Time Is Crucial for Oil & Gas Producers

Around the World, Energy Companies Are Leveraging Rockwell Automation Technology to Trim Project Schedules and Speed Decision-Making

By Walt Boyes

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For energy companies presenting at today's Oil & Gas Industry Forum at the Automation Fair, presented by Rockwell Automation this week in Houston, saving time is of the essence. Forum attendees learned how Petrobras is halving delivery time for its floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) ships; how SINCI is helping speed decision-making on offshore rigs; and how ConocoPhillips is compressing small projects schedules using front-end engineering and design (FEED) methodologies normally reserved only for large-scale efforts.

Petrobras, the Brazilian energy company, is planning on spending USD$106.9 billion on development from now until 2017 and much of that will be spent on the Santos Pre-Salt region, offshore. As part of this effort, it will be constructing 12 new FPSOs, of which eight are "replicant" ships—barge-like units that are identical and standardized. The remainder of the FPSOs will be located at the "transfer of rights" fields.

"Petrobras uses the MAC [main automation contractor] and EPC [engineering procurement contractor] techniques to optimize the different aspects of control systems on these FPSOs," said Paulo Cezar Vogel Cintra, equipment engineer- electrical at Petrobras.

"Petrobras uses a single automation solution, and we standardize on equipment, modules, solutions and suppliers. In this case the supplier is Rockwell Automation," Cintra said. "We procure several packaged systems by Rockwell Automation for things like compressors, as well as the hull electrical and topsides instrumentation."

"We insist on a sizeable amount of local content in these systems, and we intend to use Integrated Architecture in new projects so we can gain the benefits of fewer interface issues and faster start-up times," Cintra said. "So far we've had excellent results with Rockwell Automation."

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"We expect to lower costs and reduce construction time from 134 days in 2006 to fewer than 70 days today. Easier qualification of the new systems will make us more competitive, and new technologies like CO2 separation and re-injection will save carbon emissions," he said.

Speedier Decision-Making

Next, Hiram Sánchez Pantoja, IT project manager for SINCI, a Rockwell Automation information and solution provider, discussed a FactoryTalk VantagePoint visualization project for three offshore platforms. "The platforms had OSI PI and Process Book historians and visualization, and sometimes the data collection was done manually, with about a two-week delay," Sánchez said.

The project was intended "to reduce decision time, with updated information and make the information easy to access using a web-based secure solution," Sánchez said.

The customer wanted a robust architecture with distributed collection of data in a network that was fault-tolerant. It also wanted a maintainable and scalable system. The data is sent over a subsea network to the customer's onshore offices.

"We used FactoryTalk Historian Machine Edition for the high-speed data collection because we didn't have to use an additional PLC, and we sent the data straight to OSI PI servers. We used the FactoryTalk Historian's data buffering capabilities to prevent data loss. In order to maintain high availability, we built a virtualized environment with three virtual servers, including the PI server, a test and development server, and the production server," Sánchez said.

"We built a dashboard using FactoryTalk VantagePoint. We can provide summary well performance reports in real time, with visual operating conditions and visual alarming conditions, but read-only access for security," Sánchez went on. "Each transmitter has a ‘quick trend' capability, showing real-time, 12-hour and 24-hour data trends. There is also a historical trending dashboard drill down, which enables comparison of several variables, and information analysis tools that provide summarized reports, shift and daily production records, and historical data."

"We gave our customer faster response decision-making by having critical production data at their fingertips, 3D graphics closer to the operators and information available at different levels of the company based on role and security," Sánchez said. "There was a time reduction in generating reports, and it is now easier to create new reports. Improved operations lead to informed decisions, using real supervisory control," he said.

"Now we are going to use this scalable architecture and replicate it for other plants."

Saving Time and Money Too

Finally, Randy Kirkendal, business development manager for U.S. oil and gas from Rockwell Automation, presented for Earl Anderson, senior facilities engineer for ConocoPhillips. Anderson had been scheduled to present a discussion on the benefits of FEED (front-end engineering design) in ConocoPhillips' Sour Gas Injection Project.

"This was the first time ConocoPhillips had used the FEED process on a small capital expenditure project. It was just under $50 million, but that is a small capex project in the oil patch," Kirkendal said. "ConocoPhillips implemented FEED because the project is vital to production in an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient manner in the Howard Glasscock Field, because enrichment and injection of the H2S-enriched stream is a safety-critical process, and there is impetus toward a more formal and mature project execution methodology in the upstream business at ConocoPhillips."

"The benefits of FEED included optimizing site selection and identifying pipeline specifications; providing refinery process design basis and preliminary P&IDs; providing the design-phase HAZOP (hazard and operability study) and LOPA (layer of protection analysis) analyses; developing detailed project cost estimates at the +/- 20% scale; and developing the overall project schedule. FEED provided direction to the project when design decisions have the greatest influence on project cost and delivery," Kirkendal said.

FEED saved between 30% and 35% on the cost of the project, with a 35% to 50% schedule improvement, and allowed for the development of a detailed and comprehensive project plan. What would ConocoPhillips have done differently? Kirkendal said that ConocoPhillips' Earl Anderson had quipped, "We'd do FEED on all our other projects, not just the major ones."

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