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How the industry is embracing digitalisation Brazil



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Keeping pace with technolog

‘Digital everywhere’ becoming a reality as forward-thinking companies
embrace advances across the entire upstream business

I N HIS influential book The

Fourth Industrial Revolu-
tion, engineer and econo-
mist Klaus Schwab de-
scribes an era beyond
computerisation and the connect-
ed machines we have come to
throughout the value chain are
investing in the technologies and
people to help them thrive in the
fourth industrial revolution.
Talk of the “digital oilfield” has
been going on for at least a couple
of decades. What that really
ing all these aspects of data gath-
ering,” he says.
In BP’s case, that meant deploy-
ing some 2000 kilometres of fibre
optics connecting the company’s
operated offshore facilities to
onshore offices.
what advocates say are safer prac-
tices and better decisions, from
drilling to maintenance and
While digitalisation “is not a
one-size-fits-all” solution for busi-
nesses within the oil and gas
accuracy of predictive analytics
for critical equipment. 
“Customers are now thinking
more broadly (about) how to
reduce the necessity for having
people offshore at all.”
While many of the larger oil
know as the internet of things. means and where we are in the The second phase, Hashmi says, industry, some technologies and companies have long been on the
This revolution’s “scope is much digitalisation process varies by is making sense of all that data, how they work together have forefront of the digital transfor-
wider”, Schwab writes: “Occur- company. organising and overlaying it with come to define the digital oilfield, mation, all operators have “digital
ring simultaneously are waves of Initial advances came in seis- analytics and optimisation tools says Elgonda la Grange, director of strategies” in various stages of
further breakthroughs in areas mic data gathering and interpre- to help people make decisions digital solutions with Siemens Gas implementation, says Paul de
ranging from gene sequencing to tation and reservoir science.  about exploration and facilities & Power. Leeuw, director of the Oil & Gas
nanotechnology, from renewables maintenance and operations. Institute at Robert Gordon Univer-
to quantum computing. Taking hold Cloud computing — the ability Individual priorities sity in Aberdeen.
“It is the fusion of these tech- However, the capacity to collect to store and access huge volumes “The digital oilfield is specific to “Teams are doing great work in
nologies and their interaction and make use of data has taken of data at relatively low cost — is the company where it is imple- seismic interpretation, asset
across the physical, digital and hold throughout the upstream enabling a new phase of digitali- mented and reflects their individ- integrity, predictive maintenance
biological domains that make the business. sation in the industry. ual business priorities,” she says, — all these things,” he reckons.
fourth industrial revolution fun- “It’s really about taking all of “I think the old notion of the but adds that there is “broad “That’s happening and I think
damentally different from previ- the data that are generated at the digital oilfield has now moved agreement” that true digitalisa- that’s phase one. Now we’re mov-
ous revolutions.” point of oil and gas operations and into ‘digital everywhere, digital tion must allow interaction be- ing from analysis into deep
The business of oil and gas making sense of them, either everything’ in our industry,” tween a consolidated data hub, 3D insight and predictive elements,”
exploration and production is not through analytics, automation or Hashmi says. structural models and dynamic adds De Leeuw.
exempt from this revolution, algorithms that optimise opera- The advent of “digital twins” performance models of the reser- Another trend in this next
which is well under way.  tions,” says Ahmed Hashmi, that enable modelling, remote voir, facility or equipment, and phase is more co-operation among
And while oil and gas lags global head of upstream technol- monitoring and operation, and “fit-for-purpose analytics”. businesses throughout the
behind some other industries in ogy at BP. advances in automation and “Previously,” according to  La upstream supply chain, focused
implementing digital strategies, “The first phase of the digital robotics, are helping companies Grange, “the focus was almost on more early engagement
forward-thinking companies oilfield was largely about connect- optimise operations and enabling exclusively on improving the between operators and service
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New way
Fusion: Ahmed Hashmi,
global head of upstream
of working
technology at BP, and
(right) Paul de Leeuw,
director of the Oil & Gas
for SBM
Institute at Robert Gordon DUTCH floating production spe-
University in Aberdeen cialist SBM Offshore began to
Photos: BP/RGU ramp up digital technology appli-
cations several years ago to
improve the performance of its
floating production, storage and
offloading fleet, writes Russell
“We started with deployment of
a historian on board that allowed
us to collect data on a much larger
scale and in a more a structured
way,” explains Erica Cecchi, direc-
tor of the company’s Digital FPSO
project, using the term for a data-
base that can collect “time-series”
data for analysis.
“We then moved to a more vis-
ualisation-and-reporting phase,
where we were able to visualise
data in real time.”
The technology significantly
reduces the amount of work tradi-
tionally done offshore, such as
manually entering data into
“We have applied this to the
majority of our Brazilian fleet and
we have really started to see
improvement and positive out-
comes in terms of the reporting
time offshore, and more reliable
information,” Cecchi says.
The Digital FPSO team mem-
bers, operating out of the compa-
ny’s Monaco office, are using the
data to build algorithms that can
help predict events and allow
intervention to eliminate unnec-
essary flaring, for example, or
repair equipment before a major
problem develops.
“We realised that not only could
we detect abnormal behaviours
but by leveraging our data science

