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Production can be increased as much as 10% for oil and 5% for natural gas by using smart technology for monitoring and controlling fields.
Faster, better technologies are needed, including tapping capabilities from beyond the oil and gas industry. Two key requirements are better sensors and making better use of measurements, said Gerald Schotman, chief technology officer, Shell.
Current Shell exploration-related projects include developing million-channel hi-fidelity, broad-bandwidth, seismic sensors and seabed, seismic-node systems. It is also building integrated tools for processing, interpreting and visualizing multiple data types.
The company estimates that using smart technology for monitoring and controlling a field provides around 10% more production of oil and 5% for gas, while also reducing exposure to HSE risk.
Schotman joined Satish Pai, executive vice president, operations, Schlumberger, Dr. Nabeel Afaleg, manager, Southern Area Reservoir Management, Saudi Aramco, Ellen Williams, chief scientist, BP, and Kjell Pedersen, president and chief executive officer, Petoro, in discussing industry challenges during the first plenary session at SPE Intelligent Energy 2012, March 27, in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Afaleg agreed with Schotman regarding the need for improved technology. With all energy forecasts predicting a continued rise in demand for oil, the industry will have to develop fields of increasing technical complexity and maturity.
Nineteen of Aramco’s fields are already “intelligent,” and the list is growing fast, he pointed out. Meeting the task requires bridging gaps relating to both people and technology.
Regarding technology, Afaleg stated the need for better measurements across the whole reservoir rather than just in vertical wells. Examples include passive seismic and installing many sensors along lateral wellbores.
Not everyone in the industry is yet convinced of the need for so many sensors, stated Pedersen. He described himself as a convert to IE, but noted that “while we have done a reasonable job instrumenting new fields, we have been less successful in mature fields.”
The Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) has a large remaining resource potential, much of it in existing fields, but further development will probably take longer and cost more than before -- potentially up to NOK1.0 billion ($175 million) per well, he emphasized.
More effective use of the large volumes of measurements from mature fields will improve reservoir modelling to guide their redevelopment, he added.
Pai suggested that this conference has features in common with building a reservoir saturation curve. Specifically, the conference provides a review every two of how things have changed.
Intelligent oilfield initiatives are playing a big role in mitigating the impact of the “great crew change,” such as centralizing expertise, knowledge management, remotely controlled operations, intelligent systems and automation, he emphasized.
Intelligent energy (IE) can also support regulatory compliance by providing traceability and helping move beyond minimum requirements.
“We can learn from other industries, such as automotive design improvement expertise and aviation, where continued real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance are fundamental,” he explained.
The uptake of digital technology has varied between industries, and oil and gas has lagged behind in many areas, Williams said.
However, BP has achieved success in areas such as equipment integrity monitoring, avoiding well intervention, production optimization and gaining incremental production, she continued.
Every case where new data has been entered into a computer has delivered instant benefits. The level of assistance in decision-making increases is related to the extent of monitoring. While sensors can guide an experienced engineer, a fully instrumented field is required for automating field operations, she stated.
On the people side, Saudi Aramco is developing systems to better organize knowledge, retain experience and use IT to support decision-making.
Afaleg noted that a report from the University of Houston stated that 70% of U.S. E&P workers are over 41 years old. Saudi Aramco has a similar gap in mid-range experience. The company is accelerating the development of its staff through intensive programs of formal training, immersive learning and field experience.