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Oil & Gas Fields Get Smart


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The article looks at how new technologies will lead to an increasingly integrated approach within the O&G sector, siting specifics such as the IoT and robotics & the radical impact they will have on optimising productions within the sector.

Published in: Technology

Oil & Gas Fields Get Smart

  1. 1. Technology Oil and gas fields get smart “WE USED TECHNOLOGY to change what we do, rather than op timise what we have always done.” —Jim Williams, Chevron manager. Oil and gas companies are applying the latest automation technologies not only to enhance exploration and production capabilities, but also to diminish risks to employees, preserve the environment and optimise daily operational methodologies. Present technologies have redefined how companies manage real-time data, automated workflows, analytical decision-making and corporate key performance indicators (KPI) tracking. With the advent of smart wells and real-time automation technologies, oil and gas companies are looking at assets in a new light, which helps in making informed decisions while reducing risks. Such methodologies will not only improve overall operations, but will also allow companies to adapt data-driven operating models. However, the big question remains: how will these real-time data-driven models and new technologies shape the future of the oil and gas business? The present Developments in informational and operational technologies have been groundbreaking in the past decade. Our generation has witnessed this, with the average human easily adapting to the newest, state-of-the-art smart phones. The Schneider Electric model of the smart oil and gas field This same philosophy is finding its way into daily business practices in the oil and gas sector. Producers have readily invested in such technologies and are now reaping the results. Technologies find ways into an oil and gas group through different channels and stakeholders. For example, a production or reservoir team might bring in distributed thermal sensing (DTS), zonal flow control (ZFC), down hole gauges (DHG), and artificial lift systems (ALS) under its portfolio. On the other hand, an automation team might be working on bringing in smart sensors, telemetry and data communication systems. Finally, an IT team within the company will be responsible for providing data management and will assist with software and collaboration projects. All stakeholders will then play key roles in bringing together the building blocks to construct a smart field model that best meets the company’s unique requirements. With the availability of real-time data and new insight in daily operations, oil and gas companies are now looking into further enhancements to automate - to some extent, if not all - key optimisation tasks. The development of innovative ideas resulting from present smart field initiatives will pave the way for new technological advances, which will define the future of oil and gas fields. The future The adaptation to smart fields has allowed the oil and gas industry to break away from silos Javier Díaz Lugo and Fahd Saghir on how new technologies will lead to an increasingly intergrated operations approach. Technologies find ways into an oil and gas group through different channels and stakeholders” 154 Issue 7 2014
  2. 2. Technology and adopt an integrated operations approach. The outcome is new ideas that can be converted into future technologies specifically developed for the smart oil and gas field. Some technologies are already knocking at the door. Here is a look at what the future holds: Internet of Things (IoT) Recently, we have seen IoT being discussed in numerous papers and it is currently a buzz word among technology enthusiasts. Simply put, it is the idea of allowing inter-machine communication through embedded communication devices. It is an exciting prospect, as it will allow machines to provide detailed diagnostics and data while sharing key information about processes in real-time. Preventive maintenance reporting capabilities will be embedded directly at the source, allowing for immediate corrective responses, and thus minimising production loss. This will be particularly advantageous in scenarios where resources are scarce and assets are located in remote facilities. Adaptation of IoT in the oil and gas industry alone could improve maintenance, safety and optimisation. However, as is the case with any internet service, cyber security becomes a key building block for IoT. It is imperative that while companies become more open to data connectivity, they also pay attention to cyber security infrastructure by following sound and proven industrial practices. Robotics Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) have been used for many years at offshore production facilities. However, given that exploration is now being done in further inaccessible areas, using robots for conducting routine maintenance and inspection activities is becoming more attractive. Robots provide a 24/7 surveillance option to operators at remote offshore facilities. ROV tasks could range from running a routing visual inspection routine to conducting minor maintenance tasks. This would allow operating companies to save on travel and reduce exposure to health, safety and environmental factors. Drones, on the other hand, are already a popular method for surveillance. In hazardous locations, such as flares and oil storage tanks, drones can be useful in providing real-time surveillance in hard-to-reach areas. Equip a drone with an infra-red camera and you have a real-time, mobile ROVs have been used at offshore facilities for many years (photo: Ocean Networks Canada) leak detection device at your disposal. These technologies are already available and being used on a very small scale by a few oil and gas companies. However, it will be interesting to see how these technologies integrate into operational activities once applied on a larger scale, and if this changes the approach toward robotics in the oil and gas industry overall. Multi-disciplinary workforce With people from different disciplines increasingly coming under one roof to optimise production and improve daily operations, the trend will be towards companies adapting a multi-disciplinary approach. Automation and IT disciplines now better understand overall exploration and production dynamics, and have become conversant with identifying gaps to improve the smart fields approach that caters to a company’s core business of oil and gas production. Concurrently, production and reservoir disciplines have become more aligned with real-time technologies and can now assist in the selection of appropriate tools that will help enhance the smart field concept. A multi-disciplinary approach will have a positive impact on how companies collaborate in the future. This will allow better understanding across the board, and effectively enhance individual performance and boost company productivity. Improved real-time fluid and petro-physical analytics The reservoir is the oil and gas company’s main asset, and the only money-source. Ironically, the reservoir is the most unfamiliar place in an organisation. Principal data from petro-physical and fluid characterisation are used to build the reservoir model and determine the field development plan. Most of the petro-physical and fluid analyses is carried out manually in laboratories. The complexity of protecting the in-field samples and reproducing reservoir conditions in laboratories, together with the costs involved, mean this kind of data is particularly precious to engineers in charge of models. With the smart oil and gas field of the future, properties like viscosities, pressure-volume- temperature, chemical reactions between injected fluids and the diverse rock types in the reservoir could be monitored in real-time. It is necessary the oil industry invest in R&D to support this technology. Nothing should be more important to the oil industry than knowing what is in the reservoir. Closed loop reservoir optimisation The main dilemma in managing a reservoir is discovering how to increase the oil recovery factor of a field. Even by applying enhanced oil recovery, mature fields still keep too much oil at the end of the life-cycle of a reservoir. Current technologies do not make a total sweep of oil. Today, reservoir management is limited to following field development plans with dynamic models that are updated sporadically due to the lack of new rock and fluid information. Future models need to be updated in real-time in order to react to dynamic reservoir conditions. Automation and IT disciplines now better understand overall exploration and production dynamics” 156 Issue 7 2014
  3. 3. In addition to enhancing dynamic reservoir simulation, there is a large gap in how production technologies interact with automation technologies. With the number of smart completions increasing steadily, not all oil and gas operators are able to reap the full benefits from multiple smart well technologies. DTS, ZFC and DHGs are working independently from surface-based automation systems. The value of these smart well technologies will increase exponentially if they are used as part of a closed-loop control with surface automation technology. The ability to manage water Technology  The number of combinations is countless and requires an out-of-the-box approach” injection by controlling motor-operated valves based on real-time DTS data can improve the injection regime throughout the reservoir. Tying in multi-phase flow meters with ZFC can allow operators to maximise production by optimising flow from each zone. The number of combinations is countless and requires an out-of-the-box approach to merge production and automation technologies. Additionally, by combining real-time models with the above-mentioned approach, IoT will not only optimise the way we produce, but will radically change the way we operate an oilfield, thus really optimising the field development plan. n Javier Díaz Lugo is an upstream oil and gas solution architect and Fahd Saghir is a system and architecture expert at Schneider Electric. IoT will not only optimise the way we produce, but will also radically change the way we operate an oilfield Issue 7 2014 159