Field Best Practices Workshop: Enhancing the Role of Field Engineers

Field Best Practices Workshop: Enhancing the Role of Field Engineers

By Mariana Somensi, Matthew Hoare

Egypt Oil & Gas (EOG) launched the  first Field Best Practices Workshop on September 22. The event took place at the Qarun field in the Western Desert under the High Patronage of H.E. Eng. Tarek El Molla, Egypt’s minister of petroleum. The one-day workshop was technically prepared by the Egypt Oil & Gas Technical Committee and sponsored by Apache, and offered an opportunity for field engineers to share best practices in oil and gas upstream operations.

“The EOG Technical Committee came up with this idea for the Field Best Practices Workshop after our successful Upstream Convention earlier this year, and we thought it was important to highlight lots of the excellent work going on the fields … and share the best practices and the technology that is being used,” Thomas Maher, President and COO of Apex Energy and Chairman of the EOG Technical Committee, said in his opening speech.

The workshop featured six presentations from six different joint ventures, in addition to five poster presentations that were available for attendees during the coffee break. Attendees included Abed Ezz El Regal, CEO at the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC); Ashraf Abd El Gawab, Chairman of Qarun (QPC); Thomas Maher, President and COO of Apex Energy and Chairman of EOG Technical Committee; Mohsen El Noby, Chairman of the General Petroleum Company (GPC); and Alaa El Batal, Chairman of BAPETCO.


Safety Management System

In the first presentation, Ahmed Fawzy, senior engineer at BAPETCO, introduced the company’s successful approach to enhance its safety management system. According to him, Process Safety Management (PSM) – a blend of engineering and management skills focused on preventing catastrophic accidents and near misses associated with loss of containment of energy or dangerous substances – is not only a social or legal obligation in the oil and gas sector, but also makes commercial sense. “It is good for business because it ensures reliability, which can be translated into more production and less operating costs,” he stated.

In order to better overcome safety hazards, Eng. Fawzy mentioned the ALARP Triangle as a tool to measure risk levels within oil and gas operations. The triangle helps define the number of barriers that shall be applied in each situation – and these barriers are measures that reduce the probability of releasing hazard or its consequences.

The ALARP triangle goes from the Unacceptable Risk Zone, which includes risks that must be reduced (except in extraordinary circumstances); the ALARP Zone in the middle of the triangle, which includes risks that should be reduced where reasonably practicable, considering the costs and benefits of risk reduction; and the Acceptable Risk Zone, which consists of risks that do not need to be reduced. According to Eng. Fawzy, most of the oil and gas operations are within the ALARP zone.

After properly analyzing its hazards through the ALARP Triangle, BAPETCO’s response to manage these operational hazards consisted on the enhancement of the role of frontline supervisors.  According to Eng. Fawzy, frontline supervisors are essential because they provide a link between management and workers; a system for enabling the active participation in the design, implementation, and continuous improvement; a consultative relationship between management and workers; and opportunities for reinforcing mutual trust by enhancing dialogue and interaction on process safety issues.

In this context, Eng. Fawzy affirmed that the successful deployment of the PSM system based on best practice is characterized by obtaining management commitment and support, nominating a dedicated competent focal point, defining scope and objectives, carrying out gap assessment versus the requirements of PSM elements, developing a multi-year roadmap to close gaps and achieve the desired level and track progress, among other key practices that can be executed by frontline supervisors.

These key practices also include completing the procedural structure as first priority and settle the existing gaps, ensuring adequate resource allocation and cover the defined process safety roles and responsibilities, and having multi-disciplines messengers on the facility from frontline supervisors – as choosing HSE staff only for this role will be misguiding. It additionally includes developing and deploying a process safety communication plan, and monitoring work place culture to assure the workforce commitment. Managers should also recognize and reward positive safety behaviors and performance.

Commenting on Eng. Fawzy’s presentation, Mark Konecki, Region Operations Director at Apache, praised BAPETCO’s efforts to improve their process and operational safety management. On a side note, Konecki highlighted that oil and gas operators should, alongside their own efforts, focus on the safety performance contractors. “I think it is the contractors’ safety that we struggle with the most. In general, our employees in Qarun and in Khalda do not have the same kind of incidents that the contractors have, so I think the big focus should be on those contractors’ safety performance,” he explained.

