Interview—Steve Roberts and John Foot, BP

Oil IT Journal hears from BP Field of the Future evangelists Steve Roberts and John Foot on ISIS, Data2Desk, patented well test technology and high-end infrastructure for remote operations.

Does BP now build or buy technology?

Steve Roberts—The Field of the Future (FotF) program generally includes about 80% of bought-in technology and 20% of BP’s own R&D. Our ISIS* program is the foundation for activities such as production optimization and, at Tangguh, remote well monitoring from 3000km.

John Foot—ISIS is built on a third party platform for well test analysis. We have automated workflows to compare multi phase flow meter and well test data—the technology is now patented by BP.

Why patent your technology?

SR—So we have the right to use it! It need not necessarily be exclusive to BP—we may hand over to a third party...

The FotF sounds great for a new development—but what about older sites?

SR—All this is great for a greenfield. But we are also working on brownfield retrofits e.g. Valhall and Skarv. Here we are using the collaboration environment to move people ashore—linked with high bandwidth fiber.

Isn’t there a risk that the link is compromised?

SR—All the control systems remain offshore. But generally the fiber has proved rather reliable—there is a 1,300 km loop in the Gulf of Mexico. The DO is deployed on around 80% of our most significant wells representing nearly a million barrels a day of oil equivalent.

How can you distinguish barrels added by ‘digital’ from a base case?

JF—A decade ago, only two fields had downhole sensors, they were novel, untested devices. Today our ‘Data2Desk’ infrastructure provides readings every fifteen seconds. This is revealing stuff that we have never seen before. In one field we added an acoustic sand detector to pinpoint sanding issues—and found that the crew had turned all the alarms off and were not aware of the problem. Since then we have not had sanding issues and have far less lost production.

SR—Likewise for slug control, digital algorithms allow faster control than can be performed by a human operator. Digital is the key to production optimization through pattern recognition in large data sets.

JF—While ISIS covers wells and ‘smart wells,’ Data2Desk is about facilities, performing, for instance, slow loop, model-based optimization over a facility or for gas lift optimization.

Is BP still a big Microsoft fan?

SR—BP’s IT is aligned with Microsoft .NET. The FotF collaborates with the IT department which provides infrastructure, communications et cetera. All our applications run on our internal compute environment with browser-based access to applications. We also help with prototypes, at-scale deployment and management of change.

But how is it that we hear of all this great stuff at Intelligent Energy while elsewhere, folks are struggling with data issues?

JF—Maybe its because we deal with real time data—where ‘management’ is not such an issue.

What is BP’s take on standards?

SR—We deploy many—OPC (UA and DA), PRODML, WITSML, RESQML and ISO 15926. I myself am on the Energistics board.

What does the digital oilfield have to offer in the face of catastrophes such as Macondo?

SR—Digital technology is widely used to reduce risk and monitor safety valve performance.

Why doesn’t the SPE talk about safety issues? Surely digital has a lot to say about alarm filtering etc?

SR—We do know that folks don’t want yet another screen of data in front of them. We need to synthesize what is displayed, as is done in an airplane cockpit. We are working on these issues but the safety issues are mostly dealt with in other forums than the SPE.

To what extent do you buy into the idea of the next generation engineer? What about all this ‘Facebook’ stuff?

SR—It is not so much about Facebook, more about a data rich environment and reliable software. In fact part of our role as ‘older’ evangelists is trying to share our digital know how in a world that is somewhat at threat from the Facebook/Wikipedia generation!

* Integrated Subsurface Information Systems.

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