Case Studies

Review of the Top Ten Scientific and Technological Progress of International Petroleum in 2023

1.Breakthrough in Understanding Natural Hydrogen Accelerates the Implementation of Development and Utilization Plans in Multiple Countries

Natural hydrogen, also known as "gold hydrogen", "white hydrogen", "geological hydrogen", and "natural hydrogen", is hydrogen generated during geological processes and is a truly zero carbon, renewable primary energy source. However, natural hydrogen has the characteristics of complex storage environments, significant differences in content, and wide distribution. Currently, global efforts to achieve energy decarbonization and net zero emissions have attracted widespread attention to natural hydrogen research and exploration, and multiple countries have formulated plans for the development and utilization of natural hydrogen.

Main technological progress:

(1) Deepen the understanding of the main geological environments in which natural hydrogen occurs, including the ophiolite belt, rift environment, and pre Cambrian iron rich strata. Among them, the natural hydrogen content in the ophiolite belt is relatively high, and the rift environment is mostly concentrated in the mid ocean ridge region. The pre Cambrian craton generally represents an oxygen deficient and iron rich environment.

(2) Forming an understanding of the mechanism of natural hydrogen formation, it is believed that deep magma, deep mantle degassing, rock fracturing, serpentinization, and water radiolysis are the main reasons for the geological formation of natural hydrogen in inorganic genesis.

(3) In 2020, the estimated natural hydrogen production was 254± 9.1 billion cubic meters per year; (4) Establish a natural hydrogen exploration method similar to the oil and gas reservoir system, clarify the reservoir forming elements such as "generation, storage, sealing, circulation, transportation, and preservation", and believe that compared to the long hydrocarbon generation process, natural hydrogen is renewable on the human time scale.

Oil and gas companies from countries such as Australia, the United States, France, Spain, and Russia have made progress in the exploration and research of natural hydrogen reservoirs. Mali in West Africa has successfully utilized natural hydrogen for power generation, with a breakeven cost of 0.5-0.7 US dollars, providing a reference example for global commercial development of natural hydrogen.


2.Three Thousand meter Deep Water Subsalt Exploration Technology Promotes Major Deepwater Discoveries in Namibia

Namibia is located between Angola and South Africa, the largest traditional oil producing country on the African continent. Its passive continental margin on both sides of the Atlantic is a favorable area for new oil and gas discoveries. However, after more than half a century of exploration, no large-scale oil and gas discoveries have been made. It is urgent to strengthen seismic identification technology and research on reservoir formation laws in deep water areas.

Main technological progress:

(1) Innovate the geological theory of oil and gas formation and reservoir formation related to the combination drift layer series in passive continental margin basins, and discover large-scale light crude oil in the sandstone of the Lower Cretaceous basin bottom fan and the deep water turbidite fan reservoir of the Upper Cretaceous, with recoverable reserves reaching billions of barrels.
(2) A series of matching technologies for identifying lithology and fluid properties in AVO three-dimensional seismic data in deep water areas, achieving prediction of strata, lithology, and fluids in areas with water depths exceeding 3000 meters.

Based on the identification technology of lithology and fluid properties using AVO 3D seismic data in deep water areas, a large-scale light oil resource of the Cretaceous system has been discovered for the first time in the deep-water to ultra deep water areas of the Orange Sub basin in Namibia, southwestern Africa. The total recoverable reserves are 800 million tons of oil equivalent, and commercial exploitation work is expected to be carried out within 4 years.


3.Intelligent Reservoir Description Technology Improves the Efficiency and Accuracy of Exploration and Development

Intelligent reservoir description is the most important component of digital transformation in the petroleum industry. In 2023, SPE and IMAGE international summits respectively launched new versions of intelligent Petrel and PaleoScan software. In the past two years, international oil companies have made significant breakthroughs in intelligent reservoir description technology in structural interpretation, reservoir prediction, and reservoir characterization.