Drive Rods and Drive Heads Failures of PCP Systems

PCP pumping systems have shown good performance in oil fields in comparison with RRPs under different operating conditions, like low API oil and high sand cut. In the second presentation, Ahmed Ibrahim, senior petroleum engineer at PetroDara, stated that West Bakr (WB), PetroDara, and North West Gharib have shown increasing number of PCP usage since 2010. The first PCP installation was in 2006, and over the past 12 years the technical team has gained sufficient experience to select the most effective PCPs in terms of high performance and well uptime.

According to him, the PC pump was the main reason behind WB’s 25% production increase in fiscal year (FY) 2016/17. He also noted that there are around 75 PC pumps running at the fields at the moment, producing around 80% of the companies’ total production, and another 20 PC pumps are planned to be run during FY 2018/19.

Although the system presents a wide range of production benefits, it also presents challenges. Its main problems consist of rod failures, pump failures, and tubing leakage. In the company’s analysis of drive rods, Eng. Ibrahim has pointed out that drive rod parting includes PR failure. After investigation, it was found that the fatigue failure is the dominant failure type (+97% of failures), while the second type (tensile failures) is rarely occurring. The tensile failure mostly happens when the maximum tensile strength of sucker rod is exceeded while trying to free stuck pump, and parted PR happens due to misalignment and mis-leveling of DH with wellhead.

In addition, drive rod connection failure happens due to improper makeup torque (over TQ), while drive rod unscrew represents the highest failure frequency found in PCP drive rod systems. Eng. Ibrahim stated that the investigation showed that it often occurs due to lack of back spin control.

As for drive heads, failures include oil seal damage, mechanical failure due to manufacturing issue, misalignment or overheating due to lube oil leak, brass rings improper clearance with PR, lack of lubricant grease, drive head vibration at higher RPM due to unstable/unfixed wellhead, lack of bearing greasing, and motor failure for running at low RPM (cooling issue).

With this failure analysis, PetroDara’s general recommendations for an effective PCP system consist of closely monitoring wells and recording running parameters (W.C,TQ, Rate, etc) while updating C-FER runs to check rod load and stretch; double checking RTR spacing to avoid RTR and rods damage; using VSD panel to give torque log tracking to predict premature failure of PC pumps; adjusting TQ set point for low and maximum operating value to prevent rod failure; and checking PR stick up periodically to confirm rod clamp position.

Eng. Ibrahim also mentions the importance of real-time data monitoring of PCP wells; for this, including P/T downhole sensors is strongly recommended for remote wells to monitor and optimize wells remotely. In addition, it is important to perform FBU testing in a cost-effective way, establish periodical performance and failure analysis, and use failure frequency to help in maximizing well uptime.

“The company is developing a software application – Integrated Track – to track PCP & RRP failures in order to figure out failure root causes and set corrective actions,” Eng. Ibrahim disclosed.

At the end of the presentation, EGPC Head, Eng. Abed Ezz El Regal, noted that, although it is important to have failures diagnosis, the oil and gas industry should also look at prevention. According to him, PetroDara has done a great job in identifying these failures, and the industry should build on this kind of analysis to start predicting failures before they occur.

From his side, Eng. Osama El Shenoufy, Account Manager, Business Development at Weatherford, stated that after valuable failure analysis such as the one presented by Eng. Ibrahim, companies should carry out a second-phase analysis to dig deeper into details and serve as reference for the industry. “I think we can have some statistics about the comparisons and challenges that have been mentioned [in Eng. Ibrahim’s presentation], and we can take this over to present it to the industry,” he added.

Sucker Rod System

The third presentation, presented by Mohamed Ghoneim, senior engineer at QPC, exposed a successful practice applied by QPC to increase run-life and reduce costs for sucker rod system. As he explained, most failures in rod string can usually be categorized as either man-made or well-made, and using proper storage and transportation techniques helps prevent some of the damages that result in premature failure.

