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Perspectives from the TLB's co-chair

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Bill Dunnett, Co-Chair, The Technology Leadership Board and head of the executive management team for Repsol Sinopec Resources UK Limited, shares his perspectives on how to develop technology for the North Sea.

Bill Dunnett, co-chair of The Technology Leadership Board (TLB), an industry-government group to help the UK North Sea oil and gas industry adopt, adapt or develop technology, shared his perspectives on how to develop technology for the North Sea.

Mr Dunnett is also head of the executive management team for Repsol Sinopec Resources UK Limited, and on the board of the UK's Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) Forum.

Developing and deploying new technology can be very hard, when everybody believes their technology needs are unlike anyone else's, and so technology can only be developed just for them, he said.

To help get new technology implemented, the TLB is encouraging each North Sea operator to 'sponsor' a technology development, he said.

Mr Dunnett believes that a common problem with new technology is that the initial roll-out is not good enough to add value, and gets over promoted, and so with one failure people reject it. In order to be successful, technology needs to be continually refined, putting it to use, testing it and improving it. People need to accept it might not work well the first time.

On the other hand, perhaps the success of the first iPhone could be attributed to how refined the technology was at the point launched to the public, following years of secret technology development.

One priority of TLB is finding ways to extend the life of assets running in the North Sea - which means better ways to assess their condition. Most of the North Sea assets in operation today were designed in the 1970s.

Mr Dunnett would like to see a transformation in inspection technology. Some methods have been tried in one of Repsol's North Sea platforms, carrying 45,000 bopd, where it managed to achieve 97 per cent uptime by avoiding equipment failures. Most of this downtime occurred due to closures in the export pipeline, which is managed by another company.

Mr Dunnett likes the idea of streaming data from an asset to an onshore control room, where it can be displayed on a 'massive screen', showing all operations - including process engineering, maintenance and support. People work facing the screen. There is also a continuous video link from the platform. It has installed such a system on a new platform Repsol commissioned.

The data can also be streamed to vendors.

'It's been phenomenally successful,' he said. Bringing in smart analytical solution is a 'simple goal', but it is extremely hard work to get there, he said.

In the exploration sector, there is interest in trying to find better ways to directly 'see' oil in seismic, known as Direct Hydrocarbon Indicators. There is an interest in reducing seismic processing time 'from months to days'. Also driving down the cost of full azimuth seismic surveys, perhaps using better ocean bottom seismic technology.

There is interest in finding ways to improve and clean well data, perhaps using artificial intelligence.

The oil and gas industry also has challenges being more environmentally friendly, since that is 'a massive factor in how other people see us,' he said. 'We need to make this a long term sustainability business.'

Mr Dunnett is not a fan of too much functionality. His daughter observes that his car has 60 functions on its hi-fi, and Mr Dunnett only knows two of them.

Associated Companies
» Repsol S.A.
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