Emerson Exchange / Systems Integration

Collaboration Creates Automation Roadmap for Santos LNG

Emerson's Jon Weidenbaum Explained How Emerson and Santos LNG Collaborated to Boost LNG Production While Reducing Travel to Inhospitable Locations.

By Leslie Gordon

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Santos, the largest onshore producer of conventional oil and gas in Australia, is undergoing a $16-million project to boost production in its Cooper Basin LNG processing site to better supply the company's Moomba facility in Queensland. At this year's Global Users Exchange, Mike Ilgen, senior director industry solutions, Asia Pacific, Emerson Process Management, and Jon Weidenbaum, automation consultant, also of Emerson Process Management, described how Emerson and Santos collaborated to map out a way to reach this goal.

The Cooper Basin area is an arid and remote location, so a main project goal was to implement monitoring technology that would eliminate the need for maintenance technicians to travel to the site.

"Part of the project entailed first identifying 50 key stakeholders across Santos, asking them questions and distilling their comments into main themes," said Weidenbaum. "This let us drill down to find the source of problems so we could come up with appropriate products and solutions."

Out of this endeavour, several themes arose, continued Weidenbaum. "Some themes, such as well integrity and corrosion monitoring, were easy wins because placing wireless instruments in the field to perform these functions could potentially eliminate thousands of site visits. Additionally, Santos had many disparate systems with many different assets, so it needed a more consolidated control platform. The problem was to roll out major changes without impacting production by shutting off wells to make modifications. Using wireless technologies lets us do this."

According to Ilgen, the team used the themes to develop a roadmap to drive improvements forward. "We first focused on technologies that would bring Santos the highest ROI. These included wireless devices that monitored consumables and corrosion to ensure the integrity of pipelines and wells. We then developed a field pilot site to test the technologies in a real-world setting," he said. "For example, placing wireless casing pressure devices on wells eliminates 10,000 site visits per year. And wireless corrosion inhibitors eliminate 5,000 visits a year, while wireless cathodic protection for the pipeline saves 1,100 visits a year," he says.

Another benefit is that the wellhead is no longer considered a fixed asset in the field, but is rather thought of as a collection of assets, said Ilgren. Using digital remote test unit (DRTU) technology packaged into a skid allows assets to be moved from one well site to another without any re-engineering. "Once the DRTU is place, installation is simple, and the well can be commissioned in one day."

When it comes to operational processes, the ultimate goal of Santos is to move from disparate systems to optimized closed-loop operations control with an integrated architecture. "To support this, all the wellhead sites will use Emerson's Remote Operations Controllers (ROCs), while the satellite facilities and the operations center in Moomba, Australia, will use DeltaV," explained Ilgren. The upshot is Emerson will be putting wireless gateways at all the existing satellite sites to get all the AMS data into Moomba.