gical revolution is crucial

we could move to the next stage,
which was prediction — being
able to anticipate events, to be in
a predictive mode versus a reac-
tive mode,” Cecchi says.
The team has larger ambitions
for the company.
“We need to go through a cul-
tural change with the offshore
crew, then move to more opti-
mised operations and, eventually,
to automation,” she says.
“We think our internal know-
how is a very big element of our
digital growth. It’s learning a new
way of working.”
providers, more shared data and
some encouraging moves towards
the fourth industrial revolu-
tion. Hashmi says: “I think there
done on the digital front, he is
quick to point out what the indus-
standardisation. is a lot more we can do in our try has accomplished through are now
La Grange says: “I believe the industry. The supply chains in our digitalisation.
most progress has been in chang- industry are quite long. Are they “We have made good progress in thinking
ing the mindset of customers. 
“Over the past 12 months, cus-
as digital as they could be? No.
There is a lot to do there.”
the safety of our business — using
drones and robots and other
more broadly
tomers have started to accept that devices for inspection reduces the (about) how
data should be shared in a digital Standardisation cost of inspection, gives richer
world to generate value, and that The ongoing standardisation of data sets, faster, and removes peo- to reduce the
partnerships between customers
and key vendors deliver better
equipment could be extended to
the digital realm, believes the BP
ple from risk.”
Digital solutions have also
necessity for
results. executive. “I think data needs to helped BP and other operators to having people
“Technology continues to get the same treatment, so that both improve the performance
improve but changing the way we we have standardised data sets in and reliability of assets and opti- offshore at all. Reliable information: SBM
work has the biggest impact,” she the industry.” mise production. Siemens Offshore’s Cidade de
says. However, while acknowledging “We have made good inroads,” Gas & Power’s Saquarema FPSO
That may be key for survival in that much work remains to be adds Hashmi. Elgonda la Grange Photo: SBM OFFSHORE

Challenging conventional thinking in today’s cost driven market

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Players mapping a new digita

companies and
oil majors
embracing latest
wave of

G EOSCIENCE for explora-

tion and production was
once the toast of the oil
industry, thanks to the
introduction of multi-streamer
marine 3D seismic acquisition
surveys and associated process-
Along with the evolution of
horizontal drilling, it transformed
offshore oil and gas exploration.
Few would have thought that
today the geoscience community
would be playing technology
catch-up, lagging behind in the
digital transformation of the oil
and gas business.
Digital giants such as Google,
Amazon, and Microsoft have led
the way in developing cloud com-
puting, the Internet of Things, big
data, artificial intelligence (AI)
and machine learning (ML) to
alter forever our daily lives and
behaviour, as well as delivering
automation and other tangible
benefits to many industries and
Eirik Larsen, chief executive of
Norwegian start-up Earth Science
Analytics, recalls his experience
in 2016: “When we began market-
ing the potential benefits of AI
and data analytics for petroleum
science, no one cared to listen.
That changed the following year.”
His company is participating
with partners in an early example
of how more information can be
extracted from the massive
amount of exploration data
already acquired.

