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PlantPAx Tools Simplify Oil Production

Nov. 12, 2013
Perenco Overhauls its Gabon Oilfields with PlantPAx Systems
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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In complex, far-flung oil and gas applications, the power of simplicity can't be overestimated.

For instance, French oil and gas producer Perenco recently undertook the largest surface redevelopment project of its onshore and offshore production operations in Gabon on the central west coast of Africa, which required it to build new infrastructures, and reorganize and coordinate numerous platforms, control facilities and industrial networks.

"Perenco began production operations in Gabon in 1992 with the acquisition from Total and Marathon of developed, offshore fields near Port-Gentil," says Laurent Mollard, Perenco's senior automation and control systems engineer. "Twenty years later, our yearly average production reached 62,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOEPD) in 2012. This growth was sustained by continuous development of mature fields, an aggressive acquisition strategy and successful exploration, but we really needed to streamline all these production operations and overhaul our infrastructure."

Mollard and Jean-Jacques Thebaud, oil and gas engineering sales manager for France and Africa for Rockwell Automation, presented "Perenco: Reduction of Operational Expenditure in Onshore/Offshore Oil Production" today at Rockwell Automation's Process Solutions User Group (PSUG) in Houston.

Headquartered in Paris, Perenco is an independent oil and gas company with onshore and offshore operations in 16 countries in northern Europe, Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. The company presently produces approximately 375,000 BOEPD with net production of 210,000 BOEPD. It's also participating in some of the world's largest exploration projects in Brazil, Peru, northern Iraq, Australia and the North Sea.

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In Gabon, Perenco runs 27 oil production sites, including 12 offshore and 15 onshore. Each offshore site can include three to six platforms. The production sites cover an area that's about 400 kilometers long, running north to south off Gabon's coast, and they're networked via a combination of fiber-optic cabling, radios and satellite communications.

The company also operates one natural gas pipeline, which covers two production fields, one gas treatment plant and two distribution sites. Its licenses are located both offshore and onshore, and it also operates two floating storage and offloading (FSO) units to store and export crude oil. Since 2007, Perenco has supplied gas to the power plants at Libreville and Port-Gentil. To supply the gas handling and treatment plants, the firm also operates and maintains a 450-kilometer pipeline.

"They'll be easy to remotely support, and they'll help our site maintenance and project engineers optimize operations and improve production turnover in any of these locations." Perenco's Laurant Mollard on the remote access capabilities of the company's new PlantPAx automation infrastructure.

"To optimize operating expenditures in our crude oil production areas, we required scalable automation solutions that could handle both process control and safety control on our production facilities, which produce hundreds to thousands of barrels of oil per day," explained Mollard. "We needed to reduce operator presence on small production plants by fully instrumenting offshore platforms and onshore sites; interconnecting all the automation systems; and remotely operating several production facilities from one main control room. We also needed to rationalize our maintenance efforts by reducing local electrical production units and centralizing electricity production; managing our power plant operations, load shedding and electrical network monitoring; and remotely accessing diagnostic information to prevent unsuccessful trips."

Besides coordinating and streamlining existing operations, Perenco also needed new infrastructure to development its nearby Olende and M'Polunie fields; construct two 14-megawatt power plants with high-voltage electrical distribution; install a distribution network linking Libreville and Port-Gentil to gas reserves; and implement a dual-product, 2-million-barrel offshore terminal.

"Our project objectives were to centralize operations in two main control rooms to minimize local presence and reduce logistics costs, such as helicopters and boats," said Mollard. "We also sought to electrify all of our production facilities by installing the two main power plants to reduce local electricity generation and maintenance costs. We also wanted to further optimize production by acquiring production-well information that could be analyzed by the geophysical department in its main office and remotely."

To accomplish these diverse goals and simplify its operations, Mollard and his colleagues turned to longtime partner Rockwell Automation, which has been assisting Perenco since it started working in Gabon. "We used a global standard approach with PlantPAx redundant servers for main production facilities, and combined them in multi-server applications. We implemented ControlLogix process controllers, SIL 2 safety controllers and power distribution controllers. Next, we installed rack-based I/O for our main plants and FLEX I/O and POINT I/O for remote installations. We also used Ethernet for Level 2 and peer-to-peer communications, and adopted ControlNet for our I/O components. Again, we also used fiber optics, wireless, satellite or GSM networking, depending on an individual site's needs."

Mollard added that all these updated components give its offshore platforms and onshore operations multi-server capabilities, which allow it to easily centralize operations in its central control room. "ControlLogix's multi-discipline capability lets us apply a global standard over every site," explained Mollard. "Likewise, smooth integration to the IT environment enables us to secure remote access via satellite from any location, while PlantPAx's scalability allows us to carry out projects in a phased approach. Rockwell Automation's information-oriented solutions also give us easy access to production data for analysis, which helps optimize our financial investments."

Because Perenco's redevelopment project meant it was often dealing with developed fields and managing existing equipment, many of its new projects didn't involve building complete platforms or plants, but instead required it to add new components to older facilities. "It could be difficult to remember where all the existing equipment was, so it helped that we could make all our fire and gas (F&G) connections directly to our PLCs too," reported Mollard. "We can also manage our power generation with a PLC for power management. All these interconnections let us monitor everything from one central control area."

Mollard added that Perenco has also been standardizing its safety instrumented systems (SISs), emergency shutdown systems (ESDs) and F&G systems on the same PLCs from Rockwell Automation and monitoring them together on PlantPAx. In addition, it's also standardizing its HMIs and SCADA programs, which will allow staff to work on uniform displays and simplify training for them.

"The real value of this simplification and standardization is that common platforms can reduce the cost of spare parts. However, we're also getting uniform well analytics and production dashboards that are allowing us to follow operations trends in Gabon from our offices in Paris, and then react and make better decisions in real time," added Mollard. "These standard solutions from Rockwell Automation are going to be deployed further in Gabon and also in Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tunisia, Peru and Cameroon. They'll be easy to remotely support, and they'll help our site maintenance and project engineers optimize operations and improve production turnover in any of these locations." 

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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