Considering this, QPC’s corrective actions to overcome these problems included training courses with Lufkin Company about rod handling in the Karama field by Lufkin Experts; close supervision of the inspection yard, the storage material and rigs during RIH to ensure perfect rod handling; and the adoption of new rod handling equipment, which were ordered and fabricated and include steel boxes, wooden blocks, thread protectors, and spreader bars. Eng. Ghoneim stated that these actions have resulted in run-life increase and protected QPC’s assets from damage and failures.

When it comes to sand control, when producing sand up through production tubing, QPC’s engineer noted that separation will occur. The heavier, more abrasive sand, will settle back on top of the rod pump, he explained. Sand friction causes rod buckling, as well as plunger sticking and premature wear due to sand being trapped between plunger and barrel. It also packs off cages and plunger with sand, have valves stuck open and pump stuck in setting nipple. In other to avoid these problems, Eng. Ghoneim stated that sand control can be done by tubing screen, rotating plunger, and sand tolerance pump (STP).

In the case of the tubing anchor catcher (TAC), unanchored or improperly anchored tubing allows movement of tubing string relative to rod string motion and allows rod/tubing contact and wear. When properly set, anchor/catchers eliminate tubing buckling, elongation and movement; reduces rod, tubing, and casing wear; and improves pump efficiency. In this context, QPC started to apply TAC Calculation since 2015, leading the proportion of failures due to tubing leak to decrease from 18% in 2013 to 6% in 2017.

Mahmoud Shawkat, Sales & Marketing Director, Egypt, Sudan & South Sudan at Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), stated that these cost-reduction actions are an important step to attract investors. “Transferring this kind of improvement into cash is a very important message to the people who would like to invest in this kind of technology.”

Wellhead Compression Units

Wellhead compression units (WHCU) are a new technology implemented by the Western Desert Operating Petroleum Company (WEPCO) at their BED 9-5 and BED 9-1 wells. The fourth presentation speaker, Walid Soliman Mohamed, Petroleum Engineering Department Head at WEPCO, introduced the technology as a method of extending the lifespan of dead oil and gas wells, reducing the amount of flared gas, and boosting the performance of a range of different artificial lift wells including ESP, PCP, BP and gas lift.

They operate by simultaneously reducing wellhead pressure to 0 psi and increasing discharge pressure up to 350 psi, therefore overcoming the back pressure that prevents the flow of oil and gas from dead wells. These units can handle 300 barrels of liquid per day (blpd) and 0.2-2 million square feet per day (mmsf/d) of associated gas, and can intake gas from multiple wells. They are also easy to position, operate and maintain.

To illustrate the effectiveness of WHCU’s, Eng. Mohamed described how WEPCO has used them in two of its wells: BED 9-5 and 9-1. Before the installation of the unit, BED 9-1 was unable to flow due to high back pressure from BED 9-5. After bringing in the WHCU however, WEPCO was able to reduce the wellhead pressure down to 30 psi and save around 1 mmscf of gas.

Following the presentation, the speaker fielded a number of questions from attendees. Several questions addressed protocol in the event of malfunction or abnormal pressure, and whether WHCU’s required extra manpower to operate. Eng. Mohamed said that alarms can be installed on the unit in case of shutdown, eliminating the need for constant monitoring and extra employees. In events of abnormal pressure, he said that WHCU’s can shut down, preventing an incident from occurring.

Regarding cost, Eng. Mohamed said that WHCU’s cost around $3,000 per month to operate. Said Abd El-Moneim, QPC Operations Manager, asked about the unit’s hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and CO2 tolerance. Although Eng. Mohamed acknowledged that the material was still undergoing tests, he said that to his knowledge WHCU’s can handle five parts per million (ppm) of H2S and 3% sodium, which he described as good.

Bacterial Growth and Well Performance

The fifth presentation of the day was delivered by Ibrahim Hassan, chemical treatment staff member at QPC. working on the company’s Karama field. Ahead of the presentation, Mark Konecki described bacterial growth as “a key operating headache” for companies, highlighting the importance of overcoming the issue.

