Innovation is one of ConocoPhillips’ SPIRIT values. Leading the energy industry in technology innovation is a key strategic goal, intended to drive ConocoPhillips’ future profitable growth. Our investments in technology yield more efficient, economical and environmentally sound ways to find and produce oil and natural gas.
ConocoPhillips has a legacy of technology innovation around hydrocarbon resource types that represent major growth potential for the company – heavy oil and oil sands, unconventional reservoirs, subsurface technology, liquefied natural gas, arctic and deepwater. We also have a significant commitment to developing new sustainability technologies.
Technology innovation and development is conducted in a variety of ways – through building strong technical competencies by recruiting and developing highly talented scientists and engineers, engagement and collaboration with leading academic institutions and technology partners, and accessing technology via an early-stage venture investment activity.
Heavy Oil and Oil Sands Technology
Technology advancements are vital to the development of ConocoPhillips’ significant oil sands interests in Alberta, Canada. We are committed to developing and implementing technologies that will reduce our environmental footprint, increase uptime and drive down costs, while increasing the ultimate recovery of in-place resources.
Enhanced Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (e-SAGD)
|e-SAGD involves injecting a mixture of light hydrocarbons along with the steam, resulting in the bitumen needing less heat to flow.|
ConocoPhillips is piloting the e-SAGD process that, compared to conventional steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), reduces the amount of steam required by 15 to 35 percent and offers the potential to accelerate resource recovery. This also reduces the number of wells needed as well as the amount of water and natural gas required to produce a barrel of bitumen. Such innovations benefit both project economics and the environment.
In the current SAGD process, steam is injected into the bitumen reservoir to heat the bitumen, reducing its viscosity and thinning it enough to allow it to flow through the production well. The ConocoPhillips process also injects a naturally occurring light hydrocarbon with the steam to thin the bitumen. By using less steam, we anticipate cutting resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15 to 35 percent.
Advanced SAGD Facilities
Large surface facilities are required to produce bitumen utilizing the SAGD process. The central processing facility generates steam, treats water for reuse, and treats and blends bitumen for transport to the refinery. ConocoPhillips is working with engineering partners to advance industry-leading designs for implementation on our projects that have the potential to lower costs significantly and reduce our surface footprint by more than 50 percent. In addition, the compact design of these new facilities will potentially enhance thermal efficiency, thereby reducing natural gas requirements and GHG emissions, which benefits the environment.
Inflow Control Devices
In SAGD oil sands production, ConocoPhillips seeks to manage steam injection into the reservoir in a manner that maximizes oil recovery while minimizing the amount of steam required. At our Surmont project, we are testing inflow control devices that promise to more evenly distribute the steam and thus enhance production along the whole length of the parallel horizontal well pairs. This enables the use of longer wells that reduce the total number of wells needed, in turn lowering costs and shrinking the environmental footprint. Our testing confirmed faster oil recovery and more efficient use of the steam, without requiring complex, expensive and labor-intensive alternative control methods.
Gas-Turbine Once-Through Steam Generator (GT-OTSG)
|GT-OTSGs produce steam at the same time they produce electricity.|
The GT-OTSG is a ConocoPhillips-developed advanced co-generation technology being installed at our Surmont oil sands development. It produces steam for use in SAGD injection but, unlike conventional applications, adds a gas turbine to generate electricity. In the future, this could enable us to run our facilities exclusively off the power of onsite GT-OTSGs. This would reduce the environmental impacts associated with building power line corridors and local substations to generate and transport electricity.
This new application addresses nitrogen oxides emissions much more effectively than ordinary OTSGs, potentially reducing onsite emissions by up to 28 percent. Additionally, by switching electricity sourcing from coal-fired regional power plants to natural gas-fired onsite facilities, we could reduce our contribution to GHG emissions by about 17 percent.
The enabling technology for the GT-OTSG process is a burner developed by ConocoPhillips that burns the natural gas along with turbine exhaust. This enables the unit to operate more efficiently than competing co-generation configurations.
Unconventional Reservoir Technology
Play Identification Technologies
ConocoPhillips’ rapid production growth from unconventional reservoirs has been underpinned by a strong technology program. We utilize a multidisciplinary approach that combines expertise in geoscience, reservoir engineering and completion technologies to identify the best plays and "sweet spots" within these plays. Our acreage positions in the liquids-rich Eagle Ford, Bakken and Permian plays are examples of successful deployment of our play identification technologies within unconventional reservoirs.
ConocoPhillips uses microseismic data in the development of unconventional reservoirs to monitor the results of hydraulic stimulation. During the hydraulic fracturing process, fluids are injected into the reservoir, creating microfissures in the rock, thereby allowing hydrocarbons to move more easily to the wellbore. Each of the induced fractures generates a tiny amount of deep, subsurface seismic energy that can be recorded by microseismic receivers. We are thus able to observe how these fractures propagate within the reservoir, and thereby optimize future completions in order to increase production from our wells.
ConocoPhillips uses state-of-the-art imaging techniques to characterize unconventional reservoirs. These images enable geologists and engineers to investigate how oil and natural gas are stored in the reservoir and the flow mechanisms that operate at low permeabilities. Being able to describe the full range of heterogeneity in unconventional reservoirs is also important for predicting production behavior, reservoir optimization and ultimate resource recoveries.
