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May 2017 - Issue 10
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.
How dangerous is an axial crack? It’s not always easy to predict. Now oil & gas pipeline operators have a new tool to help them predict axial crack development and make more effective repair, replacement and monitoring decisions.
Battelle PipeAssess PI™ uses empirically derived and physics-based modeling to provide more complete and accurate life prediction than is possible with traditional software solutions. The software was developed as part of a Department of Transportation (DOT) project. DOT used the models developed by Battelle to better understand how axial cracks impact pipeline integrity and make more effective recommendations for pipeline management and risk reduction. Now, Battelle is making the software available directly to oil & gas pipeline operators.
PipeAssess provides several key advantages for pipeline operators. The software models were built using empirical data from Battelle’s extensive “library” of oil and gas distribution and transmission pipes. Pipes with known defects were tested under various simulated operating conditions until failure. Researchers used this data to provide a more accurate model of axial crack development for various pipe types—including electric resistance welded (ERW) and flash welded (FW) pipes made of brittle, quasi-brittle and ductile steels – under different operating conditions. Because the models are more reliable, the software allows operators to make more effective decisions for repair and replacement and reduce the frequency of costly in-line or hydrostatic testing.
There are 2.6 million miles of liquid petroleum and gas transmission pipelines in the United States – many of which are decades old. Over time, aging pipelines can develop axial cracks through normal wear and tear of operation. Hydrotesting can help detect near-critical axial cracks and other near-critical defects. However, this testing is not predictive and it is not always clear whether a detected crack warrants immediate repair, replacement or simply requires continued monitoring. Many companies monitor crack development through repeated in-line inspections, requiring costly operational shutdowns.
PipeAssess can help companies reduce the frequency of in-line inspection and hydrotesting and optimize re-inspection intervals while still meeting DOT requirements for assessment of liquid and gas pipelines. The software incorporates user-defined hydrotest, operating pressure profiles and attribute inputs such as pipe geometry, material properties and crack geometry (from in-line inspection and/or in-the-ditch non-destructive examination) It can be used to model a variety of axial crack geometries, including cold weld, hook crack, selective seam weld corrosion and stitched cracks, and can be applied to all standard in-line pipe sizes and grades.
What happens when carbon dioxide (CO2) is injected into deep geologic formations? Battelle is using fiber optics to monitor injection efficiency and seismic activity at CO2 injection sites in Michigan. The work is part of the next stage of research for the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP).
CO2 injection is used for carbon capture and storage (CCS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Whether the goal is simply storage of unwanted CO2 emissions or utilization of CO2 for secondary oil production, understanding how CO2 moves through subsurface formations and fills geologic reservoirs is important. Monitoring injection activities allows operators to determine whether CO2 is filling up the reservoir optimally and see how much available pore space is left for further injection. Monitoring technologies also detect seismic activity that may be caused by subsurface fluid injection.
The geologic formations used for CO2 injection can be a few thousand feet or more underneath the surface, making characterization and monitoring challenging. During injection processes, seismic imaging is used to monitor where injected fluids end up. For CCS, monitoring is needed to track the movement of the injected CO2 and to make sure it stays in the geologic storage reservoir.
Seismic reflection surveys are the traditional method used by geophysicists to analyze the earth's structure. For seismic imaging, an energy source (such as a vibrator truck, also known as a weight-drop truck, or dynamite placed in shallow soil borings) is used to produce sonic waves that penetrate the earth and are reflected back from subsurface formations. The returning waves are recorded on geophones. Different materials (e.g. rock, soil and liquids) produce different reflection patterns, which can be interpreted to generate a picture of what is happening underground. Standard seismic reflection surveys use geophones placed on the land surface; however, placing the geophones in a monitoring well, a method known as vertical seismic profiling (VSP), provides better imaging resolution.
The new Battelle study is evaluating the use of fiber optic cables to replace geophones for detection of reflected sonic waves in VSPs. Fiber optic cables could provide a number of benefits over geophones for subsurface imaging:
Unlike geophones, which provide a single point of detection for each device, fiber optic cables provide coverage along their entire length, resulting in higher resolution imaging.
