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Integrated operations at Ekofisk

Thursday, February 14, 2013

ConocoPhillips Ekofisk field, offshore Norway, is one of the world's leading fields with integrated operations. Ole Klingsheim explains how it works

We always like to talk about Ekofisk,' said Ole Klingsheim, Integrated Operations Development Manager with ConocoPhillips, speaking at the Integrated Operations conference in Trondheim, Norway, on Sept 25-26.

Mr Klingsheim has served as ConocoPhillips' Integrated Operations Development Manager within its 'Major Capital Projects and Operations' division since 2008, responsible for the continuous development and implementation of ConocoPhillips' operating model.

'Today after more than 40 years of operation and more than 2.5 billion barrels of oil being produced, it is still one of the largest oilfields around.

'We think we have a good story to tell. There's a lot of knowledge we can share, a lot of experience we like to transfer. We are proud to talk about our successes.'

'Actually we do talk quite openly about our mistakes too. But I'm not going to do that in front of 300 people at a time, we normally do that in smaller groups!'

'Ekofisk has it all - exploration, drilling, production, late life, plugging and abandonment decommissioning, and a lot of new developments.
In short we have all the activities from cradle to grave.'

'Ekofisk has really been good to us all, owners, partners, the Norway society, contractors, everybody. The total value generated from Ekofisk over these years is more than 1,800 bn Norwegian Krona ($314bn). That's a lot of money.'

'It is 60 per cent of the Norwegian pension fund alone from one part of the operation.'

The Ekofisk field includes 29 platforms altogether, with 1,000km of pipeline connecting them.

There are 6 helicopters transporting 75,000 passengers to Ekofisk every year. There are 1300 people offshore every day, and 5,000 people call Ekofisk their workplace, he said.

Search and rescue services for the Southern sectors of the North Sea are also provided from Ekofisk, on behalf of Norwegian authorities.

'Ekofisk is in many ways a unique field. It is chalk, it is subsiding, it is the first and the biggest on the Norwegian continental shelf, the first discovery,' he said.

'In terms of remaining reserves, it is still one of the longest horizons left out there, and it still attracts some of the biggest investments on the shelf.'

40 years past and future

The field celebrated 40 years of production in 2011, and in the same day, a plan was approved for redevelopment of Ekofisk and Eldfisk fields, at a cost of NOK 83bn (USD 14.5bn).

There will be 80,000 tons more steel installed in the Southern part of the North Sea in the next 2-3 years, and there are currently construction projects going on in 10 different countries, he said.

'We have made substantial investments in new platforms, new infrastructure, and these investments has given us the desired results,' he said. 'We now enjoy production in the same levels as we had back in the 1980s.'

'We're going to be around for at least another 40 years. That long term perspective makes us do different things than if we had a short perspective,' he said.

When Ekofisk was first built in 1971, the year 2000 would have seen like sci-fi. 'That was beyond the foreseeable horizon in a way,' he said.
'Now we are there.'

Improving recovery

'Our recovery rate has increased from 17 to 18 per cent back in the 1970s to more than 50 per cent now.' This has meant a doubling of the expected lifetime of the field.

'Every per cent we can squeeze out of this huge field is the equivalent to another new field in other places that would have been developed, so it's worthwhile continuing squeezing this.'

The increase in recovery 'hasn't just come by itself, it's been hard work,' he said. 'There's a lot of new technology, like horizontal drilling, life of field seismic, waterflood and reservoir management. All of this has been in continuous development.'

Integrated operations

The company sees 'integrated operations' as its operating model. 'The way we look at this is that we also need to re-create our organisation, our mindset, our operation. That's what we call integrated operations,' he said.

'It's not always straightforward. What do we mean when we say integrated operations? We all mean different things, slightly different or very different. We have different focus. We all try to accomplish the same but we focus on different things at different times.'

'We call it integrated operations, because that's really what we try to do, to integrate. Integrate offshore, onshore. Integrate our functions, onshore, we go as hard as we can after the integration.'

There are many interdependencies between different company units involved in Ekofisk. 'To understand those and have them transparent to everybody in the organisation is the key and that's part of the foundation for our integrated planning,' he said.

'Our operating model is not a project,' he said. 'It is a continuous improvement journey, it's a commitment to continuous improvement to develop this operating model. It is hard work, and it's never going to go away to continue to develop this model.'

'Our aspiration by doing this is to improve the performance across all of our operations.'


'A question we often get is, is this just talk or is there real tangible benefits?'

'We have improved our maintenance efficiency by more than 15 per cent.
In our operations that is the equivalent to around 100 people offshore.
That's a significant number. We can choose to do more with the same people or to do the same with less people. And then have other people adding more value, take up the helicopter seats and bed space offshore, which are our main constraints.'

