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Stages in Oil and Gas production process

Hopefully Kenya will one day become an oil producing country in Africa. Here are a few notes to help you understand what is going on or what usually happens in the process of producing oil an gas. This one of a series of articles aimed at creating public debate and understanding of oil and chemical spills in the oil and gas industry and what role you can play in the migating the process. Note that we are largely focusing on the upstream of the development and production stage.

We thank Dr. Fernandos of HSE International LLC for his lessons on Advanced Oil and gas spillage management which took place at Sawela Resort in Naivasha. This was a wake up call for all of us. We hence remain indebted to you for the knowledge we have on oil and gas. You simplified the complex oil and gas to look like lower primary school maths.

Types of Oil:

  • The lighter the oil, the more economic value it has.
  • Very light oils – This needs less treatment or processing.
  • Medium
  • Heavy oils – This type of oil needs to be heated all the time in order for it to keep moving.
  • Extra heavy oil – semi-arid oil like the one discovered in Turkana in Kenya.

An oil and gas company seeks for licenses from government before starting any activities.
Companies go out in search for oil and gas. Up to this point the government does not invested a single cent on oil exploration. The exploration process can last up to three years according to international standards. After seismic surveys are conducted, the company drills to confirm whether there is enough oil and gas. This is called appraisal processes.

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Drilling can be done both on land and on the sea bed to extract oil or gas. On sea, a platform or a drill ship is used for drilling. Wells are drilled and fitted with casings. Drill bits and casings are key in oil or gas well construction. Explosions may happen. These are called blowouts. Vehicles, vessels, generators and mud system pumps are also required in the drilling process.
Potential sources of oil spills
Accidental spills of oil and chemicals occur every year. This calls for contingency plans.

  • vehicle or vessel accident
  • mud system
  • well testing
  • fueling
  • well blowout
  • In many cases stakeholders do not have robust oil spill contingency plans to handle emergencies. This is quite perplexing. There is need for an emergency response system.
  • Appraisal Process: This involves drilling additional wells to verify the presence or absence of oil or gas deposits. These deposits are subsequently quantified. The process requires rigs, vehicles, vessels, generators and pumps among others.
  • Oil and gas well can be drilled vertically or horizontally. This has been made possible with the invention of new and advanced technologies.
    Development and Production
    Lessons from Cairn in India on
    production and transportation of waxy crude oil requires heating at 65 degrees centigrade 24 /7/365 a year. This is already happening in India. Oil is transported over 700 kilometers through a desert land.
    More than 4 billion oil barrels are discovered in the north western part o India.
    A an oil company discovers oil in a desert, they also start an exploration campaign to discover water which is crucial for oil production.
    Energy from natural gas is require to heat the waxy oil while water is used in the mud system. The oil is pumped out of the ground using hot water heater by natural water. The water used does not have to be clean water but even salty water can be used.
    Oil and gas has to be transported from the remote oil fields to the ports an then shipped to the oil refineries or customers abroad.
    Companies have to involve or engage various stakeholders such communities, government and Civil Society Organizations.
    Though only two meters width is required for the pipeline, the oil and gas company levels 30 m meters wide of ground to facilitate the construction process.
    Pipes are welded and tested ready for use. Farmers can use their land once the pipeline has been constructed.
    The pipeline is tested by using pressurized water to see if there are any leaks. It is commissioned and then oil is pumped through the pipeline.
    The cairn pipeline in India is the longest electrically electrically insulated pipeline in the world. Original engineering thinking is required in order to have an operational heated oil pipeline.
    The question on whether there is enough oil to guarantee the required financial investment, is a highly guard secret held by Tullow Oil and probably government.
    Cairn in India uses natural gas to generate electricity which is used to heat the 700 kilometers of heated and insulated pipeline. The storage tanks at the destination are also heated and insulated. The heating of pipelines is not a new technology but the fact that 700 kilometers is heated is definitely a new concept.
    Corrosion is the biggest element that destroys the piping system. The pipeline has to have anti-corrosion system put in place.
    Under the development and production process, wells are drilled pipelines constructed and storage facilities put in place. Rigs and other equipment are needed to complete the process.
    Employment in Oil and Gas Industry
    There will be very few jobs generated in the oil and gas industry more especially in the development and production stage. For example a single person based in Nairobi can monitor the oil pipeline. This will real crush the expectations of many Kenyans. To add salt to injury, only highly skilled manpower will be absorbed such as pilots who will be flying the helicopters to monitors the oil pipeline.
    Decommissioning: At the end of the production process, the corporation will engage in decommissioning of the oil fields. Cleaning of the oil fields and sealing of existing wells is necessary to leave behind a friendly environment.
    Decommissioning can be undertaken at the end of each of the oil and gas stages from seismic to production.
    The oil and gas production process undergoes the following stages: Exploration, production and decommissioning. These stage are undertaken in both onshore and offshore oil and gas production.

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