Potential deposits
The project, initiated by the Oil
Technology Centre in Aberdeen Bits and bytes: technicians inspecting computer equipment housed in Down Under GeoSolutions’ patented cooling tanks
and supported by the Norwegian
Petroleum Directorate, aims to formation has therefore come tools to interpret that subsurface If the digital scientist is the future,
use ML and other data analytics from major oil companies with data, enabling better deci-
pertaining to 7000 wells in the the dollars to spend.  sion-making. then education and changing the
northern North Sea to identify po-
tential hydrocarbon deposits that
Their hope is that something
good can come out of using latest
Like most other major players,
Equinor is moving to leverage
culture in organisations is going to
may have been missed. digital technology to better man- cloud solutions, announcing a be a major challenge.
Some extenuating circum- age and analyse the E&P data they strategic partnership with Micro- Agile Scientific founder Matt Hall
stances have slowed the embrace have amassed over the years, and soft Azure in June 2018.
of digital transformation in E&P to create overall efficiencies by Shell is working with Amazon ous seismic data processing and marine seismic contractor Petrol-
geoscience, number one being the automating as many processes as Web Services, Chevron has a sev- interpretation tasks can soon be eum Geo-Services, is cautiously
industry downturn. possible. en-year deal with Microsoft, Total automated. They will have more optimistic. 
Worst hit was the geophysical No one to date has been able to has opted for Google for its AI time to interpret data and ulti- “My current brief is to find ways
services sector. Following the oil put a number on what these sav- future, and Aker BP with its part- mately field decision-making can to routinely halve our project
industry recession and consolida- ings might look like. owned partner Cognite is also a be produced at orders of magni- turnaround time from inception
tions of 1999-2000, it had in effect Norway’s Equinor has set out its Google customer. tude faster. to delivery within a three-year
taken over the leadership role in stall to be a leader in all things Schlumberger is also very much So far, professional organisa- timeframe,” he says. 
geoscience R&D to improve effi- digital, expecting to spend in the game with Microsoft. tions such as the Society of Explo- “That will come from better
ciency and lower costs, with oil between Nkr1 billion and Nkr2 bil- ration Geophysicists and Euro- project management, much
companies simply sitting back lion (between $116 million and Hype into practice pean Association of Geoscientists greater parallelized workflows,
and benefiting from the results $232 million) over the next few Oil company top management is & Engineers have attracted and augmentation from automa-
without the heavy outlay. years, according to chief digital keen to boast new digital creden- increasingly large attendances for tion, new tools and digitalisation.
In the past five years that model officer Torbjorn Folgero.  tials to stakeholders, but for geo- AI and ML conferences and work- “Collaborative interaction
has proved unsustainable, as the In 2017 Equinor launched its scientists who must translate the shops, but the presentations focus between all stakeholders in the
main geophysical players focused Digital Centre of Excellence pro- hype into practice, the reality is mainly on advances in existing cloud is an obvious way to reduce
on cash survival. ject, in which one priority will be rather different.  techniques rather than anything inefficiency, but to realise the
Some of the push to realise the subsurface analytics to improve They must meet the expecta- transformative. optimistic claims that large pro-
perceived benefits of digital trans- data accessibility and analytical tion that many of today’s labori- Andrew Long, chief scientist of jects can be executed in months,
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Cloud is the silver lining for the

future of seismic data processing
al landscape IT IS a good question as
to whether DUG McCloud
constitutes digital
transformation, but Phil Schwan
believes it will have the capacity
to change the economics and
efficiency of seismic data
processing for his company’s oil
and gas clients, writes Andrew
“In my view that’s a
transformation,” he says.
Schwan is chief technology
officer of DownUnder
GeoSolutions (DUG), the
geoscience company based
in Perth, Western Australia
which in the last decade has
established itself as a leading
international player in data
processing, imaging and seismic
interpretation software.
DUG McCloud is the company’s
most ambitious project to
date, a cloud service tailored
specifically to the geoscience
community powered by
a massive geophysically-
configured supercomputer
housed in a purpose-built data
The capacity of the system can
be expanded to well beyond an
exaflop, the company says.
When it opens for business
in a few weeks, the initial DUG
McCloud data centre at a Skybox
facility in Houston will have 15
megawatts of power and will Capacity: Down Under GeoSolutions chief technology officer
house a 250-petaflop machine Phil Schwan Photo: DUG
once fully installed.
The facility is distinctive for are running out of capacity, as that they only seldom needed.”
its developers call its green, the volume of compute Schwan says that a major
energy efficient credentials.  intensive full waveform driver for access to exascale
One feature is the patented inversion (FWI) and least — computing power of at least
immersion cooling system, squares reverse time migration one exaflop, or a billion billion
which requires the computer being demanded grows calculations per second — was
nodes to be fully submerged in exponentially. the potential of a pilot project
specially designed tanks filled “We believe our edge over DUG is currently pursuing.
with polyalphaolefin dielectric the big cloud-based services “We have tested all the
fluid.  is that we are focused only on components to send data
The thermal properties of the geoscience — in other words, via satellite from a survey
fluid are such that no server fans companies will be leasing acquisition vessel in real time
are required. compute cycles and storage straight to the data centre,” he
The new service represents customised for their industry says.
a significant investment that and paying only for what they “The goal is to deliver high-
Schwan insists is justified. use.” frequency FWI to clients in
“We talked to everyone in He continues: “We weeks, rather than the typical 12
Houston and it’s clear that heard plenty of companies to 18 months.
companies have made the leap to complaining about having “Oil companies tell us this
using some form of third-party to build out their own high- kind rapid turnaround is
compute solution,” he says. performance computing incredibly valuable and a top
“Also, in our own company, we facilities for a peak capacity priority,” he adds.

