2024Drilling Rigs & AutomationFeaturesJanuary/FebruarySafety and ESG

Petrobras relying on innovation, close supplier collaboration to keep cost escalation in check

Safety and sustainability are also seen as critical priorities as the NOC embraces new well control, emissions reduction technologies

By Linda Hsieh, Editor and Publisher

Carlos José do Nascimento Travassos is Executive Officer for Engineering, Technology and Innovation at Petrobras.

From your role at Petrobras, what do you see as the biggest near-term challenges for the drilling industry?

In the short term, we are faced with the challenge of successfully executing our entire planned well campaign, given the significant number of projects that need to be implemented in the upcoming years. Looking ahead to the medium term, it is crucial for us to ensure the economic feasibility of these projects, taking into account the escalating prices and the high demand from the industry.

What impacts has Petrobras seen from global inflation or supply chain bottlenecks on its drilling campaigns?

The significant impacts are driven by the escalating prices, resulting from the limited availability of rigs in the market and the overall supply chain constraints.

Consequently, we have been proactively addressing these challenges through innovation, effective performance management, and close collaboration with our suppliers, with a particular focus on strategic planning.

Where is Petrobras looking for cost reductions?

Innovation is key. We have several examples to highlight, including optimized open-hole well configurations, Drill Through wellhead systems and new bit technologies. These advancements are part of our innovation portfolio, which aims to increase reliability. This will result in higher well productivity, as well as cost and emissions reductions, while maintaining or improving operational safety and integrity.

What challenges has Petrobras seen with rig start-up operations in Brazil? Is there closer collaboration with rig contractors to ensure the startup process is smooth?

Current startup processes have presented several challenges, such as lack of trained personnel, supplier difficulties – manpower and inventory – and underestimation of the challenges related to heating up a cold-stacked rig. To overcome this challenge, we are working closely with drilling contractors from contract signing through mobilization and up to the campaign start, promoting the exchange of lessons learned and careful planning.

Petrobras is starting up several rigs for operation in 2024. What is being done to make sure that, on the operator side, you will be ready?

Immediately after the contract is signed, a rig acceptance and start-up group is formed. In this group, all relevant stakeholders are brought together toward the overall goal of having the unit operating safely ASAP. During this phase, discussions and actions related to equipment preparation and readiness, inspections and legal and regulatory requirements take place.

Considering Petrobras did not get the environmental license to drill in the Brazilian Equatorial area, what are Petrobras’ plans to get this authorization?

The environmental licensing process for the Equatorial Margin is proceeding as expected, with the responsible authorities posing relevant questions about our operations and our team providing clear responses to address them. This exchange is a normal part of the process.

The good news is that we have successfully obtained the environmental license to initiate drilling activities in the Potiguar Basin, which is also located in the Equatorial Margin. The drilling operations in the Potiguar Basin began in December 2023. Additionally, we are confident in our progress toward obtaining the environmental license to drill wells in other basins of the Equatorial Margin, such as the one located in the Amapá coast.

What upgrades would you like to see drilling contractors make on their drilling rigs? What equipment or technologies would make your drilling operations easier or better?

It is common for companies to perform market analysis, projections and prospective evaluations.

When it comes to technological aspects, there is no doubt that measures to enhance efficiency and safety must be consistently implemented. Notable advancements include emissions reduction technologies, improved BOP shearing capacity, riserless (open sea) operations, robotics and intelligent rig equipment.

How is Petrobras using automation/digital technologies? Can you talk about any projects where they have demonstrated value?

Digitalization has been a major transformational driver toward higher efficiency and safer operations, with widespread adoption throughout the organization, both in terms of development and user adoption.

One notable innovation is the digital twin for real-time well integrity monitoring (WISLIVE), which has been developed through partnerships between the company and universities. WISLIVE has significantly contributed to improving safety during operation and production, effectively preventing unforeseen integrity issues that could potentially result in production interruptions. Currently, all pre-salt wells are under continuous monitoring with WISLIVE.

Furthermore, we can also highlight the POÇOWEB platform, which enables faster and standardized design conception and efficient management of ANP (Brazilian National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels) documents. By automating workflows and integrating specialized tools, POÇOWEB improves agility and efficiency in these processes.

