<br><u>Start at 18:45</u><br><br> Mature Fields - Keep revisiting the fundamentals

Monday, 09 February 2009 Read 3878 times
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Mature Fields: Keep Revisiting the Fundamentals


Dr. Neil Williams

Oil Search Limited, Sydney, Australia


Abstract: (based on SPE 101123)

Kutubu is Papua New Guinea’s largest oil field. It came on line in 1992 and achieved peak rates of over 130,000 stb/d in 1993 before decline commenced in 1994. Capacity was still 45,000 stb/d at the beginning of 1998 but Kutubu production rates declined rapidly and half the field capacity was lost during 1998 to 2000. It was beginning to look in 2001 as if the field would be completely shut in within a few more years.


Kutubu was originally developed on the basis of a dynamic aquifer (or tilted contact) theory that was used to explain the lack of oil in the northwest parts of the field and the presence of water contacts in the central part.  A field review conducted by the operator identified an alternate theory of compartmentalisation to explain the non-uniform oil column.  As the alternate hypothesis was as good at explaining the early data and better at explaining some of the more recent performance, it was decided to abandon the original concept and test the new theory by drilling in areas the original concept would have predicted to be water swept. Drilling results were conclusive - there was oil and little or no water in the centre of the field.  Consequently, the compartmentalisation theory opened up a series of opportunities in areas that were previously considered un-prospective due to the tilted contact concept.  A follow up development campaign, along with other projects, has for four straight years completely halted the production decline.  The field now appears to have a considerable remaining life of up to 2 decades.


The main conclusion is that we regularly need to go back to basics and establish whether or not our fundamental assumptions are supported by solid evidence.



Dr. Neil Williams is presently in charge of the reservoir engineering, geoscience, planning and development of New Guinea’s largest oil field, the Kutubu Field, for Oil Search Limited.


Neil graduated with a BSc from Sydney University in 1969 with 1st Class Honours honours and the University Medal in Applied Mathematics.  He then completed 3 post-graduate courses simultaneously including a PhD in fluid mechanics at the University of New South Wales.  Neil joined Shell in Melbourne then transferred to their international staff with assignments in The Hague, the North Sea and London before returning to Australia with Exxon and later moving to Santos, Helix and Oil Search in various technical, supervisory and management roles.  Neil has done or supervised the reservoir engineering for Australia’s largest offshore oilfield Kingfish, Australia’s largest onshore oilfield Jackson, and New Guinea’s largest oilfield Kutubu.  Neil’s main interest is in mature field development and he has published on this subject as well as on EOR, petrophysics, SCAL and, prior to joining the oil industry, in physics and mathematics.

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