Main technological progress:

(1) Application of Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN). CNN and other deep learning models have made significant progress in sedimentary data processing such as seismic fault structure interpretation, core images, and logging curves. They can automatically learn and extract features, which is helpful for structural and reservoir description.

(2) Multimodal data fusion. AI technology can integrate multiple sedimentary data sources, such as seismic, core, logging data, and stratigraphic descriptions, providing more comprehensive sedimentary facies analysis. Integrating multimodal data can increase the accuracy of comprehensive seismic geological analysis.

(3) Intelligent reservoir attribute modeling. Deep learning can be used to predict reservoir properties, such as rock porosity, permeability, saturation, etc. By analyzing geology and data, deep learning models can provide more accurate estimation of attributes, helping decision-makers better understand the characteristics of underground oil reservoirs.

The intelligent reservoir description is still being explored, and multiple tasks have not formed a clear workflow. Intelligent reservoir description technology has broad application prospects in oil and gas exploration and production, and is expected to improve the efficiency and accuracy of exploration and development.


4.Significant Progress has been made in the Technology of Using Microbial Fermentation to Produce Bio based Adipic acid

The process of preparing adipic acid using fossil fuels as raw materials has problems such as equipment corrosion and environmental pollution. The technology of extracting bio based adipic acid from sugar extracted from non edible biomass such as crop straw, launched by international major oil companies, not only realizes the green production of process raw materials, but also eliminates the emission of nitrous oxide gas, which is still a pioneering technology in the world.

Main technological progress:

(1) Combining microbial fermentation technology and chemical purification technology using separation membranes, by applying genetic engineering technology to reconfigure metabolic pathways within microorganisms, production efficiency can be improved. Using bioinformatics technology to design the optimal microbial fermentation pathway for synthesis, the number of intermediates synthesized by microorganisms has increased by more than 1000 times since their initial discovery, and the synthesis efficiency has significantly improved.

(2) Using reverse osmosis separation membrane to concentrate and purify intermediates, separating and removing unnecessary components from microbial fermentation broth, compared to traditional evaporation concentration methods, it has lower energy consumption.

(3) Compared to the production of petroleum based adipic acid, this process does not emit nitrous oxide.

The bio based adipic acid produced by this technology has been used for nylon 66 production testing, and it is planned to promote the commercial application of bio based adipic acid by 2030, which will help achieve a sustainable circular economy.


5.A new Process for Synthesizing Ethylene from Carbon Dioxide based on Biotransformation and Utilization Technology, Achieving a New Leap in Biological Manufacturing

The traditional ethylene production process is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the chemical industry and also one of the most challenging decarbonization processes. Under the pressure of carbon reduction, international major oil companies utilize captured carbon dioxide and adopt a new process of bioconversion technology to produce ethylene, achieving low-carbon transformation of traditional ethylene production processes.

Main technological progress:

(1) Capturing 95% carbon dioxide from the flue gas of ethylene cracking furnaces and mixing it with hydrogen, using biological recovery technology to convert the captured waste carbon into ethanol, and then dehydrating ethanol into ethylene through second-generation, low-cost processes. The selectivity of ethylene in this process exceeds 99%, completely free from fossil fuels, and is currently one of the most challenging decarbonization processes.

(2) The production of ethanol from carbon dioxide in this technology is a microbial based carbon recovery technology, which uses microorganisms that can absorb carbon dioxide without expensive chemicals and vitamins, and produce a large amount of ethanol.

(3) The ethanol dehydration used directly produces ethylene, which is lower in cost and simpler in process compared to existing technologies. Compared with traditional alumina based catalysts, the catalyst can lower the reaction temperature and improve selectivity.

This technology not only does not pose a threat to the security of food and water supply, but also directly achieves the consumption of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and ethylene selectivity exceeds 99%, achieving a new leap in biological manufacturing.


6.Progress in the Development of Negative Carbon Production Process for Polylactic Acid using Synthetic Biology Technology

Producing degradable plastics from the source instead of traditional plastics is considered the ultimate solution to solve the problem of plastic pollution. Polylactic acid (PLA) is currently the most ideal biodegradable polymer to replace traditional plastics. The negative carbon production process of PLA provides a sustainable development strategy for the production of degradable plastics.

