BY CHRISTY ANYANWU
Engr.Olumuyiwa Aboaba has been a leader in oil and gas well completions engineering and management for more than 10 years.
Working with some of the world’s largest and most prestigious oil and gas and oilfield services companies, he has introduced, modified, and implemented cutting-edge zonal isolation, real-time data measurement, and sand control technologies and techniques across the continent. As the energy industry continues its efforts to cut operating costs and recover from the COVID pandemic, Daily Sun spoke to him recently to know about how he relies upon his extensive work in low-cost environments to provide a roadmap for companies to reduce those costs while still utilizing the latest technology in the field, his journey into engineering, and also his lifestyle.
Could you tell us more about yourself?
I have well over a decade of experience in the oilfield, and in particular a long record of leadership of teams involved in oil and gas well completions engineering. Since earning my Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering in 2008, I have been providing my expert input and oversight to sand control, zonal isolation, and real-time data measurement, and in particular, bringing the latest completion technologies and techniques, for the first time, to remote and low-cost well environments that had not been able to take advantage of these cutting-edge – but frequently prohibitively expensive – tools and systems, working with some of the largest and most influential oil and gas companies in the world.
What informed your decision to study engineering and the field you choose?
While in secondary (high) school, my outstanding academic performance earned me a lot respect among my PEERs, teachers and friends. I thrived in core engineering subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and Introductory Technology. I spent a lot of my time solving questions in core engineering subjects, supporting and solving difficult questions for my PEERS and Juniors. Engineering became a natural to me as every challenge I faced had to be converted to numbers and logically simulated for solution. As I approached my final year in high school, the need to pick one area of engineering for study in the university became imminent. Seeing that my Dad worked with the power generating station (Egbin Thermal Station), my interest in electrical and electronic engineering became a no brainer.
Paint a picture of my career and what has been the experience so far?
My career with Schlumberger started at the company’s Africa hub in Port Harcourt in January 2011. Following a highly competitive hiring process, I started as a Completions Field Engineer. The position involved every aspect of planning, preparation, and execution of complex well completion operations – everything from sand control to casing to landing the completions string– across a wide variety of conditions and onshore (land, swamps) and offshore (Drill ships, Jack-ups) rigs.
I took the initiative to gain the most hands-on experience possible – stripping down complex, high-tech completions equipment; analyzing it for problems, and identifying areas where it could be improved to fit the environment and circumstances in which it was to be employed – often in difficult and dangerous offshore drilling environments. I also performed technical inspections of all equipment received from manufacturing plants to ensure that it met required specifications and technical requirements, recording and mitigating non-conformances. Once the equipment was tested, analyzed, and assembled, I also built the entire completion sub assembly – putting all of the equipment together for field use – and conducted workshop testing to ensure it would perform under extreme, high-pressure, high temperature (HPHT) conditions.
In November 2011, I “broke out”, taking on a project (a “breakout job” in Schlumberger lingo) then taking ownership of it from Job Preparation through Job Closure, putting me in a position to lead projects at the drilling site. During the execution phase at the wellsite, I served as the main focal point between Schlumberger and its partner on the project, the international independent oil exploration and production company Afren Plc. I led all completion operations and monitored the process to make sure my directions were carried out efficiently, safely, and effectively. It was a great test of my engineering skills and of my resolve, not only overseeing mechanical operations but being put in charge – and absolutely responsible for – a field crew of eight engineering, technicians, and operators. I also merged those completions operations with the installation of a new reservoir monitoring and control system, providing not only the expert completion but an accurate, real-time way to monitor its condition – a complete solution to Afren Plc in its operations in Ebok Oilfield.
Schlumberger and Afren’s Senior management team were duly impressed, and I was given fantastic verbal and written recognition commending my professionalism, my team’s competency, and my commitment to safety. Given that success I was promoted to supervising field operations, first as a Field Engineer in 2012, then as a Senior Field Engineer and Completions Project Coordinator in 2013, and then, in December of 2014, as a General Field Engineer.
General Field Engineer (GFE) designation was another career milestone. Within Schlumberger, GFE designation is equivalent to an advanced engineering degree. Engineers seeking this elite designation must create, develop, and execute projects that impact the field population, Schlumberger and the oil field as a whole.
I recognized an opportunity to further develop a “brown field” in the Niger Delta region, the Okpohuru Field. In similar cases, I had found a great deal of success with the use of “intelligent completions” in these kinds of projects. Intelligent completions incorporate permanent well sensors and surface-controlled flow control valves, which enable the monitoring, evaluating, and active management of production (or injection) in real time without any costly well interventions. Use of these intelligent completions technologies give an average of a 20% increase in production (the extraction of oil and gas), a 90% decrease in water usage, and a 60% decrease in water injection (the injection of water into an oilfield to increase pressure to stimulate the production of oil and gas). These numbers translate into saving a project as high as 65% of the cost of oil production.
This issue in this case, however, was one of cost. Seplat – a well-known independent oil and gas company listed on the London stock exchange, and a major player in the region, was the primary operator in Okpohuru field. Schlumberger’s intelligent completions systems are generally very expensive solutions. In low-cost brownfield environments like that of the Okpohuru Field, those methods for intelligent completion appeared impractical, and in any event were far too expensive to install in a fashion which would allow the project to be profitable for Seplat. In fact, they had never been used in the Delta due to the cost and complications involved in adapting them for such a use. As a “low-cost” drilling environment, investment in both tools and time in Okpohuru would have to be relatively small.
