BP Norge enhances its existing experience in digital oilfield technology by creating two second-generation “fields of the future.”

BP Norge installed its first fiber-optic communications link to the Valhall and Ula fields in the North Sea in 1999. Since then, it has substantially developed the implementation of its trademarked “field of the future” program of digital technology, ranging from the first advanced collaboration environments for drilling and operations to the world’s first life-of-field seismic array on the Valhall field, using advanced remote monitoring tools.

In 2005, BP embarked on two major facilities projects. The first was a new, field center for the Valhall field and the second a greenfield development for the Skarv field based on an FPSO unit. These projects would enhance BP Norge’s existing experience in digital oilfield technology and create two second-generation fields of the future.

BP Norge, on behalf of its partners, operates three field centers: the Valhall hub, consisting of the Valhall and Hod fields; the Ula hub, consisting of the Ula and Tambar fields; and BP Norge’s new Skarv field.

Digital Infrastructure

The installation of low-latency, high-bandwidth, fiber-optic-based telecommunications in 1999 underpinned the successful implementation of the technologies in BP’s Ula and Valhall brownfield hubs and was a turning point for the operation of BP fields.

The new Valhall process hotel platform development includes the provision of a 294-km (179-mile) high-voltage direct current power (HVDC) cable delivering 78 MW of power to the Valhall field. BP augmented the HVDC cable to include its own fiber-optic communications cable, adding a new dimension to the robustness of those communications to the Valhall field and opening up the potential for remote control of the field from shore.

Fiber-optic communications were successfully implemented in the southern part of the North Sea and convinced the Skarv partners that it was important to provide similar wide-bandwidth, low-latency communications to the field.

New Greenfield Facilities Challenges

The Valhall Redevelopment Project is due to subsidence at the seabed of the original processing facilities, leading to subsequent reduction in the air gap between the bottom of the deck and the sea.  In 2004, work began on the front-end engineering of a new production and hotel platform for the Valhall field. This became known as the Valhall Redevelopment Project.

With a life expectancy of 2050 and beyond, the project was considered a better way to resolve the subsidence problem than jacking up the old facilities. BP implemented the project as a field of the future facility, making use of all the capabilities of the new digital technology to facilitate remote monitoring and control.

The company developed a field-of-the-future automation blueprint outlining the project and what its contractors were expected to deliver to meet the company’s requirements. This was important to ensure that the engineering contractors delivered the required sensors necessary for best-in-class remote performance monitoring and optimization of critical process plant and equipment. An audit in 2006 proved its success with a high degree of conformance to expectations.

The Skarv field is about 200 km (120 miles) west of Sandnessjøen, Norway.  The field development concept was based on an FPSO designed for the area’s harsh environment.

It was agreed in the early stages of the engineering of the project that a fiber-optic telecommunications infrastructure to shore should be implemented on Skarv based on positive experiences from Ula and Valhall.

The field of the future automation blueprint also was successfully implemented and specifically updated for Skarv to cover marine and subsea aspects.

Since 2005, this blueprint document has evolved into a set of company standards addressing automation, remote performance management, advanced collaborative environments, and digital infrastructure, and it is now applied globally to all new major projects across BP.

Remote Control

BP adopted a degree of remote-control management (RCM) for the Valhall field from shore and combined it with the extensive use of advanced-collaborative-environment (ACE) technology. The installation of a second independent fiber-optic communications link associated with the HVDC provided the robustness of communications needed for remote operation.

Based on a review of value, risk and tactical considerations, all the primary processes, surveillance and control of the safety systems remained offshore while some specific functions, such as controlling the wells, would be done from shore.

The control room was designed to reflect the same look and feel as an offshore facility with the same access to wireless communications and public-address systems. A large video wall with high-quality audio equipment was provided offshore and onshore to give staff the feeling of being in the same room.

With more than 100 drilled wells and approximately 100 wells yet to drill, significant value is to be gained through well optimization. Well management complexity is increasing due to a shift from primary depletion toward depletion based on waterflooding, expanded gas lift and the use of more advanced wells.

As a result, it is leading to more fragile wells requiring scale management and careful well surveillance. Well management was improved by strengthening communications between the onshore support and operators, thus improving the well operator’s skills and capabilities.

Valhall, with its lifetime expectancy of more than 40 years, is expected to remain a highly complex field to operate. New technical capabilities and work practices are constantly under development, and the general industry trend is to move an increasing amount of the control and administration functions from offshore to onshore.

The operational onshore control room will provide improved flexibility for harvesting potential benefits from these new capabilities in the future.

Skarv’s ACE Concept

The Skarv greenfield development saw the opportunity to use ACE technology, but since it is an FPSO with associated marine operations, it was decided not to implement RCM. Based on experience from BP’s other assets, the company coupled Skarv into the existing mid-Norway fiber-optic communications network.

This enabled the full integration of onshore teams both in Stavanger and Sandnessjøen with the offshore operation, including real-time data access to systems, closed-circuit-TV coverage and links to other centers.  It also provided a capability for delivering business benefits in the areas of production efficiency improvement, production increases and operating-cost reduction.

As in the Valhall project, the Skarv development project uses mirror-image, purpose-built ACE facilities offshore.

Remote Performance Monitoring (RPM)

Valhall has 40 individual RPM applications, which have been assessed as providing high value, whereas Skarv, with more marine and subsea infrastructure, has 46 RPM applications.

Condition monitoring and RPM were recognized as key components of the Valhall and Skarv projects.

The systems and techniques that are being provided under the projects fall into two broad categories: 1) those that are well defined and understood and that should be expected to work reliably and quickly, and be available from plant start-up; and 2) those that are less well defined, where there is less experience or where the facility is known to require configuration/set-up/optimization during early stages of operation (nominally the first 12 months).

Each requires its own management to realize the expectations for the effectiveness of the techniques employed and to identify additional opportunities.

With ACEs both onshore and offshore, the asset teams will support the day-to-day business of the fields, while the engineering support teams are responsible for following up and operating the RPM tools using their own ACE environment together with their specialist contractors.

Lessons Learned, Challenges

Installing some of the best technology available on two new installations will enable BP Norge to continue to develop and improve concepts begun more than 10 years ago on its brownfield installations. Many lessons have already been learned, but certainly many are still to come in the years ahead.

Using blueprints to deliver a true, field-of-the-future installation has been a great success. Not all applications or capabilities that were initially envisaged have survived to handover of operations, but the reasons for this are well understood and can be corrected in future editions of the blueprints.

As one of the first companies in the world to try to perform remote control on a major oil and gas field, BP has found the projects challenging, requiring a great deal of effort and attention to detail. The company is confident, however, that the safety benefits will justify the investment in time and resources.

It has been important for senior engineering staff responsible for RCM on the new assets to align themselves with the key objectives and truly understand what is envisioned to deliver the desired results without deviation.

Collaboration Is Key

BP Norge has put an ambitious strategy in place for its most recent developments on Skarv and Valhall and has made a significant step in the industry’s progress towards the second-generation, digital oil field.

To drive recovery and uptime, an increasing amount of cross-discipline collaboration is required, and various technologies will have to be developed and deployed to obtain the maximum economic recovery from all fields.

Remote condition monitoring, data analysis and interpretation, real-time high-fidelity data and collaboration technology are in this portfolio of technology, and BP Norge has progressed this significantly with a recognition that there is still much to do on this long journey.

Editor’s Note: This article was presented in the show daily at SPE Intelligent Energy International 2012, May 27-29, Utrecht, The Netherlands.