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June 2015 - Issue 5
Welcome to the Battelle Oil & Gas Newsletter. We put this together as a service to our friends in the oil and gas industry keep you informed of the latest news from our scientists and engineers and the industry.
Battelle works with oil and gas companies and others to advance the industry with the latest science and technology. Battelle Oil & Gas will keep you up-to-date on cutting edge technologies, services and processes.
On May 4-7, Battelle Oil & Gas exhibited at the 2015 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. If you were there as well, you already know that OTC is the largest annual international conference for the offshore oil & gas community. This year, 95,000 attendees from 130 countries came together to explore the latest innovations in offshore exploration and development.
Battelle was joined by Bluefin Robotics, a Battelle subsidiary, and SeeByte, an AUV software developer recently acquired by Bluefin. Together, we showcased a number of exciting new technologies, including:
Bluefin AUVs—like the Bluefin-21 and Hovering AUV—that provide unprecedented flexibility, power and economy for subsea surveying, inspection, monitoring and more.
The Battelle HorizonVue™ M326 Deep Camera, which gives remote vehicle operators a complete, real-time 360-degree view for superior situational awareness in underwater environments.
The Battelle Smart Corrosion Detector®, based on micro-beads that can be mixed into paints and coatings where they crack open to release healing chemicals when early signs of corrosion are detected.
Battelle’s tank inspection robots that use smart robotic controls and sensors to automate internal inspection of tanks and pressure vessels.
Battelle and its subsidiaries Bluefin and SeeByte are working to make new offshore technologies available to the oil & gas community. By combining Battelle’s long experience with the oil & gas industry, Bluefin’s AUV technologies and SeeByte’s software expertise, we are finding new solutions for offshore exploration and development that save time and manpower and reduce safety risks.
Microbially induced corrosion (MIC) is a serious problem for oil & gas producers, causing billions of dollars of direct damage to pipelines and field installations as well as to offshore mooring chains and structures annually, and much more through loss of production and environmental or safety impacts. Finding new solutions to slow the growth of bacteria or mitigate their impact could significantly increase the working life of equipment and reduce annual replacement costs.
That’s why Battelle is investing in a number of research initiatives to help the industry better understand the mechanisms of MIC, the bacteria that cause it and innovative ways to mitigate it.
MIC is one of the leading causes of corrosion in the oil and gas industry. Bacteria adhere to metal components in large colonies called “biofilms.” These biofilms allow bacteria to stick to each other and to metal surfaces. Some kinds of bacteria produce chemicals that damage the structure of the metal, leading to corrosion. The effects of bacteria can significantly accelerate the rate of corrosion and failure for subsea, surface, downhole and land-based equipment.
There is a great need in the industry to better understand which bacterial species are responsible for MIC and the mechanisms by which MIC occurs. Battelle is engaging in pioneering genomic research to define the populations of bacteria that make up biofilms on oil & gas equipment and determine which species are implicated in corrosion. This will allow us to better assess corrosion risk and develop more effective and targeted mitigation approaches for MIC.
Battelle is working on new detection technologies for faster and more accurate identification of the bacteria responsible for MIC. We recently developed a new handheld detection device that allows operators to rapidly identify the genetic markers of MIC in the field instead of waiting for laboratory-based results. The innovative field DNA identification kit can be used to monitor bacterial growth in pipelines, downhole equipment and other critical infrastructure.
Diagnosing potential MIC problems in the field allows for more rapid and targeted remedy selection, such as dosing of effective biocides. The MIC detector extracts DNA from collected samples, and amplifies and detects DNA fragments specific to the species of interest. This allows operators to detect emerging bacterial problems and put remedies in place before significant corrosion damage has occurred.
Battelle is also investigating new advanced material solutions to mitigate the effects of MIC. Antimicrobial materials may be able to slow the build-up of corrosion-causing bacterial colonies.
One ongoing investigation at Battelle’s Florida Materials Research Facility (FMRF) is testing antimicrobial sleeves for offshore mooring chains. Battelle is evaluating eight different biocides that have been infused into polymer sheets and wrapped around mooring chains. At FMRF, the chains are exposed to the elements in one of the most corrosive environments in North America. Researchers are monitoring corrosion development in treated and untreated mooring chains below the seawater surface, at the tidal zone and in the splash zone to evaluate the efficacy of different biocidal materials for MIC control. The antimicrobial sleeves could significantly increase the lifespan of offshore mooring chains.
Battelle is co-funding many of these research initiatives. As the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, we continually invest in innovation to find solutions that benefit our clients and humankind. Our MIC research is helping us solve a pernicious problem that causes significant losses for the oil & gas industry and to the economy as a whole.
By John Bickham
Among the many environmental concerns relevant to the oil & gas community, whales loom large—both literally and figuratively. They’ve been a big part of my life, too, through my work with the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
A number of whale species live in or migrate through ocean areas with active offshore oil & gas development. Many of these species are endangered and protected by U.S. and international law. With their large size and relatively small populations, these giants of the sea also act as “signal species,” providing indicators of wider environmental disruption. Their popularity with the public makes protection of whales both a public relations priority and an ethical imperative for oil & gas developers.
Since getting involved with the IWC in 2003, I have dedicated a large portion of my career to studying whale populations to support ongoing environmental management efforts. For the past 13 years, I have served as a U.S. delegate to the IWC Scientific Committee. I participate in several standing committees, including Environmental; Stock Definition; Bowhead, Right and Gray (BRG) Whales; and Aboriginal Whaling Management Plan working groups. My work with the IWC has spanned much of my career beginning as a Professor at Texas A&M, and continuing at Purdue and now Battelle. The Scientific Committee of IWC is an interesting mix of politics, advocacy and excellent science. The most controversial issue at this year’s meeting, held in May in San Diego, was the establishment of a new permit for Japan to conduct scientific whaling in the southern oceans. Many countries oppose this, but Japan can legally conduct this work provided their proposal complies with sound scientific principles.
