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BP's Field of the Future - moving to phase three

Thursday, February 7, 2013

BP's Field of the Future project is now moving to its third phase, which is getting everything implemented and integrated, says Steve Roberts, who leads the program

BP's Field of the Future project is now moving into its third phase, getting all of the solutions implemented and integrated across the entire company, said Steve Roberts, VP of Field of the Future at BP, speaking at the Integrated Operations conference in Trondheim on September 25-26.

BP considers that the Field of the Future program has achieved additional production of 75,000 barrels per day of oil through the systems implemented so far, with a longer term target of 100,000 bopd.

The technology has been implemented on 80 per cent of what BP considered to be its highest value wells. 'We've still got thousands of wells which we are still yet to impact,' he said.

The company keeps track of the value all of the projects have generated. 'We track the value fairly rigorously,' he said. 'It is important if you have any program to track the value that you are delivering. It helps with your credibility. It helps when you see that the value is showing up.'

The systems deliver value in four ways. Managing operational risk, improving plant uptime, helping optimising production and allow more efficient workflows, which means that more can be done with less people.

In BP's Gulf of Mexico Thunderhorse fields, the company achieved an extra 10,000 barrels of oil per day extra production, through better management of the operating limits.

The production rate was being constrained by concerns about high fluid flowrates damaging subsea equipment through vibration.

But the Field of the Future methods were used to monitor the subsea equipment much more carefully. This meant that fluid flow could be taken to 97.5 per cent of the maximum permissible flow, rather than 90 per cent, as it was before.

'That actually benefited around 10,000 bopd of extra production just in that one field,' he said. 'That's an example where real time information monitoring information allows you to know exactly where you are in relation to your operating limits.'

Field of the Future technologies were used to help with gas lift optimisation in a North Sea field. 'We had a very unstable system. But through the use of integration between facilities, well data, physical models, we were able to understand the instabilities of the system, optimise that, and starting to actually reduce the variability,' he said.

'We could move to a new level of performance that was not actually conceivable before. That was adding around 3,000 bopd to the production there.'

Starting in 2000

BP's Field of the Future program started in the year 2000 'in a remote hotel in Scotland,' he said. 'Several of us got together to start thinking about the concept.'

'The first phase was just to prove that we could deliver some value through the digital oilfield concept. We started with a centralised co-ordination effort focussed on a couple of assets, to show that we could create some value through the use of digital information in real time.'

In 2005, the second phase was started, now under the name Field of the Future. 'That's now been running for 7-8 years,' he said. 'The initial goal of that program was to show that we can deliver value at scale.'

A range of different solutions were developed and implemented.

Working with vendors

BP has developed about 20 per cent of the Field of the Future technology in-house, 15 solutions altogether. 'The 20 per cent our program focuses on are things that you can't buy at any one time and need to develop internally,' he said.

The other 80 per cent is freely available. 'There's a lot of collaboration with suppliers,' he said.

'The other factor we see is we develop something [in-house] which we can't buy today, then in 3 or 4 years time you realise that the market has caught up and you can buy that.'

'We have this conveyor belt concept where we initially develop something you can't find anywhere else, we deploy it, we mature it, then we work with a supplier and say you take that piece over, we're going to go and work on something else, we'll work with them to deploy and support it
at scale. So I see it as a bit of a conveyor belt process.'

Making it robust

'The first things that we developed were early prototypes. But you have to productise those to make them more robust, to deploy at scale,' he said. 'You have to have solutions that you can deploy into a fairly variable landscape, and they've got to work.

'You've got to think about the workflow you're trying to impact. You've got to provide some training to encourage users to change the way they work as you adopt the solution.

'You've got to put support mechanisms in place. There's no point in deploying technology if it's not supported, particularly if you're going to learn to rely on that technology,' he said. 'We're realising that the support effort is considerable and you need to make sure that's maintained.'

'Our program has had to work hard on all these elements. It's by no mean perfect. We're learning lessons all the time, particularly as some of our solutions are on versions two or three.'

'A lot of these solutions are integrating lots of different pieces of information together. So there's that sense of integration that's going on.'


BP divides the technology into 5 components: measurement, communications, analytics, interaction and integration.

Measurement is measuring the key operating parameters digitally; communications is moving the data to where it needs to go; analytics is manipulating the data; interaction is enabling people to work with the information; and integration is getting it all together.

Once you have installed the technology, you need to be able to use it to control field operations.
'It is all well and good having information telling you should do xyz, but you need to have the ability to intervene in your field to make a difference.'

'You need to think about the process that you're trying to impact, and you need to have good mechanisms in place to sustain and embed that process, sustain and embed that technology , make sure it is supported for the long term.'

Learning from other industries

Mr Roberts is interested in the automotive, aerospace, nuclear, medical industries, to see if the oil and gas industry can learn anything from them.

'They all have lessons to teach us and I think they're probably all a little bit further on the journey than we are,' he said.

For example, the automotive industry has a lot to teach the oil and gas industry in how to manage information and encourage people to use it, he said.

'I remember the first car I bought second hand, I proudly showed my dad, it had automatic choke. My dad said, when he had his car he had to crank his engine to start it, or pull the choke and adjust it.'

'5-6 years ago I had a car which was much more sophisticated, it had an engine management system. I was buying gadgets that I was putting on my windscreen. I had 3 or 4 of these gadgets. They were crowding my windscreen, a navigation system stuck on there, a speed camera stuck on there, a temperature gauge stuck on there. My windscreen was looking quite cluttered.'

