Developing the South Pars Field

28 February 2006 (Last Updated February 28th, 2006 18:30)

Reaching remote gas fields is difficult and costly – especially when the field is in an under-developed region. Pierre Gie writes about Total's management of the $2bn development of the largest gas project in the Middle East.

Developing the South Pars Field

Total conducts exploration and production operations in 44 countries. Its E&P employees, who are constantly analysing sedimentary basins around the world, demonstrate the company's ethical commitment, expertise and performance in every aspect of the business, from licence acquisition to site restoration.

"Total South Pars and its partners invested more than $2bn in what is to date the largest gas project in the Middle East."

With an area of more than 1,300km², South Pars in Iran is one of the world's largest natural gas fields. Building an industrial complex in a region that lacked the appropriate infrastructure leveraged all of Total's know-how. The company deployed innovative technical solutions to deliver the onshore and offshore facilities on stream in record time and on budget.

A HUMAN AND TECHNICAL EXPLOIT

In 1997, as part of a multiphase development process, the Iranian authorities awarded phases 2 and 3 to Total South Pars, a Total subsidiary, and two partners, Gazprom and Petronas. Four and a half years later, phases 2 and 3 were the first of the planned 14 development phases to come on stream.

Total South Pars and its partners invested more than $2bn in what
is to date the largest gas project in the Middle East. At the end of 2002, with the project operational, operatorship was transferred to South Pars Gas Company, a subsidiary of Iran's state-owned gas company.

ENHANCED MULTIPHASE EXPERIENCE

South Pars leveraged all of the multiphase expertise that Total's engineers had acquired on projects worldwide, from the North Sea to Qatar.

For this development, the company chose to tie the production platforms into onshore installations using large-diameter, 105km-long multiphase pipelines, a bold move that had never been attempted over such a long distance and that demanded exceptional proficiency in multiphase transportation. This technology significantly scaled back the offshore installations required and enhanced the project's economic feasibility.

The vast complex was built on a 150ha site in the desert, where seven million cubic metres of earth were moved. Some 130,000m³ of concrete were poured, and 2,200km of cables and 25,000t of pipes were laid for 130,000t of equipment.

The utilities supply the installations with 160t of steam, 120MW of electricity and 4,600m³ of seawater per hour to meet operating requirements.

The gigantic construction site, which in just 42 months generated some 50 million man hours of work, involved more than 50 Iranian subcontractors and up to 11,000 people of 21 different nationalities during peak periods. The camp covered 50ha, in addition to the 150ha for the plant and 100ha for the industrial park.

SAFETY PROCESSES

The lost time incident frequency was 1.23 per million man hours for both drilling programmes, thanks to the combined, continuous commitment of management, supervisory teams and contractors. A total of 6,000 drills and training sessions were held to ensure that procedures were respected and to increase employee awareness.

"With an area of more than 1,300km², South Pars in Iran is one of the world's largest natural gas fields."

Skills transfer was a decisive factor for the future of the South Pars project. Iran had been closed to international companies for around 20 years, and therefore had not had access to technological innovations in drilling and operating equipment. Accordingly, once conceptual design began, a dedicated team deployed a programme to train young university graduates as future production operators, with 650 people participating since early 2000. Experienced operators from other facilities also received special training.

To facilitate the project's integration into the host community, Total financed medical facilities and air conditioning and furniture for two healthcare centres and an orphanage. A school was also fully refurbished. Retention barriers built to prevent mudslides from the Zagros Mountains also protect the installations and local residents.

EXPERTISE IN INTERNATIONAL PROJECTS

In meeting this technical and human challenge in difficult circumstances, Total demonstrated its ability to complete world-class projects on budget and on schedule.

This performance has strengthened its position as a key player in gas and, in energy in general, in the Middle East, a region where the company has operated for 75 years and is a partner in seven countries.