Photo: DUG Geoscience hacking the hackathons

weeks or days will require far less who roll their eyes and say we’ve IT IS an increasingly familiar solve an analytic issue of their of a transformation, and this
human interaction than most been doing this for years.  sight these days just before choosing under this general points to a more effective way of
people are probably prepared to “It is true that some complex major geoscience events — a label. operating (that is) adaptable to
accept yet.” tasks such as full waveform inver- meeting room full of proudly Matt Hall of Agile Scientific oil companies.
Unusually perhaps, significant sion make use of machine learn- self-described “nerdy” types, for has been a prime mover in “If I am wrong, then I guess I
momentum for change in seismic ing-type techniques, which are all the most part, huddled around promoting hackathons and will just be a geoscientist with
data analysis is coming from part of the digital way of doing whiteboards and computers, the evolution of the digital coding skills.”
small innovative companies.  things. engaged in project discussion geoscientist. TGS, the multi-client seismic
Larsen and his colleagues “But now things really are dif- that becomes more intense as “The idea is to bring new company, has taken the
believe a number of new factors ferent on all sorts of levels. For their deadline approaches, writes transferable skills to geoscience. hackathon concept to a more
are enabling the transformation.  example, we can introduce all Andrew McBarnet. Probably only 10% of the commercial level.
They cite the development of sorts of tools, adaptable from This is the “hackathon” completed projects have a life It recently completed
algorithms in the neural network Google, Facebook, and even Uber, phenomenon that began edging after the event,” Hall says.  a competition, the Salt
universe, open source libraries and it’s free,” he says. its way into the subsurface “But the process emphasises Identification Challenge, in
such as SciPy, TensorFlow, Hall recognises the continuing geoscience community five the power of code, free-thinking, association with Kaggle, the
PyTorch and Scikit-learn, increas- gap between data science and the years ago. collaboration, presentation skills Google-owned online network
ing availability of subsurface data subsurface domain. Participants, often on their and the need to come up with a for data scientists and the
in national data repositories, “If the digital scientist is the own dime, come to experience value proposition. Teams leave machine learning community.
GPU-enabled high-performance future, then education and chang- what the digital future might feeling they have accomplished For cash prizes totalling
computing, cloud computing and ing the culture in organisations is be like. something.” $100,000, TGS invited
storage, and the emergence of data going to be a major challenge,” he Teams that form Jesper Dramsch, a PhD competitors to build an
analytics platforms. says.  spontaneously on the day are student and hackathon algorithm that automatically
Matt Hall, founder of Agile Sci- “We need to be more nimble, given roughly 24 hours to work enthusiast, acknowledges and accurately identifies
entific, a small computing firm less silo-oriented, and focus on on a very general topic — for the networking benefits and whether a subsurface target is
dedicated to subsurface ML and problem-solving, recognising we example, seismic resolution. the visibility for those in salt or not.
integrated interpretation, says: will never get the whole data anal- Their task is to write and the job market, but says: “I The competition drew more
“There are those geoscientists ysis job done once and for all.” present code designed to believe we are on the brink than 3700 participants.
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Matter of
Cybersecurity focuses techs and
on phishy business
operators to cut costs and
improve safety, but it also
opens doors to new types of
cybersecurity threats, writes
Trade secrets, Anamaria Deduleasa.
For example, one source tells
infrastructure Upstream the equipment that
enables remote monitoring and
and safety are on data gathering on installations
such as floating production,
the line in the storage and offloading vessels
could be hacked.
digital age, and “For remote monitoring
the oil and gas you need to install sensors, a
multitude of them, to keep an
industry is as eye on things. These sensors are
easily hacked.”
susceptible as While a compromised sensor
in itself may not pose much of
any sector a threat, it could potentially
“provide a sort of doorway
ANAMARIA DEDULEASA to other parts of the main
London framework”, the source says.
Another source points to
the continuous development

