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Deepwater O&G Prospects And Development Constraints With Solutions

Deepwater oil and gas exploration and development in India holds significant potential for the country's energy sector. As onshore reserves are depleted and demand for energy continues to rise, companies are increasingly turning to offshore operations to meet this demand. In recent years, India has made significant investments in Deepwater exploration, with several major discoveries being made in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

In this essay, we will discuss the prospects of Deepwater oil and gas in India in 2023, including the current state of the industry, the potential for further discoveries, and the challenges and constraints facing the sector.

As of 2023, India is one of the largest consumers of oil and gas in the world, with a growing demand for energy to support its expanding economy. To meet this demand, the country has made significant investments in Deepwater exploration and development, with several major discoveries being made in recent years.

The most notable of these discoveries is the KG-D6 block in the Bay of Bengal, which is estimated to contain more than 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This discovery has helped to reduce India's dependence on imported energy and has contributed to the country's economic growth.

Despite these successes, the prospects of Deepwater oil and gas in India in 2023 are not without challenges and constraints. One of the main challenges is the high cost of offshore exploration and development. Drilling in Deepwater environments is expensive due to the specialized equipment and technologies required, as well as the increased risks involved. This can make it difficult for companies to justify the investment in these operations, especially in the face of volatile energy prices.

Another significant constraint is the regulatory environment in India, which can be complex and uncertain. Companies must navigate a range of regulations and approvals in order to obtain the necessary permits for offshore operations, which can be time-consuming and costly. In addition, there are also concerns about the potential environmental impact of Deepwater exploration and development, including the risk of oil spills and the release of pollutants.

Despite the challenges and constraints facing the Deepwater oil and gas sector in India, the prospects for the industry in 2023 are largely positive. With a growing demand for energy and several major discoveries already made, there is significant potential for further exploration and development in the country. In addition, the Indian government's commitment to supporting the industry, as well as the adoption of advanced technologies and techniques, will help to ensure that offshore operations are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Description Cum Analysis:
As oil prices rise and energy demand in Europe grows due to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, global oil companies are investing billions of dollars in offshore drilling projects, including those located in the icy waters off the Atlantic coast of Canada. These offshore projects, although more costly to establish than onshore shale operations, have the potential to be more profitable in the long term because they can generate returns at lower price points compared to other forms of production, according to consulting firm Rystad Energy.

Despite the push for global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to combat climate change, offshore drilling projects, which have the potential to produce oil for decades, are being pursued by oil companies. These projects, although producing fewer emissions per barrel compared to other forms of oil production due to their large scale, could still contribute to increased global air pollution and pose a financial risk. Environmental groups also caution that offshore spills can be difficult to remediate.

There are several key factors and potential uncertainties that could affect the medium-term forecast for offshore drilling projects. They are:
  1. Demand:
    After experiencing a 4% decrease in 2020, it is anticipated that demand for natural gas will recover in 2021 as consumption returns to pre-crisis levels in established markets and emerging markets see a boost from economic recovery and lower natural gas prices. However, the impact of the 2020 crisis is expected to have longer-term effects on the growth potential for natural gas, resulting in approximately 75 billion cubic meters of lost growth over the forecast period of 2019 to 2025, with an average annual growth rate of 1.5% during this time. The Asia Pacific region is expected to account for over half of the increase in global natural gas consumption in the coming years, primarily due to growth in China and India.
  2. Supply:
    Over the next five years, natural gas production is expected to increase in nearly all regions, with North America and the Middle East responsible for half of the net increase in supply. The US shale industry, which has been a major contributor to global gas production growth in recent years, is particularly vulnerable to the current crisis and is expected to see a 50% year-over year decline in upstream spending on shale tight oil and gas in 2020, according to the IEA's World Energy Investment 2020 report.