During his presentation, Hassan discussed the two principle methods used by QPC to combat the build-up of iron sulfide (FeS) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) souring gas. According to Hassan, the accumulation of such compounds results in the plugging of ESP and SRP pumps. This in turn reduces the running time of the wells, slowing the production rate and increasing maintenance costs.

Hassan firstly described the rationale behind the company selecting THPS as its chemical of choice. According to test results, THPS fulfilled each of QPC’s selection criteria, including its ability to dissolve FeS and control bacteria, as well as its suitability for all fields.

QPC uses two methods to combat scale build-up: continuous injection via slip stream carrier and chemical backwash. According to Hassan, the company uses chemical backwash (CBW) downhole when problems arise from slipstream such as plugging. He then presented the THPS injection results from the Yomna-20 and Yomna-2 wells, and the data collected from CBW programs on the Rahma-30 and Hamra-26 wells. CBW data showed a decline in net liquid above pump (NLAP) after the application of the chemical, demonstrating an unblocking or a clearing of scale from the pump.

Hassan also presented information about the history of QPC’s CBW program – including the respective costs and cost savings in each of the three previous calendar years. In 2016, the company conducted 64 CBW operations at the cost of $33,105 – saving $8,580,000 in the process. In 2017 meanwhile, the company completed 61 CBW operations, at the cost of $24,735 and saving $7,100,000. These figures show the potential economic benefits CBW can have.

Hassan’s presentation generated the most engaged debate of the day, with participants debating the merits of different methods of preventing the build-up of bacterial scale. Eng. Ahmed Fawzy, earlier presenter from BAPETCO, said that while slip stream carriers can be “very effective”, there are other methods and chemicals that QPC could explore.

Immediately following the conclusion of the presentation, Konecki highlighted the positive economic effects demonstrated by QPC’s CBW history. “Probably the most important thing we heard from you was the economic benefits that this downhole treatment has provided for Qarun,” he told Hassan.

However, Alaa El-Batal, chairman of BAPETCO, remarked that the inconsistent success rate of the programs requires explanation, and said that he would like to hear further recommendations about how to prevent plugging.

The final comments came from Eng. Abed Ezz El Regal, who said that more must be done to eliminate the causes of contamination. “The root cause of this is coming from the water injection itself,” he said to Hassan. “We must improve the quality of injection or add some additives to the injection to prevent the accumulation.”

Hassan replied that infection had come from the drilling equipment, as well as from the water injection. Eng. El Regal then recommended that QPC experiment with two separate biocides, and suggested periodically switching between the two to prevent the bacteria from becoming acclimatized.

Groundwater Contamination

The final presentation, presented by Raafat Abdelrazek, Safety Department Manager at the General Petroleum Company (GPC), dealt with the prevention of groundwater contamination, what Abdelrazek described as a “serious problem in the Western Desert”. To illustrate the importance of preventing this occurring, he cited a study conducted in the US which showed that groundwater contamination had led to 403,000 people becoming infected and 80 dying.

To remedy this problem, he proposed the use of septic tank technology. These tanks separate wastewater into three layers – solid, liquid, oil/grease. Anaerobic bacteria then biodegrade the solids while liquids are disposed of in soil layers.

Septic tanks can only be used in certain types of soil however. Soil must be at least semi-permeable and not be saturated around the tank. Bedrock layers, groundwater wells, springs and trenches must also be considered when planning the installation of a septic tank.

Abdelrazek then listed the many advantages of opting for septic tanks as a practical solution for wastewater. They are simple and relatively cheap to install; they require little maintenance and can be used for as long as 20 years; they are safe, with no electrical or chemical hazards; and they can be used as a source of biogas if designed in the right way.


Water Flood Bottlenecks

Besides the six main presentations, attendees also had the opportunity to engage with five poster presentations during the coffee break. In one of the posters was prepared by Hany Elbarbary, senior production engineer at Apache/QPC, in which he commented on water flood bottlenecks, explaining how the company performed pressure survey by master pressure gauge and identified high-pressure drops in the system.

