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Oil and Gas Forum Users Manage Turmoil More Easily

Nov. 3, 2010
How Rockwell Automation's FactoryTalk Software Applications Are Helping Oil and Gas Users to Gain Better Operational Control of Offshore Production Assets

There are more than a few upheavals going on in the oil and gas industry these days. No kidding.

Deeper and more dangerous settings, increasing safety incidents, energy sourcing shifts, economic recessions, technological advances, regulatory changes, ongoing political and religious strife are all combining to make oil and gas exploration more uncertain that ever before.

It's sure lucky that oil and gas was such a stress-free field before now, right?

Still, this is the world as it is today, and having a tiger by the tail isn't too bad, if you can keep a good hold on it. To help process engineers and their applications maintain their grip, organizers of Rockwell Automation's Oil & Gas Forum gathered several expert presentations this week at Automation Fair 2010 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. 

The first presenter, Peng Hu, power department manager for the China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC), reported that his company recently worked with contractor WellReach Automation Engineering Co. and Rockwell Automation to upgrade and resolve a variety of different power facilities on its offshore platforms in and around the South China Sea. Started in 1982, CNOOC has 65,800 employees, and had total revenues of RMB 209.6 billion in 2009.   

"Most of these oil fields are far away from each other, and so they were developed in different modes and built at different times. This means their power systems are complex and difficult to manage," explained Hu. "Our power grid had an isolated power station, which made load-sharing management and load-shed adjustment difficult, and the turbine generator control system had multiple equipment types and different versions from different suppliers. The management software was from Maximo, PIMS and SAP. However, our maintenance costs were very high because we had to import critical equipment, and also meant that we had big downtime losses."

To secure better data and a more uniform presentation of its power facilities, CNOOC used Rockwell Automation's FactoryTalk software to implement an integrated, digital field solution for five of its platforms. Employing a web-based structure, Hu reports that CNOOC's main process data management system (PDMS) features six independent dashboards, including:

  • Power System Overview of all power assets, their real-time status, and general alarming functions.
  • Dispatch Management for load planning and individual case adjustments.
  • Operations Management that reports on running hours, and includes expert remote routine checking and key performance indicator (KPI) management of every unit.
  • Maintenance Management to track regular maintenance tasks, and also to handle special projects.
  • Engineering Management for routing inspection jobs to the right personnel, and indicating equipment required. It also has a Training Pyramid to direct each engineer to get the training they need.
  • Expert Support System includes expert documents, video conference capabilities and other resources to aid troubleshooting.    

"Our new PDMS system has greatly boosted the operational efficiencies on our platforms." CNOOC's Peng Hu discussed the increased oilfield visibility they've gained using Rockwell Automation tools.

The main FactoryTalk software applications that CNOOC used were VantagePoint, ViewPoint and Historian. Besides using these parts of FactoryTalk's Integrated Production and Performance Suite, CNOOC also employed Rockwell Automation's RSLinx software, Java software, MyEclipse 6.0, Tomcat5 and Oracle 9i to build its six-part portal.

"Our new PDMS system gives us real-time monitoring, pre-warnings, allows faster support, enables us to cooperate more closely, let us correctly dispatch orders, and helps us manage our power facilities more efficiently," said Hu. "All of this has greatly boosted the operational efficiencies on our platforms." 

Besides getting different equipment or facilities to report information more uniformly, sometimes users need the same kind of uniformity from numerous different kinds of information software. For example, Mark Lochmann, director of reservoir and production technology at Landmark Software and Services, reported that his company is using integrated production operations (IPO) to help Chevron coordinate numerous data sources at its Agbami field off the coast of Nigeria. Landmark is part of Halliburton's drilling and evaluation services division. 