of digital technologies that 
N AUTOMATED machine increasingly push work
dispenses fish food once previously done manually to the
a day in a fish tank in a virtual sphere. 
casino in Las Vegas. The While this offers considerable
chip controlling the system is benefits, it also creates a never-
hacked, and, once hackers are in, ending race towards updating
the dispenser provides access to cybersecurity measures.
the entire system operating in the “The more the digital aspect
casino. evolves and companies in this
The widely circulated anecdote industry use it to support
is used as a warning of the vulner- their business, the further
abilities of an increasingly digital- we dive,” he says. “There is no
ised business world, including way we can get ahead of this
upstream oil and gas. potential problem. We just can’t.
“We don’t want to be the casino Cybersecurity companies are
with the fish food,” says Duncan always developing new ways to
Greatwood, chief executive of secure assets, but hackers are
cyber-security company Xage. always coming up with new
Greatwood’s point comes as the ways to breach systems. So, it’s
oil and gas industry dives into the less about ‘full protection’, and
digital world, one in which people more about managing risks.”
and devices are more connected Duncan Greatwood, chief
than ever, but also increasingly executive of cyber-security
susceptible to cyber attacks. company Xage, says: “The key
The benefits of digitalisation for thing is to shift cybersecurity
the industry are undisputed, as it Connectivity: the energy industry is seeing a growing reliance on digital and remote control from the limited forms of
creates cost cuts for companies, Photo: BP security in place today. For
creates a wave of new highly example, an anti-virus on a
skilled jobs, improves safety and called Petya, an example of ran- cies and cybersecurity experts, about phishing  — fraudulent device or a firewall are good
cleans up operations in a world somware, in which hackers suggests the sector is vulnerable emails disguised as trustworthy things, but the reality is that
bent on cutting emissions. demand money for the return of to attacks at all stages, from sources but meant to obtain sen- you can’t assume that any one
While there is a lot that distin- sensitive information. exploration and production, pro- sitive information. measure is going to protect you.”
guishes the oil and gas industry Last year, services giant Petro- cessing and refining, distribution Often used in conjunction with He advises companies to
from other sectors, when it comes fac suffered an IT breach following and trading. phishing, RAT (remote-access Tro- “control every interaction
to information security it is like the discovery of malware in its This should not come as a sur- jan) programmes are implanted between every different system
any other — perhaps even more systems in the Middle East, while prise to anyone who understands into industrial machines and component, so not to allow
vulnerable, as the physical distri- Italy’s Saipem was hit with a var- that anything connected through remain dormant until activated. communication unless it has
bution of oil and gas operations iant of the so-called Shamoon the internet of things is open to been authenticated”.
creates additional risks, experts malware. potential breaches. Response plan “You should never have a
say. Viruses can spread from one According to EY, a cyber breach situation where someone, just
Cyberattacks against the indus- Aramco incident infected machine to other com- response plan (CBRP) is essential by being on the network, would
try were reported in 2017, when A previous version of Shamoon puters on a network. Once a sys- to minimise the impact of such be allowed to do anything,”
Russia’s Rosneft and Denmark’s was used to attack Saudi Aramco tem is infected, the virus contin- cyberattacks. Greatwood says.
Maersk Oil were hit by a virus in 2012 and wipe clean around ues to compile a list of files from “An effective CBRP will encom- He suggests a strategy of
three-quarters of its computers, specific locations within the sys- pass every point of interface, “strength in numbers” — a
While leaving only images of a burning
US flag behind.
tem, upload them to the attacker,
and then erase them.
internally and externally. It
should be regularly put on trial,
digitalised environment in
which the more components you
companies A recent survey by consultancy Finally, the virus overwrites and, when an attack occurs, it have, the more complicated it
EY of more than 1200 industry the master boot record of the should be able to identify and iso- becomes for hackers.
continue to professionals shows that 60% of infected computer, making it late the invasive processes,” EY “Every interaction needs to be
prioritise respondents have had a recent
“significant” cybersecurity inci-
While companies continue to
Nevertheless, new types of inci-
controlled, every identity needs
to be managed, and that’s how
cyber-security, dent. prioritise cybersecurity — and are dents are now lurking, with con- you actually get a secure system.
The industry increasingly oper- making good progress in identify- sultancy PwC pointing to the However, in oil and gas, we have
they are more ates in a digital world, with more ing and resolving vulnerabilities potential risks to workers’ health quite a distance to travel before
worried than and more data stored in the cloud
and a growing reliance on auto-
— they are more worried than
ever about the complexity of the
and safety and massive potential
environmental damage.
we get to this point,” Greatwood
says. “(Cybersecurity) has moved
ever about the mated equipment controlled digi- threat landscape, EY says in its “The inherently risky nature of to the top of people’s agenda.
tally and remotely. report. offshore oil and gas exploration There are measures being
complexity Trade secrets, vital infrastruc- The findings revealed that 78% and production activity... is exac- taken — probably around 20%
ture and safety are on the line, of respondents still consider a erbated by the risk of cyberattack,
of the threat experts say. careless member of staff as the whether that be nation state led,
of what needs to be done, but
still, these initial measures are
landscape. A broad overview, based on
research from multiple consultan-
most likely source of an attack,
with more than half concerned
corporate espionage or even ter-
rorist activity,” PwC says.
worthwhile. A lot more will be
done over the next few years.”
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the traditional
mindset: Aker
BP chief
Hersvik at the
Eureka digital
lab in
Photo: OLE

