Strengthening our technical capabilities

We will further develop the core technologies we have cultivated through the exploration and development of oil and natural gas. We will also strengthen our comprehensive technological capabilities by challenging the technical issues we are currently facing in our existing business operations as well as new technology fields in view of the increasingly diversified energy environment of the future.

Core Technologies

Core Technologies : Turning our core technologies cultivated through our existing projects into specialty technologies

We will steadily maintain and improve our core technologies, which are essential to our existing conventional oil and gas field operations, while actively incorporating advanced technologies both in Japan and overseas. In addition, we will develop LNG-related technologies acquired through the development of the Ichthys LNG Project and the experience of operating the Naoetsu LNG Terminal, as well as tight reservoir development technologies cultivated in the development of oil and gas fields in Japan and overseas, into competitive technologies.

Core Technologies : Produced Water Treatment

The volume of produced water from oil and gas fields has been steadily increasing worldwide, and advanced water treatment technology has become one of the key issues in the oil and gas industry, given the need to recycle and reuse produced water.

INPEX commenced a demonstration test of Ceramic Membrane-based Produced Water Treatment (CMPWT) technology with JOGMEC, CHIYODA Corp. and METAWATER Co., Ltd. in 2015 and completed this initiative in 2018. We constructed and used an industrial scale demonstration plant featuring commercial-size ceramic membranes (180mm Dia., 1,500mm L) at the Yabase Oil Field in Akita, Japan, and successfully conducted a demonstration test over a period of 7 months. Our project team was awarded the "Engineering Commendation Award 2018" from The Engineering Advancement Association of Japan (ENAA).

Ceramic Membrane and Demonstration Plant (Akita)
Produced Water(down)/Permeate(Up)
Portable Test Unit

In 2018, INPEX commenced the "Three-year Follow-up Study" to improve and optimize CMPWT technology and operations as well as "JOGMEC's 2018 Water Treatment Market Study in the US E&P industry" with the support of JOGMEC. In this market study, we fabricated a portable CMPWT technology test unit to conduct a technology demonstration and sample testing.

Eyeing commercialization, INPEX has been introducing CMPWT technology to oil companies, etc. and discussing commercial application with partners.

Core Technologies : Control Asphaltene

The INPEX Technical Research Center's approach to Prevent Asphaltene Issues

Asphaltenes, which are often found in crude oil, precipitate due to changes in temperature, pressure and oil composition. The precipitated asphaltene particles grow to larger aggregates and are eventually deposited. The deposited asphaltene particles sometime cause serious production issues. As shown in the Figures ① to ③, these issues may occur at any oil field. INPEX's Technical Research Center (TRC) studies the mechanism of asphaltene deposition to mitigate asphaltene issues. TRC is also working to establish an evaluation method for effective asphaltene inhibition. As its latest initiative, TRC is considering the application of digital technology to obtain a more in-depth understanding of the asphaltene deposition phenomenon.

①Solid asphaltene
②Asphaltene deposition in reservoir
Blocking pore space
③Asphaltene issues

Core Technologies : Mercury

Natural gas and crude oil may contain trace amounts of mercury as a natural impurity. The occurrence of mercury depends on location, and it is known that mercury causes certain operational issues both in the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry. Mercury is also a toxic substance that poses a risk to human health and the environment. When production fluids are found to contain trace amounts of mercury, we remove the mercury as part of the production process to ensure we market and deliver a safe end product. Mercury that is removed is handled and disposed of appropriately, taking into account environmental and safety policies. However, the effect of mercury and its chemical properties on the production process remains largely obscure. In order to contribute to mercury control and management at every INPEX project, the Environment and Chemistry Group of the Technical Research Center (TRC) conducts comprehensive studies on the behavior of mercury and its chemical properties in production processes, and is developing a mercury partitioning model.

Fig. Chemical Form of Mercury in Production Fluids
Fig. A example of a natural gas production process and the overall view of the mercury studies

Core Technologies : Corrosion Control and Prevention

The Materials & Corrosion Group of the TRC studies material selection, corrosion control and failure analysis regarding oil and gas exploration and production. These studies contribute to the stable operations at each stage of development of an oil and gas field, including exploration, appraisal, development and production.

