Digital oilfield technologies need timely, accurate and relevant data before they can transform and improve production. By Emmanuel Guilhamon, oil and gas sales manager, EMEA, Rockwell Automation
Oil and gas producers are accelerating their adoption of digital technologies to be more efficient, productive and safe. But as we pointed out in our eBook ‘How to unlock the potential of digital transformation in Oil & Gas’, the technologies can only be successful if they have a key ingredient: quality data.
One company, for instance, made a big investment in predictive analytics software only to see it then go unused. The problem? Workers were overwhelmed by too many notifications. They also did not trust the predictions that the software was making, so they were not acting on the insights.
These are the kinds of challenges caused by bad, incomplete or poorly managed data and technology. Which is why you need a system in place that can gather the right data, at the right time and from the right sources, then process it into reliable and useful information for better decision making.
Only then can your digital technologies – and the workers who rely on them – be effective.
Moving To A Data Ecosystem
Oil and gas operations run on a complex mix of disparate assets that weren’t designed to talk to each other. But for your digital initiatives to work, you need to connect these assets so you can combine and contextualise their data.
This is a challenge that one major oil and gas company is working to solve. The company’s field assets produce a significant amount of critical data, but connectivity is a challenge due to legacy communication protocols and data formats.
This results in gaps and lack of consistency in the stored information. Now the company is implementing a system that uses technologies, such as edge computers and IIoT communications to collect and transmit the data.
Once the system is processed and contextualised, it feeds to the hundreds of engineers globally where they can use the company’s digital applications to generate insights that will help improve operations.
With the right solutions, your system can bring together the data islands created by your disparate assets into a single ecosystem. This allows you to create streams of actionable information that can be used by workers anywhere, whether they are in the field or in corporate offices.
Today, edge computers and analytics software can help you bring together data, crunch it and get results to see how your ecosystem or field assets are performing.
And smart devices connected over an EtherNet/IP network architecture can give you an efficient way to push algorithms or updated controls back to your assets to change how you control them.
Creating Quality Data
Accessing data is one challenge. Making sure it is useful is another.
The distributed nature of oil and gas operations often results in communications with varying levels of reliability. This can lead to some data being timelier and more accurate than other data. If this is the case for you, edge computing and industrial IoT communications can buffer data until it can be sent.
Also, some oil and gas operations only use time-stamped data logs. But your system should also collect event data. This allows you to capture and identify critical events and incorporate them into your software applications, so you can better manage them.
Before you design or implement your system, assess your current production infrastructure. This can help you identify any data and technology gaps you will need to address.
Your system should use open-architecture technologies. They can help you more easily connect to not only your main automation provider’s systems but also any third-party systems you use, now or in the future.
Security is also paramount. Your system should support a secure pathway from the collection of raw data to the delivery of information to workers.
Finally, remember you don’t need to deploy your system all at once. You can start small with a single project and build out your system as you realise ROI.
One oil and gas producer, for example, deployed a PLC and HMI solution from Rockwell Automation at one of its multi-well pads to support the use of artificial lift systems and help workers avoid excessive chemical injection in the wells, saving the company money.
This was possible through an architectural paradigm shift, where all applications for well optimisation and production processing run through a single processor. Having all the data available in one location and making it available to process engineers in real-time, helped them quickly identify the chemical injection problem.
The system has also helped workers see where they are in the well-optimisation cycle, so they can make better decisions at each stage. And it has enhanced safety by reducing the risk of faults going undetected.
Now, the company is looking to expand the technology to other large, multi-well pad operations and use it on new pads from day one.
Another example: A major national oil company adopted a digital transformation strategy at one of its oilfields. From the onset, this company worked with Rockwell Automation to select and deploy the right digital technologies to get quality data, in a timely and secure manner.
The result: Workflows and analytics applications running with quality data helped the company make the right operational decisions – yielding more than a two percent increase in production over one year. This company is now working to expand this technology to all of its oil production operations.
Avoiding An Overhaul
Knowledge-driven operations is a goal for many oil and gas producers. But getting there can be a struggle with a lack of quality, accurate and timely data.
The good news is, you do not need to spend time and money on a rip-and-replace strategy that implements new technologies across your operations.
All you need is the right system that can connect your abundance of assets – both old and new – and combine their data. Then, you can unleash the power of digital transformation across your oilfields, pipelines or processing plants.
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