The value of real time data

SPE Gulf Coast Section’s one day Digital Energy Workshop hears from Oxy, Baker Hughes and Shell.

John Kimberling related Oxy’s experience of using real time data to minimize non productive rig time by reducing waiting times for equipment and personnel. Previously it took hours to get activity data from rig to office. Now Oxy uses bar codes with job codes in different languages including Spanish and Arabic. This lets Oxy determine exactly what rig activity is ongoing and schedule personnel accordingly. The system includes real-time feeds to assess weather impact on rig activity. Oxy now knows how much production is associated with its maintenance backlog and can calculate the savings from reduced billable hours. The company is also benefiting from knowledge sharing in co-located control rooms and sees the next step as moving from monitoring to control.

Baker Hughes Neil Harrop suggested that industry has lost focus on the value of data and is instead ‘focusing on technology for its own sake.’ Baker Hughes has spotted some trends in ‘smart well’ technology such as nanotech and intelligent well diagnostics applied to modeling long-term CO2 injection cycles and aquifer displacement. But these increasingly complex models require high end computing and are moving engineers further away from their data. Ubiquitous data access means that there is a new generation of engineers that believe all data that is presented to them, regardless of source.

A survey of 122 case studies demonstrated that industry underutilizes data. Successful digital projects are those where data acquired relates to the decision making process, leveraging investments in computing and communications. One project had a total of 100,000 tags on the surface and downhole—but only 1,500 of these were providing ‘actionable data.’

Shell’s Ron Cramer is investigating if historical catastrophic process incidents could have been avoided using real time data. His analysis shows that most incidents occurred during transient operations and were detectable and developing long before the accident. Many occurred at night during shift changes. Often catastrophic events were associated with a lack of training on start-up or shut-down. In an ideal world, such systems should be remotely operated, indeed on some greenfield operations, plants are designed with operators outside the blast zone. Cramer suggests using remote collaboration centers as ‘control towers’ for safety monitoring, leveraging existing infrastructure, staffing and data. Safety officer shift changes should be staggered over operational shift changes to make sure there are always ‘fresh eyes’ on transient and dangerous processes. A data historian can usefully complement the alarm system adding real time analytics of incidents and near misses—possibly combined with training simulators. In most cases there was no sign that these systems were being used in incidents with fatalities.

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