E&P industry celebrates 150 years of oil and natural gas production in Germany

abarrelfullabarrelfull wrote on 02 Jul 2012 08:25

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The oil age began 150 years ago when an oil well struck oil for the first time in Wietze in Lower Saxony in Germany. Today most of the products we use on a daily basis would be unthinkable without crude oil – from containers for the food industry to CD’s and DVD’s to textiles and pharmaceutical products. Crude oil and natural gas have become the most important raw materials for developed industrialized nations.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of crude oil production, the German crude oil and natural gas industry is hosting a nationwide open day on Sunday, 30 August 2009. Twelve plants, companies and facilities will be giving fascinating insights into their daily work. Germany’s largest producer of crude oil and natural gas, Kassel-based Wintershall Holding AG, will open the doors to its Barnstorf oil production facility in Lower Saxony from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. Several thousand visitors are expected. Wintershall is a wholly owned subsidiary of BASF SE.

“The 150th anniversary of crude oil production is the perfect occasion to present our work to a broader public”, Dr. Ties Tiessen, Member of the Board of Executive Directors of Wintershall Holding AG and responsible for production, said, inviting anyone who is interested on a journey of discovery into the world of crude oil and natural gas production. As well as drill cores from nearly all the corners of the globe, drilling and production technologies will be explained using scale models and exhibits. The trainees at the Wintershall facility will also be presenting exhibits from their training workshops and the plant’s fire brigade will be giving demonstrations on fighting fires and gas protection. In addition, service companies will also be presenting their technical equipment such as coiled tubing and horizontal drilling machines.

Wintershall’s German operations are based in Barnstorf in Lower Saxony, yet the significance of the site extends well beyond Germany’s borders. The know-how cultivated here over almost 60 years in the application of cutting-edge drilling and production technologies is also brought to bear in Wintershall’s international activities. The expertise of staff trained in Barnstorf for their international assignments contributes to Wintershall’s global success in the exploration and production of oil and gas.

German crude oil production enhances technological expertise

The proportion of crude oil consumption produced in Germany is relatively low – domestic production, which totals 3.1 million tons, covers just three percent of demand in Germany. “But any production on one’s own doorstep enhances supply security”, Dr Ties Tiessen, Member of the Winter-shall Board of Executive Directors responsible for production, explained. Natural gas production in Germany in 2008 was 15.5 billion cubic meters, which was enough to cover 16 percent of demand for natural gas in Germany last year.

“Germany is where it all began for our company, and it has always been the foundation of our operations”, Dr Tiessen explained, adding that domestic production also gave the company a competitive advantage since production in Germany was technologically more demanding than in other countries because of the difficult geological conditions, and often only possible with considerable additional expenditure and special techniques. “However, the additional expertise that we acquire in exploration and production in Germany enhances the company’s technical competence and makes Wintershall a sought-after partner for other companies in E&P”, the Wintershall Board Member explained.

In particular, innovative techniques for the sustainable application and production of existing resources are becoming increasingly important worldwide. “Technologies that can significantly prolong the life of existing, older oil fields offer great potential for future production”, Tiessen said. Wintershall has been at the vanguard of innovative technologies in Germany for more than 25 years: in Emlichheim the company has applied steam flooding technology, which has allowed it to maintain production at a constantly high level of around 140,000 tons of crude oil per year. The oil field there is one of the oldest deposits in Germany and Wintershall has been producing there for 65 years. Just last year four new wells were drilled to continue production. On average only a third of the deposits in oil fields round the world are recovered – the rest of the oil remains in the rock pores. But with steam flooding technology the ultimate recovery factor of a deposit can be increased to up to 50 percent. “A global increase in the recovery factor by just one percent would increase the worlds’ reserves by one year”, Dr. Tiessen explained.

Wintershall continues to focus on domestic oil and gas fields

Wintershall produces oil from 15 oil fields overall – seven of them as operator – and thus accounts for a large share of overall domestic production: for example, the company is involved in production at Germany’s largest crude oil deposit, Mittelplate, in which Wintershall and RWE Dea each have a 50 percent share. With more than 1.6 million tons of crude oil a year, the Mittelplate deposit off the German North Sea coast at the southern end of the Wadden Sea tidal flats National Park in the state of Schleswig-Holstein provides almost two thirds of the total production in Germany and proves that raw material extraction and environmental protection can go hand in hand. Wintershall has also been producing from the Lechfield plain south of Augsburg for more than 30 years now and is currently producing around 32,000 tons of crude oil a year in this region. In Aitingen in Bavaria, last year Wintershall successfully drilled the “Schwabmünchen 5” well.

The company is also active in natural gas production in Germany. The BASF subsidiary produces natural gas from about 40 gas fields in Germany, operating about ten of these fields itself. Wintershall operates the only offshore gas production platform in Germany, the A6-A, in the so-called “Entenschnabel” (Duck’s Bill). It is currently producing around 400 million cubic meters of natural gas a year. In Leer in Lower Saxony, state-of-the-art technologies are being used to develop difficult-to-access tight gas reservoirs. A technology known as hydraulic fracturing is used to create fractures in the reservoir rock, thereby increasing the gas flow rate and improving the flow into the borehole.

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