Norway extends oil research with PETROMAKS 2

The Research Council of Norway this year wraps up its large-scale programme for optimal management of petroleum resources PETROMAKS. The 10-year research and innovation initiative has proven so successful that the Norwegian government has rolled over the programme for another ten years under PETROMAKS 2, this time focusing more on energy efficiency and emissions to air.

PETROMAKS began in 2004 as a follow-up of the Technopolis evaluation of the Research Council and a result of OG21, Norway’s national technology strategy for the petroleum industry in the 21st century. PETROMAKS is one of the Research Council’s seven largescale programmes developed in dialogue between the research establishment, industry and public administration that help prioritize central research policy in key areas. The current other programmes include biotechnology, aquaculture, nanotechnology, climate change, clean energy and ICT.


Valued Cooperation Model
During the course of PETROMAKS’ ten-year programme, the Research Council has been given NOK 2 billion in government funding for nine focus areas: environmental technology for the future; exploration and reservoir characterization; enhanced recovery; cost effective drilling and intervention; integrated operations and real time reservoir management; subsea processing and transportation; deepwater, subsea and Arctic production; gas technology; and health, safety and work environment (HSE).

Public funding for PETROMAKS has been matched 50/50 with the industry as part of a collaborative cost-sharing model. The programme has managed to attract more industry funding than anticipated in similar public research programmes in Norway. It lowers the threshold for higher risk projects that would otherwise never have been realized and stimulate co-operation between the academic and private sectors.

“This is a highly valued co-operation model that other countries want to copy,” says Siri Helle Friedemann, Research Council director for the department for petroleum research, division for energy, resources and the environment.


High North Shift
The programme has evolved over time as new petroleum trends emerge. For example, there has been a gradual shift towards more research focus on the northern areas and increased international collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences than during the beginning. The move has been driven by the importance of the High North for the current Norwegian government, the environmental concerns and the large amount of undiscovered resources believed to lie untapped in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean.

As of 2011 PETROMAKS had financed 24 Norwegian research projects based on cooperation with Russia, representing NOK 190 million in financial support. The cooperation covered exchange of data, students or researchers, as well as concrete cooperation on development of methods, processes or technologies. This type of collaboration helps both countries deal with the challenges of extracting petroleum resources in their harsh icy waters and environmentally sensitive areas.

One such successful project has been Biota Guard Arctic’s real-time environmental effect monitoring system for offshore drilling and production operations in the Arctic. The Stavanger-based company has equipped molluscs and other organisms with instruments to monitor leakages from the oil and gas industry, earning them this year’s ONS (Offshore Northern Seas) SME Innovation Award. The mussels serve as good environmental indicators as their heartbeat and opening-shutting frequency are influenced by chemical changes in the water. The Biota Guard sensors are placed in clusters together with conventional sensors. With the help of the Russians, the company has tested the biosensors at a depth of 500 metres and is near to commercialization.

“We have the same interest as the Russians and can benefit from each other’s competence,” said Eirik Sønneland, Biota Guard Arctic project leader in the Research Council’s recent brochure Norway- Russia Research and Co-operation in the High North. “They help us find new candidates for biosensors. In Saint Petersburg, there is a whole new world of possibilities.”


Reelwell’s extended reach drilling technology makes it possible to drill significantly longer horizontal wells than currently feasible.         © Reelwell AS.


Reducing the Carbon Footprint
The new programme PETROMAKS 2, kicked off in October 2012, will focus on four areas: environmental technology, exploration and increased oil recovery, drilling and wells, and production and subsea processing. It will also continue to focus on HSE as in PETROMAKS.

However, PETROMAKS 2 will no longer have a separate priority area for the mature topic of integrated operations, according to Tarjei Nødtvedt Malme, special advisor for the Research Council’s energy, resources and the environment division in the petroleum department. Another difference is that the new programme will focus more on environmental aspects concerning emissions to air.

During the first PETROMAKS, an analysis showed that approximately NOK 675 million had been granted to projects that increase energy efficiency and cut the industry’s emissions to air. Most of the projects fell under the technology areas subsea processing and transportation and costeffective drilling and intervention.

Some of the key findings from the more than 80 projects funded under PETROMAKS and DEMO 2000, the programme for demonstration and pilot testing in the petroleum sector, are that there are many ways for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint. That could be in the form of electrification of offshore petroleum platforms with hydropower from land and cutting the time needed for energy intensive processes, such as drilling operations.

A unique entrepreneurial success story in this area is Reelwell, a Norwegian company that came up with a new technology for extended reach drilling in well sections with challenging pressure conditions. The company has developed a way to drill with built-in pressure and flow control system that reduces formation damage, thus increasing well productivity.

The company, started in 2004 by Dr. Ing. Ola M. Vestavik, has won numerous awards for its various drilling advances, including the ONS Innovation Award and OTC (Offshore Technology Conference) Spotlight On New Technology Award. It has received both PETROMAKS and DEMO 2000 funding to develop and test its technology offshore Canada with Royal Dutch Shell and is in the process of making strides into the deep waters offshore Brazil.

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