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Santos Integrates Intelligent Field with Transformative Operations Center

Oct. 2, 2013
Automation Professionals Needed a More Efficient Way to Run Their Plants, Monitor and Control the Fields, and Integrate Operations. Santos Ltd. Delivered!
About the Author
Jim Montague is the Executive Editor at Control, Control Design and Industrial Networking magazines. Jim has spent the last 13 years as an editor and brings a wealth of automation and controls knowledge to the position. For the past eight years, Jim worked at Reed Business Information as News Editor for Control Engineering magazine. Jim has a BA in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and lives in Skokie, Illinois.

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Control rooms are adding a few new tasks to their job descriptions. Both integrated control operations and the intelligent fields are transforming the jobs and the very nature of field devices and what it means to be a control room.

For instance, Santos Ltd. has been supplying natural gas in eastern Australia for 50 years, and one of its primary applications includes 10 compressor stations, more than 1,000 wells,  and regional control hubs producing coal-seam natural gas in a area covering several hundred square kilometers (km), located up to 1,000 km west of Brisbane. Obviously, managing and coordinating the operations of all these far-flung wells and facilities is a complex and usually time-consuming job.

"We needed a more efficient way to run our plants, monitor and control the fields, and integrate operations," said Patrick Gorey, controls advisor for engineering and reliability at Santos. "Supporting staff in the field was becoming cost-prohibitive, so we also needed to provide real-time data to our maintenance and operations personnel to allow them to optimize performance of the wells, well-pads and fields."

Also Read: How to Build the Control Room of the Future

To achieve its vision, Santos began developing and designing its Brisbane Primary Control Center (PCC) in 2010 and just finished building it about one year ago. The PCC is part of Santos' overall Brisbane Operations Center (BOC), and its upgrade will help supply the Gladstone Liquid Natural Gas (GLNG) project, a joint venture between Santos and three of the world's largest energy companies, Petronas, Total and Kogas. GLNG is expected to increase the number of Santos' wells in the region to about 6,000 over the life of project.

"We're implementing our new hubs this year and will begin increasing LNG production next year," said Gorey.

Gorey and Mike Ilgen, industry marketing director for Emerson Process Management, Asia Pacific, presented "Santos Brisbane Primary Control Center—A Collaborative Environment for the Intelligent Field" on the second day of Emerson Global Users Exchange 2013. A YouTube video of Santos' project is at http://bit.ly/1c1QSmm (watch it below).

Ilgen added that integrated operations centers and intelligent field applications are transforming the oil and gas and other process industries. "Most international oil companies (IOCs) and national oil companies (NOCs) have some form of these new centers, and research indicates that intelligent operations and smart fields can improve overall gas recovery by 5% and overall oil recovery by 10%, which can mean billions of dollars in added revenue," said Ilgen.

"Equipment makes gas, but people are essential to make sure its runs properly and efficiently." Santos' Patrick Gorey on the ability of the Australian natural gas producer's new operations center to improve its employees' decision-making.

"However, all these integrated operations (iOps) centers are based on more and better data from their intelligent fields and the pervasive sensors located downhole and at the wellheads, compressor stations and other facilities. This data can then go anywhere in the world and is then treated and analyzed by intelligent applications to improve decision-making and operations. And the faster this whole data-to-decision loop can go, the better companies can run their businesses."

For Santos' natural gas extraction and processing operations, the "gas field of the future" means no longer driving or flying by helicopter to remote wells, which is costly and can pose added safety risks. Now, Santos' operators and engineers are implementing predictive diagnostics, including using wireless RTUs to conduct remote well tests from their PCC and DeltaV system in Brisbane. Likewise, some maintenance tasks used to require three or four days worth of travel and permitting to perform a three-hour job, but now they only need one hour of remote travel, plus the three hours to the job.

Gorey explained that its new PCC design was based on a predicted organization model for 2013, which consists of three stations and spare capacity;  four asset-based collaborative environment (CE) joint workspaces with support for one field location; two discipline-based CEs for wells, maintenance and projects; two "war rooms" with video conferencing to support event-based issues; Hub-based CEs for field team use;  one field office in the town of Roma.

To design and build their new PCC, Gorey added that the Santos team held meetings with relevant teams, including engineering and technical support, and field-based team representatives. Next, they met with their design teams, including local architects, services consultants and construction teams. Together, they all generated and optimized a floor-plan layout and created detailed scope and costs for it. Emerson serves as the main automation contractor (MAC) for the GLNG, and helps collect and deliver its real-time information. Lastly, the new PCC was built, and it's been up and running for about 12 months.

Gorey added that the new PCC has:

  • Fundamentally changed the way that Santos operates its gas fields in the Bowen and Surat basins;
  • Integrated its planning, scheduling, operations and maintenance;
  • Improved its ability to monitor and control all its upstream facilities and collaborate with teams in the field to improve operations;
  • Improved compliance with its planning and production;
  • Reduced personnel in the field and trips to the field by more than 50%; and
  • Achieved payback in less than one year.

"We have developed a world-class remote operation center," Gorey stated. "The center has changed the way our gas fields in the Bowen and Surat Basins are operated. Emerson's team brought the process automation expertise we needed to meet global standards, and their solutions have equipped us with the ability to centrally monitor the production and progress of our intelligent assets up to 1,000 kilometers apart."

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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