Johannesburg - PetroSA unveiled South Africa’s first geoscience collaboration, visualisation and technology facility on Friday. It will keep the national oil company updated in real time on progress in drilling operations.
The technology updates the drilling progress every 20 seconds, telling the company’s multi-disciplinary team of professionals sitting at its Cape Town head office about the rate of penetration and revealing any discoveries the minute they are found.
With its advanced surface reading capability, the technology shows which areas in the exploration block are more likely to have oil and gas deposits. It also detects any unexpected problems, enabling quick decision-making by the geological and engineering teams to avoid delays in the exploration process.
PetroSA has invested R15 million in building the geoscience collaboration visualisation and technology centre, named Ulwazi.
The facility and its technology will be used by all PetroSA’s upstream asset teams for oil and gas exploration, but in particular, it will play a pivotal role in Project Khwezi, which is an initiative to secure additional gas feedstock to sustain PetroSA’s gas-to-liquids refinery in Mossel Bay. At present the refinery is running at 50 percent of its capacity because of gas shortages.
PetroSA has always had sensors attached behind its drill bits to track its drilling operations. In the past, the sensors would send information only to the drilling floor; the team of upstream professionals could not get feedback in real time.
The new sensors being used are also able to detect possible oil and gas deposits by reading the ground structure.
“The facility doesn’t allow us to see oil and gas but what it does allow us to do is get a lot more confidence in defining the shape and the structures of the sub-surface,” said the company’s acting vice-president for upstream operation, Andrew Dippenaar.
Dippenaar explained that the technology showed the team features in the sub-surface where there was a certain type of rock. They would then know this would be a likely place to drill for hydrocarbons because the structure and form was conducive to the entrapment of oil and gas.
Hydrocarbons, which form oil and gas, are trapped underground in impermeable layers such as clay, which does not allow fluids to move through it.
PetroSA has had software programmes that allowed it to see some of the sub-surface images in 2D, but the collaboration and visualisation centre transforms raw seismic and geological data into 3D views, giving it a more detailed view.
The company said there was a possibility that the technology could be adopted in other industries in the country and even in shale gas exploration.
“This facility has been designed for oil and gas operations. But the technology, the visualisation and 3D technology can be used in any industry. But the software that we use to predict is very focused on oil and gas,” Dippenaar said.
Such technology has been used in other parts of the world since the late 1990s, but this is the first such system in sub-Saharan Africa. PetroSA developed it inhouse.
Energy Minister Ben Martins said the technology facility would help the country in ensuring its independence of energy supply.
“We didn’t have a facility that enabled us to obtain data in real time offshore. In a number of scientific areas, our research ends up in other countries where they refine it and they turn it into beneficiated products. So it is high time that we go the full length in benefiting from our research,” Martins said.
He said with the technology advancement, he expected PetroSA to double what it had been able to achieve thus far. - Business Report