Fiber optic cables, because of their small diameter, can be permanently installed in the cement outside the casing of a well without significantly increasing the size of the well.
Monitoring wells using fiber optics installed outside casing can still be used for other purposes (e.g., injection or production).
Fiber optic cables can also be used to measure temperature, providing additional characterization data to assess fluid movement and other characteristics important to oil & gas producers.
Fiber optic cables provide similar imaging data to that provided by geophones, but rather than using changes in voltage, they use patterns of light to create the image. Light signals are sent down the cable (a process known as “interrogating the fiber”) and backscattered light comes back up. Patterns in this backscattered light are used to build an image of the subsurface or detect seismic activity.
The Battelle study is part of ongoing work with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the MRCSP. The Battelle-led MRCSP, part of DOE’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program, brings together nearly 40 government, industry and university partners across nine states and has completed several CCS validation projects. The fiber optic monitoring study is a continuation of this work.
The study is being conducted in partnership with Core Energy LLC. Fiber optic cables were installed in February 2017 in a pair of 6,000-foot deep wells, including one CO2 injection well and one monitoring well, at one of Core Energy’s oil fields in northern Michigan. Core Energy has now started injecting CO2 at the site to re-pressurize the reservoir for EOR, a process that will take 18 to 24 months. Battelle completed a baseline VSP study prior to the start of CO2 injection. Researchers will conduct a repeat survey after a year of CO2 injection to create images that show how the CO2 moved within the reservoir during the one-year injection period. The fiber optic system will also be used to monitor injection activities, including changes in temperature caused by injected CO2. Battelle researchers are interested in using temperature data to determine rock properties.
Battelle will use the data from this project to evaluate the fiber optic systems. If the technology proves to be effective, fiber optics may soon give operators and researchers a better way to monitor injection activities for CCS and EOR, as well as to monitor CO2 in geologic reservoirs several thousand feet or more below the surface.
Unmanned vehicles are making offshore operations for oil & gas surveys, inspection and construction activities more efficient and economical. Now, SeeByte is bringing new software solutions to market to help unmanned vehicles better handle complex tasks.
SeeByte was founded in 2002 as part of the Oceans Lab at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, UK. Since then it has rapidly expanded and become a world leader in smart software solutions with a truly global market presence.
The software company was acquired by Battelle in 2013 and continues to operate as an independent subsidiary. Battelle and SeeByte are now working more closely together to provide smart unmanned systems for oil & gas clients. The partnership brings together SeeByte’s software expertise with Battelle’s decades of experience in the oil & gas industry. Olga Koper, Business Development Leader for Battelle’s Oil & Gas group, says, “SeeByte and Battelle have great synergy as we are both highly focused on serving the offshore oil & gas industry. Working together, we can find new solutions for the challenges the industry faces when working in subsea environments.”
SeeByte develops software for unmanned systems that improves vehicle control and lessens the demands on operators. Their smart control systems automate arduous and repetitive tasks so operators can better focus on the task at hand.
For the oil & gas industry, their solutions include:
AutoTracker Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) software for automated pipeline tracking.
CoPilot Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) software enables the pilot to quickly plan a mission with greater control and accuracy. CoPilot permits pilot controlled auto-transit and stop-and-hover, while providing automated sonar tracking and movement relative to a target allow the vehicle to inspect a point of interest with greater precision.
SeeByte has partnered with leading hardware manufacturers to enhance capabilities for sensors and systems. These integrated smart systems give oil & gas operators turnkey robotic solutions to support complex and often risky subsea operations. SeeByte software is helping to make many of these tasks safer, faster and more efficient—reducing the time needed for some tasks by as much as 50%. Some of the enhancements
SeeByte software includes:
Improved stability and dynamic positioning for better data collection during high-resolution offshore surveys
Automated inspection and monitoring for offshore pipelines and equipment
Easier ROV control for complex tasks such as drill rig support, construction and impaction repair maintenance (IRM)
Battelle is working with SeeByte to grow their presence in the United States and expand their range of offerings to both government and industry, including oil & gas clients. Companies can contact SeeByte’s Commercial Manager Chris Haworth for more information about their software solutions for the oil & gas industry.
