OITJ Interview—Mark Lochmann, AspenTech

AspenTech’s General Manager Oil & Gas Business Mark Lochmann, spoke to Oil IT Journal about real time simulation and optimization. This has proved a hard sell to the upstream—even though it has proven its worth in refining. Lochmann anticipates huge monetary benefits from the technology.

OITJ—We’ve been tracking real time simulation and optimization for quite a while and were impressed with the Integrated Asset Management presentation at the Schlumberger Las Vegas Forum earlier this year. But we have been struggling to locate real-world examples of simulation and optimization in the upstream.

Lochmann—We have already shown in several midstream and chemicals installations that the concept of a complete model of the process, combined with the possibility of running simulation and optimization offline works and gives operators visibility of the whole process. But it is a hard sell to the upstream—which is why AspenTech created our group whose job is to translate these tools from process to oil and gas production. These are to be delivered as a part of AspenTech’s Open Simulation Environment (OSE) underpinned by Schlumberger’s PipeSim and Eclipse and our HySys Upstream—bridging processes between the compositional fluids of the downstream and the black oil of upstream. This involves some rather sophisticated math for lumping and delumping fluids and for production allocations from limited tank measurements.

OITJ—Why aren’t more companies adapting to these new work processes?

Lochmann—Aspen has an advantage in the process industry because chemical engineers already think in terms of the complete process. Look at a refinery—the first thought is the big picture. But in oil and gas we tend to treat each well as a separate process—there is less of a holistic approach. This is exacerbated by the fundamental difference between reservoir engineers and petroleum engineers. To the RE, ‘correct’ reservoir management means ‘go slow’. To the PE—‘suck it out as quick as you can!’ At the core of the process is a conflicting priority—optimization becomes impossible. You can’t neglect the effect on production of topside facility sizing. This is where the Integrated Asset Management package comes in—when folks can ‘see’ the whole asset. We need to demonstrate to the upstream world that dealing with an asset as a whole will make managing it the same as managing a plant or refinery.

OITJ—Is this good for both the onshore and offshore?

Lochmann—Offshore process is the same as onshore concentrated into a smaller footprint. There is no difference in function. In fact the lack of a holistic approach is even more applicable to the offshore. Onshore, if you need a separator, you can just call up someone and get pretty well any separator you need. Offshore is not like this and has far more rigorous front end engineering design requirements.

OITJ—We’ve heard a lot about the merits of the digital oilfield—just how important is this technology?

Lochmann—In sum, we are offering an order of magnitude improvement in a company’s ability to generate cash! To potentially improve P&L by 25%. These numbers are supported by the CERA digital oilfield study and by internal oil company studies. Unfortunately though, things are not moving in that direction even though such an investment in an intelligent production system could cost less than a new well. One hurdle is culture—the entrenched view that each scenario is different. Twenty years ago everything was separate—now integration and IT is bringing it together. Drilling and reservoir engineering are getting closer. I was in one major oil company office where they had a real time feed to a LWD* job. This indicated a top hadn’t come in quite as expected. In the next few minutes, the geoscientist adjusted the fault pick and generated a new set of predicted tops—all over a cup of coffee. Incredible—all thanks to real time model update.

* logging while drilling.

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