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Automating production data management by DONG

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Oil company Dong has spent 2 years developing an automated system for managing production data from the well to financial systems in Norway. Lead system consultant Magnus Svensson explained how it works.

'We have been doing this project for two years, with the goal to track production data from the well to where we book it in SAP, with a financial value,' said Magnus Svensson, Lead System Consultant with Dong Energy.

'The goal is to track hydrocarbons from the well to the bank, with a high degree of automation.'

'This is the first time someone is doing this, being able to track everything within the same system and instance.'

He was speaking at the speaking at the Digital Energy Journal forum on May 6, 'Production Data Reporting and Analytics.'

'It has been a long journey, we have learned a lot, we have had some challenges.'

'My role in Dong is, I work in IT, but I work with the whole value chain, from production up to finance,' he said.


The biggest challenge has been getting people to recognise the value this system brings to the company, to justify the effort individuals are asked to make.

The main benefit is that 'we are ensuring our reservoir engineers and production engineers are always working on the latest data,' he said.

This leads to more accurate forecasts of production and cash flow.

Having the data available on one system also saves a lot of time. 'Picking [data] from different domains and units within the company is extremely time consuming and error prone.'

Having the data available can stimulate a lot of improvement ideas. 'A lot of people are starting thinking in about new business process. That's a big win. I expect we will find a lot of new processes invented.'

Also with production data fully mapped, it means you can see if the flows from the well to the customer are the same for the entire route, and spot problems.

'If you start combining production volumes with sales volume and pipeline volumes, you might see that you have deviations at an earlier stage than previously,' he said.

'When you have done this exercise, you notice all of the ugly things,' he said. 'You have a better tool of explaining them.'

Connecting the company

The project also means that people in the company start connecting together in new ways, for example reservoir engineers and finance staff, who don't usually talk to each other, come together to discuss volumes.

'You see how the data you work with is going between business units and assets,' he said.

The finance side uses a lot of different tools to the reservoir side,' he said. 'But it is the same system, we don't duplicate numbers. That has been one of the goals.'

'It is good to have an understanding of how things work in the bigger picture.'

Sometimes you discover that people from some areas of the company, or some disciplines, are not so aware of what people in the rest of the company does. 'We work in very dedicated business units and don't share a lot of the information.'

Some people in the company have not been very keen on other people being able to see what they are doing. 'All your different business processes are now exposed,' he says.

'We are opening up things, making everything much more visible,' he said. 'A lot of people are scared.'

Two well example

As an example, Dong in Norway is operating two wells in partnership with other companies in Norway, which connect to the Ula processing facility, where the flow is comingled with other flows.

'We are tracking hydrocarbons up to Ula and leaving Ula going into the Ekofisk processing facility and finally ending up at the terminal in Teesside,' he said.

The Ula platform itself is operated by BP, which has responsibility of sharing and reporting production data from Ula. Dong, as operator of 2 wells connected to Ula, has responsibility for the well data.

The produced oil from Ula then goes to the Ekofisk platform, operated by ConocoPhillips, which has its own wells and is also a big processing facility.

Ekofisk is connected by pipeline to Teesside on the UK side (for oil), and to Emden in Germany (for gas).

Once the oil and gas leaves the field, the production data is handled differently, Mr Svensson said. 'You are leaving production domain, and going into pipeline dispatching with nominations, tariffs and so on. This is the place where you start putting value on things.'

It is very difficult to exactly match the gas you produced from the wells with the gas you sell at the end of the process due to e.g. different gas buffers along the dispatching route, he says. 'That is kind of a challenge.'

After Teeside, oil leaves as cargo in a ship. The cargo management processes are in many instances managed using documents, which are scanned and sent by e-mail.

'If you look at this complete process from the field to the terminal, I don't think you can track it in volumes. So we do a lot of mass balancing.'


System wise, the main focus at the moment at Dong is optimising the data flow between business units so people get the data they need, he said.

'It's a large system, it's been a big struggle, especially on the business process side.'

All of the data is hosted in house, not on a cloud. 'We don't see a value in moving it out,' he said. However, 'we have a lot of responsibility with having the data in-house, if something happens.'

There are complex security challenges. There is commercial legislation governing what information can be shared freely, and sometimes a competitor could get a commercial advantage from (for example) knowing when you have a shutdown.

You need to make sure that the right data can get from one business unit to another, despite the security restrictions. 'Even if you do this [data] waterproofing between business units and assets, you have a need to get some data from production to other planning departments,' he said.

'That's a big challenge with this type of setup, making sure the correct people have access to the correct data,' he said. 'You have these cross plan security setups. You go in and access very specifically what you need.'

Mr Svensson was asked if he sees a contradiction between the talk of breaking people out of silos, and locking up data so people can only see the data they need. 'I agree there is a contradiction. We had that discussion initially, should you have everything open, and that was what people were used to. But then the problem you have is all of these financial matters which are clearly not open, so we need to lock it down.'

Data quality

It has been a challenge determining who is responsible for the accuracy of the data, he said.

Most people are good at managing their own private data and PC, but when it comes to organisational data, they are less enthusiastic about it.

There can be different versions of production data for different people. Reservoir engineers want to know data for specific wells, management don't care about that, they want field data.

Sometimes the system has well data regularly updated, but the field data lagging behind.

Parts which don't fit

There are not many computer systems in the market for managing production data like this, he said.

A common problem is when you find that there are aspects to your company business processes which can't be managed on the software you are using. Then you have to make a decision about whether to adapt the business processes to the new system, or adapt the system to the business process, he said.

'We ask, should you write a lot of custom code, for example to handle some of these very special business processes?'

'We have been squeezing [business] into some part of the system,' he said. 'We don't want to do a lot of customisation, it will raise the cost.'

'A lot of the [software] tools are very asset centric. They have been deployed on a given asset and not cross asset. '

Associated Companies
» Dong Energy
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