Brunei's Total to boost output

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (Borneo Bulletin/ ANN) - Total hopes to further increase its gas production capacity in Brunei Darussalam as the French oil giant is fast on track to complete its Maharaja Lela Jamalulalam Field (MLJ) offshore platform expansion project.

The company is currently working to add a fifth well at the MLJ platform located at Block B Joint Venture (BBJV), Vincent Dutel, who took over as General Manager of Total E&P Borneo BV last year, told the Bulletin in an interview on the sidelines of a recent Hari Raya open house held for the company’s stakeholders and partners at Tarindak D’seni in the capital.

TOTAL is currently operating four wells at the site and now waiting for its fifth well to begin production, he said, adding that the company is looking to add more wells.

Total has been in operation in Brunei since 1987 and is represented by two subsidiaries - Total E&P Borneo BV (TEPB) and Total E&P Deep Offshore Borneo BV (TEPDOB).

TEPB is the operator of BBJV with 37.5 per cent interest, while Shell Deepwater Borneo Limited holds 35 per cent and PB ExPro 27.5 per cent.

TEPDOB is the operator of Block CA1 with 86.9 per cent interest together with Murphy Oil (8.1 per cent) and Petronas Carigali Brunei Limited (five per cent).

MLJ, located in Brunei Block B, was discovered in February 1990 and has been producing gas and condensate since 1999. Its onshore processing plant in Lumut produces an average of 50,000 boepd (barrels of oil equivalent per day).

Late last year, Total marked its 25th anniversary together with its Block B joint venture partners. The French oil major also celebrated its first gas delivery from the Maharaja Lela Jamalulalam 3 Platform (MLJ3).

It currently operates three platforms (MLJ1, MLJ2 and MLJ3) and one onshore processing plant, located in Lumut. Production at the third well of MLJ3 has boosted the company’s output by 30 per cent.

"We produce more or less 15 per cent of the (nation’s) gas output which is delivered to Brunei LNG," Dutel said.

He indicated that the company is on the way towards completion of its major investment at the Maharaja Lela South - an expansion project that the company launched about four years ago. The investment is close to $1 billion.

"When we sanctioned the project, it was estimated to cost $1.4 billion, but we managed to reduce it to $1 billion," the Total general manager said.

The first well was completed in mid-2016, and according to him it currently has four wells in operation.

The Maharaja Lela South project consists of a new platform and upgrades to the onshore processing plant and is expected to increase production by 20 per cent as well as extend the life of the field beyond 2035.

"Last year, we revamped our onshore processing facility in Lumut. We also started drilling (at the MLJ) in July last year. We already have four producing wells with the latest beginning production a year ago. Currently, we are in the process of completing the fifth well and we still have another one coming up after that," Dutel said.

"The drilling of these wells are very challenging; we drill very deep with very high pressure, reaching 15,000 PSI, meaning we have to pay a lot of attention due to its challenging technicality," he said, adding that these wells also have to withstand temperatures of up to 165 degrees Celsius.

He said the company’s main priority is maintaining safe operation at all time, ensuring high level of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) standards not just for drilling operations but also processing at the onshore plant.

Vincent underscored the company’s excellent achievements in safety performance, including by its service companies and contractors. He hoped that this momentum could be maintained going forward.

Speaking on the importance of HSE, Vincent said that generally, operations must ensure measures to analyse potential risks and hazards that are associated with them, and mitigating measures, including adaptability towards changing conditions or situations, are put in place.

"Before we started the new project, we used to produce four million cubic metres of gas per day. Currently, we are producing around six million cubic metres per day. This is a huge increase compared to what we produced two years ago," he said. "We also managed to increase our production of condensate, which is now regularly above 10,000 barrels per day, which is also a significant increase compared to two years ago."

According to the Total official, the company is satisfied with the progress of the MLJ expansion project so far and hopes to complete it by the end of the year.

"We also need a new geological assessment of the subsurface, because with the new well we acquire a lot of new information and new data on the reservoir and its protective geometry, which is important to have the reliable basis for us to look into what will be the next step. The next step could be to do additional exploration in the coming years, or we need to develop other reservoirs," he added.

With the completion of the current project, the company will extend its production plateau probably up to 2021, and then additional wells are needed to further extend it, Vincent said.

"But this needs to be discussed with our partners and customers to make sure that the potential additional investment can be monetised properly. We should not forget that we are at (around) $50 per barrel, even slightly below $50 per barrel. Although we cannot control the price, we can increase the efficiency to lower the costs of operation and cope with the cycle of crude oil prices and be resilient at the current oil price environment," Vincent noted.

Over the years, Total has made a strong commitment to ensure a sound local business development which benefits from the Block B Petroleum Mining Agreement whether it is through local employment or providing opportunities for local content.

Its Maharaja Lela South (MLS) project has employed 60 Energy Industry Competency Framework (EICF) trainees for fabrication works of the MLJ-Jacket which was fully made at the PB Services Fabrication Yard in Muara.

In November last year, during the 25th anniversary event and celebration for the first gas delivery from the MLJ3 platform, the Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar said, "The fact that Total E&P Borneo BV chose to do the fabrication of the MLJ3 platform in Brunei Darussalam shows the faith that they have in the commitment and the capabilities of our local workforce and local companies, which has paved the way for more projects of that scale to be done in Brunei Darussalam."

Out of the 104 employees of Total E&P Borneo BV, 69 are Bruneians.

In addition to the commitment of creating jobs for locals, Total in Brunei has also contributed significantly to other local talent creation commitments such as providing scholarship opportunities for aspiring Bruneians to pursue their studies up to the Master’s degree in France since 2012.