Power generation and industrial processes pump nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the global atmosphere each year. An initiative from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy seeks to capture some of those emissions and return them to the ground. Battelle has been selected to lead research efforts to address knowledge and institutional gaps in the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
DOE’s Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) initiative, announced in 2016, provides funding for cost-shared projects to determine the feasibility of onshore and offshore carbon storage and identify safe storage locations. Identifying commercial-ready storage sites is critical for deployment of advanced capture technologies under development in the U.S. and worldwide. The ultimate objective is to develop commercial-scale geologic storage sites capable of cumulatively storing more than 50 million metric tons of CO2. The DOE has set a goal of having these sites constructed and permitted by 2025 in time for use by the next generation of cost-effective carbon capture technologies.
Rising CO2 emissions from power generation and other industrial sources have been implicated as a major driver of climate change. CCS, which has been successfully deployed in a small number of locations, is seen as a promising solution that could help the energy industry slow or halt the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere.
CCS involves capturing CO2 generated from combustion of fossil fuels at the source – such as a coal-fired power plant – before it escapes into the atmosphere. CO2 is then transported to a geologic storage site where it can be used for enhanced oil recovery in depleted fields or injected deep into the ground for permanent storage. These methods could reduce CO2 emissions from power plants and other industrial sources by up to 90 percent, allow for more oil to be extracted from existing oil fields and make continued use of fossil fuels significantly more sustainable worldwide. In a carbon-constrained future, commercial carbon storage could become mainstream. However, to have CCS as an option for addressing CO2 emissions, more work remains to be done to identify potential storage sites, characterize the risks of deep geologic injection, and evaluate emerging CCS technologies.
Battelle will be working with DOE to address these research gaps. Battelle has been working on the leading edge of CCS research and technology for two decades. The CarbonSAFE initiative builds on Battelle’s previous field pilots with the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) and Mountaineer CCS Product Validation Facility, as well as several research studies aimed at better understanding subsurface storage potential. The Battelle-led MRCSP, part of DOE’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program, brings together nearly 40 government, industry and university partners across ten states and has completed several CCS validation projects.
Over the next 18 months, Battelle will work on three CarbonSAFE projects across the Midwest and Central Plains. This pre-feasibility work focuses on the identification of early technical and non-technical challenges at potential carbon storage sites. Teams will be developed to address these challenges and identify knowledge gaps. Pending selection by DOE, these projects will move towards a detailed feasibility assessment of CO2 storage infrastructure in the next phase.
Battelle’s work through MRCSP and CarbonSAFE is bringing CCS closer to full commercial-scale deployment, should policymakers choose to use this as one of the options for emission reduction combined with enhanced resource recovery. These projects will help the energy industry address climate change concerns while continuing to meet the needs of a global economy highly dependent on fossil fuels.
Battelle researchers presented a new geomechanical study of sub-Knox formations at the Geological Society of America (GSA) Northeastern/North-Central annual meeting in Pittsburgh on March 21. The study, Geomechanical Assessment of Sub-Knox Formations for Safe CO2 Injection Study in the Midwest U.S., examined suitability of the formations for carbon dioxide (CO2) injection and storage.
Recent advances in research on carbon sequestration have raised questions regarding the integrity of subsurface storage reservoirs in terms of interplay among poro-elastic properties, CO2 injection rate and potential subsurface deformation. This study presented the results from integrated rock property characterization and coupled flow-geomechanical simulations for CO2 injection in the Sub-Knox formations at three sites in the Midwest U.S. The main objectives of this work was to investigate the vertical variation of poro-elastic properties to better define the injection unit and understand the fate of CO2 upon long-term injection into the site.
Researchers used various petrophysical and geomechanical measurements from core samples and advanced well logs (such as multi-component sonic, resistivity image, and nuclear magnetic resonance) to analyze porosity, permeability, Young’s modulus, Poisson’s ratio, principal stresses and others. All these parameters were integrated to subdivide the Sub-Knox formations into various geomechanical units, which are comparable to certain flow-zone units. Next, these parameters were chosen as inputs to coupled flow-geomechanical simulations at various rates of CO2 injection to analyze corresponding stress-field response in the reservoir and caprock.