Mr Roberts now has a car with a dashboard the same size as the one he had 30 years ago, but which provides an enormous amount of information, but presented in a way that it is not overwhelming, he said.

'I sit in there, start the engine, it tells me the condition of my equipment; it tells me how long before I need to change my brake pads, my oil. It is all condition monitoring based. If there's anything wrong with the car it will tell me, if not it won't bother me.'

'It tells me the outside temperature, it warns if its icy conditions, it tells me all sorts of things.
But the space on the dashboard hasn't actually increased.'

'When I go around our integrated operating centres in BP, people say, 'Steve don't give me another screen, I've already got 30 to look at, give me a more integrated view of the world.''

'That is the journey we are now on [at BP], how do we take the information that we are gathering from these sensors, in our integrated centres, how do we condense that into more digestible forms.'

With cars, 'It has been a 30 year journey to go from the first steps of automation to today's more integrated vehicle,' he said. Perhaps it will also take the oil and gas industry 30 years.

'We are over 10 years into the digital oilfield in our industry, I think there's at least another 10, 15, 20 years to go before we get into the really integrated world.'

In the aviation industry, there would be fuel efficiencies if planes could fly across the Atlantic in formation, like birds, to reduce air resistance. But this would take a lot of co-ordination in the industry. 'Today airlines fly individually in a non co-operative way,' he said. 'That sort of vision requires a lot of collaboration from competing companies. That's an interesting challenge for us to think about. '

In the medical industry, IBM has been talking about going from monitoring and reacting to the human body to being able to predict what is going to happen. This will involve collaboration between different companies in the medical industry.

Trusting technology

Encouraging staff to adopt and trust the technology is a separate challenge to developing the systems, he said.

Mr Roberts told a story about his mother, who has a car with a tyre pressure monitoring system.
'She was driving along one day and the alarm went off, she called me, she says, 'does it mean
there's something wrong with my tyres?' I said, 'You've probably got something wrong with your tyre,'' Mr Roberts said.

'But now every time I go round she wants me to check her tyres. I say, 'mum, you now know you've got a system which is doing that for you all the time. You know it works because it sent the alarm.
You just need to rely it and trust it.''

'But she can't quite get there. So every time I go around she wants me to manually check them.

Similarly, in oil and gas industry, 'We have the technology, we can provide the integrated systems, but we need to be trained to learn and rely on them and actually trust them. The industry has to go through that phase where it builds a track record of seeing if these systems can actually be reliable.'

'We need to build a much bigger track record before regulatory bodies will allow us to use them as part of our safety critical systems,' he said. 'I think that track record is building, and building very rapidly.'

'I think that's where the young professionals come in. The next generation that's coming to this industry actually expects this sort technology. They've grown up with it and expect that it can be reliable. The next generation is key for adoption in the industry. Some of us die-hards are a bit fixed in their ways.'

'I do see part of the adoption phase is the next generation coming in the industry and helps us understand how we can use these systems to great effect.'

Regional variation

'In BP, as far as we can, we try and standardise our work processes across our footprint [around the world],' he said.

'I've been moved around the world [while working at BP] and one of my frustrations was that I was doing a similar job [in different places], but every time I go to a different locations I have to use a different system to do the same job.'

'In BP for 10-15 years we've been trying to standardise how we do our work around the world, so as we move people around, people already know the system and how it works.'

'We're seeing different adoption rates in different regions,' he said. 'There's a lot of variability out in our industry. There's cultural variability, there's data variability. Some areas we've seen the adoption curve very rapid [steep]. In other areas it's taken a while.'

'We have different resource types, different geographies we have ice at one extreme and tropics at the other extreme. So one size doesn't fit all. 'We try and standardise and then we will modify where we need to.'

'In Trinidad we've had a team working for18 months on a management process that we're trying to embed. To really get that process fully embedded in quite a complex production system is taken about 18 months.'

'I think one of our success factors is to actually have people on hand that can show how you can do things in a different way,' he said.

Management information

'At BP we're seeing an increasing appetite for roll-up of information, management dashboards, summarising, and condition monitoring, integrated planning,' he said. 'I'm seeing an increasing appetite from management for more of this information.'

'What amount of information is required at each management level for management to take decisions that they need to take.'

'One of the things we're working on is architecting the different layers of information required at each management level and making sure that we can support that.'

'There's a lot of effort around integrated planning in BP both locally and globally, making sure our rig schedules are integrated with or local requirements.'

Management of change

'If you just focus on technology then I think you're destined for failure,' he said. 'I have seen several projects at BP where you just throw technology over the wall and expect it to be taken up and adopted. Management of change is absolutely key.'

You've got to start in our program, right at the beginning of any project, what is the business project that you are trying to enhance, and how can technology be applied to that.'

Then followed up with, what is the management of change to adopt that technology.'

The industry doesn't get a lot of change. In the oil and gas industry 'our basic techniques don't change very much, we're still drilling percussively small holes in the ground to extract oil and gas,' he said. 'And yet the digital technology we're trying to apply changes every 6-18 months.'

BP now tries to 'future proof' everything, make sure everything that it installs will work with whatever happens next. 'That's a huge challenge,' he said. 'If you look back 10 years the devices we used then are very different from the devices we use now. Trying to predict what they look like in 10 more years is almost impossible.'

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