Offshore oil and gas is among the many industries in the midst of a vast technological shift being driven by rapid advances in new digital technologies and methodologies. Big data, artificial intelligence (AI), digitalization . . . The list goes on and on. But, how are these technologies being used across the offshore industry today – from exploration to design and all the way through production operations – to boost safety, security and efficiency?
AI takes paper to digital
In the engineering world, a large amount of data used for design and maintenance activities in both greenfield and brownfield projects exists only in the form of paper drawings. Compared to digital drawings, paper are difficult to extract information from, and converting these drawings – which often contain between 10,000 and 200,000 documents, depending of the size of the project – to digital formats can be extremely time intensive and costly.
In an effort to get the paper drawings digitalized in a more efficient manner, Australian engineering company Worley is using AI to process scanned drawings and automatically redraw them on a digital platform.
According to Kalicharan Mahasivabhattu, a global datascience manager at Worley, human cognitive abilities are no longer needed to process information from drawings thanks to the emergence of technologies such as computer vision, optical character recognition (OCR) and natural language processing (NLP). He said AI can adapt the concepts of pattern recognition, text recognition and line segment recognition to develop a model that learns to recognize components of an engineering drawing, even hand-written notes and sketch markups.
AI systems can be trained to recognize drawings’ visual content and provide a simplified context. AI-based algorithms can then read a scanned process and instrumentation diagram to recognize graphical content such as instruments, tags, pipelines, text, etc., and the information extract that AI generates from a paper drawing can later be passed to an automation script to create a new digital version. By Worley’s estimate, it takes an average of 25 hours to convert a single drawing manually. By reducing the manhours by 50% at $25 per hour, the savings for a project with 3,000 drawings could be $900,000.
The market for digital oilfield solutions is growing rapidly, as many of the industry’s top players are making moves to enhance their portfolios of automation and digital solutions offerings.
Recognizing a need in the market, oilfield services company Schlumberger and industrial automation company Rockwell Automation teamed up earlier this year to launch a new joint venture (JV) company being marketed as “the first fully integrated digital oilfield automation solutions provider”. Sensia, based in Houston, will operate as an independent entity, with Rockwell Automation owning 53% and Schlumberger owning 47% of the joint venture.
“Oilfield operators strive to maximize the value of their investments by safely reducing the time from drilling to production, optimizing output of conventional and unconventional wells and extending well life,” said Blake Moret, chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation said in a statement announcing the JV in March. “Currently, no single provider exists that offers the end-to-end solutions and technology platform that address these challenges.”
Drawing upon the technology and expertise of each JV partner, Sensia will specialize in sensors and measurement technology with intelligent automation across the complete lifecycle from well to terminal. The company will be “uniquely positioned to connect disparate assets and reduce manual processes with secure, scalable solutions that are integrated into one technology platform,” Moret said.
Paal Kibsgaard, Schlumberger’s chairman and CEO at the time of the announcement, said Sensia will provide technology aiming to further drive optimization of exploration and production assets. For Schlumberger, he said, the joint venture is part of its strategy to offer smart, connected devices with rich diagnostic capabilities, coupled with measurement, automation and analytics that improve oilfield operations, facilitate business decisions and reduce total cost of ownership throughout the life of a field.
Ivar Aasen: Manned controlled from land
An announcement from Aker BP earlier this year signaled a first for the offshore oil and gas industry. In January, the Norwegian oil and gas company said it had shifted control of its Ivar Aasen production platform in the northern North Sea to onshore facilities in Norway, meaning the platform became the first manned offshore facility on the Norwegian continental shelf to be controlled from land.
The Ivar Aasen platform features data-driven condition monitoring from Siemens and was constructed with two identical control rooms – one on the platform and the other in Trondheim – and the Norwegian operator said the plan has always been to move the controls to land. Doing so unlocks considerable potential for increased revenues because subsurface experts are closer to the control room and trips to the platform are reduced.
Using components of Siemens’ Topsides 4.0 service, Aker BP was able to reduce the platform’s physical manpower and optimize equipment maintenance schedules. The companies have a strategic long-term partnership in place to implement digital lifecycle automation and performance analytics for future field development projects.
Aker BP received the green light from Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority in November, and in January started using its onshore site to monitor facilities, production, equipment and follow up everything that takes place on the field. The control room also plays a role in activating work permits, and for the arrival of vessels and helicopters within the 500-meter zone, the company said.
Even with controls moved to shore, the staff of about 70 people working on Ivar Aasen, 175 kilometers off Norway’s west coast, will remain as before, Aker BP said.
Woodside invests to protect
Like in many industries, companies in oil and gas are finding that they need to boost their effort to safeguard digital networks and systems to ensure their critical assets remain protected against threat of increasingly sophisticated cyber criminals. Australia’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company, Woodside, is among those investing to ensure its operating assets remain cyber secure.
In March, the company announced it would take a 10% shareholding in Sapien Cyber, a Western Australian company specializing in the protection and security of critical infrastructure.
Sapien Cyber was launched by the cyber security research team at Edith Cowan University, commercialized in partnership with Jindalee Partners, and refined in collaboration with Woodside. It is a 100% Australian-owned technology platform that provides clients network visibility, dynamic real-time monitoring and actionable intelligence to dramatically reduce the vulnerability of digital systems to cyber attack.
“Solutions need to evolve faster than the threats. Our unique approach offers unparalleled, real-time visibility to the client’s network, detecting operational technology cyber threats before they can wreak havoc,” Sapien Cyber chairman John Poynton said in a statement.
“The sophistication of Sapien Cyber’s technology platform has the potential to deliver a comprehensive and multi-dimensional cyber security solution to protect Woodside’s operating assets,” said Woodside’s chief technology officer Shaun Gregory, who has also joined the Sapien advisory board.
“Around the world, and across industries, operational technology of critical infrastructure has become a specific, high-priority target of state-sponsored actors in recent years. The emphasis on data-led decision making is challenging the industry to make operational data more accessible to employees in a variety of locations. Along with the benefits of doing this come additional risks of cyber attack,” a Woodside spokesperson told Offshore Engineer.
“Technology solutions like those being developed with Sapien Cyber assist, and need to be paired with effective workforce engagement to build the awareness, behaviors and capabilities that support the technologies.”
“Our goal is to have equal detection and response capabilities in both information technology and operational technology,” the spokesperson continued. “Sapien’s solution focuses on monitoring and response in operational technology. We are working collaboratively with them to deliver improved operational technology cyber threat detection and response, to protect Woodside’s operating assets.”