Production operations and optimization strategic competencies are critical for effective business performance in operating companies that are transitioning from primary/secondary recovery to tertiary recovery or when the number of field development projects for non-conventional oil, become a significant percentage of their future oil production targets.

This paper presents a practical approach for identification, definition and measurement of ten strategic competencies required to meet requirements of operations and optimization of heavy oil assets. The competency development model uses a fast track on the job learning approach that takes between 6 months to 1 year to reach a minimum level of performance.

The identification of competencies is activity-based considering analog heavy oil fields undergoing improved oil recovery operations. Model is organized into 8 phases: 1) Data review to assess uncertainty, 2) integral reservoir review, 3) integral well review and nodal analysis, 4) identification of opportunities in drainage area, completion, production methods and surface, 5) selection of integrated solutions combining technology options, 6) economic analysis within exploitation plan 7) production optimization project definition, 8) production optimization execution and evaluation. Each phase undergoes activities with relative duration followed by decision gates with relative contribution of disciplines grouped in 10 functions (well productivity, production methods, surface processes, reservoir, geology, well construction and maintenance, integrated automation, health, safety & environment, reliability and activity based project and costing). Ranges of weights in percentages and duration are calibrated using analog fields or typical projects, as input for stochastic modeling to account for uncertainty.

The application of this approach in heavy oil fields in Kuwait, allowed identification of technical competencies classified under 10 functional competency groups under four major categories: Subsurface-reservoir, subsurface-well, surface facilities & production operations and asset integration & planning. These technical competencies were mapped with three scenarios for intensity of work: minimum (low), medium (likely) and maximum (full) to conduct critical activities on annual basis during the heavy oil field life cycle. Worldwide heavy oil analogs provide foundation to validate and calibrate the model, and then used as planning tool. The model allows stochastic modeling of person-hours and cost of work force, including the competency development and assurance, included in Capital and Operational Expenditures as part of the economic model for evaluation of heavy oil optimization opportunities.

The presented approach is a practical tool for mapping required competencies and intensity of work force for more reliable subsurface-surface integrated production operations of heavy oil fields. The phased model allows easier planning and flexibility to conduct exercises with estimates of work force for a range of potential business scenarios.

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