My research focuses on the genetics and genomics of whales, including population genetics, historical demography and genome sequencing. My work at Battelle has included participation on the Gray Whale Genome Project (in collaboration with Dr. Andrew DeWoody at Purdue University). I have also been involved with the bowhead whale genome project. One of our studies, published in January 2015, examines possible clues to longevity in the genomes of bowhead whales.
By studying whale DNA, we can tell whether whales seen in different parts of the ocean are part of different groups or simply the same group at different points in their migration. We can also see how closely different groups of whales are related and determine whether the groups represent distinct subspecies or other management units. Genetic studies give us important information about population sizes, migration patterns, genetic diversity and evolutionary history.
These studies are important to help the oil & gas community understand the risks different activities may present to endangered populations and make better decisions to balance environmental and development priorities.
Some of my work has been devoted to studying the bowhead whale populations in the Beaufort Sea off the North Slope of Alaska on behalf of the North Slope Borough and the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Bowhead whales are important to Eskimo communities in Northern Alaska for both subsistence and ceremonial purposes. The Alaskan bowhead population has rebounded from commercial whaling, now numbering more than 17,000, and native populations are given a quota of about 50 whales each year for their hunts. The genetic studies we conduct as part of the IWC are used to establish safe quotas. Oil & gas developers operating in the Beaufort Sea also need to understand bowhead whale populations and migration patterns so that their activities do not negatively impact either whale populations or the Eskimo hunts, both of which are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
This fall, Battelle is sponsoring a symposium on Bowhead Whale Genomics in cooperation with the North Slope Borough. We will be presenting the latest research on the Beaufort Sea bowhead whale populations and facilitating dialogue among researchers, industry leaders, whaling captains and other stakeholders.
My current work with the IWC also includes important studies of gray whale populations in the northern Pacific Ocean. Gray whales once included large populations both along the North American Coast and the Asian Pacific Rim. The eastern gray whale, once hunted nearly to extinction, has rebounded substantially under endangered species protection laws. The western gray whale, once common in waters near Japan and Korea, was thought until recently to be extinct. A small population of roughly 150 gray whales spotted near Sakhalin Island may represent the last remaining members of their species—or a new colonization of this area by eastern gray whales. Our genetic studies will help to clarify whether this small group is a distinct population or part of the larger eastern gray whale genetic pool. The results will help us to develop guidelines for oil & gas development in the western Pacific.
There is high diversity of cetacean species in the Gulf of Mexico, including sperm whales, Bryde’s whales, and small toothed marine mammals like dolphins and porpoises. Because of oil and gas development and other activities in the area, some of these species are also of interest to the IWC.
My history with the IWC has helped me bring new insights into my environmental work at Battelle. Battelle is heavily involved in environmental work for the oil & gas community, including biodiversity studies, environmental impact studies, risk management and mitigation, and oil spill response. Understanding the potential impact of offshore oil development on large marine mammals helps oil & gas companies maintain compliance with environmental regulations, including the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. Our understanding of whale populations and genetics helps us to make science-based recommendations that are practical and economically feasible for developers.
Want to learn more about the latest technology innovations for oil & gas? Battelle is hosting the Houston Battelle Breakfast Series to introduce the methods and technologies that will impact the industry tomorrow.
Our next Breakfast Series event, “Encapsulation by Design,” will be held on July 14 in Houston. Attendees will learn how encapsulation works and how Battelle creates microcapsules that respond to different triggers like temperature, water, pH, pressure and more. This technology can be utilized in a broad range of applications from controlled release of scale inhibitors to self-healing materials for cement and corrosion, such as the Battelle Smart Corrosion Detector®.
Upcoming breakfast events include:
Optimizing Enhanced Oil Recovery with Data Analytics
Automating Ocean Environmental Surveillance with AUVs
Using eDNA for Faster, Easier and More Cost-Effective Biodiversity Monitoring
Many oil & gas producers in West Texas and other areas with declining oil production believe they have done all they can with Improved (or Enhanced) Oil Recovery (IOR/EOR). But new statistical methods from Battelle may convince even small oil producers to give IOR/EOR another chance.
Water flooding for enhanced oil recovery produces declining returns over time. CO2 is more effective, but costs and availability can make CO2-based EOR unfeasible for smaller producers who do not have a reliable supply of CO2. For this reason, many wells in West Texas and other oil-producing areas are underperforming.
Battelle has developed analytical methods to help oil producers get more value from water flooding. Using our statistical models, smaller producers can continue to get value from declining wells while waiting for CO2 to become available for additional oil recovery. Battelle’s statistical methods rely on historical production data from wells rather than expensive geological surveys, putting the analysis within reach for even small producers.
When engaging in water flooding for a group of wells, producers have many different scenarios to choose from. Which wells will be flooded? Which wells will be used for production? Even a small group of ten wells or fewer could have dozens of possible water flooding scenarios.
Battelle researchers analyze production patterns for groups of wells and use advanced statistical modeling to analyze all of the different possible scenarios for water flooding. This allows researchers to identify the water flooding scenarios that will give oil producers the “most bang for the buck” for their EOR initiatives.
These statistical modeling techniques may help oil producers in West Texas and elsewhere pump new life into wells currently thought to be beyond the help of water-flooding EOR.
Senior Research Leader Dr. Srikanta Mishra is one of today’s foremost experts on geosystems modeling, uncertainty quantification and integrated system risk assessment. But at heart, he’s a teacher. Whether simply talking to clients or giving a TEDx talk (What the Frack?), Srikanta brings both passion and clear thinking to the complex issues surrounding oil & gas development.