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  • Can You Drill for Oil in Fast Currents?

Can You Drill for Oil in Fast Currents?

May 10 2019 Read 453 Times

For French-owned oil and gas company Total SA, drilling for oil in the world's fastest ocean current is simply a matter of logistics. After discovering major reserves in deep waters off South Africa, the supermajor is now exploring ways to overcome the engineering challenges of drilling in the Agulhas Current, which creates choppy conditions and can form waves more than 30 metres high.

“Here in South Africa, waves and currents are most of the time in opposite directions, which generates very bad seas and the wind can be very high and changes direction,” explains Adewale Fayemi, general manager for Total E&P South Africa.

Formed at the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the Agulhas Current flows along the east coast of South Africa. As well as rough surface conditions, Total is also grappling with the Agulhas Undercurrent, which is more than 2000 metres deep and can hit speeds of 90 centimetres per second, making it one of the fastest in the world.

Tapping into the Brulpadda Prospect

If Total can successfully set up a rig in the Agulhas Current it will unlock access to the Brulpadda Prospect, which contains an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil. The reserve is located 175 kilometres off the coast of South Africa and could fuel South African refineries for almost four years, not to mention provide much-needed support to the nation's volatile economy.

To tap into the reserves Total is employing cutting-edge engineering techniques, including the use of an onshore high-frequency radar to predict current patterns. Engineers also designed a simplified riser system, which connects sub-sea facilities to a floating offshore production structure using a pipe that can be easily accessed and repaired.

“Total deployed a suitable rig for the operation and a sophisticated weather forecasting system, coupled with the presence of an on-site specialist, in order to more accurately assess prevailing weather and ocean conditions,” says Fayemi.

An innovative approach

For companies like Total, strong leadership plays a pivotal role in thinking outside the box and overcoming challenges. For a closer look at how one of the world's top voluntary standards development organisations is moving forward don't miss 'Interview with ASTM International’s new chairman of the board – Taco Van Der Maten'.

"Through ASTM’s proven concept for test method revision and creation, with input possible of all 35,000 members, we can be sure the best brains we have contribute to stay relevant and include the disruptive technologies when deemed good for the industry its members," says Van Der Maten.

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