The ocean can be a busy place. Any offshore field might house a platform or FPSO unit that needs to be visited by various support vessels on a regular basis. When the operator decides to shoot a seismic survey or diving activity is required, this creates a simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) situation.

In an article in the November 2015 issue of First Break, several authors from ION Geophysical outlined some of the hazards that face seismic vessels offshore. In one case, a container ship ran over the tail end of the streamers, causing damage to equipment. In another case, a seismic vessel was scheduled to make close passes to an FPSO unit when the operator suspended the survey because a tanker was scheduled to arrive. The tanker was delayed by four days, and the survey vessel had to stand by to finish the shoot. This led to unplanned downtime and increased cost.

The article explained that this scenario resulted from a failure of situational awareness (SA), meaning that there wasn’t full comprehension of the current situation. Due to the complexity of offshore operations, ION decided to develop a system that could improve SA not only for seismic vessel operators but for a broader range of operations. Thus Marlin was born.

The Complexity Of SIMOPS

ION has provided services for optimizing offshore operations for a number of years, and coordinating activities in a safe and efficient manner in a busy SIMOPS environment has been a challenge that has grown in complexity.

“SIMOPS management is not a new concept; however, over the last 10 years we have noticed that this has become an increasingly challenging aspect of operating, and many aspects have continued to rely on manual processes,” said Gary Pemberton, director of services for Optimization Software & Services at ION. “We had a product called Narwhal that had a temporal and spatial nature to it that allowed us to predict the best route through waters with ice. A client who was familiar with that and our seismic survey planning capabilities approached us to see if the technology we had there could be adapted to the SIMOPS challenge we were seeing on 4-D surveys.”

The idea behind Marlin is to combine temporal project planning with 3-D spatial SA. The program automatically integrates multiple information sources such as AIS, GIS and metocean data to analyze and predict operations. Marlin replicates data across multiple sites, connecting a variety of onshore and offshore parties involved in oilfield operations and putting them on the same page.

Operations such as tanker loading, seismic surveys, pipeline and platform construction, field development drilling, and diving and supply vessel movement become transparent, providing all parties with awareness of other operations so that they can plan accordingly. Planned activities and any exclusions or restrictions associated with them are combined with live positional data to help operators predict conflicts based on operational objectives and HSE policies.

The linked Gantt chart uploads and updates plans and tasks to provide the temporal representation of ongoing operations in the area. Offshore and onshore personnel have an up-to-date and consistent picture to help them plan, monitor and manage SIMOPS in the area.

“Marlin is part of a larger predictive system that is particularly helpful in 4-D survey planning,” Pemberton said.

Marlin combines temporal project planning with 3-D spatial situational awareness to optimize marine operations. (Source: ION)


Marlin In Action

In one setting, the system was used in an area with 16 producing fields, 50 installations and five main platforms. The offshore fleet included platform supply vessels, drillships, an FPSO unit, an anchor-handling tug supply boat and diving support vessels.

Challenges involved coordinating multiple SIMOPS for marine control during high activity periods, including • Offloading/production operations;

  • Diving operations;
  • Supply/personnel vessel operations; and
  • Fishing activity.

Marlin was deployed in a marine control center alongside the corporate integrated asset planning group and two offshore vessels to provide 24/7 operational support. The result was complete field monitoring to detect conflict, provide notification and allow intervention to prevent lost production and downtime incidents and enable real-time vessel optimization.

“Marlin had an immediate positive impact on operational efficiency and reinforced our recommended changes to current systems and processes,” the North Sea operator said.

In another case study in the Middle East Marlin was deployed in a region with nine fields, 33 offshore platforms and more than 300 wells. The customer was challenged to coordinate and manage multiple operations within a major construction, drilling and production area, trying to plan, schedule and optimize routes by detecting and intervening with any potential conflicts.

Four operational planning specialists using Marlin both offshore and onshore were able to plan, schedule and optimize field operations, saving several weeks of survey time.

For Pemberton the peace of mind the system offers to operators is the key element. “Ultimately, it means the oil company has more information up front about what to expect from a survey to get more information certainty during the operation about how things are progressing against the plan,” he said.

Post-operation oil companies are using the data to audit and play back operations to continually improve their processes and procedures. ION is increasingly using Marlin on a broader range of projects within the E&P space to help with operations such as AUV flight plans and pipeline inspection. Pemberton said there seems to be an industry need for an enterprise solution in this space. ION is hoping that Marlin is able to fulfill that role.

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