Main technological progress:

(1) The combination strategy of metabolic engineering and high-density cultivation was used on a photo driven cyanobacteria platform to establish an autotrophic microbial cell factory for the first time. For the first time internationally, the biosynthesis of PLA was achieved in one step using carbon dioxide as raw material.

(2) Unlike the previous manufacturing approach of PLA, this technology optimizes the expression levels of key enzymes through systematic metabolic engineering, solving the problem of carbon flow redirection. After carbon dioxide enters the cell, it ultimately flows towards PLA, while breaking through the limitations of growth density and speed of cyanobacteria themselves. A new type of photoreactor has been independently developed, with a series of spectral optimizations and a controllable gradient light intensity method, make the growth of blue-green bacteria cells faster and denser, increase the cell density of blue-green bacteria by 10 times, and produce a PLA concentration of up to 108 mg/L.

(3) The next research focus of this technology is to increase the proportion of cell dry weight in PLA, aiming to further increase the proportion of cell dry weight to over 50%.

This technology has pioneered a new generation of PLA industrial production based on non grain raw materials. It can not only solve the problems of plastic pollution and non grain raw material substitution in biological manufacturing, but also directly capture carbon dioxide in the process of synthesizing PLA, helping to achieve the "dual carbon" goal.


7.Breakthrough in Research on Ocean Low-frequency High-capacity Air Gun Seismic Sources

With the deepening of the target layer for marine oil and gas exploration and the gradual maturity of full waveform inversion technology, the demand for low-frequency signals has driven the development of low-frequency air gun seismic sources. Meanwhile, with the increasing requirements for marine environmental protection, low-frequency seismic sources have become an effective technology to reduce the impact of offshore operations on marine life. In recent years, breakthroughs have been made in the research of ocean low-frequency high-capacity air gun seismic sources, and some sources have reached the level of commercial application.

Main technological progress:

(1) By using longer excitation chambers, larger volume bubbles are generated in water, increasing the capacity of the gas gun and effectively improving the low-frequency component of the seismic source signal. The gas capacity can reach several thousand or even tens of thousands of cubic inches. The Tuned Pulse Source (TPS) air gun has a capacity of 26500 cubic inches and can generate low-frequency signals of less than 3 hertz.

(2) By adopting a specially designed muzzle structure and internal excitation motion structure, the release speed of large capacity gas is reduced. At the same time, it is excited at a lower working pressure to further slow down the initial bubble expansion speed, increase the time for the source wavelet to reach the peak of the main pulse, reduce the mid to high frequency components of the signal, and lower the sound pressure level.

Large capacity low-frequency air gun seismic sources such as TPS, which have developed rapidly in the industry, have undergone multiple acquisition tests and obtained richer low-frequency information compared to traditional air gun seismic sources. Driven by the global marine geophysical market and the gradual maturity of full waveform inversion technology, the research and optimization of marine low-frequency air gun seismic sources will become one of the strong competitive directions for major companies, with good application prospects.


8.3D Logging while Drilling Technology helps improve the Precise Identification Ability of Complex Reservoirs

Logging while drilling can timely obtain the characteristics of the formation encountered during drilling. Fully utilizing logging data while drilling and combining geological, seismic, and other information to quantitatively describe and characterize complex reservoirs in three-dimensional space is of great significance for oil and gas exploration and development. The 3D logging while drilling technology launched by international oil service companies has made significant progress in complex reservoir description and precise geological guidance.

Main technological progress:

(1) By collecting 360 ° electromagnetic tensor data and transmitting it to the ground, using digital technologies such as cloud computing algorithms to invert large datasets, obtaining real-time 3D reservoir resistivity profile information, and using this information to calibrate seismic data to assist in reservoir modeling.