Sharing of industrial
data will help us
drive innovation in
all areas of the oil
and gas industry.
Aker BP chief executive
Karl Johnny Hersvik

Sharing a virtual certainty

Chief executive of Norway’s Aker BP believes the
industry should ‘liberate’ its data for the benefit of all

T HE head of one of Nor-

way’s most active opera-
tors believes that all com-
panies working on the
country’s continental shelf should
share data in order to increase ef-
ficiency and reduce costs.
data sharing.  “Norway covers 78%
of the costs on its continental
shelf through the tax system. In
my view, Norway should require
access to data from the operators.
This will lead to higher value cre-
ation,” Hersvik says.
says. In January this year, Aker BP
became the first company in Nor-
way to control a manned platform
from shore with the start-up of
the onshore control room for the
Ivar Aasen facility. 
On the Ivar Aasen platform and
Framo and to enable new services
and business models. 
Siemens provided the control
and communication systems for
the Ivar Aasen platform, which
the company says includes condi-
tion monitoring of 1300 pieces of
optima’s reservoir modeling and
data conditioning software ResX
allows Aker BP to create reservoir
models through consistent inte-
gration of all available reservoir
data while accounting for uncer-
Aker BP chief executive Karl Aker BP’s other assets, employees equipment. The software can be used to run
Johnny Hersvik has initiated a Analysis are using hand-held tablets con- According to Hersvik, digitali- virtual experiments of future pro-
move he calls “data liberation” on Aker BP wants most data from the necting them with live data in the sation in the oil and gas business duction scenarios and help the
the Norwegian continental Norwegian shelf to be made avail- company’s Industrial Data Plat- has advanced the most in operator make decisions that the
shelf — and he is certain that data able with an open API standard form. so-called “smart” maintenance.  company says can maximise
sharing will benefit the industry that enables big data analysis. By using Norwegian technology recovery and reduce financial
as a whole. The company has launched a company Cognite’s data platform, Machine learning risk.
“Sharing of industrial data will new digital lab in Stavanger contextualised live data is made Digitalisation within subsurface According to UK-based consul-
help us drive innovation in all dubbed Eureka that is not a typi- available from Ivar Aasen.  and drilling are more challenging tancy Wood Mackenzie, the global
areas of the oil and gas industry. cal oil and gas workplace, but This provides Framo, the sup- due to lack of standardised quality oil and gas industry might save
Our vision is to digitalise the instead is inspired by the more plier of pumps to Ivar Aasen, real- data, he says.  2000 days of rig time through
entire life cycle for our operations casual offices of leading digital time access to data from their However, Hersvik explains that more digitalisation and automa-
to achieve increased productivity, companies such as Google and equipment. he sees a huge potential for tion. 
better quality, higher efficiency Facebook. The data platform organises machine learning within subsur- Aker BP has expressed its ambi-
and reduce environmental impact Speaking with Upstream dur- Aker BP’s industrial data to create face disciplines.  tion of “planning a well in one
and improve safety for our ing a tour of the digital lab, he says a digital representation of the Last year Aker BP entered a day” using integrated drilling
employees,” Hersvik says. the company wants to do things asset, both in real time and histor- co-operation agreement with Nor- tools on a common platform. In
He believes that oil and gas differently and challenge the ically.  wegian technology company 2017, the company helped found
companies are stuck in old habits traditional oil and gas business It enables Aker BP to extract Resoptima for the incorporation the Digital & Well Alliance along
of keeping data for themselves mindset and operating meth- useful insights on its operations of its software solutions into Aker with oil services giant Hallibur-
and urges Norwegian authorities ods. “We will be happy to be the but also to share its data and BP’s digitalisation effort within ton, Odfjell Drilling and Maersk
to implement requirements for oil business’ Google,” Hersvik insights with partners such as reservoir management.  Res- Drilling.
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Catcher putting Premier on pol

