Society of Petroleum Engineers Intelligent Energy 2010, Utrecht

BP traces ten years of intelligent energy. Aramco claims Khurais largest i-field in the world. Pai questions IE cost accounting. More on Petrobras’ GeDig, Pemex’ ALAS, Valhall ACE. Total on data validation and reconciliation. BG, Woodside checkout Web 2 in oil and gas. Perdido takes Shell Smart Fields to the ‘next level.’ Peter Kapteijn sets the ‘ultimate test’ of E&P intelligence.

In his keynote, BP’s David Latin noted that it is now ten years since the inception of the digital/intelligent oilfield concept which has since evolved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ for BP and others. BP’s Field of the Future is now realizing the CERA promise of a ‘myriad of opportunities that a digital infrastructure will bring.’ Latin cited BP’s 2 million data tags and thousands of kilometers of fiber in the Gulf of Mexico. The ‘prize’ here is the potential to increase the last century’s 35% average recovery rate—perhaps near to the 80% theoretical limit. Novel remote sensing technology from NASA got a mention as did Art Weglein’s project to do seismic imaging with no prior knowledge of the subsurface. More futuristically, Latin spoke of ‘tiny down hole data collecting robots,’ which will send information back on pore space dimensions and other reservoir parameters. Close collaboration with the computer gaming industry and the use of real time information are also key, but digital energy’s most precious resource is people. Latin paid tribute to Halliburton’s retired Energy Services CEO, Edgar Ortiz, described as an ‘industry visionary’ of the digital oilfield.

Doug Suttles (BP) followed, announcing that despite last year’s economic volatility, the long term trend for the energy business is up, as developing economies and a recovering economy impact demand. The outlook is fundamentally robust—‘you are one of world’s growth industry.’ Turning to technology, the game changer in the Gulf of Mexico is seismic imaging—which BP performs in-house on its own 27,000 CPU cluster with 6 petabytes of storage.

BP’s Field of the Future (FoF) initiative began in the North Sea when a small group advocated a digital oilfield approach and promised a 1,000 bbl/day production hike on a single asset. Despite initial skepticism, they delivered! Today’s FoF applications include 20 multi zone completions which show a massive potential for increased recovery. Prudhoe Bay’s recovery has risen from 40 to 60% thanks to extended reach drilling, coiled tubing and the largest gas reinjection plant in the world. Other FoF flagships include life of field seismics on the North Sea Clair development and a 10,000 bopd production hike on the Gulf of Mexico Thunderhorse field from real time optimization. Intelligent Energy (IE) has come of age. Success factors are ‘materiality’ and scale and bold leadership that targets and delivers clear benefits. In the Q&A (and indeed elsewhere at the show) some questioned how ‘digital’ or ‘intelligent’ could realistically be ring fenced in a cost benefit analysis and distinguished from other technological breakthroughs.

Mohamed Al Qahtani described how Saudi Aramco is hiking its gas production to 10 TCF/year by 2015—all ‘i-field enabled,’ with real time measurement, optimization and control. Business value comes from a whole spectrum of operations including supply/distribution across integrated networks and facilities including 23,000 km of pipelines, 40 oil plants, 7 refineries and terminals and ships. All of which is coordinated centrally at the OSPAS Command and Control Center. Khurais, with a 1.2 mm bopd capacity, is the largest i-field in the world. All wells have permanent downhole monitoring and remote control. Aramco is building a big new facility for computer simulation which will be up and running in September 2010. The goal is to increase recovery from the current 50% to 70%—a ‘realistic’ objective thanks to ‘smart’ technology.

Meyer Melody noted that Chevron’s i-field is now in its 8th year. Chevron originally considered that ‘automation’ was key—as in automated data gathering. But there is more to ‘i’ than automation. A transformation comes about when an entire workflow such as production optimization is addressed. The East Texas Carthage gas field with over 1 TCF reserves was discovered in 1936 but still has hundreds of producers. An i-field makeover included a revised workflow that means operation ‘by exception.’ Smart centers provide remote access to specialists. Chevron’s compression decision support center, staffed by specialists, is helping migrate maintenance from a ‘time based’ to ‘condition based’ activity, detecting abnormal events ahead of time.