(2) Being able to predict formation morphology that cannot be described at the wellbore scale, provide fluid volume, reservoir and fault information at the reservoir scale, achieve structural description of reservoir space, and better understand heterogeneous reservoirs and complex reservoirs.

(3) Real time, high-resolution reservoir characterization and prediction provide more accurate geological guidance decisions in three-dimensional space, optimize well completion and production design, reduce total drilling time, assist in speed and cost reduction, and reduce carbon emissions.

The 3D logging while drilling technology has been widely tested in different geological environments in the Middle East, North America, North Sea, and other regions, achieving significant application results: real-time description of sand channels, achieving the best wellbore trajectory and maximum reservoir contact; By describing reservoir structure and stratigraphic characteristics, providing knowledge of reservoir scale and optimizing oilfield development plans; By integrating multi-scale measurement data and optimizing well location design, more accurate geological guidance decisions can be achieved.


9.Internal Directional Pressure difference Tool opens up a New Route for Rotary Directional Drilling Technology

The rotary directional drilling technology that applies the principles of push-pull, directional, and hybrid directional drilling has problems of complex structure, high production and usage costs. A foreign company has launched a new rotary guidance tool based on the principle of internal directional pressure difference guidance. 

Main technological progress:

(1) New guiding principles with strong guiding ability. Using the Bernoulli principle to generate hydraulic pressure difference on the working face of the drill bit, a lateral force is directly applied to the drill bit, pushing it towards the specified direction, achieving drill bit guidance with strong guidance ability. In the rotary drilling mode and sliding drilling mode, the maximum inclination capacity reaches 15°/30 meters and 30°/30 meters, respectively.

(2) Simple and compact structure with low failure rate. The tool length is extremely short, only 1.52 meters and 1.83 meters. It does not require the use of pistons and push blocks like the push-pull guiding principle, so there are no issues such as wear and failure that are prone to occur with pistons and push blocks. Due to its simple and compact structure, as well as the absence of external moving parts, it can significantly reduce the failure rate and improve the temperature resistance to 177 degrees Celsius.

At present, the steering tool (SBER) developed using Bernoulli's principle has completed field tests, and the results have shown that it can generate effective steering force and high build slope, opening up a new technical route for rotary steering drilling systems. This tool is expected to be promoted and applied due to its simple structure, reliability, durability, and cost-effectiveness.


10.Visual Inspection and Monitoring System for Circumferential Weld Seam to Achieve full Process Monitoring of Pipeline Welding

In traditional welding construction, the use of welding machine mechanical tentacles/wheels or non-contact laser triangulation systems to locate the weld seam cannot achieve dynamic monitoring of the tip of the tungsten inert gas arc welding gun and the position of the weld seam, and cannot measure the dynamic deviation between the weld seam and the welding gun in real time. In 2022, foreign companies developed welding audio processing tools to monitor welding parameters. In 2023, they developed a visual inspection and monitoring system for natural gas pipeline circumferential welds, which utilizes cameras for real-time monitoring and effectively solves the problem of dynamic deviation monitoring between the tip of the tungsten inert gas arc welding gun and the weld seam.

Main technological progress:

(1) The natural gas pipeline circumferential weld visual inspection and monitoring system combines high dynamic range weld seam cameras with advanced machine vision measurement software to capture the tip of the tungsten inert gas arc welding gun, welding arc, and weld seam characteristics.

(2) During the welding process, the visual inspection and monitoring system for natural gas pipeline circumferential welds can monitor the position of the welding gun tip in real time, measure the relative deviation between the welding gun tip and the weld seam, and measure the size of the weld seam in real time.

(3) The natural gas pipeline circumferential weld visual inspection and monitoring system can serve as an independent visual solution, providing real-time image feedback to operators, and can also be integrated with factory controllers for closed-loop feedback control.

The natural gas pipeline circumferential weld visual inspection and monitoring system provides comprehensive process monitoring solutions for pipeline manufacturers, improving the quality and reliability of their welding process. It has been used in some pipeline construction projects in Europe and has achieved good results.