This week’s Interview of the Week is with José Arráiz, Country Manager of EXPRO, where we discussed what his company’s technology brings to the field of deepwater well testing and their general experiences working in Mexico.
Q: What is EXPRO’s specific value proposition for the Mexican oil and gas sector?
A: We are a company that specializes in deepwater technologies and our specific area of expertise is on the production side. We can go from extended well tests to clamp-on meters to cableless sensors down the well that transmit data and help the customer better understand the reservoir. Mexico is by definition a deepwater market and our most in-demand product is a subsea safety valve that is fitted to the blowout preventer (BOP) of the wells, allowing the containment of hydrocarbons both in the riser and on the well in case the semi-submersible platforms need to disengage for safety reasons. Well testing is also in demand. Well-testing is a key element in the planning of the production of a reservoir. Without a good well test, it becomes very difficult to design efficient production facilities.
Q: In general, how up-to-date are Mexico’s offshore wells?
A: Mexico is a very old oil-producing country. Of course, there are fields that have been producing for over 60 years, with very old infrastructure. Those mature fields will certainly benefit from newer technologies that can improve the recovery rate of the reservoirs. Mexico also has a new frontier in deepwaters, which demands cutting-edge oil production technologies. Naturally, PEMEX is bringing new players into the market precisely to benefit in this area. So, there is a combination of very old infrastructure and mature fields, and a technologically highly up-to-date new deepwater frontier. These will benefit from using the newest technologies for their development.
Q: What are the principal challenges being faced by mature fields and how can you help your clients face those challenges?
A: Mature fields by definition have partially depleted wells that need intervention; perhaps they need to be reshoed or drilled directionally. Sometimes there are production facilities that lack the required pressure to be able to go into the production line so we have a system called uploading, in which we use a separator and tanks to produce hydrocarbons at lower pressures and then inject them into the production line with a pump and a gas compressor. We also have monitoring equipment. It is very expensive to deploy permanent gauges that do not work. We can deploy cableless sensors with which we can go into wells and regain data regarding pressure and temperature to help the reservoir engineers design better production methods. Another very interesting technology is our clamp-on sonar meter that allows our clients to measure production flows without breaking lines or stopping production. It is probably the only meter in the market that allows the operator to take dynamic measurements of the field while the field is producing without any interference. Again, that data helps the customers make changes in reservoir management and to continue developing the reservoir.
Q: Could you discuss the problem of interconnected fields in the context of the enormous number of blocks that are being licensed in the coming rounds?
A: EXPRO has a very useful technology called CATS. This is a cableless sensor that is deployed below the plug and the cement in drilled wells. The usual practice is to drill one well and abandon it temporarily before drilling the next one in the second phase. We can gather information on those plugged wells using our sensor and allow the operator to see whether there is interconnection between the well that was first drilled and the next well being drilled. That can save a lot of money and generate an immense amount of data for the design of production facilities.
In the case of the blocks that are being sold by the Mexican government, we were approached by the Ministry of Energy regarding a project to determine if there was interconnectivity in a reservoir between two neighboring blocks owned by two different operators. It is very simple to drill a well in the first one and deploy the sensor below the plug and envelope. Then, when another well is drilled in the neighboring block a change in pressure is measured to see if there is a connection between the reservoirs. This is a very effective way to see if a reservoir stretches out over neighboring blocks and avoid conflicts with different operators.
Q: What has been your strategy for finding alliances and partners to work with in Mexico?
A: Mexico is an atypical market in that it is probably the best market for integrated projects. This is because PEMEX historically has always favored one vendor for all the services it required. That has given the upper hand to two big companies: Schlumberger and Halliburton. We have a close alliance with Baker Hughes and have a perfectly complementary match between product portfolios. As a small company, we do not have a full portfolio but we have a very strong presence in the services we offer. We have participated successfully with Baker Hughes in a shallow-waters contract.We have also been collaborating with the IMP for quite some time and we are helping it with a multiphase flow-meter project.