Contribution to Sustainable Operations

Shifts in technical roles by development phase

Core Technologies : Tight Reservoir Development

Fracturing Technologies

We have applied fracturing technologies required for tight reservoir development both in Japan and overseas.
It is important to understand hydraulic fracture propagation behavior in order to optimize fracture design and maximize well productivity. We therefore evaluate formation stress changes through geomechanical modeling and apply monitoring technologies including microseismic. We will continue utilizing these technologies to optimize development plans for our assets.

Fig1. Image of multi-stage hydraulic fracturing
Fig2. Simulation example of the formation stress change caused by hydraulic fracturing

Core Technologies : LNG (Engineering, Construction and Operations)

Leveraging INPEX's involvement in LNG operations such as the Ichthys LNG Project, the Naoetsu LNG Terminal and LNG carrier operations, the LNG task force gathers and utilizes information including lessons learnt, techniques and technologies related to the entire LNG supply chain spanning across the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors. The following activities are currently being implemented:

  1. 1.Transfer of knowledge and insights from the Ichthys LNG Project to the Abadi LNG Project
  2. 2.Technical research on LNG demand creation and business opportunities including LNG bunkering and small scale LNG
  3. 3.Dispatch of engineers to LNG projects for training purposes
  4. 4.Development of corporate technical standards and a database on lessons learned from the Ichthys Project.
LNG Supply Chain

Next Challenges

Next Challenges: Challenging current technical issues, conducting demonstrations and building new core technologies.

We will continue to study upstream technologies such as the development of deep-water oil and gas fields and the expansion of CO2 EOR recovery, and continue developing these into our core technologies. We will also explore renewable energy solutions such as offshore wind power generation, CCS1 and CCU2 and build these into core technologies too.

CCS1(Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage)

CCU2(Carbon Dioxide Capture and Utilization)

Next Challenges : Deepwater Oil & Gas development

The Deepwater oil & gas development task force has been working to enhance and strengthen our technical capabilities and knowledge in order to execute and lead deepwater projects as operator. Our main activities include the following:

  1. 1.Utilizing lessons learnt as well as technical insights and knowledge gained from Ichthys, Abadi and other deepwater projects, and identifying technical subjects to further enhance our technical capabilities.
  2. 2.Performing concept selection studies for several deep water projects.
  3. 3.Developing human resources through the above activities and on-site training and project execution.
※Refer to VISION 2040
Example of Offshore Field Development scheme

Next Challenges : CO2 EOR

CO2 EOR is a technology that merits considerable focus as it potentially helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving oil recovery performance. Once CO2 is injected into a reservoir, it efficiently displaces oil. A certain amount of CO2 then remains in the reservoir due to several mechanisms.
INPEX has some field experience in CO2 EOR, having deployed the technology at a domestic oil field. However, we are keen to expand our understanding of this technology to cover a wide variety of oil field environments in order to improve oil recovery efficiency. Currently, we are working to demonstrate the effectiveness of deploying CO2 EOR at a mature oil field.
We also recognize the disadvantages of CO2 EOR. Due to the nature of carbon dioxide, which less dense and less viscous than oil, it may sweep oil in highly permeable zones of the reservoir while leaving behind large amounts of oil in other zones. To overcome this weakness, we are focusing on a technology to inject CO2 as a foam fluid to provide it with greater density and viscosity than pure carbon dioxide. To this end, INPEX is working on developing a robust foam that will not easily collapse even in harsh reservoir conditions.

Next Challenges: Low Carbonization Technologies

In order to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which is considered to cause the Green house effect, we will strengthen our efforts to pursue and secure renewable energy solutions.
In addition to our existing photovoltaic and geothermal power generation initiatives, we will seek to develop solutions related to offshore wind power generation as one of our core technologies.
We will also work to build our CCS (Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage) and CCU (Carbon Dioxide Capture and Utilization) technologies into core technologies. CCS and CCU technologies are used for separating or capturing CO2 for storage and/or effective use.
As a member of the Geological Carbon Dioxide Storage Technology Research Association since 2016, we are developing and demonstrating safety management technology for large-scale CO2 injection and storage.
Furthermore, we are proactively contributing to the creation of a CCS International Standard (ISO/TC265) and are supporting a CCS demonstration project in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.

