Intelligence gathering

The digital oilfield has become mainstream and is how business is now conducted. That was the message at the third SPE Intelligent Energy conference convened in The Netherlands this spring with over 1500 attendees including a high proportion of business leaders. Meg Chesshyre listened in.

The digital oilfield, AKA smart or intelligent energy, has truly come of age – and is now delivering solutions to some of the pressing challenges facing the oil and gas industry, noted BP's chief operating officer Doug Suttles in his keynote address to the Utrecht conference. ‘As an industry this means we now have established a global footprint in the application of intelligent energy. This is no longer an event dominated by innovators trying to sell the ideas. Many IOCs and NOCs now have experience with the digital oilfield in a variety of settings, and have very similar stories to tell of real business value that has been delivered.'

According to Suttles, as fields become more complex, in remote areas, intelligent energy can make the difference between having a development or not. ‘For example, intelligent completions which reduce well count and capital investment can covert an uneconomic development to an economic development,' he said. ‘Globally at BP we have installed over 20 intelligent completions for downhole flow control for reducing well count on new fields, eliminating future intervention costs and accelerating production.

‘In the area of recovery factors the potential is massive. The current industry average recovery factor is around 35%. If the average recovery factor were raised by just 5%, it would add approximately 170 billion barrels to world reserves, enough for more than five years supply.

‘In the Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska we have new and better tools to improve recovery rates from a mature super giant field. To understand more than 30 years of production history we need a great set of tools to manage and integrate massive amounts of data – both old and new. So far we have increased the recovery factor from approximately 40% to more than 60% since we initially sanctioned development,' estimated Suttles.

‘In Clair, BP and our partners have invested in a life of field seismic (LoFS) to provide 4D seismic which enhances reservoir understanding in a very challenging, fractured reservoir. This is beginning to have an impact on our understanding of the reservoir, how we manage it, and in improving the planning and delivery of new wells, all in the service of increasing the ultimate recovery from this huge field.

‘In BP, we now look to design in the deployment of digital oilfield capabilities from day one in our new developments. Our recent start-ups in the Gulf of Mexico, Angola and Indonesia are proving up the value of this decision with measurable impacts on production, start-up efficiency, and faster understanding of reservoir behavior. For example, we believe we have increased Thunder Horse production by 10,000b/d from optimizing well rates based on real-time information. At Tangguh in Indonesia we implemented real-time collaboration with our onsite drilling team and the drilling engineers who were some 3000km away so that they were able to see the same real-time information, saving millions of dollars in lost productive drilling time.

‘Additional barrels through real-time monitoring, diagnosing and addressing performance issues, and better optimization, tend to be amongst the lowest cost barrels available – often more efficient than the most efficient well intervention work we do.' But it's not simply about equipment, Suttles noted. ‘How we improve the decision making and capability of our people will also be a significant source of future value. Effective decision making is about getting the right data and information, as quickly as necessary, to the people with the skills to analyze and act, wherever they might be in the world.'

In order to access this potential, BP has set up a series of collaboration facilities. To date, the company has built 35 advanced collaborative environments where the office support team is directly tied to the field with live data and communication links in a dedicated centre.

‘As we invest in ever more complex and expensive wells that produce at very high rates – in many cases over 20,000b/d – it is critical we optimize these wells in real time,' explained Suttles. ‘In BP we now have real-time surveillance data on more than 80% of our top 100 wells.'

Suttles calculated that intelligent energy had added roughly 50,000b/d of gross production across BP's portfolio in each of the last three years. ‘This has been based on the deployment of solutions in 25 different areas of functional capability, including the 35 collaborative environments, over 2000km of proprietary fibre optic network, and enabling access to over 2 million individual data tags on thousands of pieces of equipment and over 700 wells. And all of this only covers about a third of the portfolio.'

He stressed that intelligent energy investments must be targeted and deliver clear benefits. ‘The investments must compete with the other investment choices companies have and the benefits must be of material size – it must matter. And, from our experience, you need a team of experts who can guide both your technology programme but, just as importantly, a team who can guide the organisation in appropriate application of these technologies.'

