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Tech-led Well Optimization Fattens Margins in Meager Times

Horacio Ferreira - Surpetrol
President and CEO


Peter Appleby By Peter Appleby | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Wed, 04/22/2020 - 17:13

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Q: Will the oil price collapse, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, cause operators to stick to tried and tested technologies, rather than move to new technologies that require investment?

A: The recent oil price collapse and complexity around the COVID-19 pandemic has and will certainly lead to challenges to the introduction of new technologies. However, technologies with a value proposition in production optimization and field management are even more important today than before. COVID-19 is changing our world and generating a unique challenge to the oil industry due to unbalance between supply and demand as a result companies must have to look into technologies to become more efficient, effective and competitive in producing oil & gas. 

In Mexico, the majority of oil & gas is coming from mature fields with a critical declining reservoir production rate. The new PEMEX administration has refocused investments and we have seen a surge in field activities and operations with the goal of reverting the country production trend that today is fundamental to overcome challenges that the COVID-19 will generate to the economy in Mexico.

Surpetrol’s well management technologies in production optimization and specifically our team of well testing with state-of-the-art, multiphase meters is providing services to PEMEX Exploración y Producción (PEP) and implementing data analytics and testing that are gathering value information of the wells so the production and reservoir engineers from PEP can act and take appropriate control and actions on producing wells.


Q: What is Surpetrol’s involvement at Cantarell and how do its technologies support PEMEX?

A:  Cantarell is a mature field and is also one of the world’s largest discoveries. At Cantarell, Surpetrol is focusing on the basics. By this, I mean that we are helping PEMEX by providing state-of-the-art technology to precisely, practically, and economically gather production information that is fundamental to running basic engineering. This means, among other things, testing the productivity of the wells. The focus is to test and understand each well so appropriate action can be taken. The Cantarell reservoir’s decline required the implementation of engineering procedures. Without being able to regularly measure (testing) the productivity of each well, operators could not determine the right actions to take to manage and improve productivity.

We are testing around 80 percent of the wells in production at Cantarell. We have provided real-time data to PEMEX’s engineering centers so teams can run basic engineering evaluations. With that, PEMEX has been able to take actions to manage and improve productivity across the wells and cut in half the nominal declining rate of the field.


Q: Surpetrol considers itself a type of “well doctor” that “diagnoses sickness and prescribes medication.” What have been the most common diagnoses and prescriptions?

A: The pillar is testing and the main diagnoses have been that the wells required attention on their optimization processes. By gathering information, we have been able to draw a picture that showed if PEMEX’s strategy for the wells has been effective or efficient. Without that information, there could be no starting point for any type of artificial lift or well stimulation.

For example, for some of the wells, the company was injecting gas. But this amount was not the specific amount required, nor was it being injected at the right location to lift the well’s production. Yet these details are fundamental to the success of any reservoir. And Cantarell’s potential is high. If we run with the medical theme, we would not say that Cantarell required life support but just some basic treatments to improve its health, or production. The lack of attention was creating problems and now, by having a deeper understanding of each well, PEMEX can operate in more efficiently.


Q: Does Surpetrol play a role in changing PEMEX’s use of technology for fundamental improvements in the pursuit of increased production?

A: Yes, Surpetrol has played an important role in the implementation of technology for production optimization and especially with multiphase meter testing where we have focused in offering a solution rather that just a product or tool. Surpetrol has conducted more than 250,000 operations with multiphase meters and has over 20 years of experience in the use of this technology that allows us to properly support our clients with the implementation of these meters. That is certainly our role and for operators across the industry, including PEMEX. In general, the industry is conservative in its use of new technologies, but PEMEX is ahead of companies in other countries in the implementation of multiphase meters for well production optimization and reservoir management. But our role is also representing the responsibility that the industry’s service companies must have with clients. The reality is that we are all facing a very challenging moment. We are committed to providing value to the industry.


Q: How does Surpetrol measure the value it provides clients?

A: Our value is in the extra production we attain for clients. This means extra barrels at no extra cost, which means extra money.  Clients win then Surpetrol wins.  In that sense, our value is easily measured. Our unofficial slogan is that with Surpetrol, well testing is an investment not a cost.

In most countries, agencies of national hydrocarbon have implemented a regulation that requires all companies to test their wells a minimum of once a month. This had not been done sufficiently in the past, but now, by introducing multiphase meters as a new technology for well testing and properly support our clients to take full advantage of data analytics, the benefits are evident for all parties.

Every day we sit with PEMEX’s teams to review the information we have received from well sites and later decide upon the appropriate measures. This is a dynamic conversation between us. Once we decide upon a course, we watch the well production. The follow-up meetings tend to center around well status and optimization actions aiming extra barrels but under an optimal reservoir management process. 


Q: Where do the greatest opportunities lie for Surpetrol in Mexico’s energy strategy?

A: The greatest opportunity for Surpetrol in Mexico’s energy strategy lies on the value that we are unfolding in the production optimization process based on data analytics with multiphase meters.   Our services offer enormous value in mature fields, but we also play a large part in new fields and the development of new wells. The application and implementation of our technologies is different in each environment, but the utility remains.

The adoption of our technology was stable within PEMEX before the announcement of the administration’s energy strategy, but its opportunities to use the analytics and artificial intelligence from our technology is now growing. This is a development that we have been working toward for the last two years, by putting investment and research time into creating software and mathematical models that facilitate to a greater extent the use and application of the information we collect. Now, based on knowing the problems that PEMEX will have, we can make targeted recommendations for the additional technologies to be applied. These may not need to be new, as in the case with the progressive cavity pumps (PCP) that can be aptly used on Mexico’s fields with heavy oil.

In addition, multiphase meters have great potential in unconventional wells, and this is something we are working on both in Mexico and in the US.   Unconventional producers in the US have been evaluating the technology but struggling with the implementation of it.  With unconventional reservoirs, understanding which multiphase technologies are best suited to each well or producing phase of a well is critical because production trends in unconventional wells are unique and are all about optimization. They must be extremely effective to be viable, and more so in the current market. If there is no optimization, the numbers will not add up. Surpetrol is proving technical support and solutions for the implementation of the technology in unconventional wells.

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