    The industry's ability to bounce back after the crisis will be crucial for meeting the additional gas production needed in the US market to replace declining conventional production and supply additional liquified natural gas (LNG) export capacity that is under development. Russia, another major contributor to incremental supply, is largely dependent on export-oriented projects for its gas production, and while most of the additional production is expected in the second half of the forecast period, short-term uncertainty about demand growth could impact its development schedule.
  3. Trade:
    Liquefied natural gas (LNG) continues to be the main source of international gas trade, with the construction of new liquefaction projects in North America, Africa, and Russia from 2018 to 2019 adding to export capacity. However, slower growth in gas demand after 2020 leads to an excess of liquefaction capacity compared to the increase in LNG imports through 2025, reducing the risk of a tight LNG market during this time. China, India, and other emerging Asian markets are expected to see the greatest growth in future LNG imports, while Europe is anticipated to return to pre-2019 levels after experiencing record highs as a balancing market. Additional pipeline trade is largely driven by the expansion of export infrastructure from Eurasia, including the TANAP and TAP pipelines to Europe and the Power of Siberia pipeline to China.
  4. Other predictions:
    The distinction between fossil and renewable energy sources is expected to become less clear in the future, as technologies such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen production from natural gas become more widespread. These technologies allow fossil fuels to be used in a more sustainable manner, by capturing and storing the carbon emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. Additionally, the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power is expected to increase, leading to a greater integration of fossil and renewable energy sources in the overall energy mix.

"Smart oilfield" technology refers to the use of advanced digital technologies to improve the efficiency and productivity of oil and gas operations. These technologies can include sensors, automation, data analytics, and other digital tools that can help optimize drilling, well completion, and production processes. The goal of "smart oilfield" technology is to reduce costs, increase production, and minimize the environmental impact of oil and gas operations.

The process of decommissioning oil rigs, or the process of removing and disposing of an offshore oil platform at the end of its life, can be a challenging and costly process. There are a number of environmental and logistical considerations to take into account, including the removal of any remaining oil and other hazardous materials, and the environmental impact of the decommissioning process.

There are also often significant financial costs associated with decommissioning, as the process can be complex and time-consuming. As a result, the decommissioning of oil rigs has become an increasingly important issue in the oil and gas industry, and companies are looking for ways to streamline and optimize the process in order to minimize costs and minimize the impact on the environment.

The adoption of digital technology in the offshore oil and gas industry has the potential to significantly improve efficiency and productivity, as well as enhance safety and environmental performance. This shift towards digital transformation, often referred to as the "smart oilfield," involves the integration of digital technologies such as sensors, data analytics, and automation into various aspects of offshore operations. These technologies can be used to optimize production and maintenance, reduce unplanned downtime, and improve decision-making through data-driven insights.

Development Constraints:
There are several challenges facing Deepwater basins and the Arctic region in terms of oil and gas exploration and production. These include increasing water depth, remote locations, low reservoir pressure, difficulties in imaging, and smaller recoverable volumes as basins mature.

The Arctic also presents challenges such as harsh weather conditions, hard seafloors, and the need for specialized emergency response and winterized facilities. In order to address these challenges, there is a need for new and improved solutions and technologies in areas such as artificial lift, floating systems, and emergency response.
  1. Unfavourable environment:
    There are challenges and technical difficulties in developing systems for harsh environments in Deepwater, including issues with mooring line failures and hull cracking for floating production, storage, and offloading vessels. There is a need for improved design tools for response-based design conditions for weathervaning FPSOs, as well as better approaches for modelling wave and green water impact on deck structures.

    There is also a need for improved methods for evaluating and designing mooring systems and riser systems for Deepwater harsh environments, including the effects of ice. In addition, there is a need for improved technologies for drilling and completing Deepwater wells in harsh environments, including technologies for ice management, well control in extreme conditions, and real-time monitoring and control.
  2. Access to vessels and floaters issue:
    In ultradeep water, production systems with direct vertical access, such as spars and deep draft semis, can be used to drill and complete wells at a lower cost than using Deepwater drilling rigs. These systems can also provide well intervention capability over the producing life.

    The Shell Perdido spar development in the Gulf of Mexico includes a drilling riser and uses an electric submersible pump to lift liquids from multiple wells up a single riser, reducing the size of the spar and the number of risers needed. It is expected that the development and extension of these technologies will enable the exploitation of many other prospects in ultradeep water.
  3. Deep draft semi-issues:
    The use of deep draft semis as floating production systems in harsh environments may be possible with further technological developments, particularly in the areas of large stroke riser tensioners and integrated solutions for the hull, moorings, and risers. These systems have the potential to be used as direct vertical access hosts in mild environments and could improve the motion characteristics of conventional semis, enabling the use of steel catenary risers in certain areas. However, further testing and qualification is needed to bring these concepts to a project ready state.
  4. Subsea production system:
    In Deepwater and ultradeep water are being used more frequently in the offshore oil and gas industry. These systems involve installing production equipment on the seabed, which can eliminate the need for a floating platform. Subsea-to-beach solutions, which involve sending the production directly to the shore, have been successful in gas developments in Norway.

