The oilsands must be relentless on SAGD well pad program costs: Suncor director

A model of Integrated Thermal Solutions' SAGD module solution at this year's Global Petroleum Show. Image: Deborah Jaremko/JWN

To be competitive on a global scale, SAGD producers must be relentless on costs, embrace innovation, and do so in such a way that looks for technologies to fix problems unconventionally, says Mark Conacher.

“Look to other industries that have solved something and then see how you can adopt that,” the director of wellpad development at Suncor Energy told Tuesday’s Oilsands Review speaker series on SAGD asset planning and well pad development.

Conacher said that Suncor found its well pad program costs at the Firebag SAGD project were quite high when compared to those of industry peers, but he and his team have devised a solution that he believes over the next couple of years should move the company closer to “best-in-class” status.

“We came up with a very highly-modularized layout. We have adopted a twin-row design. Our well spacing and inter-well spacing is the same…. Basically, it makes our facility half the size on the surface — half the piles, half as much insulation. We moved the module commissioning back into the module yard instead of onsite, and this should construct a lot easier.”

However, Conacher noted that drilling costs are still pretty high on an absolute basis, which industry must address in order to figure out how to develop consistent, sustainable, repeatable projects. But, he noted that the biggest variable in pad costs is actually for the gathering lines.

“When we step out concentrically from our plants, we are building further and further out. The cost of the pipelines, roads and power lines are variable. If we are close to a development, then that piece is pretty small, as low as 10 or 11 per cent of a project. But with the step-out ones they could be 30 to 40 per cent of your overall costs. There is quite a variation."

As companies look to new technologies to reduce water use and energy requirements at SAGD projects such as solvent or surfactant co-injection, flow control devices and superheaters, well pad programs will also have to adapt, Conacher said.

Ashley Leroux, president and chief executive officer at Integrated Thermal Solutions, told this week’s speaker series that as companies prepare to spend billions of dollars in their SAGD developments, they also have an opportunity to save billions of dollars through fresh thinking and new ideas around pad planning, and through collaboration.

He said: “It is a pretty hot topic about pads and sustainability in our industry.”

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