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ABB - reduce offshore fuel consumption and improve operations

Monday, January 6, 2020

Companies which make an effort to reduce their fuel consumption in offshore operations often find ways to improve their operations in other ways at the same time, says ABB.

Oil and gas companies are coming under increasing pressure to reduce the fuel consumption in offshore operations, such as from running compressors and pumps, because they are required to pay for CO2 permits for the CO2 they emit.

But often, the effort leads to the discovery of other ways to improve performance at the same time, says Martin Grady, Vice President and Global Industry Manager, Oil and Gas at ABB.

Working out ways to reduce CO2 emissions is quite an analytical task, focussing on what would make a material difference to operations, and what you need to measure. It requires both data and people with the right understanding.

But 'almost always, whatever you measure improves,' Mr Grady says.

A big area where energy might be better managed is in rotating machinery, such as compressors and pumps.

Companies are bringing in advanced control systems for offshore equipment, something which has previously only been seen in refineries. 'We can run a process much nearer to its limits,' he says. Additional benefits are reducing costs and risks and improving scheduling.

The key could be described as 'extended automation', with better analysis of data, says Troy Stewart, Head of Energy Industries, UK and Ireland.

The push to more analysis and insight of what is going on is also leading to different choices about who to bring into the business, Mr Stewart says. 'It can be a different mindset. Some of this stuff is more maths.'

The subject comes together with better needs to train and work with talented people, and continually explore the potential of digital.

'Virtual plant' systems can improve training, helping people make better decisions, find more efficient ways to operate the plant, and make fewer mistakes.

Electrifying offshore

Many companies are looking for ways to electrify offshore operations, either by bringing in high voltage DC electricity from onshore, or with offshore wind turbines. These replace diesel generators as a source of power.

There are projects in Aberdeen looking at ways to network offshore assets together, so they can share electricity generation capacity. 'That's a real opportunity, Mr Stewart says.

Companies are working out better ways to use existing power supplies on new subsea wells, and to overcome the technical challenges with it.

Autonomous operations

There are big savings and safety gains achieved from finding ways to operate offshore platforms without people. Just removing one role can mean savings of millions of dollars over the lifecycle of the platform, even if the work is just moved to somewhere onshore. 'I don't think we're doing enough of it,' Mr Stewart says. 'It's not a bad thing to take people out of the loop.'

The switch to autonomous operations is not usually an all or nothing step, but more something which builds up layer by layer. And it can be very risky to jump too many layers at once, Mr Grady says.

Suppliers get involved in operations

Oil companies are shifting their approach with suppliers - instead of asking for ways to minimise the capital cost of the project, they are asking suppliers to provide a quote, including servicing the equipment for 10 years, Mr Stewart says.

This means suppliers are rewarded for making products with longevity, rather than finding products which meet specifications but may cause problems down the line.

It also means that industry suppliers like ABB are getting deeper involved in operations.

After the oil price crash, oil companies have become much more receptive to ideas from suppliers for how to reduce lifecycle costs, he says.

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