Who's who in steam

When we have been talking with potential investors and partners about steaming the Pilot oil field, we have often been asked who else steams oilfields, and does anyone do it offshore? 

Most people knew about the Canadian oil sands and the steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) schemes which are coming on stream at pace over in Canada. But not so many were aware of the steam flood projects which have been very successful in California, Venezuela, Indonesia and right here in Europe.

So we have tried to collate some data, though I have to say it has been a tad elusive and I am quite sure that the information we have is incomplete and not entirely accurate. We started with the Oil & Gas Journal 2014 EOR report and added up all the steam projects by operator. All the production figures in the tables in the OGJ report are from 2013 and are gross (before royalty and partner interests); so we adopted that convention and from our perspective that was what mattered, as what we wanted to know was, who are the pre-eminent operating companies in steam flooding? Actually we already knew the first answer to that question – the pre-eminent company is Chevron. They already produce over 300,000 bbls per day from steam flood projects and are busy investing in new projects around the world. Funny enough, Sefton Resources of old didn't get a mention, not even as a rounding error. 

But we looked at the numbers for the SAGD projects in Alberta and those looked a tad light to us so we went through every in-situ performance report posted on the Alberta Energy regulator's website and extracted the 2013 production figures as best we could. There was quite a lot of Canadian production missing from the Oil and Gas Journal's report, as well as projects coming on stream in 2014 and 2015 which we haven't counted as yet.

Then we noticed that some big projects we knew of in the Middle East, Mukhaizna, Qarn Alam and Wafra were missing, so we added in the production figures for those too. We knew that Russia did steam some oilfields in the past, in fact the textbook on "Thermal Methods of Petroleum Production" was written by Messrs Baibakov & Garushev, but finding up to date information has been difficult. The Yarega field is still produced using a combination of mining and steam and Schlumberger are involved in helping Lukoil boost production there towards nearly 70,000 bbls/day. A number of fields in Sakhalin and Azerbaijan were also steamed in the sixties and seventies but we haven't found out if that still continues. CNPC is implementing steam flood and SAGD technologies in the Liahoe oil province in China and is producing at least 20,000 bbls/day from their initial projects. CNOOC is producing some oil using steam technologies offshore in the shallow waters of Bohai Bay, but we couldn't find a production figure for those fields, though they are quite a player in the SAGD business after their $15 billion acquisition of Nexen in 2012. 

Nevertheless, we added in all the figures we could find for Russia, China and the Middle East although in some cases we aren't really quite sure which year they might relate to.

Perenco's Emeraude MOAB platform, Congo, Courtesy of and © Overdick GmbH & Co KG

Perenco's Emeraude MOAB platform, Congo, Courtesy of and © Overdick GmbH & Co KG

We were also really interested in the Emeraude field in Congo, as that is the only other offshore steam project we know of in similar water depths to our Pilot project; Emeraude is in 65m of water, whilst Pilot is in 80m of water. It took a bit of extra-special googling to find the data on the Congolese Conseil National du Credit website, but we got there and confirmed that Perenco are successfully producing about 9,000 bbl/day from what is really quite a difficult carbonate and siltstone reservoir. Some of that is from conventional production but Perenco say the steam flood is now operating on four steam injection wells and nine producers so there must be a decent contribution from steam flood to the overall rate. 

When all is said and done, we get pretty close to 2 million bbls per day of steam enabled oil production around the world. Chevron tops the list, PDVSA with all that heavy oil in the Orinoco belt comes next, then we have all the SAGD companies - Cenovus, Suncor, CNRL and the rest. Occidental are making huge strides with the Mukhaizna project in Oman and Exxonmobil, through Imperial, operate one of the biggest cyclic steam stimulation projects in Canada as well. Finally there is a surprising entry at number 9 in the hit parade by Lukoil with their combined mining and SAGD technique. 

Close to home Shell and Wintershall are steam flooding the Schoonebeek and Emlichheim field in Holland and Germany. (See how I kept the word "field" singular so that the sharp eyed among you would realise that it is just one field which crosses an international boundary.)

So here is the Steam Oil Production league table, do let us know if we have missed someone important or if we got your company's figure terribly wrong.

2013 Steam enabled oil production by operator

2013 Steam enabled oil production by operator