Drilling for Value in the Digital Oilfield

Greg Mitchell, MD, Deloitte
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Greg Mitchell, MD, Deloitte

Greg Mitchell, MD, Deloitte

The oil and gas industry is deep into a transformative period of digitization. At Deloitte, we’re charting dramatic changes across the industry, generated by more accessible and applicable data, insights and technologies including analytics that better track and upgrade field operations, manage inventory, expedite supply delivery, improve worker safety and optimize, fix or replace assets.

Logistical management based on data analytics is no longer just a matter of future speculation. “Self-aware” systems now lead to real-time monitoring of conditions and provide predictions for immediate responses—people, equipment, repairs, and technology—to problems or challenges around a particular well, pipeline or other field asset.

Consider an operations manager stationed at a control center who receives notice of a broken telemetry at one well; then a second showing reduced production levels at a different well. The third well with a holding tank quickly reveals it is nearing capacity. Based on the work-prioritization dashboard, the system automatically dispatches a technician to each trouble spot. That leads to improved routes, identified parts, and repair needs based to be on problem priorities.

At the same time, algorithms immediately kick in to order new parts or equipment, identify and schedule maintenance workers, and schedule downtime (if needed). Worker safety is tracked, and the need for manual intervention is minimized in dangerous or cost-inefficient settings.

   Wearable technology is another “state of change” factor in defining the digital oilfield 

Predictive Analysis and the Art of Preventative Maintenance

Being able to clearly see every operational aspect in the next hour, or the next day, week or month using predictive analytics, gives the smart oil and gas executive an advantage. Oilfield managers and technicians increasingly are leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to connect in the cloud, and incorporating machine learning and cognitive modeling capabilities in a more targeted way.

These systems understand and can predict equipment or down hole disruptions based on sensor-driven data. They understand which material shipments are on time, lagging behind or ahead of schedule, as well as weather conditions or other events that could impact delivery or productivity. The ability to monitor and optimize all assets globally, 24/7, is critical.

When it comes to good production, predictive analysis is vital to preventative maintenance. Say a large U.S.-based energy exploration company seeks to accurately predict future maintenance needs to avert production decline. Implementing sophisticated asset performance analytics lessens the risk of outages or damaging well degradation.

The real-life consequences of these data mechanisms—For beginners, producing an extra quarter to half a barrel per well each day could realize $200 million a year more in incremental revenue. The potential benefits of predictive analysis are clear: increased production, lowered expense and optimal utilization of parts and assets—not to mention a giant sigh of relief from the corner office.

What the Modern Field Operative is Wearing

Wearable technology is another “state of change” factor in defining the digital oilfield, particular when it comes to tracking and ensuring worker safety. Take the case of a field operative with smart wearables digitally connected to worksites and field assets where radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors have been installed.

From a cost-management standpoint, wearables can enable real-time tracking of time spent at each site. This helps manage invoices received for the project and deploy personnel more wisely. As importantly, worker safety and security are enhanced. The operative wearing a digitally enhanced vest is able to have his or her vitals and external conditions monitored, including heart rate, blood pressure, air quality, and weather factors.

The system is aware that he or she wears near-vision glasses and, as a precaution, checks that they are being worn—and if not, offers a reminder. Computer-tracking goggles track eye movements for signs of fatigue or disorientation.

Such wearable devices also allow for detection of different types of hazardous gases. They can be outfitted with built-in panic buttons and a GPS locator and motion sensor for identifying employee location. The technology can lead to less redundancy and worker downtime because of improved data access, better knowledge management, and automation, a measurable cut in administrative overhead, and an upgrade in vendor performance management.

The Real-Time Drilling Playbook

In charting a drill plan, operations managers need to keep everything on schedule and be able to react productively to breakdowns and unexpected events. During the drilling process, analytics are running against real-time sensor data to monitor and predict down-hole problems and equipment issues that might develop, such as sand breakthroughs or a stuck pipe.

In one scenario, the drill team strikes a predicted sedimentary layer and must depart from the initial plan; additional mud is required, resulting in delays to project completion that forces the drill platform to stay onsite an additional week.

But the team has a drill plan that contains comparative data drawn from other wells with similar characteristics. Detailed data about fluid composition, injection rates, problems experienced and overcome is fed into the algorithms, becoming automatically available to technicians and the remote operations center. Equipment and supplies are shipped straight to the site. A new plan driven by technology takes effect.

Think of it as a real-time drilling playbook, one that assists field operatives and remote managers in conquering problems in the field. And it is music to the ears of the oil and gas enterprise from a cost- and risk-management perspective.

Digital technology is transforming the way oil and gas companies operate in the field. But this new age is grounded in a time-tested, old-school business model cutting costs, maximizing production, and driving efficiency through the most current tools available can potentially lead to increased market share and market success.

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