Progress with BP's digital oilfield initiative, the ‘Field of the Future Technology Flagship', initiated in 2005, was discussed in one of the conference papers. The aim is to deliver significant production (100,000boe/d net to BP) and reserve (1 billion barrels) targets by 2017. One example cited was the virtual flow meter installed on the Thunder Horse field in the Gulf of Mexico which allowed production to be safely managed closer to the vibration limits. This is said to have resulted in a 10,000b/d production increase.

In Norway, BP had piloted an automated system, linking real-time data to algorithms to valves, to control slugging wells on Valhall, resulting in a 3000b/d production increase. This is now being used on Atlantis in the Gulf of Mexico and is reported recently to have had a significant production impact on one of BP's assets in Angola.

The ‘Field of the Future' concept is now considered a routine part of how BP builds projects and operates fields across much of its portfolio.

Born smart
‘In our upstream business, intelligent energy is encapsulated in the term "smart fields", Shell's director of projects and technology Dr Matthias Bichsel explained in a plenary session presentation. ‘Under this banner we have an extensive programme of integrating and implementing numerous technologies, and smart fields create value.'

He estimated $3.5 billion of net present value between 2003 and 2009 had been generated for Shell and partners through the use of intelligent technology. Most of this came from increased production and unlocking complex reservoirs.

‘We determine what the right level of smartness is for each new development, then we build solutions,' he said. ‘The deepwater Perdido development, which has just come onstream in the Gulf of Mexico, was born smart.' Perdido's use of advanced optics shifted the burden of the surface facilities and subsurface performance monitoring to an automated system, which is operated and controlled from New Orleans, Shell's operations centre for all its deepwater fields in the Gulf of Mexico. ‘This set up increases cost effectiveness, and it makes sure our engineers can dedicate their attention to non-routine and more complex issues.'

Like BP's Suttles, Bichsel stressed the value of collaborative work environments. ‘These environments bring the people together to allow them to work collectively to fully integrate the team, really breaking down the silos. We create value for our business by improving the integrity and safety of our information.' He added that smart fields had not only become standard in Shell's upstream business, but that the same type of smart technology was being used in the company's downstream manufacturing operation facilities.

‘I expect that all new fields will not just continue to be born smart, but they will become much smarter than we can see today, in ways that we perhaps cannot yet imagine,' said Bichsel. ‘Technologies will give us the ability to see and influence even more what is happening in the reservoir and we are calling that "shining the torch into the reservoir" to really see what is happening there.'

He saw intelligent energy as a great way to attract graduates and new professionals into the industry, adding that Shell had been at the forefront of digital oilfield development for well over a decade. ‘It has provided us with a competitive advantage, and I intend to fully leverage that globally,' he declared.

Collaboration advances
The growing popularity of collaborative centres has been mirrored across the industry and was mentioned in a number of presentations.

Satish Pai, VP operations, oilfield services at Schlumberger, said that in 2004 his company had two or three real-time operation support centres (OE November 2009), in Aberdeen and the Gulf of Mexico. Now the company has 31 such facilities around the world. ‘With operation centres you can start to use a smaller population of experts and leverage them over a much larger number of well sites,' Pai noted.

Tim Probert, president, global business lines and corporate development at Halliburton, said some 40 real-time centres are now supported by his company globally on behalf of itself and its clients.

Astrid Helga Jørgenvåg, Statoil's VP/ asset owner for Åsgard-Mikkel in the North Sea, said that the next step for her company was moving to collaboration all the time. Statoil is building new offices for the asset at Stjørdal outside Trondheim, and the main part would be collaboration rooms.

Cristina Pinho, E&P operation and general manager at Petrobras, described the company's digital field management system (GEDIg in Portuguese), adding that a homogenous method for all assets was inefficient, as their needs are very different. People needed to understand that intelligent energy would bring gains. ‘We are all still incorporating the lessons learned. This is only the beginning of the journey.'