Preliminary results show that the Basal Sandstone Formation may be considered as a favorable reservoir for CO2 injection, where it has combination of suitable geomechanical properties, porosity, permeability and required overburden. The Basal Sandstone Formation consists of seven poro-elastic units, out of which four units have higher rigidity compared to three others. Detailed characterization of sedimentary formations in terms of poro-elastic properties is critical to delineate suitable CO2-injection units for storage and to allow researchers to use these units as a guide for geologically meaningful reservoir simulation.
Coal-fired power plants still provide cheap and reliable energy for much of the world – and are a significant contributor to rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers a promising solution that could help coal-fired power plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent. Battelle is now working to bring CCS to South Africa through an international project funded by the World Bank Group.
Battelle has been on the forefront of CCS research and development for two decades with a special emphasis on moving carbon storage and utilization for enhanced oil recovery towards deployment. As an example, Battelle leads the Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) to develop CCS options for a 10-state region in Midwestern and Eastern United States. This program conducted several small-scale pilot tests of CO2 storage in its validation phase. In the ongoing MRCSP development phase, Battelle is using commercial EOR operations in Michigan to evaluate CO2 injectivity, containment and storage potential with advanced characterization, monitoring and modeling. Since 2003, Battelle has also worked at the Mountaineer Power Plant in West Virginia for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the host power company to characterize the geology and construct the injection and monitoring systems for a first-of-a-kind pilot plant for CCS. The system was operated successfully and has already completed post-injection monitoring.
Now, Battelle researchers are leveraging the expertise from these and other research projects to bring CCS to the international energy market. The team has already supported small projects in China and Mexico. The carbon storage pilot project in South Africa is the third in a series of World Bank Group CCS projects that Battelle has been involved with.
CCS could help South Africa, and other countries dependent on coal and other fossil fuels, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet aggressive Paris Agreement targets. These targets aim to mitigate the risks of climate change by reducing emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. Coal-fired power plants are the largest single contributor to CO2 emissions worldwide. CCS makes these plants more sustainable by capturing carbon dioxide produced during combustion of fossil fuels before it can enter the atmosphere. CO2 is then transported from the power plant to a storage location, where it is injected into deep geologic formations for permanent storage several kilometers underground. In some cases, the captured CO2 can be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) projects.
For the South African project, Battelle will provide technical advisory services to the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI). The goal is to help plan and carry out the nation’s first pilot-scale carbon dioxide injection, storage and monitoring project. Before that can happen, however, further geologic work is needed to identify a candidate site and reservoir to host the project.
Within the first 18-month phase of the project, Battelle will conduct geological assessments and seismic surveys to evaluate an identified area of interest in the Zululand Basin on the eastern coast of South Africa. In addition, Battelle will lead project management and planning efforts for the project, working with SANEDI to prepare project management, execution, schedule, budget and risk assessment plans.
Beyond technical work, a key objective of the project is an integrated capacity building program to train local students and professionals. The goal is to ensure that South African organizations will be able to plan, construct and operate future carbon capture and storage projects on their own. A key aspect of capacity building is collaboration with local entities such as the South African Council for Geoscience and Petroleum Agency of South Africa. In February, Battelle led the first seminar in this effort, building local knowledge while showcasing Battelle’s technical expertise. The three-day workshop had more than 100 attendees, including local stakeholders, state regulators, policy makers, geoscience researchers and students.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is an important partner in the project. Several PNNL experts have been involved in sample and data analysis both in the U.S. and on the ground in South Africa. Battelle and PNNL have worked together on carbon management projects since the 1990s. Battelle is a contract manager for PNNL and six other national laboratories.
If one or more qualified sites for CCS have been identified at the conclusion of the initial phase of the project, the project will advance to the site characterization and development phase, which is scheduled to last until 2021.
Research Leader Mark Kelley is bringing the secrets of subsurface geology to light. A hydrogeologist on the Battelle Oil & Gas team, he provides technical expertise for enhanced oil recovery and carbon capture and storage projects. Read More