Are there specific areas of well construction where you think innovation is most urgently needed?

Safety, safety and safety.

Safety is more than important. Embracing the possibilities that technology can offer in this field is the way forward. We must leverage technology to minimize risk exposure, employ artificial intelligence for making complex and reliable decisions, and implement digital monitoring and remote operations, all with the aim of enhancing reliability, integrity and safety.

Regarding BOP technologies, Petrobras is leading the market with technical specifications that enhance the equipment’s shearing capabilities. Additionally, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a rapidly increasing demand in our industry, and Petrobras is also fostering the market by offering incentives for reducing diesel consumption in new rig contracts.

Our long-term vision also comprises some disruptive concepts, such as reel casing and drilling operations that involve alternative rock removal and flexible casing.

What do you see as the biggest challenges and technology gaps for well completions today?

One of the key challenges is to enhance reliability, which in turn leads to improved safety and productivity in production systems. This can be propelled through the development of technologies such as electrification and continuous monitoring.

Petrobras is transitioning toward all-electric systems, incorporating intelligent completion valves and subsurface safety valves to enhance productivity and reliability in full field developments.

Furthermore, continuous monitoring, such as through fiber optics, has the potential to optimize reservoir management.

We know that drilling rigs usually make up a rather small percentage of an E&P’s total emissions. Are drilling rigs a key part of Petrobras’ emissions reduction efforts? What would you like to see drilling contractors do to assist with your efforts?

We are facing a time where any and every reduction is necessary, and it is up to all of us to take all possible actions to decrease emissions. Regardless of the scale, every reduction is valuable.

In this way, we have been actively promoting the engagement of drilling contractors in developing innovative technologies to reduce diesel consumption, incentivizing them through contract incentives. We firmly believe that collaboration is the most effective path to progress.

How do you view the importance of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) efforts in the energy transition?

The energy transition process is a movement that does not take place homogeneously. In reality, we could talk about energy transitions, which are defined from national solutions that respect the history, capabilities and resources of each country.

The need for differentiation in the forms of transition and the time in which it will take place is especially true when we think about a fair transition. This requires balancing a transformation of energy systems toward low-carbon technologies, at the lowest possible cost, and expanding the population with access to energy.

Thus, there are several pathways for the energy transition, and I see CCUS as one of them. The energy transition requires significant efforts from countries and companies, and CCUS is part of those efforts. Other measures must be taken along this path. Each company must assess its portfolio to operate in a safer, more efficient and environmentally responsible manner.

We consider CCUS as a critical enabler to meet the government’s and private sector’s commitment to net-zero targets – CCUS requires collaboration among government, industry and the public.

The Petrobras CCUS program, which is implemented in the pre-salt fields, was considered in 2021 and 2022 as the largest in the world in operation and is also the pioneer in ultra-deepwaters. Based on the lessons learned, new studies are being designed to enable cost reduction and expand the frontiers of CCUS application.

It’s clear that Petrobras expects to reduce emissions in its projects and is investing in technologies and initiatives for this purpose. Are we only talking about new fields or is there also the perspective of emission reduction in revitalization projects?

We are talking about all projects. Revitalization projects are a great example of the energy trilemma: more production, less emissions and lower costs. One highlight is the Marlim field’s revitalization, featuring the replacement of nine platforms with two new FPSOs, which started production in May and August 2023 and present a combined 150,000 BPD oil production capacity and a 560,000 BPD liquids-processing capacity.

Both new FPSOs feature technologies to reduce emissions, such as high-efficiency burners, nitrogen assistance, cogeneration and low fugitive emissions valves. Additionally, new well construction techniques and designs are being applied, whereby fewer sections are drilled and less tripping is required, reducing construction time and, thus, contributing to lower emissions while maintaining safety and integrity.

Furthermore, the Marlim revitalization also includes the decommissioning of nine platforms following the green decommissioning model. Under that model, the focus is on generating value and promoting a circular economy, safety and respect for people and the environment, aligned with the best ESG practices in the global industry. It also involves the abandonment of 90 wells and 1,200 km of pipelines, bringing improvements in efficiency and reliability.

As a result of the reduction in the number of platforms in operation in both fields and the implementation of new technologies, there will be a 55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per year from stationary production units. DC

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