealing capacity, migration pathways, and leakage risk through cap rock need to be carefully studied. This is exactly what Beicip-Franlab is currently doing in collaboration with PEMEX