Fields of Future? We’re not there yet!

The Aberdeen IQPC conference underscored the tough task ahead of the e-field aficionados.

There was an air of dissatisfaction with the past, and pessimism for the future, about the IQPC Fields of the Future (FoF) Conference held in Aberdeen last month. Marrying information technology with production operations is proving a hazardous task!


Schlumberger’s Harvey Cox set the scene in his keynote by observing that, in the upstream industry, $15 billion a year is wasted ‘through poor quality decision making.’ This amounts to some 25% of total spend. Despite this, Cox claimed that IT-enabled work processes had dramatically lowered the cost of producing the barrel oil equivalent and that this trend would continue. E-enablement will connect people, process and technology in an ‘operational process,’ with information captured and re-used to ‘increase the value of the operations in real time’. This will need a convergence of new business processes, standards, work practices, change management, oilfield and software technologies, data capture, management and delivery, plus IT systems and integration. All of which will create a ‘virtuous circle’ capable of delivering tangible additional value creation from an oil or gas asset.

BP Norway

In his strategic perspective on fields of the future, Morten Heir (BP Norway) blamed slow progress on ‘people resistance’. Another challenge is persuading companies to capitalize on existing technologies, much of which is under-utilized. Indeed this is unlikely to change with $50 oil as the premise now is to minimize interference with wells so long as their output was deemed acceptable. The prevailing Norwegian attitude was that intelligent (smart) wells were too high risk.


Shell smart fields program manager Peter Kapteijn said, ‘If I have to have a bunch of computer programmers rewriting programs every time I want to change some minor element of workflow, that’s not right. What you need is a process that is easily configurable by supervisors and management.’ Kapteijn said that Shell’s smart fields team had started to deliver model-based control processes which are especially relevant to today’s complex reservoirs. One smart well in Brunei combined five hydrocarbon-bearing payzones in a single well using ‘smart’ completions technology. But to get it right, it was necessary to develop a model that mimicked the likely behavior of this well and to use real well performance data to update the model. The result was a 20% hike in recovery. This was achieved by hooking the well up to a device that communicates data, stores the data and suggests an optimization procedure. Once this has been implemented, ‘you look at the response of the reservoir and find out whether the model that you’ve used to decide on what to do is in fact correct’*.


According to Calvin Cobb, VP global hydrocarbons, Invensys has devoted a great deal of effort to the Field of the Future, with particular focus on real-time production management. Specifics include: production visibility, well measurement and allocation, flow assurance, production optimization, remote operations, production/market integration. Invensys’ previous real-time initiative, based on WonderWare, provided the company with an understanding of the immense complexities inherent in the FoF. This early work evolved into ArchestrA, Invensys’ proprietory integration framework that now forms the backbone of its real-time integrated operations.


According to ChevronTexaco’s Zuwa Omoreigie, many oil companies are transitioning from the ‘initial vision and hype phase’ to real projects delivering real value. But the oil industry lacks the capability to develop needed IT-based technologies internally. There will be increasing reliance on service companies for advancements in measurement and technical applications. Omoreigie concluded ‘The path to transformation will not be top down, we’re looking for asset pull, success stories and internal/external momentum to drive transformation. We will need full co-operation at asset level to identify opportunities and develop solutions and we will need champions at executive level to ensure long-term commitment to transformation.’

* See also Kapteijn’s talk in our report from the Schlumberger Forum on page 6.

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