InnovOil speaks to Honeywell Process Solutions’ Dan O’Brien and Michele Loseto about the future of the digital oilfield and how it is shaping production efficiency
Though improvements to production efficiency can be made using an incalculable amount of technologies, enhancements and engineering, an area heralded as having some of the greatest potential is in the digital space. In new ways, hardware and software are becoming integral parts of the oil and gas industry, reporting and controlling everything from supply chains to choke positions.
One firm at the forefront of the change is Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS), a unit of the US-based multinational. Citing 30 years of experience working with E&P firms, it believes its Digital Suites for Oil and Gas systems will play a vital role in the future of an increasingly digital oilfield.
In the lead-up to Offshore Europe, InnovOil sat down with the company’s global director of vertical solutions Dan O’Brien and product manager Michele Loseto to discuss its current systems, and where the sector is headed.
O’Brien works within HPS’ software division – Advanced Solutions – a unit which focuses primarily on a portfolio software along the lines of Honeywell’s core principles, he explained. Namely, its goals are “to improve safety, production efficiency, reliability of equipment and analytics.”
It is a broad remit, but solutions are geared mainly towards “improving production efficiency, process safety performance, using the innovative analytics that some of the emerging technologies like big data, mobility and industrial internet of things [IIoT] can offer.” These are incorporated into Digital Suites for Oil & Gas, the company’s flagship digital oilfield solutions for all upstream producers, from offshore conventionals to onshore unconventionals such as shale gas and coal-bed methane (CBM).
Its presence at OE15 is reflective of the number of North Sea operators already using Digital Suites. As well as its capabilities, its success is partly a result of Honeywell’s vendor and format-neutral approach. “We are absolutely open connectivity-wise to working with anybody’s process data historian, anybody’s control system technologies, anybody’s instrumentation, so we’ve got a really open connectivity platform and engine to allow us integrate with everybody’s stuff.” Such an approach is perhaps unusual for an industry accustomed to bespoke-ness, but as Loseto notes, it can help to mitigate the current industry problem of TMS – Too Many Spreadsheets.
Digital Suites incorporates multiple areas of operation, from process safety and alarm management to the visualisation and distribution of real-time production data. The latter in particular is changing how the industry thinks about the process of drilling and production. “I’ve been talking to some customers in the Permian Basin, where some of their production monitoring has as much as a day’s delay on their awareness of what’s going on in their production field,” O’Brien says.
This lag means that producers are not working as effectively or efficiently as they could be. Sourcing information on temperatures, choke positions, pressures and flow rates, as well as faster access to up-to-date well models, can dramatically improve results. “With our software, you can get that information in minutes, not in days,” he enthuses.
Across the board, this move towards better and more up-to-date analytics has two main drivers. First are advances in technology, especially in terms of mobile computing, devices and connectivity, and especially the evolution of the IIoT. Honeywell Pulse, O’Brien highlights, is a new “smart notification” technology premiered in the US in June 2015, and allows relevant personnel to “consume only what they need to consume, as well as a little bit of context around it, like seam trends or how events are being addressed.” Using push notifications and locational awareness to send the right information to the right people – and at the right time – he reckons new technologies such as Pulse are “a pretty effective way to give [users] a smart indication, in context.”
Second is the improved ability of computers and operators to handle and display the information collected, via monitoring and data analytics. O’Brien adds: “Those analytics can help a customer really identify production issues much faster, and they can then avoid things that might lead to a well shut-in, costly equipment damage or unplanned maintenance.”
Rather than storing information in a “warehouse,” to be accessed later, better algorithms, smarter processing, data federation and asset modelling allow Digital Suites to show the most important information as it is needed – in near real time. This process of federation, he continues, means that users “can leave the production information in its raw form… This is much more reliable because it’s the data that’s kept right at the source, and that creates a better environment from a cyber security, a data redundancy, and a high-efficiency perspective.”
As InnovOil has profiled already this year in both our big data and asset integrity editions, predictive maintenance is coming on leaps and bounds as a result of such systems. The ability to know when to undertake maintenance and plan accordingly – rather than having an unnecessary or emergency shutdown – is an incredibly useful tool for boosting efficiency. Digital Suites enables operators to “use pump vibrations and things like that to help plan how to schedule maintenance,” O’Brien explains. “That’s deployed across quite a few sites in the North Sea and it’s changing the way customers build these smarter operating environments.”
These smart environments are also enabling an economic overhaul. Lower prices have meant O’Brien’s division is “busier than ever,” with an increased response from operators looking for ways to manage assets effectively and efficiently in an even tougher environment.
The argument is about economics as much as it is about smarter working. “We’re able to help get more production efficiency out of the existing assets without a lot of new CAPEX,” Loseto says. “We can help them get the most of their assets, quickly identifying issues on various perspectives, and then connect everything and everybody in a holistic collaborative manner.”
Altogether, Honeywell believes it can mean a 3-5% improvement in production efficiency, equating to typical annual savings of US$5 million per year for a mid-sized field. Product manager Michele Loseto points to one case study for an unconventional producer in Asia-Pacific, where real-time predictive alerting meant savings of US$200,000 per well, per event. In a multi-well development, this Digital Suites offered an ROI within two months.
As the blueprint for the fully digital oilfield develops, hardware, software and computing will be deployed in even more interesting and innovative ways. We have seen it already in the massive interest and demand for drone inspection and remote monitoring technologies onshore, and similar trends in the offshore sector with AUVs.
“In the next few years the industrial software picture is going to evolve more than it’s ever evolved in the past, O’Brien says, “And it’s going to be led by the adoption of emerging technologies that have swept through things like social gaming, big data, IIoT, mobility, Cloud computing and enterprise connectivity – those are part of the big themes that we really know are going to make a huge impact in production efficiency.”
The result is: “We’re going to start relying on these devices and solutions to do things that you couldn’t do any other way.” He points to advances in software for geo-fencing and locational controls which allow drones to detect leaks and spills automatically – employing similar detection techniques to those the company has already used for quality control in the pulp and paper industry.
While large process industries can be cautious when it comes to embracing these developments in emerging technology – perhaps none more so than oil and gas – with the improvements which can be seen in terms of economics and efficiency, the case is persuasive. In most cases, the components are proven and tested – it seems it is now up to operators and providers to find even more ways in which they can be used. “Time horizons are kind of hard to predict – and I’ve been in this business a long time,” O Brien says, “But I think with the emergence of IIoT, with the adoption of mobility in industrial ways that operators haven’t thought of; we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.”