Digitalization in Off-shore Drilling - An Untapped Resource

External pressures driving digitalization

The high price of oil in the recent past allowed many energy sources to be explored and developed. Energy sources such as “tight oil” are now economical and competing with the traditional oil and gas industry. The subsequent drop in oil prices has forced all oil and gas companies to rethink how they do business and find a more economic way of operating for both short and long term survival. For offshore oil and gas this new reality requires every aspect of offshore field development to be analyzed to ensure costs are kept to a minimum. Many measures have already been put in place to cut the cost of deep-water offshore projects including standardization, vendor collaboration and smart ecosystems. This has led to cost reductions in development and operations however, there remains opportunity for further efficiencies and risk reductions. 

Optimizing Resource Utilization

Our hypothesis is that there is a significant opportunity to optimize coordination of field resources and assets by driving real-time communication, real-time analytics across data silos, and the increased pace of learning at an organizational level - and that the technology to power this, is ready to deploy today.

For large offshore fields, the monitoring of contracted vessels, coordination of activities/personnel, and tracking/logging of specialized equipment is essential. Groups and equipment that are managed with siloed systems can delay identification of challenges and the appropriate corrective action.

In the real-time operational environment, this can take the form of sensors identifying safety hazards, contingent task completion status, or vehicle (mis)location awareness. This requires both situationally aware devices and systems to identify the issues along with seamless communication to resolve them. It is critical to have a continuous operations overview ensuring all parties have a good understanding of field operations including current activity, operations restrictions, critical operations, critical operation paths and delivery of supplies; one that all vessels and plants can see. When field conditions or plans change the changes can be projected immediately to all parties. There are no emails people will miss or incidents due to people going by old plans.

This applies to non-real time activities as well. Production trends, event logging, and resource allocation are vital to optimizing performance, but require correlation with context to be truly accessible and powerful. The all-too-common exchange of spreadsheets, and debates about accuracy across department and contractors undermines these efforts. Large volumes of data can be stranded and never become insightful, actionable information. The information architecture goal must be to have a single source of the truth.

In both real-time and planning roles, preset business logic, machine learning, and visualization should be leveraged to highlight points of interests and to accelerate organizational learning. Views of information should be catered to different role types, and be easily shared for discussion and training. These views need to leverage the same situational awareness and cross-device & system approached noted above.

Valuable lessons are often missed due to decentralized event logging especially in rapid field developments. After each operation is completed an After Action Review (AAR) is done to review what worked well and what did not. These lessons are then documented and filed centrally instead of being forgotten. These lessons learned need to be easily reviewed and incorporated into the next field operations enabling continual improvement of operations.

Selected Digitalization Opportunities in the Offshore Drilling Context:

1. Vessel Management

  • Dynamic positioning, standby and transit performance of vessels

2. Field coordination and planning

  • Coordinate simultaneous operations of vessels
  • Central planning system for field operations
  • Define go/no go areas involving critical operations and equipment using visual barriers
  • Enable field wide permit to work system to be visible to all parties involved in live time.

3. Field Overview and Communications

  • Full picture in real time of field ops
  • Field communication system
  • Customizable Metrics Overlay

4. Equipment

  • Location of equipment and supplies
  • Equipment Condition Status

5. Emergency Management

  • Coordinate emergency operations and worker safety status

6. Historical Information

  • Ability to track what went right or wrong
  • Incident Investigation

7. Security

  • Monitoring vessel movements near field

8. Safety

  • Record noise, vibration and heat/cold people are exposed to, improve work areas and reduce risk to people’s health.

Mounting Pressures

Changing regulations, market conditions, new opportunities, etc., requires more real-time information and analysis for organizations to respond optimally and maximize efficiencies. For example, The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) legislation for the reduction of air pollution will require the use of low sulfur fuel in marine operations January 1, 2020. Due to worldwide refining limitations it is expected the cost of diesel will increase and possible shortages will be experienced. To reduce this potential extra cost the operation and management of vessels needs to be closely monitored both when using station keeping (via Dynamic Positioning) and transiting to and from the offshore field. Also supplies need to be secured, planned for and tracked to ensure field operations will not be interrupted.

The Heart of a Sound Digitalization Strategy

System Integrations are notoriously long and over budget - particularly with the additional complexity of implementing in a production environment. Standalone products can be turned up more quickly, but often result in islands of inflexible, proprietary technology that do not interoperate well, if at all, with other systems. Communication, visualization and data-binding needs to be inclusive to maximize utility and to be able to start small and scale.

Vandrico’s Connected Worker software is ready to solve the aforementioned issues for offshore oil and gas - today. We propose that organizations that are starting on the digitalization path invest in a software platform that can scale and enable plug and play innovation over the years. Procurement teams should forgo the hardware-first approach that drives point-to-point integrations and leads to expensive, unscalable and buggy digitization solutions. Our philosophy is that an interoperable real-time intelligence platform with customizable metrics overlay, is at the heart of a sound digitalization strategy.

Vandrico’s aim is to help large industrial enterprises on the path to Industry 4.0 while avoiding the data standardization and system integration growing pains that were the norm for innovators of the past.