The Shell Global Solutions organisation has included a small waterflood improvement and consultancy team since 2003, tasked with improving the operational performance of the Shell Group1's waterflood operations. Throughout this period structured reviews of waterflood assets and development projects have been carried out in operated and non-operated ventures and for projects where Shell has acted as advisor, across the globe. The actions and learning items that have come out of these reviews have been documented and the resulting database provides a valuable resource.

Some 119 structured reviews have been analysed that cover a variety of projects, from those in development planning where waterflood was under evaluation through to waterfloods that had been in operation for many years. While reviewers have varied over the 12 year period covered, the structure of the reviews has remained remarkably consistent. Reviews are run as structured discussions with a wide cross-section of the asset- or project-team, from geologists to operations staff. The review ‘follows the water’ from source through the treatment facilities, injection well, reservoir and production well and production facilities to disposal or reuse. Action items are triggered during the discussions and evaluated for urgency and impact to aid in prioritization for action.

The actions have been categorized into 18 separate areas, each related to the different parts of the integrated waterflood system. Of these, 3 categories together account for more than one third of the high priority action items. A project's injection philosophy – whether to inject under matrix or fractured injection – triggers the most discussion and action items; moreover this proportion has remained almost constant over the 12 year period studied. Distilled from this data are indications that delayed transfer of technical knowledge may contribute to this, but also that the number of actions reflects a growing level of sophistication in specific areas, such as geomechanics and waterflood-induced fracture behaviour. The other two ‘big actor’ categories; future development options and plans and the operation of surface facilities have also shown persistently high levels of actions being generated over the years, over the full range of project types.

The implications are clear for those involved in managing waterflood performance improvement: Knowledge transfer and the ongoing education of technical staff remains a challenge but must continue to be improved, while integration of operations staff into the effort can bring the improvements in uptime performance and throughput needed to unlock other development opportunities.

The waterflood health-checks and the learnings taken from them make a key contribution to the improvement in injection performance in Shell's waterfloods. Quite apart from an assurance role, these reviews are arguably even more important as an educational and a knowledge management tool. The health-checks closely compliment the organizational changes that have been put in place to enhance operational focus on existing waterfloods and to improve waterflood design in new projects, and which have shown significant results in improving the performance of operating assets.

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