Digital Architecture leads to “Intelligent” Platforms
Technology trends in upstream oil and gas exploration and production provide the potential for operators to improve recovery, optimize production, and drive operational efficiencies.
Already, many operators are benefiting from the predictive intelligence capabilities inherent in digital network architectures for instrumentation, valves, and controls. In offshore platform environments, the result is “intelligent” platforms; floating production, storage, and offloading vessels; and related on-shore facilities. Additionally, innovative subsea and down-hole metering technologies – the means to capture well temperature, pressure, and flow data – have been joined with integrated production system models in support of improved decision making.
It is easy to see that IO (Intelligent Operations) can provide multiple benefits offshore. But the benefits inherent in having increased insight into actual well, reservoir, and field characteristics extend far beyond the offshore platform, they include:
- Reservoir models, based on seismic, intuitive predictions from geoscientists, and other exploration technologies, have a major role in determining where wells are placed
- Better production monitoring can deliver an immediate understanding of what is actually being produced, a perennially thorny problem for oil and gas fields with complex ownership relationships
- Knowing what is flowing through the pipelines can help the downstream refineries plan their production and capacity
- Keeping employees and facilities safe from potentially hazardous conditions can result in a flawless health, safety, and environmental record
Lessons from other industries
Much of today’s intelligent field technology enables operators to accomplish remote tasks they couldn’t do previously. The technologies we need are already developed and are being integrated in the industry, including high bandwidth communication, low cost of data storage, video-based technology, and sensor technology. However, looking beyond technological applications used strictly in the oil and gas industry also can be beneficial. It has to be said that the oil and gas industry is risk averse, and often projects will have a ‘no new technology’ statement, which can restrict a successful outcome. Even industries closely linked to exploration – refining for example – can provide us with new ideas and lessons learned. As an industry we must learn to be less proud of seeking new ideas outside our comfort zone.