Texas A&M Student Paper Contest 2016

An Overview of this Year’s Contest

Written By Jonathan Holstein

Texas A&M is known for its traditions: The 12th Man, Midnight Yell, Fightin’ Texas Aggie Rings, and—if you are a Petroleum Engineering student—the Student Paper Contest. This contest, held each year at the end of January, is a unique part of the PETE curriculum, and is required to graduate. The “paper” is actually a presentation over a technical problem in the petroleum industry. On contest day, upperclassmen and graduate students all pile into different classrooms, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, presenting on the independent studies they conducted. As an undergraduate, you will be required to give a presentation during both your junior and senior year.

Though at first this may seem overwhelming, conducting an independent study can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Not wanting you to be thrown to wolves, the PETE curriculum contains two Technical Presentation classes, 335 and 435 respectively, in which you will prepare your topic and build your presentation before the paper contest. The rules leave substantial freedom as to what your research may cover, and it will typically be accepted as long as your presentation covers a technical problem in the industry and lasts for 10 to 15 minutes. After giving his or her presentation, a student will be asked several questions by the judges and the audience. These judges, who are industry professionals, individually evaluate each presentation and give a final score to be used for ranking purposes.

The most stressful part of the Student Paper Contest is presenting on the day of the contest. Plan to rehearse a few times the day before, and set your alarm for 7:30 am! Have your suit or business blouse ready to go, since the dress code is professional. The contest will start around 8:45, and you are required to observe all presentations given in your room, so plan to get out no earlier than 4:45 pm. You will be given several short breaks, one of which includes lunch. After the stressful day has ended, awards will be given at Hurricane Harry’s, where dinner will be catered. If you managed to impress the judges during your presentation, you could expect to win $100 for third place, $150 for second place, and $250 for first place in each room. Second and third place winners are invited to give their presentation again the following weekend in the finals. This is where the top two presenters of each room compete for the grand prizes of $600 for third place, $1200 for second place, and $2000 for first place among each group (graduate and undergraduate). Finally, the first and the second place winners from the undergraduate and graduate levels will be competing at the regional Student Paper Contest, giving them a chance to represent Texas A&M at the international Student Paper Contest, which is held during the ATCE.

Contest Winners and Previews of their Papers

Nadav Sorek, Doctoral, 2nd  
In this paper we present a novel methodology for reducing significantly the computational effort in waterflooding optimization problems while realizing smooth well control trajectories amenable for practical deployments in the field. In this method, called the Polynomial Control Method (PCM), we look for an optimal polynomial function to describe a well control along a time horizon. The computational savings stem from the fact that there is substantial reduction in the number of control parameters as we seek the optimal polynomial coefficients to describe the control trajectories as opposed to directly searching for the for optimal control values (e.g., BHP or rates) at each time step. We demonstrate the efficiency of the method on a realistic reservoir model, where we show that traditional methods, which consists of 1500 optimization variables, do not converge within 24 hours of optimization, while the linear (50 variables) and quadratic (75 variables) polynomial control methods did converge within less than 24 hours. More important, after 5 years of production, the proposed framework yields about four billion dollars higher revenues (almost 30%) than the other tested methods.
Hanyu Li, Masters, 2nd 
Pressure wave behaves like light which is an electromagnetic wave. When pressure wave hits boundary in homogeneous reservoir, it reflects back similar to light acting specular reflection behavior. When pressure wave hits boundary in heterogeneous reservoir like most of the unconventional plays nowadays, it reflects back similar to light acting diffuse reflection. Under such circumstances, image well construction for simulating boundary conditions is no longer valid. Therefore, multi-domain function which describes the reflection and transmission behavior of pressure wave is implemented. The simulation by this method obtains accurate early time well test data which could be used to estimate reservoir property. It also acquires late time data which can be used to calculate EUR for unconventional resources.
Austin Draughon, Senior, 1st
Offshore developments stand as a testament to the ingenuity and capability of our industry. Due to the increase in complexity, these environments pose significant challenges to production optimization. The allocation of multiple wells into multiple risers, separator operating pressures, compressor speed selection, and gas lift allocation are just a few of the unknown parameters that have substantial impact on the total hydrocarbon output of the asset. Understanding how best to determine these parameters to maximize output is the task of production optimization. Last summer, through my internship with BP, I set about solving this problem.
I first constructed a model of the entire system from wells to sales using a network modeling tool called GAP. I then history matched this model using a unique method of selecting productivity indices based on a deconvoluted PI forecast. Once I had matched he model, I attempted to use the tool to optimize production but encountered software limitations. These limitations resulted in a new understanding of the importance of the compressor recycle valves and they way they are used to alter the compressor throughput. Understanding that modeling these recycle valves would be a key to optimization success in the future was one of the project’s main outcomes.
Everett Claycomb, Senior, 3rd 
There is currently a drastic need for water in California and the American West that needs to be married with the excessive production of water in the oil industry. However, one of the biggest issues that occurs when trying to use produced water for either agriculture or human consumption purposes is that it contains these things called Disinfection By-Products (DBPs), which have been proven to be carcinogens. DBPs form when treating water with disinfectants, such as chlorine, to kill bacteria before desalinating the water (usually with the reverse osmosis method), and they are too small to be filtered out with the membrane used in the reverse osmosis process. In order to find a way to remove these DBPs to make water safe for human consumption and agriculture usage, I want to suggest using the nanomaterial Graphene Oxide (GO) to adsorb the disinfection by products in the influent (before being pushed through the membrane), so that the DBPs will be attached to the GO and the particles will then be big enough together (GO+DBP) to be filtered out by the reverse osmosis membrane. If the industry can come up with a way to treat water for these harmful DBPs, it will then be able to actually sell the water to the Western portion of our country, which would save huge costs in transportation and disposal. This is particularly important due to the fact the EPA has been cracking down on disposal wells, and inevitably will outlaw them forever. Thus, by effectively treating produced water and selling it, the industry can beat the problem to the punch by finding a way to actually profit off of this massive amount of water that is produced, while improving our reputation as an industry by moving away from these archaic disposal methods.