Subsurface Technology Compressive Seismic Imaging
ConocoPhillips developed a methodology that uses concepts from the field of compressive sensing in conjunction with optimization algorithms to identify sensor layouts that satisfy optimization constraints for a particular survey. Analysis of data from field trials shows that a given spatial bandwidth can be obtained by a design using half the number of source locations employed by uniform sampling. This improvement can target different goals – to reduce costs for a fixed area, to cover a larger area with the same amount of equipment, or to improve imaging resolution over a given area.
|State-of-the-art seismic data acquisition and imaging techniques provide enhanced reservoir images. |
ConocoPhillips continues to innovate and improve the core exploration and production business by developing and applying state-of-the-art seismic data acquisition and processing techniques, such as life-of-field time-lapse seismic data collection and advanced reverse-time migration algorithms. We are able to achieve enhanced reservoir images beneath salt and other high-impedance material, such as chalk, carbonate and marl, through live interaction and integration with detailed basin-to-reservoir-scale geological architecture and hydrocarbon quality analyses. The development and application of these geologically integrated seismic-imaging technologies produce higher-quality images that help reduce exploration risk and maximize resource recovery.
Building on our history of proprietary reservoir flow simulation innovation, ConocoPhillips is developing reservoir management systems that provide real-time reservoir monitoring, data assimilation and performance forecasting. This helps improve ultimate resource recovery and overall asset performance. These systems leverage time-lapse seismic data and new computing paradigms to produce a step-change in cycle time. Complementing this work are research efforts on reservoir illumination technologies to further enhance resource recovery from our asset base.
Advanced Chemical Flooding
ConocoPhillips also utilizes its expertise in enhanced recovery to implement new and improved processes to increase ultimate total oil recovery from existing assets. Currently, it is difficult to significantly increase recovery from developed fields due to technical challenges associated with displacing oil through conventional technologies. Our focus is on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of displacement mechanisms to significantly increase the percentage of oil recovered from the reservoir. Current areas of research include development of advanced chemical, miscible and nanopolymer flooding systems.
ConocoPhillips is a leader in LNG, as the licensor of the Optimized Cascade® liquefaction process and a developer of world-class onshore LNG projects. In addition, we have built and operate some of the largest and most sophisticated floating production, storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) in the world, including the Belanak FPSO, located in the South Natuna Sea, Indonesia. We are now working to develop a floating LNG (FLNG) design based on the Optimized Cascade® process, utilizing our extensive LNG and FPSO experience. Engineering is under way to safely adapt the Optimized Cascade® process to a maritime setting, with plans to utilize FLNG technology to develop equity projects and license the combined technologies to third parties.
Ice Floe Measurement and Tracking
Offshore drilling in the Arctic requires thorough understanding of the physical properties of sea ice and its movement in order to ensure both operational and environmental safety. ConocoPhillips plans to utilize data gathered by special radars to identify hazardous ice floes and their speed, direction and size and ultimately predict their near-future movement. The final ice monitoring system will utilize existing commercial satellites with multimode high-resolution synthetic aperture radars onboard to acquire data and transmit it to earth stations. There, it will be collected, archived and distributed to operational control centers and the vessels on station at drilling sites.
Maximizing the reliability and flow capacity of pipelines and riser pipes on offshore facilities is essential to deepwater production. However, current industry models do not accurately predict such issues as wax deposition, cool-down time, depressurization liquid hold-up and hydrate slurry transport. ConocoPhillips is working to improve these predictions by using enhanced simulations and actual field data collected from our offshore Gulf of Mexico and Alaska assets. We believe that better modeling can help reduce our pipeline and riser capital costs by enabling use of smaller pipes and longer subsea tiebacks that will reach additional reserves, while improving operability through the optimization of pipeline cleaning (pigging) schedules and operating procedures.
Managed Pressure Drilling (MPD)
During drilling operations, the weight of the mud used in the well is carefully balanced against the pressures encountered deep below the surface. The mud must be heavy enough to safely maintain control but not so heavy that it drains away into the rock. Two MPD procedures are routinely utilized – the constant bottom hole pressure method and the pressurized mud cap drilling method. The first precisely manages the narrow drilling window between pore pressure and fracture gradient, while the second mitigates the loss of fluids to the formation. In 2011, ConocoPhillips participated in a multi-well consortium of six operators that used a combination of both while drilling a wildcat deepwater well in Indonesia. Utilizing these techniques together provided extra margins of operational safety and environmental protection in this new area. We plan to use this enabling technology in drilling other deepwater exploration wells around the world.
To help improve drilling safety, ConocoPhillips is working with an oilfield service company to create a new down-hole tool called an in-line casing packer. This device would provide a mechanical seal in the annulus of a well casing during the vital cementing process, thus eliminating a potential leak path that exists before new cement has had time to fully harden. This will help to eliminate the potential for hydrocarbon migration and thus ensure a well’s mechanical integrity.
ConocoPhillips is committed to promoting environmental stewardship throughout our global operations. In 2011, research and development in sustainability technologies led to breakthroughs in the environmental and alternative energy areas, including carbon dioxide capture, air emissions modeling, and cleanup of organic and metal contaminants from wastewater. Novel methods to produce hydrogen with a lower carbon footprint were studied, and new materials that vastly improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells and organic photovoltaics were developed.
|The Global Water Sustainability Center in Qatar.|
ConocoPhillips has established a Global Water Sustainability Center in Qatar. The center researches and develops water solutions primarily for the petroleum and petrochemical sectors and will also focus on municipal and agricultural solutions. It has been designated as ConocoPhillips’ worldwide center of excellence for water-related technologies, disseminating findings to the company’s global operations, as well as to local government and industry partners.