First Movers in Eco-Drilling: Going 'Dope'-less
"Dope" is the accepted term for a strong thread compound commonly used to bind huge strings of casing and other tubular goods together in oil and natural gas (O&G) operations– but Tenaris, a global manufacturer and supplier of steel pipe products and related services for energy and for other industrial applications, would like to see the entire petro-world go "dopeless."
Tenaris is in the Environmentally Friendly Drilling (EFD) program, which is led by the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). The EFD project's objective is to identify, develop and test innovative technologies that reduce the environmental impact of O&G activities in sensitive areas, some of which have not yet been opened up for development. Tenaris' patented "dopeless" tubular connection technology ® is in HARC's portfolio of recommended products for the EFD initiative.
"Tenaris 'gets it,'" said HARC's research (and unofficial corporate morality) director, Dr. Richard Haut. "They understand the importance of a triple bottom line -- people, planet, profit. They have significantly reduced their electricity consumption per ton of steel as well as their consumption of natural gas. They are one of a few service companies that actually produce an annual report. First one was for 2008. Third one was for 2010. 2011 should come out soon. Their new rolling mill in Mexico was designed and built to qualify for USGBC's LEED certification. (To have a manufacturing plant USGBC LEED certified – Now that is being committed!)"
"So, not only does Tenaris offer environmentally-friendly technologies to their customers, they strive to reduce their environmental footprint in their own operations as well."
And, case studies show "dopeless" tubular connections to be environmentally benign and safer for crews to use. The case studies also show that "going dopeless" makes economic sense.
Among other problems, traditional dope creates a hazardous waste from drilling operations and can take a tremendous amount of time for crews to apply properly. Also, a "dope" spill on the drilling platform is both a serious safety risk and cleanup challenge -- so "going dopeless" is an advanced connection technology which caught on first, starting shortly after the new century opened, in some of the world's most remote, fragile and costly to work regions, where damage to the natural ecology would be catastrophic.
One such region where "dopeless" technology is currently proving itself is in the large Kinteroni 2X onshore natural gas field located deep within the Peruvian Amazon jungle.
"The Kinteroni 2X became Peru's first-ever 'eco-well' to protect the delicate ecosystem surrounding the field and the care of the environment drove over every detail of the well design," reported a March, 2012 Tenaris case study about the experiences of the field's operator, Repsol, with the "dopeless" technology. "The project marked the first time that dopeless connections were used in every casing section of a well in a jungle environment, making it the first environmentally sensitive well in the Americas," the case study continued.
As for specific eco-performance, Tenaris noted: "Use of the technology reduced the chances of discharging potentially contaminating substances in the well. The technology also eliminated the use of fresh water and chemicals to clean up connections or remove storage compounds prior to installation." All in all, the company concluded, zero environmental impact was caused by dope discharges.
A vastly different – but equally fragile – eco-system where "dopeless" connection advances have proved themselves since 2004 is in the Statoil-operated Snøhvit offshore project in Norway's foreboding North Sea.
"The groundbreaking Snøhvit project was the first development worldwide to adopt dopeless connections for all casing, production tubing and liners run into its wells," the Tenaris case study on Statoil's experience in this challenging region stated. "Dopeless technology answered the strict regulations imposed by the Norwegian government on StatoilHydro´s [exploration and production] E&P activities to help protect the fishing industry and reduce the risk of harming the environment and livelihoods of those people who share the sea."
Providing a feel for just how hostile conditions can be at Snøhvit offshore, the study continued: "With temperatures reaching -40º C, the Arctic Circle has a slow and relatively self-contained ecosystem. In this environment, any failure would have catastrophic consequences. Workover operations in this subsea well are also very complex and expensive. Dopeless connections continue to perform flawlessly, even after seven years in the ground."
How "Dopeless" Connections Work
"Dopeless" technology is a dry, multifunctional coating applied to TenarisHydril premium connections in the mill. The coating is applied in a fully automatic process, assuring that the exact amount of the lubricant required by each connection is distributed in a controlled and uniform way on its surface. The process is carried out on dedicated production lines at Tenaris mills and facilities on four continents. Specialized technicians ensure consistent quality and operational reliability.
"Dopeless technology turns thread compounds obsolete and eliminates grease and cleaning solvents that are usually used during pre-running preparations. With dopeless technology, case studies affirm, operators can be assured of compliance in environmentally sensitive areas, for no thread compound, grease, oil or any other additive is released throughout the life cycle of the connection. Also, no cleaning solvents, soaps, chemicals or high-pressure cleaning are required.
All this dramatically reduces the eco-footprint – a primary goal of the ETI program. There is minimal discharge of hazardous materials at both the well site and in preparation operations, because dopeless technology is completely dry. Further, the protector is clean, making protector recycling simpler and more cost-effective.
Dopeless technology complies with the world's strictest regulations, for zero physical discharge is mandated for the Barents Sea. Thus, "going dopeless" is now the standard for casing and tubing in the region, Tenaris noted.
How Severe Eco-Protection Regulations Pushed New Technology
In the early 1990s, the Norwegian government launched strict regulations to stop the discharge of contaminated oil on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. This led to the term zero-discharge.
"In 2001, a North Sea operator approached Tenaris with a request to develop a premium connection that didn't require thread compound for make-up," explained Tenris' Julie Mathis, technical sales manager based in Houston. "By taking out this 'dope,' the technology would help guarantee the cleanliness of the wells and tubular products used during its operations. Excess dope inside tubular products and well bores can cause operational problems, damage the reservoir and release chemical substances into the environment. Our technical sales group teamed up with R&D to develop such a product, working alongside the customer to develop and test Dopeless technology. In 2003, Dopeless technology debuted in an offshore producer well in the demanding Norwegian sector of the North Sea."
Under the regulations as implemented, the government sets zero-discharge as a goal and requires new fields to avoid harmful discharges. Existing fields needed to implement measures to meet the zero- discharge goals by 2005.
Thus, the goals required development of new technology and the concept of "going dopeless" became today's reality.
Tenaris has diverse customers worldwide, which include many of the world's most well-known O&G companies, as well as engineering firms engaged in constructing oil and gas gathering, transportation, processing and power generation facilities. Its key products include casing, tubing, line pipe, and mechanical and structural pipes.
The Once-Little "Engine" That Did
Tenaris might be described as a once-small, Latin American "engine" that envisioned what it might become when it grew up into a Big Engine someday – and so, held the dream and did what it has.
The company has roots with forerunner companies that began in Argentina as far back as 1909 and early-on, created a reputation for pioneering more advanced and reliable industrial piping and related products. At first, the company extended its reach gradually through major energy player nations in Latin America, such as Brazil and Mexico, then later branched through the U.S. and Canada and well beyond.
Tenaris has historical roots starting in Latin America more than 100-years ago, when oilfield technology was almost primitive, compared to today.
Over the last two decades, Tenaris expanded its business globally through a series of strategic investments. It now operates a worldwide network of steel pipe manufacturing, research, finishing and service facilities with industrial operations in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa and a direct presence in most major O&G markets.
Tenaris' net sales last year were $9.97 billion and as of year-end 2011, the company employed 26,980 people.
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