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Producing more, producing better

Producing more with enhanced recovery

In order to increase production from each reservoir, particularly mature reservoirs, IFPEN, working alongside Beicip-Franlab and Solvay within the EOR Alliance, is developing Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) solutions adapted to each specific reservoir condition and for any type of EOR process. These solutions provide complete coverage of the chain, from formulation development to field application and monitoring.

In recent years, the EOR Alliance has established partnerships with more than 35 operators on every continent. Despite the challenging economic conditions associated with falling oil prices, 2015 was a productive year, with the launch of new feasibility studies and an agreement for three field pilots.

In order to test the formulations developed for a given field in real conditions, IFPEN operates one of the world’s most cutting-edge laboratories with 18 core flood test systems used to study fluid flows in porous media. Thanks to this robotic equipment, EOR solutions can be developed for the vast majority of oil field typologies.

                               Chemical Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) Laboratory.

Lastly, IFPEN is studying water cycle management in the context of EOR. This research aspect involves investigating surface water treatment solutions, focusing in particular on the compatibility of chemical EOR processes with water and hydrocarbon separation technologies, developing appropriate solutions to facilitate the treatment of water produced and defining the conditions for reinjecting water into the reservoir for the purposes of enhanced recovery. The research is being conducted within the Dolphin JIP. Specific water cycle studies are already available within the integrated EOR Alliance line.

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Offshore production

Representing almost one third of global production by 2030 and half of potential reserves yet to be discovered, offshore oil production is of considerable strategic importance for International Oil Companies (IOC) as they seek to highlight their technological positioning.

The challenges facing the industry in this context are numerous:

  • drilling and producing in ultra-deep environments,
  • transporting fluids over large distances in a low-temperature environment without forming hydrate and paraffin plugs,
  • pumping a mixture of water, oil and gas with highly variable gas contents,
  • separating effluents (gas, oil and water) on the sea bed.

IFPEN supports the sector’s major players in all these areas.

In the field of risers and production lines, IFPEN is developing equipment in partnership with Technip. For example, the company markets a flexible riser comprising composite armors, developed with IFPEN. Its advantages are that it makes the hose lighter and eliminates the corrosion problems linked to metal structures.

Another joint innovation is the development of sheaths made of anti-H2S materials, designed to make equipment more resistant to corrosive fluids. In 2015, Technip began marketing the static version of the hose (hose laid on the seabed) equipped with the anti-H2S sheath. Work is now under way to develop a dynamic version of the hose.

Anti-H2S sheath

In terms of sea drilling equipment, in 2015, IFPEN introduced a new heave compensator concept, designed to improve the accuracy of the apparatus while reducing the quantity of onboard compressed air. A small-scale prototype will be developed in 2016.

In order to be able to operate fields located at depths greater than 3,000 m, IFPEN is working on an improved version of its Clip Riser®, a breech-block type connector system enabling rapid and secure connection of drilling risers.

This new generation i-Clip will begin with a version whereby the current connector can be inspected thanks to a removable collar. Subsequently, it should make it possible to achieve unrivaled levels of performance: depths of between 3,600 and 4,500 m and pressures of up to 140 MPa can now be considered. Current research is aimed at reducing riser costs by as much as 20%, and facilitating maintenance, while maintaining connection speed: a development leading to a decrease in the immobilization time of marine drilling installations, and hence operating costs.

                                Clip Riser®, connector system for drilling risers.

Effluent pumping represents another research avenue for IFPEN, which initiated the development of the Poseidon multiphase pump technology, marketed for submarine applications by OneSubsea.

The Poseidon pump enables the simultaneous transport of liquid and gas effluents, with a gas content of up to 90%. The dimensioning and performance prediction of these pumps are carried out using design software developed in partnership with OneSubsea. In addition, IFPEN is working to enhance existing blades and define a new generation hydraulic pumping system, with a view to improving pump performance.

Poseidon multiphase pump, developed by IFPEN and marketed by OneSubsea. (by courtesy of OneSubsea).

Flow assurance research is also being conducted by IFPEN in partnership with Technip. The first test of its type anywhere in the world had already been carried out in 2013 with the creation followed by the dissociation of a gas hydrate plug weighing nearly 200 kg in IFPEN’s testing facilities in Lyon. In 2015, a new series of hydrate formation and dissociation tests was conducted on a prototype of Technip’s heated pipe-in-pipe technology. The aim of the tests was to define and validate heating operating procedures to safely tackle hydrate plugging.  

Lastly, in the area of production monitoring, a hydrate formation risk detection sensor is currently being developed.


Gas sweetening

According to the IEA’s 2015 World Energy Outlook, gas consumption is set to rise at a sustained pace (+1.4%/year) so that by the year 2040 it will make up 24% of the energy mix, roughly equivalent to coal and oil. Yet 40% of the world’s natural gas reserves are sour gases. In order to be produced and used, these reserves have to meet strict specifications governing sour compounds (CO2 and sulfur compounds) which thus have to undergo the appropriate sweetening treatments.

IFPEN’s solutions in this field fall into three segments:

  • the design of treatment processes based on chemical absorption,
  • the development of packings for absorption and regeneration columns (distributors and contactors),
  • and solvent development.

Initially developed for natural gas treatment, IFPEN’s technological offer was gradually extended in 2015:

  • to cover biogas treatment;
  • and the optimization of distillation processes.

Concerning equipment, IFPEN developed the IFPACC™ contactor which, in capacity terms, delivers 10% performance gains compared to the best industry standard, while retaining the equivalent transfer properties. As a result, operating costs are reduced significantly. In 2015, this packing, marketed by Prosernat, secured its first industrial reference in Argentina.

                                         1 m packing of  the IFPACC™ contactor.

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In the same field, IFPEN, working in partnership with Safran, developed the IS4D, a new contactor, the structure of which delivers a 30 to 50% improvement in effective area - for an equivalent capacity -, leading to radically enhanced transfer properties compared to the reference and paving the way for significant investment reductions thanks to optimization of the size of the absorption columns. This contactor is designed for use in the field of distillation, where it delivers greater capacity for an equivalent height.

In 2015, IFPEN’s researchers made progress on the validation of a new liquid distributor, also for use in the offshore environment. This technology should lead to considerable gains in terms of column height, reducing investment costs and minimizing deterioration in absorption performance due to the effects of swell on transfers between the solvent and gas to be treated.

Lastly, in partnership with Total and Prosernat, IFPEN pursued its research on the performance modeling of packings used in offshore conditions.

IFPEN has also identified a new solvent that can be formulated with additives with properties that improve its performance for applications such as the total sweetening of CO2 and sulfur compounds, and selective sweetening with respect to sulfur ingredients. Injection rate gains of up to 20% are anticipated. In 2015, the good properties of the solvent in terms of degradation, wetting and corrosion were verified to determine its operational character.

Finally in 2015, the Biomet demonstrator was launched with the support of ADEME within the context of the French Investments for the Future program. It concerns the purification of biogas from biomethane fermentation, with a view to reinjection into the network. This demonstrator, to which IFPEN contributed its design expertise as well as its new solvent, is set up at the Terragr’Eau methanization site in Évian.

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Researchers work for the EOR Alliance