By Robin Simpson and Andy Pfaff
Robin Simpson: In the summer of 2004, we visited China for the very first time to look at schools and houses and prepare to move our family to live and work in Beijing for Apache on the Zhao Dong Project.
We chose to live near other families in Shunyi district. My wife, Leslie, wanted to do volunteer work with orphans and children with medical needs and there were opportunities out in Shunyi area to do that too.
Within a few months of arriving, my wife came home from volunteer work at a local medical-needs home to say that we may be fostering a little girl since her current foster parents were moving back to the United States.
When we left China, Leslie handed over her charity to another like-minded person who has taken it forward to even greater heights. It helps even more people and employs around 30 full time local staff.
Turning to work, the story of Zhao Dong is remarkable. Through expansion and infill drilling that project has more than doubled in size since those early beginnings in 2004.
The friendships we made are still very fond memories. There was one memorable day in early 2005 at the heliport in Tanggu when Wu Yong Ping, the JMC chairman, and I were due to visit offshore but thick fog stopped our flight.
In that heliport, we spoke of our shared future dreams for the Zhao Dong project, of pipelines and electric cables.
Over the subsequent years, all of those dreams came true. It took a strong partnership to make these things happen since there were both offshore and onshore elements to the construction.
Looking back, we were lucky enough to experience an historic period for China. The rise of China as a world superpower, the financial power of China is growing to rival the world greats. The massive investment in infrastructure in China, endless kilometres of roads and fast rail links.
Andy Pfaff: I have worked in the oil and gas development industry in Sichuan since 1999. When I think of all of my various experiences over this period, there are several in particular that stand out.
China was not my first experience in an international environment nor my first in Asia so cultural differences from the United States were expected.
My first impression was that although the Chinese were tough negotiators, the people were friendly and sincere.
One of the other initial lessons that I learned was the importance of logistics.
Having worked in other countries as well as offshore, I knew that having material on hand or readily available was important. In Sichuan, often there is equipment or material that is needed for a project but that is difficult to procure in any great quantity or at all, if there was not any at your location to start with.
Probably the most interesting project that I have worked on in China was the initial horizontal multi-stage completions that we did.
The project involved several months of planning and coordination. We had more than 10 service companies involved— both Chinese and international.
It involved coaching and training local crews on how to perform a pump down of a perforating gun and plug, microseismic monitoring, discussions with experts in North America during operations, coiled tubing cleanouts, snubbing tubing as well as feeding and housing more than50 people.
This was accomplished without a safety or environmental incident. We progressed over the course of completing four wells from a single stage stimulation treatment per day to 24 hour operations and pumping more than three stages in 24 hours.
The infrastructure and technology improvements make many of the operations in Sichuan comparable to those in any other oil and gas basin worldwide and better than most.
(Robin Simpson was the head of CNPC’s Zhao Dong project and Andy Pfaff is a general manager of the EOG ResourcesInc’s China branch. PetroChina Foreign Cooperation Administration Department provided this story)