Trevor Garlick, BP's recently appointed VP, North Sea resources in Aberdeen, but previously with the company in Norway, made the same point about trust. Probably the biggest challenge was to overcome the concern of the workforce that it was about manpower reductions rather than production and maintenance optimisation. He quoted the story of the ‘sock over the camera' preventing communication with the platform in the early days. It was a matter of not telling people what to do, but being seen to be supporting them in their work.

Statoil's Jørgenvåg said that she thought the people offshore felt much more comfortable if they knew the people onshore. Statoil rotates some of the technicians to sit together with the engineers in the collaboration rooms onshore. Garlick said BP did the same.

Curiously, although the business leaders now consider intelligent energy to be mainstream, a poll of the young (under 35) professionals at the conference indicated that 71% regard it as an emerging trend. Conference co-chairman Brady Murphy, VP for Halliburton's Europe/West Africa region, said that it was not about the cost benefit or the reliability of the technology. That was almost a given, he said. It was more about the silos and change management. There had been a major shift. He thought that nearly 80% of the response from the audience as a whole was around those two issues, whereas four years ago, the conference questions had been more concerned with cost benefit and reliability.

Conference co-chairman David Latin, BP's VP of E&P technology, said that 3D seismic had gone through the same justification process, but now ‘everyone just does it'.

Latin admitted that all the big companies have started in intelligent energy in slightly different places from slightly different perspectives, but said this was not surprising given they all had slightly different portfolios. Generally, people have started closer to the reservoir. There was still a whole way to go in the surface facilities plant optimization area. ‘We will probably all focus on where we will get the biggest bang for our buck, because we are business people.' He acknowledged the need for intellectual property. ‘BP has certainly developed some intellectual property that we think is very valuable, and we are not going to give it away. We think it has given us a head start in some areas.'

Latin's belief that ‘really interesting things happen at the interfaces' was illustrated by the scene-setter address of Dr Alan Lumsden, professor and chairman of cardiovascular surgery, at the Methodist Hospital in Houston. ‘We really do the same thing,' the professor said of the medical and oil & gas industries. ‘We access targets, we try to maintain flow, and we are dealing with pumping systems.'

Service intensity
In reference to today's service intensity offshore, Halliburton's Brady Murphy observed: ‘It is pretty noticeable if you track over the last decade the amount of different services and revenue that service companies are now deriving off a single rig, or per barrel of oil.' His colleague Tim Probert added: ‘If you look back over the last four years over the boom and bust of the cycle and even including both elements of that, the compound annual growth rate of service intensity as expressed by revenue per rig has grown at an average rate of between 12% and 14% per year.'

In Halliburton's view it was the convergence of people, process and technology which provided a real opportunity to make a difference in terms of improving efficiency and value. ‘You really can't boil the ocean,' said Probert. ‘You can't integrate everything to everything and create value.' Even the largest companies had huge challenges moving data and dealing with data on one large integrated platform.

Schlumberger's Satish Pai pondered whether the process is the key, and the role of the people and expertise is to intervene when that process goes wrong, or are people the key and the role of the process is actually to make that person's job easier?

Since people are the most failureprone part of the whole process, wouldn't automation reduce the number of failures?, Pai wondered, before raising the classic question: Who in the room will get on a plane with no pilot, even though you know that the majority of the failures are caused by pilot error?

At the moment, Pai continued, ‘we have experienced people who can jump in when something goes wrong. Let's roll forward 15 years and we have young people who have started with the automated process. How do they get the experience to know how and when to intervene?' OE

The sheer pace of change in the area of intelligent energy and integrated operations has led to the launch of a Middle East edition of the show. SPE Intelligent Energy Middle East will be held in Bahrain
3-6 October 2011.

Meg Chesshyre samples some of the latest DOF market offerings on display at the SPE Intelligent Energy 2010 show in Utrecht.

Expert guidance
Critical knowledge and expertise are embedded in Eclipse Petroleum Technology's production engineering mentoring and guidance system, PetroAtlas, and delivered in workflows, guidelines, tools, and best practices to production engineers where and when they need them. The expert guidance captured in this system is already being used by two large independent oil companies to achieve claimed annual production and cost improvements worth over $1 billion.

