In 2019 LUKOIL successfully completed another stage of its exploratory work at the EX-30 Trident Block in Romania’s section of the Black Sea. The company drilled its third exploratory well – Trinity-1X on the block.
LUKOIL obtained rights to develop the EX-30 Trident Block in February 2011. The company drilled its first exploratory well on the territory of the European Union in October 2015, discovering the major Lira gas reservoir in the process. Initial estimates showed that Lira could contain over one trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Over the next three years the company prepared to drill the Trinity-1X exploratory well, performing a series of tests in the process: analyzing the test core, reinterpreting 3D seismic data, conducting electromagnetic sounding (CSEM) and performing a geochemical analysis of the seabed. These were all done to minimize risks while conducting exploration work at the EX-30 Trident Block and increase the chances of discovering new gas deposits.
The well was located at a sea depth of over 1000 meters, while its own depth hit 3000 meters. It was drilled in record time for the region: 44 days. At the same time, LUKOIL managed to drill the well at a 20% lower cost than initially budgeted.
The project’s timing and low costs did not come at the expense of safety – all work was conducted in adherence to the strictest ecological and safety standards. Just like at its other offshore projects, LUKOIL strictly adhered to its “zero discharge” standard in Romania. All waste products, including drilled cuttings, were transported from the offshore rig to a proper disposal site on land for future utilization.
LUKOIL was aided in its success by the company’s specialists’ careful analysis of the 2014-15 drilling campaign and the experience they had gained through it. As a result, they made major changes to the project’s planning and engineering, including to the well casing design. The overall drilling strategy was perfected based on previous experience; LUKOIL’s specialists made some notable changes, including in how to react to a potential emergency. Most importantly, LUKOIL was able to retain and utilize personnel from the previous drilling campaign.
Before drilling could begin, the team had to go through the long process of completing all of the necessary documentation and signing contracts for drilling and exploratory services (they totaled over 50).
No less important to the project’s success was learning to work effectively with the regulatory organs of the Romanian government. Laws concerning offshore exploratory work are in constant flux and complicate the preparatory process for such projects. LUKOIL’s traditionally positive working relationship with the Romanian government and its partners on the project allowed the company to obtain all regulatory approvals in a timely manner and begin drilling on schedule.
LUKOIL faced many challenges during the drilling phase. One of them involved moving the Scarabeo 9 offshore drilling rig from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. The massive rig had to pass under two bridges in Turkey’s Bosporus Straits. The derrick was too tall and had to be disassembled into two parts to pass under the bridges and later reassembled in Romania’s port of Constanta.
Other challenges included the rig’s design, which featured two derricks. This offers certain advantages over having only one derrick, but made operations planning more difficult. The cold winter months also contributed to the complexity of the project; getting personnel, materials and equipment to the rig was no easy task. Gusty winds and high waves made difficult offloading supply vessels on the field; poor visibility and low temperatures complicated transporting personnel by helicopter.
Nonetheless LUKOIL met all of these challenges with considerable success. As a result of the drilling, a seismic model of the region has been confirmed. Scientists will continue to study the geological data that was obtained in the drilling process. A thorough analysis of the obtained cores and formation fluid samples will help make a more complete seismic model of the Lira reservoir and facilitate continued exploration at LUKOIL’s contract territory with the goal of discovering new gas deposits.
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