The production is more stable, and there are fewer unplanned shutdowns, he said.

The supply vessels to the rigs are managed onshore. 'We see we move more material offshore than we used to do, but we do it with one less vessel in the fleet. We have eliminated spot charters. All of this shows up very nicely on the bottom line.'

For many years, people in other parts of the world were sceptical about what ConocoPhillips was doing in Norway, saying that 'Norwegians have too much money,' Mr Klingsheim said.

'But what we have shown has demonstrated results.'


Integrated operations can help manage risk.

ConocoPhillips has seen the number of times that it has 'energy out of control', its terminology for some kind of leakage, decline over recent years.

'The background, what drives this, is the additional barriers onshore that we can put in place,' he said. 'By having more people, more eyes to see, more complete picture of the situation that we have offshore, the situational awareness is shared. But the foundation for all this is the integrated plan.'

'Hopefully you'll agree with me that fundamental aspect of HSE excellence is good planning. The more often we do what we plan to do, with the people we plan to do it, at the time we want to do it, the less unwanted things happen.'

'We don't have to do adhoc planning, we don't have to change and run in a different direction. The operations stabilises, everybody knows what's going to happen.

'Preparation, communication, decision making, all of these good things that you see out there. These are the fundamental aspects of HSE, no doubt about it.'

'We think that's a foundation for our improvement in this part of the operation.'

'In the past we had no other choice, we sent the people offshore, they would do the best judgement, make the decisions. Now we can bring in more expertise, see the complete picture in a totally different way.'

'We collaborate with offshore to make the decisions onshore, but based on the information and knowledge from offshore.'

'The [people offshore] are still in control but we make these decisions much more efficiently and with a much higher quality.'

Organisational capacity

'We really firmly believe it is the organisation's capacity that is the underlying driver to achieving the results we want,' he said.

'We are heavy in measuring all kinds of parameters. We perform analytics, we visualise performance; we have scorecards, KPIs, the whole shebang.'

'For production and uptime, the direct parameters will be simple indicators to indicate bottom line impact,' he said.

'But it is also interesting to see results that come from sort of less tangible things like the communication, the decision making.

'The big thing to us is the accelerated learning. To work in these cross functional, real time, lot of information type arenas, is an accelerated learning environment.'

Continuous improvement

'The foundation for all of this is our institutionalised continuous improvement, that's the engine, the engine coming in the back to keep us going,' he said.

'We have put it in the organisation; it says continuous improvement on the organisation chart. We have dedicated people working on it.'

'We track the deliverables. It is not acceptable to not deliver bottom line results.'

We base this on lean six sigma, so we have the methods and tools and training. We sustain this by doing this formal training.'

'Change management, in a strong continuous improvement culture, is really what we think drives us. To identify opportunities, to be able to implement opportunities and to be able to harvest the benefit from these opportunities.'

'Also our ambition is to keep growing the company. We move into harsh environments, remote locations, the efficient operation of all of these is still the key enabler for all of this.'

'I think this journey will continue to mature our operating model. I don't think we have figured it out. It is not what we thought it would be 5-6 years ago, it is different. I think it's going to be different again going forward. It will continue to mature our understanding.'

Building and decommissioning

'In Singapore we built the world's accommodation platform with 552 single occupancy cabins,' he said. 'It's a top of the line, modern platform that's going to sustain the next 40 years.'

'We also built a new 36 slot wellhead platform that's going into the Ekofisk complex. We built a subsea water injection - all of these are going to come offshore next year. All of these are built with IO as part of their design philosophy.'

'Next door we are building a combined hotel process and production platform for the Eldfisk field, with 45 slots and 152 beds. So it's a full redevelopment of the Eldfisk field as well.'

'80 new wells will be drilled, smart wells, operated from onshore.'

'Building new things is the easy part - to be able to connect the new things to the old things is a much much more difficult task,' he said.

'We're going to build a handful of new platforms, and we're going to remove 14 old ones. We're going to drill 80 new wells, we're going to plug and abandon 250 old wells.'

Vendors should 'look at the old stuff, there's maybe more opportunities, more business for us than might catch the eye at the first place,' he said.

'From an integrated operations perspective we haven't even started tapping in to the potential that exists in the plugging and abandonment and decommissioning phases. We are doing this very traditionally, chopping into small pieces and shipping it in skips and baskets to shore.'

Going unmanned

Frans van der Berg, Innovation Development Manager at Shell, said
'Congratulations on a fantastic story. You have 10 years of experience with integrated operations. [but you] build a new platform and put 552 beds on it. Can Ekofisk be unmanned?'

'I was hoping no-one would ask us [this]', Mr Klingsheim said. 'We know we can do it with no people. [but] it becomes so big that it's inefficient to be not normally manned.'

Associated Companies
» Conoco Phillips
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