SPE Digital Energy 2011

Total on IT-driven productivity gains. Baker Hughes’ reservoir simulation in the Azure cloud. Aera Energy’s ‘manufacturing mindset.’ Saudi Aramco and SAS on production data mining. Star of show award to Chevron’s 1960 movie. Shell on ‘end to end’ security and how IT helps reduce flaring.

Jean-François Minster (Total) observed that IT has been the main source of increased productivity in last two decades and this is not going to stop soon. New tools are constantly invented, new human machine interfaces, processing, sensors and petaflop computing are all set to impact our way of working. Real time data, decision support centers, simulation, data mining and remote operations can improve production and increase safety. All of this is at least possible providing that our data is reliable. Here standard formats can ease data flow between applications. But technology is only part of the picture. Today’s ‘inflection point’ is the human interface which needs to accommodate multi disciplinary teams. Other verticals have mastered this—witness the ‘system of systems’ of a large electrical plant.

Baker Hughes International (BHI) CEO Chad Deaton thinks that operations represent the most mature digital oilfield activity. Drilling undergoes continuous improvement thanks to real time data and a huge increase in logging complexity and sophistication. Global expert centers like BHI’s ‘Beacon’ centers work for ten rigs simultaneously. Deaton cited GDF Suez’ Gjoa field as digitally sophisticated and highly instrumented with all data replicated onshore. Cloud computing got an enthusiastic plug. This enabled BHI’s Russian unit to perform ‘500,000 simulations’ in the Microsoft Azure cloud. Macondo raised many issues—from government oversight, through uncertain communications, poor project history and data sharing, risk assessment and unlearned lessons. Most all of these can be fixed with digital oilfield technology. We need more and better sensors, better alarms and automatic shutoffs and perhaps a black box for a drilling rig. Cyber risk has kept Deacon awake. A drilling rig may have a dozen contractors who may not all know everything they should be aware of. We need an IT security standard and better on-rig data management. A log of BHI’s firewall activity showed some 5.8 million attempted break ins per day. While digital is changing our culture, the digital oilfield really is at an inflection point—a digital oilfield identity crisis that is making it hard to move forward.

Gaurdie Banister (Aera Energy) advocates a manufacturing mindset, ‘Think small, move grains of sand not mountains.’ Start with information quality—you need enterprise-wide quality. Next build an enterprise architecture spanning ERP, geoscience, wells and facilities. Then all this can feed the information ‘factory,’ a.k.a. the data warehouse ready for analysis, action and process optimization. This now supports aligning personnel’s competencies with job requirements or pump failure root cause analysis. People get involved and committed through transparent data. Everyone gets to play, everyone drives or as they say, ‘In God we trust, everyone else bring data!’ The factory approach is simple and effective—don’t get lost in the details!

Husam Madani described Saudi Aramco’s reservoir engineers as ‘swimming in data.’ Access to data is still hard with ‘at least 60% of your time spent gathering and prepping data.’ Hence the interest in an ‘integrated reservoir management portal’ iRMP populated with clean consistent data. Aramco’s iRMP includes production data, well files, logs and PVT data along with workflows for depletion planning, well and field-level performance analysis. Working with SAS Institute, Aramco is now trialing statistics and data mining on the iRMP data. This includes decline curve analysis backed by a range of SAS statistical methods such as Stepar, least squares and residual co variance. iRMP is developed with the Siwz internet development framework (www.oilit.com/links/1105_39) and MyBatis (www.oilit.com/links/1105_40) for data mapping.

Our ‘star of the show’ award goes to a movie shown by Chevron’s Deon Rae. This was made by Socal and IBM back in the 1960s to explain the use of digital technology to model and improve operations at Socal’s El Segundo refinery. Some giggled at the old punch card machines, but for us the Socal movie showed a) that ‘digital’ has a long and honorable history in oil and gas and b) marketing in the 1960s did not talk down to its audience. But we digress.

Rae traced his own history in refinery operations from the first digital control systems in the 1980s. In the 1990s these were  extended with RS232 and ModBus to safety systems. The 2000s saw the FieldBus and ProfiBus wars and a move to Microsoft systems and OPC. Throughout this, the upstream stuck with pneumatic systems and local control. Even today, connectivity with remote installations is the challenge. The data landscape is complex with SCADA, DCS, telemetry and subsea equipment. The trend now is for integrated control systems and a main automation contractor concept with fewer suppliers and for the global deployment of a ‘standard reference architecture’ developed by IT and automation.

Shell’s Johan Krebbers agreed that ‘smart’ is not new, although the industry still suffers from ‘silo-based’ development. Real time data is now spreading through the enterprise from manufacturing to the upstream. Shell is building a common platform crossing up and downstream. This starts with a standard process control domain and includes end-to-end security to the office. While consumer IT has had limited impact, users now require multiple devices. Microsoft’s offering in the mobile space in limited and PCs are no longer the only client. Microsoft Windows’ position as the dominant operating system is being undermined.

Krebbers also thinks that application development is ‘too slow,’ and advocates a horizontal/vertical model with thick/rich horizontal services. Here data modeling is key to providing a single view of the enterprise.

Ron Cramer is using energy efficiency surveillance (EES) to minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at Shell. In the North Sea, EES translates real time data into EE and GHG KPIs, flagging the operators when something suspicious occurs. Data streams from SCADA/DCS to OSIsoft’s PI System. Calculations are done offline in the office domain. GHG monitoring is good for business. Alarms mean that operators investigate and fix faults early on. Cramer noted that older pneumatic instrumentation in refineries are powered by compressed air. But in the upstream, there is no air available so systems use methane—a GHG 20 times more potent than CO2. This practice is ‘practically eradicated’ in Shell.

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