We are conducting demonstration field tests on the latest seismic technology using fiber optic cables in order to monitor the quantity and location of CO2 stored underground during CCS operations.
A fiber optic cable inserted in a 1.8 mm diameter tube was installed inside well A, and VSP (Vertical Seismic Profile) data was acquired from the surface.
We are now evaluating the applicability of DAS/VSP to CCS monitoring.

DAS/VSP: Distributed Acoustic Sensing / Vertical Seismic Profile

Emerging Technologies

Emerging Technologies: Technologies for the Future

We will work on next-generation technologies that will help shape the future energy environment. We will further develop water-soluble natural gas, a domestic energy resource with plentiful reserves, enhance recovery rates through improved water injection technology, chemical EOR and EOR technology using microorganisms. In addition, we will continue to consider CCUS1 solutions to further limit our emissions.

CCUS1 (Carbon Dioxide Capture, Utilization and Storage)

Emerging Technologies: Carbon Cycle

In order to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, it is necessary to understand the global carbon cycle encompassing the atmosphere, land masses and oceans, and to control CO2 emissions.
As a means of pursuing "carbon cycle" technologies aimed at further carbon reduction, we are participating in the "Japan Technological Research Association of Artificial Photosynthetic Chemical Process" led by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). We are engaged in an R&D initiative involving photocatalytic water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen, and the synthetic reaction between the separated hydrogen and captured CO2 to produce olefins, which have many industrial applications.
Meanwhile, we are also entrusted with NEDO's "CO2 Utilization Technology Development Project" to develop methanation technology that generates methane from carbon dioxide.

Emerging Technologies: Natural Gas Soluble in Water

The Minami-Kanto Gas Field, Japan's largest water-soluble natural gas field that includes our Naruto Gas Field, is considered to have inexhaustible reserves, and we plan to produce both natural gas and iodine over the long term. The Water-Soluble Natural Gas Task Force conducts various studies on technologies and productivity improvements aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of production operations. The task force is also engaged in joint research with other companies in Chiba Prefecture to achieve stable and sustainable production and further expand production volume.

Water-soluble gas producing wells in Naruto Gas field
Location map of Naruto Gas field, Chiba, Japan

Emerging Technologies: Next EOR·Low Salinity EOR

About Low Salinity EOR:
Low salinity EOR uses brine with a different composition to reservoir formation brine, and is noted for its reduced cost and lower environmental impact. However, its mechanism has not been defined, and INPEX's Technical Research Center is currently carrying out studies on this topic.

Coreflood Apparatus

Injecting low salinity brine into a rock core sample containing crude oil.

Produced Fluid Samples

Collecting produced fluid samples from the rock core sample.

Emerging Technologies : Next EOR · Microbial EOR

Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) is an EOR method utilizing microbial reactions. We focus on microbial reactions which degrade and convert oil into methane in the reservoir. A joint study project with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) was launched in 2008 to research the mechanism of microbial reactions. To evaluate the potential of this method, microbial cultivation experiments have been conducted under reservoir conditions. As the next step, we are planning to conduct a field pilot test at an oil field in Japan.

Figure 1. Water sampling
Figure 2. Project concept

Digital Transformation / Strengthening Technology Infrastructure

Digital Transformation (DX)

As Japan's leading E&P company, we are aiming for the full-scale utilization of digital technology across all aspects of our operations to render our business operations more resilient. We plan to focus on the following 4 key areas over the next few years.

  • Subsurface evaluation: Automating seismic interpretation processes and rock/mineral typing. Implementing cloud computing to shorten modeling and simulation tasks.
  • Drilling: Developing early warning mechanisms to mitigate NPT events such as pipe-stacking and loss of circulation.
  • Production / Plant operations: Enhancing overall efficiency through deployment of digital twins and other technologies.
  • Data Management: Promoting the effective use of technical data through centralized cloud-based information management.
Left to right: Ichthys onshore gas liquefaction plant in Darwin, Australia; Koshijihara Plant in Nagaoka, Japan; Production well in Akita, Japan
Our Drilling operation in Japan
Concept of INPEX Cloud

Strengthening Technology Infrastructure

We will further reinforce the foundations supporting our technical capabilities including the development of our technical human resources, the creation, sharing and utilization of knowledge, and the dissemination of our technical guidelines.

Career development program using skill map
Skill map flow