Expertise and Technology assist
Article by Franklin Foster, Ph.D.
Canadian Expertise and Technology has done much to assist Yemen develop its petroleum resources. Canada’s, Nexen Inc., for example, has been producing oil in Yemen since 1993. Working in remote regions, such as the Masila Bloc, where there was literally no supporting infrastructure, Nexen had to develop not only the oilfield itself but also build all the supporting facilities. These facilities include an 85 megawatt electrical power plant, 80 kilometers of electrical transmission lines, an 8,000 foot airstrip, state-of-the-art living quarters complete with dining halls and laundry facilities, recreational facilities (including a gymnasium where basketball, soccer and, of course, ball hockey can be played), a medical clinic which treats up to 2,000 patients per month (mainly from the local population), administration offices, maintenance shops, roads, a 138 kilometer pipeline, and offshore loading facilities for 1 million barrel tankers. Nexen even went so far as to build a $250,000 mosque to serve the local population’s religious requirements. In all, Nexen’s total investment was over $3 billion.
Much of the early production in Yemen did not require artificial lift but now that deeper pools are being tapped (down to 14,000 feet) and more horizontal wells are being drilled, artificial lift is now being applied. Nexen leads in applying Electric Submersible Pumps (ESP) to this application, often in some unique configurations. Tandem assemblies of ESPs, both horizontally and vertically, can provide over 1000 horsepower of lift where needed. As other fields in the Middle East begin to require artificial lift, Nexen finds that its expertise and technology, as applied in Yemen, is increasingly sought after by other Middle East producers. [Examples here.]
Masila Blend oil averages 31° API at very low gas-oil ratios so it certainly doesn’t qualify as heavy oil. However, many of the personnel involved in the Yemen fields over the years have had heavy oil experience. The improvising “can do” attitude of the heavy oil fields has been ideally suited to some of the unusual and demanding challenges of operating in Yemen. One example of this stems from the high water cut – as high as 93%. Using similar methods as in the heavy oil fields, free water knockout units and treaters (made in Alberta) separate up to two million barrels of water per day. Much of this is re-injected into the formations but more than 35,000 barrels per day is treated and subject to reverse osmosis to provide all the potable water required by the project. Some is even being used to grow experimental gardens and crops in an attempt to develop another worthwhile spin-off for the local population. Nexen also works hard to provide training and opportunity for locals to be involved in the labour force. Up to 80% of the workforce is Yemeni nationals. Jobs range from those who work as drivers for the fleet of more than 1,400 trucks which deliver fuel and other supplies throughout the project region, to those who provide medical services at the on site clinic.
Security issues are handled mainly by Yemeni soldiers stationed in and around the project. As well, Nexen has excellent working relations with the Government of Yemen and works within a complex cost sharing agreement worked. For details concerning this Profit Sharing Agreement (PSA) you may click here.
In conclusion, Yemen provides another interesting example of Canadian expertise and technology assisting in the development of petroleum reserves for both current and long term benefits.
For further reading on this topic, check out this article in Oilweek.