Bichsel Mathius claimed that the Smart Fields initiative has created around $5bn in value over the 2003-9 period for Shell and its partners through real time monitoring, smart wells, 4D seismic etc. But technology is only part of the answer. Of equal importance are new ways of working and determining the right level of ‘smartness’ for each field. The Gulf of Mexico Perdido field was ‘born smart’ with remotely assisted operations. Advanced software tools shift burden of monitoring and control to an automated system in New Orleans. There is also increasing application on brownfield assets in Oman, the North Sea and Groningen. Shell’s collaborative work environments bring people together and break down the silos. Value also comes from the integrity and safety of operations. IE is attractive to young grads and is boosting world energy supply.

Satish Pai considers that digital energy is allowing to Schlumberger to reduce the number of people needed for a given job—‘avoiding hire and fire by leveraging a smaller population of experts.’ But Pai doubts that it is really possible to split out the contribution from digital in a cost/benefit sense, ‘It just has to be how you do business.’ In the early days of IE, Schlumberger had three operations centers. Today there are 31. The big issue now is the balance between people and automation. Is the process the key, with human intervention only when things go wrong? Or are people key, with automation simplifying their workload? In the airline industry the main failures are people-related and it’s the same in Schlumberger. Automation will reduce failures—but would you get on a plane without a pilot?

Pedro Benoni presented Petrobras’s staged expansion of its ‘GeDig’ digital oilfield deployment in the Campos Basin. Petrobras is trying to wean its engineers from Excel with an integrated asset model, real time workflows and an operations and maintenance portal. The IAM is used to assess development strategies and to size capital equipment. Models are also used for operational surveillance, using computation-light proxy models to ‘bring simulation into day to day operations.’ Petrobras has also been working with Schlumberger on self organizing maps to categorize well states and prioritize intervention.

Pemex’ Burgos asset is likewise undergoing a digital transformation as Schlumberger’s Fabio Corbellini outlined. Burgos is a massive brownfield with 3,500 producers—70% with artificial lift from 63 compression systems. To combat the usual engineering domain silos Pemex has moved from a traditional linear workflow to a more collaborative solution. This resulted in the 2009 artificial lift advisory system (ALAS) for workover candidate selection and a 20% production hike.

Chevron’s Jim Crompton and Helen Gilman made a brave attempt to look at what’s next in the digital oilfield. Crompton predicted that in 15 years, ‘we won’t be using PowerPoint—or at least, I hope we won’t!’ Chevron sees ‘smarts’ extending from the well to ‘business rules built into equipment, power, chemicals and spare parts—getting the process closer to the truth.’ Echoing Pai, Crompton noted an ‘interesting debate’ as to whether future structures will be manned or not. ‘There is still a role for people offshore, but we will be able to withdraw folks in the face of a storm—and still operate the facility.’ Chevron is engaged in discussions internally and with other stakeholders as to whether remote operations will mean ‘fewer or no people.’ In any event, new fields are designed with a high level of automation. Gilman regretted that despite the success of the digital oilfield, ‘We still need to justify fiber and expenditure on connectivity. We need to move to a situation where this is a given.’

Trevor Garlick gave an enthusiastic exposé on BP’s flagship Valhall advanced collaboration environment (ACE). For BP, the ACE has come of age and now supports day to day operations and interventions such as slug control with dynamic well modeling. The Valhall ACE saw the world’s first remote cement job and has resulted in ten people moving permanently ashore. The Valhall ACE is now moving from a surveillance role to remote control as witnessed by a mini control room actually inside the ACE.