Eclipse, part of Petrofac Production Solutions, recently set up an agreement with Weatherford to further develop and market PetroAtlas. The agreement provides a framework for future development, marketing, and distribution that is to be shared by both companies. Development will continue at Eclipse's London and Aberdeen facilities and Weatherford is including the PetroAtlas application in the Field Office software suite developed at its product centers worldwide.

Subsea metering
With its contract to supply 20 meters for the Greater Gorgon development offshore Western Australia, Emerson Process Management subsidiary Roxar reckons it will be setting a new standard for subsea wet gas metering. The contract for the Gorgon and Jansz fields was signed with GE's VetcoGray business unit, which has a five-year frame agreement to supply subsea equipment and support services for the development. Delivery of the meters will be in 3Q 2010 for installation summer 2011 in water depths ranging from 200m to 1300m (OE April 2006). First gas is now scheduled for 2014.

Roxar's subsea Wetgas meter has been operational since 2003, but with Gorgon in mind the design was refined over a three-year period to include fully redundant electronics and sensors to fit the requirements for Gorgon fields with an anticipated field life of 45-50 years. Subsequent delays in the regulatory approval process for Gorgon, however, saw first use of the meters switch instead to Reliance Industry's KG-D6 deepwater gas field offshore India (OE January 2009). Nineteen of them were installed for the Bay of Bengal project in late 2008 and 2009.

The new meter (pictured) is designed to provide Gorgon operator Chevron Australia with real-time, accurate measurements of hydrocarbon flow rates and water production, as well as the online detection of formation water breakthrough. By accurately measuring the early onset of formationwater production in real-time and accurately, the operator will be able to take immediate preventative or remedial action, such as adjusting the concentration of MEG injection, injecting the right amount of corrosion inhibitor, choking back or shutting in the well, or instigating zonal isolation. ‘The result is continuous flow assurance,' said the developer.

According to Roxar, which is now also looking at developing a meter for potential application on Gazprom's giant Shtokman development in the Barents Sea, the microwave measurement system applied in the subsea Wetgas meter offers unrivalled accuracy and sensitivity to changing water levels.

The unit's compact design and low power consumption facilitate easy integration into the subsea infrastructure, added the company, and measurement using the meter on each well can allow commingling of production immediately downstream thus reducing the need for piping and valves.

Defence delivers
BAE Systems is applying systems engineering expertise gained through its defence sector activities to a series of projects to help oil & gas companies deliver the anticipated benefits from digital oilfield programmes.

One DOF case study completed recently by BAE was sponsored by the oil and gas industry technology facilitator (ITF) and funded by six of its members. Led by BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte), the project examined ways in which operators could accelerate implementation of their DOF initiatives to deliver increased business benefits more quickly and at lower cost.

Virtual reality
The Bergen-headquartered BB Visual Group launched its B2|Virtual Collaboration Arena collaborative and integrated software for remote working, management of workflow and development, discovery and decision support at the SPE Intelligent Energy 2010. The new software, which forms part of the B2 Collaboration Suite of dedicated software products, was three years in the making and is already used by several oil companies including Norway's Statoil.

The advanced software interactively operates from a standard desktop computer to assist and interpret strategic, long-term and high-performance decision making. Scalable collaboration is enabled between multiple disciplines and geographies and the software supports fast-moving and integrated oil & gas operations. It uses flexible, IP-based technology for ease of use, stability and access. All data is shared in real-time and is able to be integrated with video conferencing and other communications tools.

According to BB Visual, B2|Virtual Collaboration Arena represents ‘a change from dedicated, hardware-centric meeting rooms into software-based collaboration tools' that can be used to organise and facilitate virtual meetings from any location worldwide. ‘Our unique approach to working enables oil & gas companies to embrace integrated and collaborative technologies into their own work processes,' said the company's chairman and CEO Magne Arne Brekke. ‘Our consulting, design and project management can be found actively in projects at Statoil in Norway, at Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia and in partnership with Halliburton in several other industry-changing projects.' OE

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