Digital wellhead management now affordable for the masses

Feb 26, 2019

Of the onshore sector of the oil and gas industry, the wellhead is probably the least developed segment in terms of digitalization. This has been due to the difficulty in providing the communications bandwidth required to transmit data from remote locations.

Historically, onshore operators, particularly at the wellhead, have tried to drive their operations by looking through the rearview mirror—basing decisions on data typically 30 days old, manually collected during routine inspections by a large dedicated task force. With crude prices expected to remain in the $40 to $60 range, this approach is simply no longer viable.

Digitalization offers companies an opportunity to integrate and optimize the entire value chain, including certain less time-critical applications at the wellhead. Onshore operators embracing digitalization are more likely to be able to rapidly pinpoint the best performing assets and identify problem areas. Remote visibility into equipment on the well pad, for example, can decrease the time field operators spend driving between wells to do maintenance checks as they prioritize routes based on real need and potential upside. This saves cost but, even more importantly, improves safety.

Digitalization can also ensure any actions taken are optimal for a given well’s set of conditions since analytics and cloud computing can help local and/or remote production specialists better assess what is going on and thus choose the best solution based on the available data.

ABB Ability Wellhead Manager, introduced this week at ABB Customer World, allows both large operators and small start-ups to gather information about their onshore upstream assets. The system is cloud-based, so operators can gain insights about their production assets anywhere in the world. Remote workers can connect in real-time—supporting enhanced teamwork and productivity.

By providing immediate access to data, alarms and call-out notifications, ABB Ability Wellhead Manager allows operators to proactively prevent issues, predict productivity and easily scale up or down as necessary. It also connects production assets with field-based personnel and production specialists, enabling remote teams to work together more effectively. The system supports better decision-making, with field production data digitally gathered and visualized using a progressive web application.

In the past, the scale of capital investment required to create a suitable communications infrastructure was particularly prohibitive. ABB Ability Wellhead Manager offers SCADA software as a service such that analytics are run in the cloud and, instead of heavy upfront capital costs, smaller companies can pay a more manageable monthly subscription.

“Operators, whether larger producers or start-ups, can focus their attention on the most inefficient sites, viewing and analyzing historical performance and making business decisions that will improve production, cut costs and maximize efficiencies,” says Darren Schultz, director of ABB SCADA Oil and Gas.

The potential upside of digitalization for onshore producers is substantial. The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Accenture, suggests that the upstream O&G sector could see $600 billion in value created between 2016 to 2025, with 90% of that total expected to come through advanced analytics and the optimization of drilling and production operations. ABB Ability Wellhead Manager is a prime example of the tools that will allow onshore operators to realize these gains.

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