Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij

Exploring new possibilities

“The company’s mission is relatively straightforward,” states Chiel Seinen, external communications manager of Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM).

“NAM is a 50/50 joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil specialising in the search for and production of oil and gas in the Netherlands. This work takes place both onshore and offshore in the Dutch and UK sectors of the North Sea.”

Formed in September 1947 following the discovery of an oil field near Schoonebeek, NAM made its first discovery of natural gas in Coevorden one year later. In 1959 the company uncovered the Groningen gas field near Slochteren, a significant discovery that paved the way for NAM to become the first company in Western Europe to drill for gas in the North Sea in 1961. Today NAM is the largest natural gas producer in the Netherlands with annual production of around 67 million cubic metres and the company produces more than 75 per cent of the country’s gas. Oil production is relatively small compared to natural gas.

“As a company, NAM looks to find, explore and drill as many new, small-sized gas fields as possible in order to meet growing demand and maintain the existing production,” Chiel explains. “In 2010 NAM drilled 34 onshore (including Schoonebeek oil field) and eight offshore sites, but it also puts a lot of time and work into trying to extract more gas from existing fields. This involves the development of new techniques, for example the injection of nitrogen into an existing gas field. This
technique boosts the gas molecules and results in an increase in production. Last but not least NAM is continuously working on the infrastructure of the large Groningen gas field. Natural pressure in the field is declining so NAM is adjusting its equipment to sustain the gas production and the flexibility of the giant field. It is work such as this that the company is doing on a day-to-day basis.

“In the last year NAM has celebrated two major milestones that highlight the company’s success and abilities. Firstly there is the redevelopment of the Schoonebeek oil field, where production restarted in February 2011 after a break of 15 years. This particular project has been a very large undertaking and construction work is still being finalised with the last well sides being put in place to ensure oil can be produced at full capacity. The rest of 2011 will be needed to complete the construction phase and in early 2012 the project will develop further with the finishing of the cogeneration plant that is needed for power and steam production.”

As Chiel continues, the most recent development for NAM is the acquisition of a new drilling rig, specifically designed for use in the North Sea: “This fully automated, high-tech drilling platform has been designed to be more cost effective and efficient than traditional rigs that are used in the field today. The company that made this rig worked closely with NAM’s experts to develop an application centred on providing cost effectiveness and ensuring a safe working environment.

“This rig has been created to operate 365 days a year, even during the harsh autumn and winter months when the North Sea can be a particularly challenging place to work. It has also been automated in such a way that it can function with fewer operators onboard, lowering the manpower levels needed. This is just one of many clever cost-cutting features the rig has that does not affect the effectiveness of the application. So what NAM is left with is a drilling rig fit for use in the relevant sector of the North Sea, and which is now out there in the field ready to deliver on its promise. Of course there will be small adjustments that need to be made in the coming months but it is expected that this rig will save the company a great deal of money and will allow NAM to continue drilling in the North Sea at an economically sound and efficient level.”

In recent years the Dutch government has made a concerted effort to boost the country’s energy industry through investment schemes, tax benefits and other policies: “The government has been very outspoken in its support for the oil and gas industry in the Netherlands and this has certainly helped boost market confidence particularly in the aftermath of difficult economic times,” Chiel continues. “As a result companies like NAM continued to work on technology improvements and innovations while aiming to drive costs down even further.”

Not simply focused on the present, Chiel is keen to highlight that NAM has its one eye looking towards the future of the energy industry: “Renewables will clearly play a major role as the world moves ahead to a more sustainable future and natural gas will have a huge part to play in that future as it is the cleanest and most flexible of all fossil fuels. As a company NAM knows this is an area that will require increased focus in the coming years and as such it will invest the resources needed to stay at the forefront of the industry.

“In the meantime NAM sees a bright future thanks to the development of new techniques that will help get gas out of the ground. These innovations always start out small and often require adaptations and modifications before being rolled out on a larger scale, but as long as the company continues to invest in technology and works to maintain low operating costs, there will be a great future ahead for NAM.”

Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM)
Services: Natural gas and oil production