"Because oil and gas reserves are more complex, hard to reach and difficult to evaluate than ever, we're processing huge amounts of geologic, seismic and other raw data," said Lochmann. "And, while technology is key to reducing these uncertainties and improving efficiency, we're also seeing the need for an unprecedented convergence of people, processes and technology. As a result, all the oil companies have been developing ‘digital oil fields' by taking the practices they've learned over many years, and using them to turn oil fields into factories with instruments and automation." These efforts include Chevron's iFields, BP's Fields of the Future, and Shell Oil's SmartFields.

To aid these efforts, Lochmann added that Landmark has deployed 75 different software-based workflow projects over the past few years in offshore applications in the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in North Africa, West Africa and in several Latin American locations. One of the most instructive of these is the Agbami field, which is offshore about 200 kilometers southwest of Port Harcourt. The 2.5-year-old field's main reservoir is about 3,050 meters deep, includes about 30 fuel, gas and water-injection wells in about 1,500 meters of water, and produces about 250,000 barrels of oil worth about $20 million per day. The field is operated by Chevron, but its other contractors include Star Deepwater Petroleum, Petrobras, Statoil and Texaco Nigeria Outer Shelf.

Because most of the field's operating facilities assets are located beneath the surface of the ocean, Chevron uses a floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel to help process and transport the oil.

The field and the FPSO's safety instrumented system (SIS), process shutdown (PSD) and power management distribution systems come from Rockwell Automation's ICS Triplex division, and include approximately 6,000 I/O points going to multiple ‘Trusted TMR' systems. Lochman added that Rockwell Automation provided full, turnkey engineering services, and delivered solutions, including part of the HAZOP team, to Chevron on the project's front end. In fact, these systems were built in Singapore, delivered to the FPSO's construction yard in Korea, and are now engineered, programmed and managed from Houston.

Rockwell Automation also supports the systems through long-term maintenance contracts. Also, the FPSO and the field's power management distribution system exchanges 50,000 tags with the FPSO's distributed control system (DCS).    

Obviously, integrating all these operational and safety systems is no simple task. "Agbami's first iField objective is to capture and manage sub-surface and topside real-time and historical data," explained Lochmann. "Its second aim is to facilitate asset management work processes by accurately characterizing the reservoir, optimizing the displacement efficiency, water and gas injection performance and improving ultimate recovery, and then feeding into well-work and base-business operations to maximize the value of the asset. The third goal is to improve collaboration and facilitate prompt operational decisions and interventions. Because all the assets are subsea, Chevron has to know what's going on down there." 

To help Chevron meet its goals for the field, Lochmann reported that Landmark implemented and Agbami is now running 35 workflow processes of its DecisionSpace for Production architecture and infrastructure. However, because these workflows include 16,000 applications and 10,000-12,000 databases in the exploration and production space, Landmark also employs Rockwell Automation's VantagePoint to help coordinate all these data sources and get them to present their information in a more uniform way. These data sources comes from a variety of software applications from a range of vendors, including Landmark, AspenTech, TietoEnator, Schlumberger, Microsoft, Oracle, Honeywell, Yokogawa, OSIsoft, GE Fanuc, Matrikon, IBM, SAP, Rockwell Automation and others.

Lochman reported that coordinating and standardizing all these data sources with VantagePoint has produced some startling benefits for the Agbami field and its FPSO application. "It's achieved about a 95% uptime for well availability and facilities, compared to 50-65% initially projected, and is projected to save about $10 million per year in otherwise lost production opportunities," said Lochmann. "Most interestingly, we've also seen a 98% reduction in non-productive time associated with data access and management procedures. In addition, Agbami's plateau production levels were reached well ahead of the planned schedule, and it standardized its business-practice and capture-asset team know-how through workflow automation.

"Integrated production operations are a key part of digital oilfield strategies, and their clear value is being realized today. Their technology has advanced significantly, providing the foundation they need to succeed. In addition, tomorrow's solutions may come from outside oil and gas, and so changing how we work is the next step. These new workflows, using the convergence of people, processes and technology, will define the future."

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