UK operator’s FPSO is taking the technology of Formula 1 fliers
and applying it to boost operating efficiency offshore

O N BOARD Premier Oil’s

Catcher floating pro-
duction, storage and
offloading vessel, one of
the most modern production units
in the UK North Sea, tens of thou-
sands of sensors and instruments
sensor and broadband technology
and cloud storage now mean it is
being done more effectively and,
crucially, data are being analysed
more thoroughly.
Predictive analysis is helping
operators reduce downtime, cut
nology is concerned, Allan says
“all doors are open at Premier” but
as time goes on “we will narrow
our focus into what works best for
However, efforts have already
led to more effective predictive
ble benefits from them”, Allan
“Now, we are trending to a
wider use of information on the
‘beach’ as the ability to visualise
and analyse data is being com-
moditised. This is creating a
potential and a key measure of
industry performance.
UK-wide production efficiency
fell to near 60% in 2012 but has
since recovered to 74% in 2017 after
efforts by industry and the OGA.
Illustrating the gains even
constantly measure elements of maintenance costs, increase pro- maintenance and “new norms” of greater demand for availability of small improvements can lead to,
the oil production processes and duction and, in the case of UK operating efficiency across Pre- and access to data,” he says. the most recent 1% annual rise
the performance of machinery. operators, achieve “MER UK”, the mier’s assets. However, recent research shows represented an additional 12 mil-
Robin Allan, Premier’s North maximising economic recovery “We strive to be as advanced as that the adoption of modern data lion barrels of oil equivalent of
Sea and exploration director, lik- objective set out in the Wood any in the North Sea,” he says. collection and analytic techniques production across the basin in
ens the industry’s data advances Review. “We have a realistic road map for across the North Sea industry has 2017.
in recent years to a modern For- “As an industry, we’ve been col- our assets and we are already see- been patchy, even though it could About 60% of those who partic-
mula 1 motor racing team, which lecting data for years through the ing the financial benefits.” be worth a substantial $2 billion a ipated in the study found that
receives constant feedback from control systems and our corporate year to the sector. “adequate” data gathering infra-
an enormous number of sensors systems,” says Allan. Main consumers A joint study by the UK indus- structure is already in place, with
placed on the car during a race. “The big difference between In the past, control room opera- try’s Technology Leadership Board extensive sensor coverage on off-
The Catcher FPSO’s sensors send yesterday and tomorrow is where tors overseeing a facility were (TLB), the Aberdeen-based Oil & shore equipment and “good to
about 25,000 pieces of informa- the data is being consumed, the generally the main consumers of Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) and excellent” transmission and stor-
tion, or data points, to the vessel’s people who are using it and what minute-to-minute data. the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) age capabilities, even across some
control room every 30 seconds or they are doing with the data.” Process engineers, meanwhile, investigated how data from top- of the UK’s older facilities.
so, explains Allan. Premier is among a number of performed analysis in spread- sides production and operations However, the application of data
Maintenance workers, mean- players now using specialist ana- sheets when problems cropped up. equipment is being used. analytics is not yet widespread or
while, regularly record work on lytics companies to try to under- With data consumption moving Included in the analysis was consistent in the UK industry, or
about 40,000 pieces of equipment. stand how best to incorporate pre- wider than just the control room, how better use of data could also even individual organisations.
Large-scale harvesting of data dictive analytic technologies into Premier is now seeing much more improve production efficiency — In comparing the industry’s
on oil and gas operations similar their business processes. clearly the value of its “digital the ratio of actual production advances in data management
to this is not new, but advances in Right now, where digital tech- assets” and getting “direct tangi- from a facility to its maximum with the Formula 1 racing sce-
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make the
is one of a number of specialist
predictive analysis firms that
have started up in recent years
to help oil and gas operators
make more sense of the millions
of data points being gathered
every minute on North Sea
assets, writes Rob Watts.
Different contractors have
different business models,
from standalone service
models through to the supply
of complex tools for which new
capabilities and competencies in
an operator’s organisation need
to be built.
Opex founder and chief
executive Jamie Bennett says
his company, which employs 35
people, about half of whom are
data scientists, offers a range of
predictive analysis services.
Opex, which offers a
predictive analysis service
is called X-PAS, combines its
expertise in data science with
expertise in oil and gas and with
predictive technologies.
Bennett says Opex’s services
target the process systems
across an offshore facility, not
just equipment or individual
components, which gives very
early warning of threats or
vulnerabilities to production
The data tsunami: Catcher’s losses or equipment failure,
sensors send about 25,000 therefore cutting maintenance
pieces of information to the costs, improving safety and
vessel’s control room every ultimately reducing lifting costs.
30 seconds For him, the key word is
Photo: PREMIER OIL “value”.
“We know the vast majority of
operators out there have already
got lots of operational data. Here
at Opex it’s about how we get