I, however, saw the way forward, utilizing two different technologies for the first toime in the region. First, I introduced and deployed the first IntelliZone Compact (IZC) and WellWatcher Connect (WWC) systems in West Africa. The IZC is a reliable low-cost intelligent completion platform that provides flow control, monitoring and isolation. The IZC system is a single, modular zonal control unit that enables oil field operators to maximize production, maintain control and optimize comingling through remote downhole monitoring and control. Designed to provide an efficient and affordable way to control and manage zones in the well bore, the modular nature of the new system is flexible and adaptable, accommodating various completion designs, allowing it to be scalable with respect to components, features, and sizes, and therefore suited to smaller, “low-cost” environments. The IZC reduces completion lead time, accelerate commissioning, and reduce disruptions to production by eliminating interventions. Combined with The WellWatcher Connect (WWC) Solution – designed to transmit Real Time Data (pressure and temperature) from the wellsite to the company office – it is a complete integrated system solution that provides for surface control as well as safe remote monitoring.
Despite the difficulties with the remoteness of the project’s location and other factors, I led the project to a successful completion, with no negative Service Quality (SQ) issues, as well as no Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE), and no Non-Productive Time (NPT). My contributions did not stop there. To further the profitability of the Okpohuru operation, I put together an independent power-generating system utilizing renewable solar energy. My creation of the solar-powered energy system alone eliminated the need for fueled generators, saving Seplat approximately 10,000 USD per month.
Between all of this, I was able to save Seplat more than $41 million USD, via customized design, preparation and wellsite execution. From this one project, multiple reservoirs can be economically accessed with a single well using a smart completion. The benefits include improved reservoir management and reduction in the need for physical intervention. However, for a smart well to realize its true value, accurate production allocation must be achievable and the monitoring system must function for the life of the well. It therefore becomes critical that candidate selection, design, installation and operating conditions are all key aspects of the smart well decision matrix in marginal field applications. The success of this first installation has built renewed confidence in the prospects of field development in Okporhuru. The primary focus for the present is to evaluate the performance of the well and possibly develop a unique algorithm for future flow allocation. Future smart completions in the field will benefit from the experience gained and the IZC system is poised to be a technology of choice in marginal field applications. Real time flow measurements using downhole instrumentation, meets regulatory requirements for joint production and back allocation from multiple zones
My GFE project was so successful that, in late 2014, I went to Ivory Coast to oversee Schlumberger’s Baobab Phase 3 project in partnership with the Canada-based international oil and gas company CNRI as Completions Engineer. This was more challenging project for both Schlumberger and CNRI, not only because of the complications involved in a deep water project, but also it marked the first time Schlumberger had operate in Ivory Coast – adding a good deal of political and reputational pressure to get the project right. I led the team to remarkable success in Phase 3 – handling it so well, in fact, that by 2018 I was made Schlumberger’s Job Delivery Lead (JDL) for Schlumberger Completions Operations not only across the Ivory Coast, but in Ghana, Senegal, Mauritania, Togo, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Equatorial Guinea as well (In this position, I led teams of engineers, technicians, and operators in the safe, reliable, and efficient completion of wells throughout all of those countries, driving customer satisfaction and service quality while ensuring an efficient cost structure.
By the time I took charge of Baobab Phase IV in October of 2018, I had introduced the groundbreaking Optipac OHGP technology to the region, and combined it with the company’s “anti-swab” tools to push the boundaries of what Open Hole Gravel Pack technology (OHGP) can do worldwide – completing what was the world’s longest successful OHGP in history, at 4468 ft. With this, CNRI was able to successfully gravel pack the entire interval – saving thousands of dollars by connecting different reservoir sections with a single well – and increased the reserve recovery to about 61% from one well bore.
During my time as Job Delivery Lead and later as the Product and Service Delivery Manager for the Schlumberger Completions GIR in 2019. I directly led an expert team of more than 20 engineers, specialists, and operators handling on-the-ground operations for Schlumberger’s partnerships across the region, including with supermajor international oil and gas giants such as ENI, CNRI, and PETRONAS, as well as for distinguished regional and indigenous companies across the region.
In 2019, the Italian supermajor oil and gas company ENI was wrapping up its Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) project for which is an integrated project for developing fields of oil and non-associated gas in Ghana. As the Product and Service Delivery Manager, I was responsible for this project throughout its job life cycle (Design, Prepare, Execute and Close), supporting ENI’s operational needs. I was personally accountable for the integrity and HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) of all aspects of operations in ENI’s OCTP Project – a massive campaign to complete 22 deep water wells, many of which contained large amounts of potentially deadly (and difficult to detect) CO2& H2S (Hydrogen Sulfide) gases. I created complex completion designs and tool configurations for these wells tailored to suit the harsh environment of approximately 900m of water depth. Completions included: Sand face completion – 9-5/8 x 5.65” Cased hole Frac Pack with Isolation Valve, 9-5/8 x 6.00” Open Hole Stand Alone Screens with Isolation Valve, 9- 5/8 x 5.65” Cased hole High Rate Water with Isolation Valve Upper completion – XHP-HS Production Packer, TRC-II Tubing Retrievable Sub-Surface Safety Valve (Dual Control line), Down Hole Dual Pressure and Temperature Gauges, Dual Chemical Injection System and well interventions deployed on both slick line and coil tubing for Isolation (Plugs + Locks) and well stimulation operations.
Following my successes and the need to take on more responsibilities, I was assigned in June 2020 to take on a new role in Lagos, as the Completions Project Manager of the only International Oil Major that is active even during the crash in oil price and the COVID 19 Pandemic.
What lessons have I learnt about life as a person
I have learnt a lot about life but 3 things stand out for me and they are;
1. The importance of treating people right
2. Refuse to close your mind to other views
3. Let go of the past and keeping pushing
How do I relax when I am not thinking about the job
When not thinking about the job, I love to listen to music; thinking strategically about other areas of my life that has nothing to do with my current job
In the course of the job, where is your most favorite work destinations? Or you talk about your favorite holiday destinations
My favourite work destination would be Accra Ghana