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Gazprom Neft and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology establish a science and technology centre to support research into fracking at the Bazhenov Formation

Gazprom Neft, together with the at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) Engineering Centre have established a fracking support centre in St Petersburg to investigate optimum technological solutions for developing the unconventional reserves of the Bazhenov Formation.

The new centre will employ geologists, geomechanics and engineers from Gazprom Neft and the MIPT Engineering Centre. Plans include supporting dozens of multi-stage fracking operations at high-tech horizontal wells, which will be drilled throughout Gazprom Neft’s projects on developing the Bazhenov Formation. Employees at the centre will begin providing specialist support in selecting well options, as well as determining optimum parameters for fracturing (fluid injection rate, fracture points and their geometry, etc.), taking into account the geological features of the Bazhenov Formation with regard to unconventional reserves. The MIPT Engineering Centre’s skills and competencies in analysing “Big Data” and in machine learning will be fully utilised in addressing the objectives set. The collective work of these experts will allow quick decision-making in selecting technologies for developing the Bazhenov Formation, in analysing the experience the company has gained in working with this group of reserves, and taking account of new information obtained from operations undertaken.

Working with unconventional reserves, of which the Bazhenov Formation is the most significant in Russia, is one of the key areas of focus in Gazprom Neft’s Technology Strategy. In spring 2017 the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation approved an application from Gazprom Neft and awarded its initiative on “Developing Domestic Technologies and High-technology Equipment to Develop Reserves at the Bazhenov Formation” the status of a national project. The company is establishing the Bazhen Technology Centre in the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug, in which all of the cutting-edge competencies and technologies available to Gazprom Neft will be concentrated, and which will become the basis for creating cost-effective methodologies for developing the Bazhenov Formation. The Bazhen Technology Centre, moreover, will become an open industry platform allowing initiatives by oil and gas companies, oilfield service companies, the scientific community, investors, and the state to be brought together. All participants, including oil companies, equipment manufacturers and innovative developers, will be able to create and test technologies at the Palyanovsky area within the Krasnoleninskoye field.

The collective efforts of specialists from the Gazprom Neft Science and Technology Centre and MIPT have, already, resulted in the creation of “COFS” software (“Calculating Optimum Fracturing Systems”) — the only IT product in the world developed specifically for the Bazhenov strata. This simulator helps assess how a crack or fissure will develop within the strata, and allows its form (length, thickness, width and other geometric characteristics) to be simulated, as well as allowing an assessment to be made of the amount of oil likely to be produced through such borehole. Know-how around this product takes into account changes in a strata’s geo-mechanical properties as a result of fracking, and the changing impact of each subsequent fracking operation. Mathematical and physical models are used in simulations, which take the influence of dozens of factors into account. The software package was created in 2015–2016 as part of the work of a consortium studying the Bazhenov Formation — the largest study in the industry investigating the Bazhenov complex, and including some of the country’s leading universities: the MIPT Engineering Centre, the Geological Faculty at Moscow State University, the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas, and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech). Specialists from Gazprom Neft’s Scientific and Technology Centre, together with MIPT, have continued developing new modifications for this software throughout 2017.

Alexey Vashkevich, Head of Geological Exploration and Resource Base Development, Gazprom Neft, commented: “We see horizontal drilling with multi-stage fracking of strata as the basic technology for developing the Bazhenov Formation. But there are dozens of parameters, metrics and options within which fracturing operations can be undertaken. Finding the right combination of these elements — and, in respect of some of them, going beyond currently available limits — that’s our challenge. The fracking centre is being established together with MIPT precisely in order to develop an optimum method for selecting parameters and metrics for technological operations for cost-effective oil recovery from non-traditional reservoirs.”