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SINTEF expertise on Brazil’s continental shelf

SINTEF Petroleum Research has really got its foot in the door of Brazil’s petroleum industry. The state oil company Petrobras is the client for eight of the Institute’s projects, in which Brazilian interests are investing a total of NOK 15 million.

Seven of the eight projects are multiclient projects in which Petrobras has a share, while the Brazilians are the sole client in the eighth project.

Major client
SINTEF Petroleum Research has a total of 105 employees. It is the 18 members of the Dept. of Formation Physics who have led the way across the South Atlantic.

Since the department won its first contract with Petrobras in 2001, cooperation with the company has steadily increased in scope, and the Brazilian company is now one of its most important customers.

“This is a feather in our cap,” says Research Director Johan Tronvoll, who leads SINTEF Petroleum Research’s Formation Physics group.

The department is also playing host to a visiting researcher from the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, an institution that cooperates closely with Petrobras.

Shale and sand
Norwegian-Brazilian cooperation in formation physics covers the following areas of research:

  • Wellbore stability - including drilling in shale, which is a well-known Norwegian problem.
  • Better understanding of the relationship between rock mechanics and petrophysics.
  • Problems related to the deposit and removal of filter-cake, which is deposited on the wall of the drill-hole in order to prevent drilling fluid losses during drilling.

Another contract has recently been signed in Rio and by the formation physicists in Trondheim; this deals with predicting sand production in petroleum wells. The project is intended to prevent unpleasant surprises being caused by the sand that is often released in producing wells.

Multiphase flow
SINTEF Petroleum Research’s Multiphase Laboratory, which is one of the largest in the world, also numbers Petrobras among its clients. Once again, the keyword is sand.

At the giant laboratory in Tiller just outside Trondheim, the Brazilians have put NOK 2 million into a project on dealing with sand in oil and gas transportation pipelines.

Drilling in deep waters
In 2004, SINTEF Petroleum Research opened an office in Bergen, which is currently helping one of its neighbours - the AGR technology company which is located on the island of Sotra - to realise a new patented concept for drilling in deep water. Petrobras is also a member of this project as a SINTEF client, as is Norsk Hydro.

The Brazilians are putting NOK 3 million into this project, which is also being supported by the Research Council of Norway through the Petromaks project.

Many other possibilities
SINTEF Petroleum Research also sees a great deal of potential on the Brazilian continental shelf in the fields of exploration and production technology, says Johan Tronvoll. 

Venezuela too
Nor is Brazil the only South American bridgehead that has been gained by SINTEF’s petroleum research institute, which has also won research contracts for Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA. Once again, it is the Dept. of Formation Physics that has secured contracts to study downhole stability.

by Svein Tønseth