Oil IT Journal’s best paper award goes to Jean-Paul Couput (Total) for his presentation on monitoring and data reconciliation. Couput notes that while DO/IE and collaboration are now givens, data and data quality remain the big problem. Well measurements are plagued with uncertainty, errors and poor access to sensors for testing. Much time is lost checking data. Total has implemented a data validation and reconciliation (DVR) solution with help from French software house Belsim. The DVR goes way beyond conventional data clean-up, leveraging redundancy, uncertainty and constraint equations (as used in the refinery) to detect errors and build a consistent data set. Virtual metering, data mining of raw PVT and flow measurements, dynamic flow models, and embedded thermodynamic models are combined in a proxy model of the real sensor network. The system has been successfully applied to gas balancing on a 200k bopd West African FPSO and for production monitoring of an unmanned Middle East offshore platform. Intelligence in the system correctly identified bad multi phase flow meter configuration and questionable test data. Advanced DVR is now a key element of Total’s field monitoring solution—closing the gaps between measurement and the IT world.

A session on social media and Web 2.0 in oil and gas heard from Jennifer Morrison on BG’s corporate knowledge portal and Andy Watt on Woodside’s ‘innovation capture.’ The BG Connect portal provides a forum for discussions on topics such as Petrel vs. IESX and is trialing blogs on departmental issues and new technology. The portal connects BG’s global workforce through a ‘people finder’ and virtual conferencing. Woodside’s Innovation Improvement Zone—‘WIIZ’ provides visibility of current projects. Users can navigate from the home page, select a group, person or opportunity and see who is putting in the good ideas. Everything is tagged on use—the more stuff is used, the more useful it gets. Users can vote on ideas or set a challenge—all voices are heard. Early work with Zope and Plone did not thrive. Woodside is now using SharePoint. Now ‘nobody needs to do Excel or PowerPoint—just use SharePoint’s real time charting.’

Another presentation the Perdido Gulf of Mexico development—the the world’s deepest spar in 8,000 ft. of water—showed how Shell is using remote assisted operations, exception-based surveillance in its collaborative work environment. An engineer sitting in a replica control room on the 26th floor of 1 Shell Square, New Orleans is a ‘fully-vested member of operations team,’ with a DCS Console and a video link to Perdido.

Another Shell New Orleans facility is ‘The Bridge’ where data from GoM and Brazilian operations is monitored. If flow or pressure data is out of spec, the system alerts operators. This is ‘not a subversive effort to supplant humans—but a data mining exercise.’ A collaborative work environment (CWE), if badly

implemented, is just ‘a very expensive telephone.’ Initially the idea was, ‘Build it and they will come.’ But ‘they’ didn’t. To make the CWE work, ‘you need to change the way teams work together—and to make sure they leverage these investments. Shell’s CWEs embed Energy Components, FieldWare, Petex and RT Data Historian. Perdido has taken Shell’s Smart Fields to the next level.’

Peter Kapteijn (Maersk) suggested that the ultimate test of E&P ‘intelligence’ will be how we handle the environment and greenhouse gasses (GHG). Today, the world faces a ‘perfect storm’ as rising temperatures mandate GHG reduction and/or sequestration—all in the face of rising energy consumption. We need to get CO2 emissions down to 14GT over the next 50 years. Options include replacing coal with shale gas—although this implies converting 1,400 GW of capacity! Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is understood—but we need 3,500 Sleipner projects! In other words, ‘we need to build a worldwide E&P industry once over.’ This is a huge, but not un-doable task. Renewables have very low potential. If we don’t act, by 2030 ‘all GHG bets are off,’ world temperatures will rise by several degrees. Holland will be tropical and we will all have wet feet! Such are the twin challenges to E&P—provide the world with affordable energy and mitigate CO2. This will be achieved by combining IE concepts and early, CO2-based EOR-cum-sequestration. We need novel, integrated oil, gas and CO2 systems.

This article is an abstract from a Technology Watch Report produced by The Data Room. For more information on Technology Watch, visit or email

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