According to him, the Karama area produces over 22,000 barrels of oil per day (b/d) and 175,000 barrels of water per day (BWPD) and is the largest oil producing area of QPC under waterflood recovery. Addressing waterflood bottlenecks is critically important to maintain production and water injection rates, according to Eng. Elbarbary. Two recent field projects that addressed waterflood bottlenecks resulted on a combined 8,500 additional barrels of water injection per day (BWIPD) plus the reactivations of shut-in wells and optimization of many others.

Intelligent Rod Pumping Systems

Raeid Syame, BD Executive GM at the Egyptian Maintenance Company (EMC) and M. Ghareeb, Vice Present SSi Artificial Lift, prepared a poster on ways of maximizing production and meantime between failures by applying intelligent rod pumping systems. Their poster was based on the Alamein case. The successful application of the system in the Houras field in the Egyptian Western Desert helped the Alamien Petroleum Company reduce operating expenses (OPEX) by minimizing well interventions, and by changing units running parameters for well optimization (speed, stroke length, and balancing).

Corrosion Management

Mohammad Mahrous, Inspection Section Head at Oil & Gas Skills, prepared a poster on production facilities integrity and corrosion management. His case study consisted of an opportunity that the company had to stand on the condition of a Re-Boiler bundles after about 12 years of service.

A visual inspection has been carried out while cutting of deteriorated sheets and tubes, according to Mohammad, and samples cut out from bundles have been subjected to chemical analysis. The scale and sediments found between the tubes was big enough to disable the main function of the Re-boiler (Hot Stabilization). High percentage of carbonates (about 10%) revealed that the water was existing continuously inside Re-boiler. Not only that, but enough to form a scale (scale tendency was high) which considered as a deviation in operating condition.

The Flowback Problem

Mostafa Kortam from Petrobel prepared a poster on the inventive proppant placement halting flowback problem, using a case study carried in Sinai as example. The new proppant type has been extensively modified and developed by the company to fit all natures of sandstones of any strength (not just unconsolidated) with any reservoir fluid, according to Kortam. A spherical intermediate strength blend with angular bauxite grains has been used to provide a mechanism to prevent proppant flow back, and sintered bauxite with medium Iron Oxide levels has been used in the manufacture of welding flux.

In the first job, in well 113-168, proppant was utilized as tail-in. Pumped amount is 80 Klb representing 40% of the whole job proppant. In the second job, in well BLNE-4, proppant was also utilized as tail-in. Pumped amount is 44 Klb representing 25% of the proppant in whole job.

TIC Surveying

Ashraf Said, senior production engineer at QPC, had a poster on tubing-casing integrity (TIC) surveying. According to him, frequent injector tubing corrosion has led to significant tubing-casing communication and a large number of casing leaks. Tubing-casing communication negatively affected injection operations and required high well intervention costs to repair the problem. Unidentified tubing-casing leaks was the main challenge for the company, as he explained. The solution to this problem included the implementation of a company-wide Tubing Casing Integrity (TCI) program, and the identification of wells with tubing-casing communication earlier as work over candidates before advanced corrosion put them at risk of catastrophic tubing failure.

Constructive Feedback

The workshop finished with a constructive feedback from the organizers and attendees. From his part, Eng. El Regal praised the workshop’s role in enhancing communication among the technical employees in the Egyptian oil and gas sector. According to him, the presentations – which covered safety and environment issues – meet the sector’s priorities.

After thanking the organizers for their efforts in preparing the workshop, the head of EGPC made some recommendations, which included the creation of a committee to evaluate the commercial issues of oil and gas projects. “This is my personal advice to my colleague engineers: to focus on the commercial issue; economically study it before presenting it in the event, and the impact – from a commercial point of view – on each procedure and study.”

Representing the organizers, Thomas Maher thanked the presenters and attendees, and highlighted his satisfaction to see six different joint-venture companies presenting successful practices in the workshop. “I remember seeing some of the problems presented here being mentioned in the past, and I am glad to see that there is work – as we saw today – being done to address them.”

Each one of the workshop speakers received a certificate for their participation at the end of the event. Ibrahim Hassan, who made the presentation on bacterial growth and well performance, was awarded a recognition of best presentation.


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