le in North Sea data race

more value from that data,” says
“With legacy techniques there
is only so much value you can
extract from the data.”
In one case, the X-PAS
service was applied to the
gas compression system on
a brand new North Sea asset.
Within the first 12 months of
application, the customer made
41 interventions prompted by
Opex’s service, preventing $52
million of production losses.
“It allows operators to
maximise the value from their
that much of the data being col- gas to shore — which combined operational data and the insights
lected and stored in so called “data will be called the Humber Gather- and information that can be
lakes” — massive repositories of ing System (HGS) — will come generated from it,” says Bennett.
both structured and unstructured from Kellas Midstream, formerly “It’s a collaborative service,
data — does not necessarily have CATS Management Ltd, and Tol- so we work closely with an
a known purpose today. mount’s 50% non-operating part- operator’s support teams. We
However, it could be analysed in ner Dana Petroleum. arm them with the information
the future using systems and Allan says MER UK-era collabo- that helps them to take the right
algorithms yet to be invented. rations such as Tolmount are driv- actions at the right times.”
Premier is currently developing ing data into the cloud through
the Tolmount gas project in the necessity. With legacy
southern North Sea using an inno- “A complex partner ecosystem
vative commercial model with its such as Tolmount cannot be effec- techniques...
partners. tive without the data being shared
amongst partners and the best there is only
place to do that is in the cloud,” he
Data acquisition
The normally-unattended Tol- says. so much value
mount facility will be Premier’s
most advanced asset yet in terms
Allan says this is not without
challenges and cybersecurity is
you can
of data acquisition, with digitali- foremost in Premier’s mind dur- extract from
Opening doors: Premier Oil’s North Sea and exploration sation incorporated into elements ing the transition to these new
director Robin Allan Photo: PREMIER OIL the design process, Allan says. ways of working. the data.
This will include constructing However, it also presents Pre-
nario, Allan adds that, impor- what we are trying to do now and a so called “digital twin” — a vir- mier with opportunities, he says.
tantly, F1 teams nowadays not what the industry has moved tual model — of the facility. “We are seeing new business
only analyse the data in real time towards, which is basically Premier holds a 50% operating models with our partners evolv-
at the pit wall, they also synchro- future-proofing our offshore kit,” stake in Tolmount, but funding ing that can only work through Opex chief executive
nise it for analysis back in the fac- Allan says. for the normally unmanned plat- technology-enabled cloud solu- Jamie Bennett
tory. “It is not that different to Future-proofing also means form and pipeline that will take tions,” he says.