The Future of Shelf Plays for Midsized and Independent Operators
- Earl Broussard (Argus Subsea)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 18 - 19
- 2011. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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For several years, medium and large operators have focused on pushing the technological boundaries in deepwater development, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the recent Macondo incident in the Gulf and the subsequent drilling moratorium caused some introspection for these operators. It has given rise to questions such as, “Am I risking the company by pushing the deepwater envelope?” and “What if I have a major spill or blowout?”
Today, independent and medium-sized operators are concerned about the commercial risks of deepwater drilling, but they are equally concerned about the commercial risk of operations outside the United States. The solution for many is refocus back to the shelf.
For many years, the service industry focused many of its resources and development efforts on deepwater and high-pressure technologies, leaving the industry underserved in terms of hardware and technology availability for shallow water jack-up shelf activities. Over the decades, technology applicable for shallow water use has taken a back seat commercially. With multinational manufacturers focused globally on large deepwater projects, often these small shelf fields have not received the technology attention necessary to bring a commercial small development to market.
Developing Marginal Fields
In the past few years, the industry has begun to revisit the technology requirements for marginal field development. With new technology, many marginal shallow water reserves that were once overlooked because they were uneconomic to exploit at the time now appear more attractive. However, the game needs to change. New technology will need to be coupled with fast-track development as the hallmark. The commercial aspects with risk avoidance will become the protocol for these marginal fields.
When evaluating the viability of these projects, oilfield companies will be driven by three critical metrics: risk, project cash requirements, and net present value (NPV) calculations. In simple terms, they authorize the project based on its risk assessment, costs, and on the revenue stream and schedule for first oil or gas.
Integrated and non-integrated oil and gas companies work from project profitability models involving NPV modeling. Execution of these basic metrics is essential to project profitability and funding. Keeping profit growth moving positively allows access to future capital. This is the model for large and small oil and gas companies alike. This principle drives all major oil and gas companies to opt for larger reserves and pass over smaller fields—and it creates a niche for non-integrated companies that are interested in capitalizing on smaller fields with less risk of development.
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