Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Horse in the Sun

Horsepower (hp) is a unit of (naturally) power, or energy delivered per unit time. It is most commonly used to rate the power delivered by internal combustion engines (automobiles, lawn mowers). For a precise definition and history of this unit, this entry in Wikipedia is a good read. There is some variability in the precise conversion between horsepower and other units, but it is approximately equal to 745 watts.

I find this value rather interesting, as this is roughly the incident power delivered, per square meter, of radiation from the sun -- and also roughly the area available on a horse for collecting said power. And of course, harvesting that power is a rather inefficient process -- about 10-20% for solar cells.

Something to think about when you see an automobile rated at 200 hp: it would take 2000 square meters of (cheap) solar panels to deliver the equivalent power. That is nearly half of a football field. Try towing that behind your car.

Sobering thought.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Khurais Media Tours

The Saudis are staging a massive PR effort for their Khurais redevelopment project. A sampling:

UPI: Saudis show journalists huge oil project
NY Times: Saudi Oil Project Brings Skepticism to the Surface
AP: Giant Saudi field is key to boosting oil output
FT: Saudis rely on Khurais to speak volumes
The National (UAE): Khurais joins Saudi giants

Journalists were brought in en masse. Of course, I am miffed that they did not invite me. But I doubt that Matt Simmons was invited either.

Some tidbits:

Now the Saudis are deploying an extraordinary engineering effort to bring Khurais’s mile-deep oil to the surface. Seawater will be carried through new pipelines from the Persian Gulf and injected into oil-bearing rock to pressure the oil upward. Usually Aramco pumps seawater into a field only after several years of production, and some skeptics point to this as a reason to doubt that Khurais will live up to its billing. But Mr. Nasser said the huge seawater injection system at Khurais was about cost and logistics, not a sign of a weak field.

Previous reports have it that the capacity of the Qurayyah seawater injection system was increased by 4.5 million bpd to supply Khurais and "South Ghawar". Just thinking about those numbers, full production at Khurais with no water cut would require 1.2Mbpd, leaving 3.3 available for Ghawar. Or, a 50% watercut would require 2.4 and leave 2.1. Either way, a lot of water is going somewhere. It does seem that they are rather defensive about this issue. Best to plan ahead, I suppose, but building that amount of overcapacity doesn't seem to be a salve for "cost and logistics".

From the UPI story:

The project joins oil fields at Khurais, Abu Jifan and Mazalij with one system that will inject more than 2 million barrels of seawater underground every day in order to push an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil to the surface, the Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday.

Aha! 2 million bpd water to get (hopefully) 1.2 Mbpd oil gets things started with a 40% water cut. But apparently:

Amin Nasser, Aramco senior vice president for production and exploration, said the saltwater pumping was used to trim costs.

Ghawar didn't have serious water injection until the early 1970s. But even then, it was still several years before water made its way to the wells in significant amounts. Khurais might not be a "weak field", but it is definitely weaker than Ghawar.

Once extracted, the oil will be stored in three 600,000-gallon tanks — each looks as big as the Colosseum — before being transported in pipelines that carry five million barrels a day and run across Saudi Arabia, from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.

So that would store 1.5 days of production. Why is this even of interest?

A variety of new technologies, including multiple lateral wells and microscopic robots swimming through rock pores deep underground, will allow the company to start recovering much more of the oil in its fields, said Mohammed Saggaf, who runs Aramco’s advanced exploration research wing.

MRC wells in Khurais after all? Or, perhaps this is just a more general comment about all of their fields. Microscopic robots?

The company expects to increase the amount of oil it can recover from its fields to 70 percent from 50 percent over the next 20 years, Mr. Saggaf said, adding another 80 billion barrels to reserves.

Optimism reigns supreme. Amin Nasser, Aramco senior vice president for production and exploration, says they should be judged by their actions. Well, this is quite an act.

See: Khurais Me A River

Various stories on Ghawar: Satellite o'er the Desert