‘Marginal’ Success: Total E&P Nederland Celebrates the Inauguration of Their K4-Z Field
In March the inauguration of the K4-Z field was celebrated at the The Hague office of Total E&P Nederland (TEPNL). The K4-Z project forms a partnership between Total E&P Nederland B.V. en Energie Beheer Nederland (EBN), with both parties sharing an equal 50 per cent responsibility. Production for the location is already in full swing.
The start-up of the K4-Z field is a huge accomplishment as the reserve was first discovered back in 1974 and has lain dormant until recently. It is a marginal field in the North Sea some 140 kilometres offshore Den Helder, the Netherlands. Operations manager at TEPNL, Bernard Reith, states: ”Two developments made this start-up possible. Initially, the technology was not available to produce from this field, even if we would have wanted to. Next to that and perhaps more important, even if we could have produced, it would not have been worthwhile economically. Around the year 2000 a step was taken that offered a technological solution to produce from the K4-Z field. Based on that we could, in theory, produce from the field, yet we still had to deal with the matter of development costs.”
Luckily, in 2010 the Dutch government instated its marginal fields policy in which the accelerated depreciation measure was granted. Jos de Groot, director energy market at the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, who was also present during the inauguration, explains more about this policy: ”This measure means companies like TEPNL can deduct up to 25 per cent of their development costs when it comes to small fields. This is a considerable amount and like K4-Z can render a project economically viable. The Dutch government feels strongly about stimulating developments regarding marginal fields and is committed to optimising the investment climate for these activities. The marginal field tax measure has already proven successful.” Commitment from the Dutch government is necessary as the largest Dutch field in Groningen may only be viable for the next 50 years, this means substitutes will need to be found.
Subsea xmas trees and umbilical cords
TEPNL has many offshore activities with five manned gas treatment centres, 17 unmanned satellite gas production platforms and four subsea production installations, including the K4-Z field. Henri-Max Ndong-Nzue, managing director of TEPNL, explains: ”To produce from the K4-Z location, two subsea wells needed to be drilled along with a new subsea completion.” If you are not well versed in offshore lingo, a completion refers to a system of pipes, connections and valves on the seafloor. Reith: ”The subsea production system, or SPS, was specially designed for the relatively shallow waters of 36 metres at the K4-Z location. It was important to safeguard the facility from the fishing activities in the region, which is why it has a 140 tonne frame. Next to that, the fact that is it subsea means that there will be no interference with shipping routes.”
A new generation of xmas trees, which is perhaps a slightly unusual name for equipment that is used to control the flow of oil or gas, was designed for the application in shallow waters by FMC Technologies. The SPS is controlled from TEPNL’s K5-CC manned gas treatment centre via an umbilical cord, much like a human umbilical cord, supplies subsea equipment with, in this instance, LP/HP hydraulic lines, chemical injection lines and electrical cords. Furthermore, a six-inch trenched pipeline links the SPS with the receiving K5-A platform, which is also where the produced gas from the other K5 satellites is pumped to. “It is a first for the Total Group that a pipeline and umbilical have been laid in one trench, but this project offered many firsts. We also implemented a new pipeline dry insulation system for shallow water condition and this has proven so successful that it offers new ideas for other deep water developments”, comments Ndong-Nzue.
Driven by talent, innovation and safety
Driven by talent and innovation is the slogan for the 50 years of TEPNL celebration in 2014. As the K4-Z field proves, developments are key to the success of the company. ”However,” comments Ndong-Nzue more seriously, ”at TEPNL safety is of utmost importance and I see it as a core value for all my employees.” During the inauguration of the K4-Z field Ndong-Nzue took the attendants to the control room in The Hague. From there all platforms and production are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The comment of safety being a core value would prove true on 6 December 2013, during a particularly stormy night, when a Greek oil tanker named Elka Athina developed engine problems whilst traveling the North Sea.
Drifting into the safety zone
The vessel began to drift and much to the alarm of all parties involved was slowly drifting towards Total’s L7-H unmanned satellite gas production platform. At one point the vessel even entered the 500 metre safety zone that surrounds Total’s platforms despite having two anchors out. Many of the crew of the vessel was airlifted to safety by the Dutch Coastguard. Thankfully, several hours after it had started to drift, the engines of the vessel could be restarted and it could sail away on its own power. TPNL’s control room played a pivotal part in monitoring the vessel. The control room also has eyes where the Dutch Coastguard cannot monitor meaning there is a stable relationship with the Dutch Coastguard. Ndong-Nzue says: ”When it comes to safety, there are no concessions. Increasing safety awareness is something we work very hard at.”
What does the future hold?
In an official statement TEPNL confirmed that during the first production in August 2013 the two K4-Z wells offered the expected reserves. K4-Z’s potential, as it is called, stands at 11,500 boe/d (Barrels Of Oil Equivalent Per Day), with a production promise of around twelve years. So, what does the future hold? TEPNL expect the K4-Z field will be followed by many more new developments emerging from the 3d seismic campaign conducted back in 2012. This will hopefully strengthen their position in the North Sea, along with their 260 permanent employees and 800 contractors, all of whom are driven by talent and innovation with safety as a core value.