BP Egypt has set up a UK-based multidisciplinary team, the Geohazard Assessment Team (GAT), to manage the shallow geological and geotechnical risks to its portfolio of deepwater projects in the West Nile Delta (WND) and to develop plans to mitigate these risks. The GAT was established at the start of exploration and has since been working with project teams in Cairo to optimise geophysical surveys and geotechnical investigations and to reduce whole-life project geohazard risks through avoidance and geohazard-resistant engineering. The WND experiences confirm the benefits of using an integrated experienced team to carry out geohazard risk assessments and of starting the work early in project development. The GAT approach is also providing a sustainable team of specialists that could help BP manage geohazards on other projects at a time of industry skills shortages.
The search for offshore oil and gas in remote deepwater regions poses new technical challenges for the design and installation of wells and facilities1. The shallow subsurface processes and conditions in these areas are complex and poorly understood, and the geological hazards are often more widespread and much larger than encountered onshore. Such conditions can pose risks and constraints for hydrocarbon exploration and development, and result in significant construction and operational problems if not properly investigated, assessed and managed. The West Nile Delta (WND) in Egypt is one such geohazard-prone area that has been subjected to cycles of rapid sedimentation, erosion and episodic submarine slide activity for over 250 000 years. The present-day seabed is an irregular patchwork of steep scarps, fluid expulsion features, deeply incised submarine canyons with repeated bank collapses and potentially active faults and slides.
BP Egypt (BP) and its equity partners RWE Dea and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) have embarked on an ambitious programme of subsea natural gas developments in their WND deepwater concessions. The location and geomorphological setting of the area presently under consideration for development is shown in Figure 1. The possible implications of geohazards and variable soil conditions for wells and facilities in this area was recognised at the outset, and plans to investigate and manage the associated risks were developed during early exploration.
This paper summarises the present-day geotechnical engineering and geohazard challenges faced by the offshore industry and specifically by BP in the WND, and describes how BP is managing these issues systematically using a dedicated multidisciplinary team of geo-specialists and engineers called the Geohazard Assessment Team (GAT). The paper focuses more on the management process than the technical execution of the work. Specifically, it concentrates on the rationale and strategy being adopted to ensure that
the work is fully integrated, peer reviewed and benchmarked;
the geotechnical engineering is cost effective and fit-for-purpose; and
the geotechnical and geohazard risks are adequately accounted for throughout the project life cycle ? from exploration to field abandonment. Further details of the work being performed by the WND GAT, and the benefits of the approach are given the companion paper in this volume by Moore et al.2