    However, there are still challenges to be overcome in order to make subsea-to-beach solutions viable for oil developments, including the need for maintenance or replacement of components, system reliability, power supply, and power conversion. Subsea separation, which involves separating liquids from gas on the seabed, can be used to pump liquids and provide artificial lift in oil developments.
  5. Arctic challenges:
    The challenges of the future yet-to-find Deepwater and ultra deep water oil and gas reserves include increasing water depth, remote locations, low reservoir pressure, imaging difficulties, and smaller recoverable volumes as basins mature. The Arctic region also presents unique challenges, including harsh weather conditions, regulatory requirements, and societal expectations. To address these challenges, technology development is needed in areas such as safety critical systems, ice and iceberg data, ice actions and structure response, and Deepwater and severe ice conditions.
  6. Reducing footprint:
    In the next five years, natural gas production in North America is expected to increase by about 1.5% per year, with the majority of this growth occurring in the US due to new LNG export facilities. In Canada, production is predicted to increase by about 3% annually, mainly from the Montney shale, to meet the demand for the LNG Canada project. Mexico's production is expected to continue declining, but at a slower rate of about 2% per year.

    In the Eurasian region, gas production is forecast to increase at a rate of about 1.8% per year, driven mainly by export oriented projects in Russia and Azerbaijan. In the Asia Pacific region, gas production is expected to increase from 637 bcm in 2019 to 676 bcm in 2025, driven by growth in China and India.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Case:

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, owned by Transocean and leased by BP, exploded and caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster resulted in the deaths of 11 workers and caused significant environmental damage to the region. BP was found to have made several mistakes leading up to the disaster, including using an insufficiently stable concrete cap and failing to properly maintain the equipment.

In the aftermath of the spill, BP faced significant legal consequences, including criminal charges, civil lawsuits, and a settlement with the US government for $20 billion. The disaster also led to increased scrutiny and regulation of the offshore drilling industry. The impact of the spill on wildlife and the local economy in the Gulf region is still being felt today.

Some factors that could facilitate the energy transition in the oil and gas industry in 2023 include:
  1. Hydrogen/CCUS hub development:
    The US government has provided funding for the development of hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) hubs. Two major hydrogen projects have received nearly $1.5 billion in loans from the Department of Energy. Several CCUS hubs have also been announced in the US, but the rate of their development will depend on the permitting process and regulatory approvals.
  2. Grid expansion:
    Updating and expanding the electrical grid will be necessary in order to support the increasing use of electricity and renewable energy. If these updates and expansions can be made successfully, despite facing challenges like supply chain problems and labour shortages, it could encourage oil and gas companies to invest more in renewable energy.
  3. Digital technologies:
    In order to keep up with the trend towards digitalization in India, the oil and gas industry should consider implementing digital technologies to streamline and improve their processes. The adoption of digital technologies, such as 3D printing and cognitive computing, could help to transform processes within the oil and gas industry in India. These innovations could be used to develop digital solutions that are tailored to the needs of the industry in the country.
  4. Framework:
    In order to fully utilize and implement various digital solutions, it is necessary to establish a framework for digitalization within the Indian oil and gas industry. The adoption of digital technologies in the oil and gas industry in India is expected to improve efficiency, increase productivity, and optimize costs. To fully leverage these digital solutions, it is necessary to implement a framework for digitalization. New technologies such as 3D printing and cognitive computing are being introduced to the industry and are expected to help develop digital solutions specifically tailored to the needs of the Indian oil and gas sector.

There are several technical challenges that need to be addressed in order to effectively develop oil and gas prospects in Deepwater and Arctic offshore regions. These include improving design tools for response-based design conditions for weathervaning FPSOs, developing better approaches for modelling wave and green water impact on deck structures, and finding ways to accommodate large stroke tensioners in riser systems.

In the Arctic, challenges include winterizing facilities, obtaining reliable ice and iceberg data, addressing the combination of Deepwater and severe ice conditions, and reducing the footprint of offshore facilities. Shell is pursuing a dual strategy of addressing specific technology challenges and developing holistic, integrated concepts in order to effectively and sustainably tap into these resources.

Oil and gas companies in India are embracing digital technology and innovation in order to increase productivity, improve efficiency, and achieve cost optimization. One such example is Indian Oil Corporation, which is using drones for pipeline surveillance and gathering data on deep sea operations.

Other companies are also adopting digital methods to review their business approaches and adopt a more efficient business model. To fully take advantage of these digital solutions, it is important for companies to collaborate with digital experts and create a long term vision to achieve their business goals.

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