Hasun Kim, Senior, 3rd

The demand for efficient production of heavy oils will soon begin to rise as our current light crude is being depleted from conventional reservoirs. The difficulties of heavy oil and unconventional reservoirs are those of high viscosity, sulfur content, and unfavorable reservoir conditions. In-situ Combustion, however, can effectively remove impurities (sulfur, heavy metal content, asphaltenes) and reduce the overall viscosity to increase mobility and cumulative oil production. Through laboratory experiments, the addition of a 3 wt% clay had a huge impact on the viscosity, reducing one trial of its original viscosity from 50,000 centipoise to 3 centipoise. With dramatic results, a once unreliable and outdated method of thermal enhanced oil recovery can make its resurgence with proper reservoir analysis and careful air compression design.

Courtney Walker, Junior, 1st
As we all know, our industry uses a lot of water, especially in hydraulic fracturing operations. In many areas franc jobs compete with local water use. Acid mine drainage is a harmful pollutant produced by the mining industry. By using acid mine drainage in place of fresh water, even in small amounts, can limit our use of fresh water and take some harmful acid mine drainage out of the environment.
Garrett Cross, Junior, 3rd

The purpose of my research was to determine a way to increase production from tight formations in an economically viable way. Tight formations have much lower permeabilities, and therefore primary recovery factors, than conventional reservoirs. I suggested the use of Huff-and-Puff gas injection for enhanced oil recovery. Huff-and-Puff works in cycles, and each cycle contains three stages. These include an injection stage, a period of soaking, and finally the production stage. By injecting CO2 for multiple cycles, recovery was increased by 2.7%, but due to the amount of CO2 required and its associated cost, it was a net loss. However, gas is produced along with the oil in each cycle of Huff-and-Puff, and this gas can be reinjected with the CO2 in order to drastically cut costs and still maintain about 3% increase in recovery factor. When oil was $90/bbl, this could result in a profit of about $5 million. In today’s economy with oil currently hovering around $32/bbl, there would be a net loss of about $300,000. This process can be a huge success for companies, but we must first wait for the right economic conditions in which it is once again profitable.

Alexander Groh, Junior, 3rd
Sustained casing pressure (SCP) has been a constant issue within industry for years. Unwanted flow of reservoir fluids into the annular space between casing strings causes a dangerous buildup of pressure. GOM wells are particularly at risk with approximately 50% of offshore wells affected at a 15 year well life. Conventional workovers are employed to remove SCP, but they are usually expensive, dangerous, and time consuming. The goal of this project was to reduce the monetary cost of SCP by either reducing the cost or frequency of workovers. It was found that modifying industry best practices for cementing and completion jobs did not effect the occurrence of SCP. Instead, workover cost can be greatly reduced by injecting a pressure activated sealant into the affected area of annular space. Such fluids, developed by Dr. David Rusch, are a combination of polymers and monomers that are liquid at low pressure and gradually cure into a solid at high pressure. This method has been shown to reduce flow rate into the annular space by 95% or greater, reduce workover cost by 90% on average, and reduce workover time by 50%. This extremely efficient, flexible, and economic solution is recommended for resolving sustained casing pressure occurrences.
Jackson Klein, Junior, 3rd

In 2016 the EPA will be finalizing new rules regulating the amount of methane emissions the oil and gas industry produces. The proposed rules will affect midstream and upstream businesses. This study delves into three main tenants of the rules which affect upstream operators. Surface facilities, completions, and maintenance scheduling will each undergo changes from current industry practices. A road map ensuring compliance is presented as well as the financial impact to the industry for doing so. Understanding the most efficient ways to comply will mitigate the up-front cost as well as serve to ensure business can continue uninterrupted.

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