Sunday, September 20, 2009

An Oil Museum, some old and new Gas Fields

View of Stavanger from the Oil Museum

It has been a beautiful day in Stavanger and so naturally I wandered over to the Oil Museum on the quayside to see what it had to show.

The Oil Museum, Stavanger

Going in past the world’s largest drill bit ( 90 cm (35 inch) diameter) the first exhibit showed how the earth changed as the algae first created the oil and gas beds, and where (with a loud bang) the meteorite strike in the Gulf wiped out the dinosaurs even as coal was being laid out. I might mischievously mention that the Secretary of Energy might want to watch this to correct his ignorance of geology but will save that until I can scan in some of the pictures from the guide. (One of my beefs from the visit was that there were no DVDs or good literature at the Museum that you could take away, but this is ameliorated by the amount of material available at the web site, if you drill down into some of the pages).

I was particularly interested in some of the drilling platform models, since I plan to use the pictures I took, when I write about this on one Sunday in the future. Since some of the platforms were built before the days of 3-D modeling in engineering the models were accurate enough to ensure that there would be no geometrical problems as the real platforms were build (right across the harbor).

There were three significant exhibitions that were particularly interesting – the first being the Frigg natural gas field.

Frigg gas field location (Total)

The field was brought into production in September 1977 and ceased operations on 26th October, 2004. (Though they have recently found a new small field nearby). At its peak between 1978 and 1987 it produced 16.5 billion cubic m of natural gas a year that supplied a third of the UK demand, producing in total 192 billion cu m of gas. Peak daily flow reached 80 million cubic meters/day (2.8 bcf/day).

The exhibition also described life on the rig. Interestingly, as time went on, the working arrangements changed.
The length of an offshore tour compared with time spent on land varied during Frigg's history, but the trend has been towards increasing leisure. When the field began production in 1977-78, most people worked eight days on Frigg and then had eight days off ashore. That changed to two weeks at work and two weeks free, and then two weeks on, three weeks off. Towards the end of the production period, time on land had risen to four weeks with 14 days offshore.
The production history of the field was shown, and the facilities are now decommissioned as the field production has been completed.

The main website also gives access to a web site on the Ekofisk production facilities.

The latest video showed a visit to the new gas facilities as Ormen Lange just before the field was developed and connections made to bring this gas to the UK, where it comes ashore at Easington.

Ormen Lange location (Rigzone)

The video shown, The Traveller, has won Hollywood Awards, and a shortened version of it seems to be available, though not at the web sites listed. I found the short version on UTOG - (because of Ian Wright’s accent the film has sub-titles). The film shows some of the problems, first in drilling through the templates to establish the field, then the need to add anti-freeze to stop methane hydrates forming in the line in the cold of the bottom of the North Sea (up to 3,600 ft deep) as the gas travels to land, and then the problems of making a path for the pipeline over rough and dangerous seabed sections.

Ormen Lange (Long Serpent) is operated by Shell and is Europe’s third largest gas field, stretching some 25 miles long, by about 5.6 miles wide. The reservoir is some 9,000 ft below the surface, and the gas is found in a sandstone deposit that is 165 ft thick. (The original was a Viking Longship).

Computer model of the field (Shell)

The field will produce 20 billion cu m/year the equivalent of Norway’s total energy demand but will supply only 20% of the gas needed by the UK. (Note that the associated revenues from fossil fuel production pay for 31% of the Norwegian government budget). There are estimated to be 315 bcm in place so that the field will last in total some 40 years, though there will be declining production and the gas will need to be compressed before being put into the pipeline after the first 10 years. Full production (2.4 bcf/day) is expected before the end of this year, after four new wells are completed. Production statistics can be found at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

The exhibition also addresses some of the problems with diving around the platforms and although there is a video of one of the diving operations (done with avatars and a very good animation) the display notes that much of the work is now carried out remotely without the need for individuals to work in these conditions.

There was also a section showing the precautions that need to be followed if you are going to visit a rig (and which Robert Rapier has described in personal detail).

In short it was worth the visit (we stayed and had a good lunch) and you’ll likely see more of the photographs that I took in later posts. For example there was recently a question as to how the Kelly was rotated, well they had a plastic cover over the drive section so that you could see the gearing and chain drive from the motor on the full-sized model of the rig floor. They had to do away with some of the other features to show it however.

Kelly drive mechanism (Oil Museum)

They also showed what the bits look like when they are brought back out of the hole.

Worn bit (and bit teeth)

Well that was about it for the day - we had a good lunch, as I mentioned, and then this evening it was time to sit down and prepare for the real reason for our trip.

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