Drilling and climate change
It is no longer news that global warming and climate change is not friendly to the environment. What is news is that, in spite of spirited efforts being made to contain the challenge posed by its effect(s), some countries carry on like their people and habitat have been immunized against the menace! The major cause of climate change is the melting of ice and global emissions resulting in rising sea levels, surge floods and extreme temperatures on both sides of the scales. What drilling contributes to this and what can be done to minimize the effect of the challenge is the focus of the column for the week.
DrillBytes, in its immediate past trilogy on climate change and the environment, diagnosed the causes of climate change and suggested the way forward for Nigeria. With an increase in sea level comes a corresponding increase in the water table. With an increase in sea level comes the increase in salinity of the immediate water available for domestic purposes. With an increase in sea level comes a corresponding transformation of some coastal areas, geologically referred to as sedimentary terrains, into swamps or creeks. As these negatively affects a home owner to the effect of the road to his home being transformed into a creek making the use of vehicles useless and that of speed boats attractive, so does it affect drilling sites, particularly onshore drilling.
Most onshore drilling sites in Nigeria are located in the coastal areas, which are just a few feet above the mean sea level. What is beginning to emerge nowadays as against the immediate past is that such areas are mostly flooded during the rainy season to the point where roads leading to the drilling sites are sometimes, impassable. To checkmate this menace, it is the opinion of the column that site engineers should develop the drilling sites in such a way as to factor in the effect of rising sea levels on their drilling sites in order to make movement, both human and vehicular less cumbersome. It is going to be an expensive venture which investors, most naturally will want to dismiss but when measured against the time lost in navigating around the drilling activities which naturally, translates into more money, it will be a welcome relief.
Another area where cost can be minimized is for the marginal field operators to design their wells in such a manner that they will be stacked in an area with drilling taking off from one point on the surface into several points within the sub-surface using the most cost effective directional drilling method. This will save operators the frequent cost of mobilization and demobilization of drilling rigs, disassembling, trucking and assembling of such rigs and mobilization/demobilization of contractors for every well as the number of wells planned to be drilled for a year to several can be done from a stack. TotalFinaElf has made commendable inroads in this regard in their onshore drilling campaigns over the years. The second critical factor is for drilling rig manufacturers and drilling contractors to find a way around the massive discharge of environmentally unfriendly generator fumes into the atmosphere, fumes that are in their totality, partly responsible for global warming. The third and most critical, is for operators to put an end to gas flaring for the emerging realities demand no less.
In offshore drilling, no site is required to be prepared other than to properly position the rig. For a Jack-up drilling rig with legs driven down to the bedrock of the sea, it is much easier to manage but for ocean going drilling vessels like the semi-submersible drilling rigs and the drillships, the only complication is depth management and rising sea levels has little or no effect whatsoever as the drilling rigs are merely floating vessels. Since these drilling rigs are floating on water, the impact of riotous waves on them cannot be overemphasized. Though, these drilling rigs are equipped with heave compensators, service providers that have a lot to do with depth management of data compensates for the effect of the waves by running specialized software in managing their services on board the ocean going vessels. Such service providers include but are not limited to, the measurement while drilling, MWD companies and the mudloggers.
The need to compensate for depths in their services arises from the fact that not taking into consideration fluctuating wave heights will make nonsense of the interpretation that is sure to follow. As with all drilling rigs, the drilling contractors and rig manufacturers need to find a more environmentally friendly way of managing the emissions being churned out by industrial generators mounted on the rigs in addition to putting an end to gas flaring.
Drilling practices like massive emission of generator fumes and gas flaring has to change in order to accommodate emerging realities. Planning of drilling operations with this challenge in mind is the proactively cheaper way of reducing the threat of climate change to the environment. The climatic conditions are changing so much that geography is gradually becoming history! A country with no action plan on climate change will soon be at the mercy of its effects. To this end, Nigeria’s Ministers of Environment and Petroleum resources must advance the matter with result-driven fervor before it beats us all to a gratuitous retreat!