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Intelligent Energy: Shell, Saudi Aramco, BP, Petoro

Friday, August 24, 2012

Speakers from Shell (CTO), BP (chief scientist), Petoro (CEO) and Saudi Aramco (manager, Southern area reservoir management) gave their views on how they see digital technology developing at the Intelligent Energy conference in Utrecht earlier this year

At the Intelligent Energy conference plenary session in Utecht earlier this year, Gerald Schotman, CTO, Shell, gave a round-up of Shell's most interesting technology developments.

For exploration, Shell is developing improved seismic sensing technology, including a million channel land wireless seismic system being developed with HP.

It is developing a nodes offshore recording survey technology, which 'could lower the survey cost by a factor of 2,' he said.

It is also working with HP to convert data into accurate information.

For drilling, Shell is seeing advances in automated drilling, where computer controls functions such as weight on bit, rotary speed and mud flow. 'Automated drilling improves consistency,' he said.

Downstream, Shell uses technology to increase its 'intimacy' with customers, with smart phone apps to help motorists work out how to save fuel and plan routes.

One route towards faster innovation is more replication and packaging, he said, for example like the way mobile phones provide everybody with a fairly standardised package of technology.


Ellen Williams, chief scientist with BP, said that when it comes to sensors and field automation, 'We have to resist the temptation of just looking sequentially,' she said. It is better to look at the overall system.

There are questions about how much automation systems should have, and whether a fully automated system is desirable.

There are also questions about how to manage the data - and as data sizes get bigger you reach a point where it 'can only be dealt with on the cloud,' she said.

Ms Williams said she had an 'outsider's perspective', having joined BP in 2010 (previously she was Distinguished University Professor at the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland, USA, and spent 30 years in academia.

'The oil and gas industry has lagged behind many industries in implementing tools,' she said. 'There are many reasons, the harsh environment, [difficulty of] downhole communications.'

'We've been digitizing some of our sensors in field and reservoirs, and every point has resulted in a big win,' she said.

'We've been able to avoid well interventions, we've been able to improve efficiency. We immediately see gains formed.'


Kjell Pedersen, President and CEO of Petoro, noted that people often find it easier to make high risk decisions when planning a new well, when there is very little data available, than they do when deciding to extend an existing field, when there is large amounts of data available, although the potential return on investment can be higher.

When there are large amounts of data, there's always one piece which doesn't fit and casts a shadow over the decision to invest, he said.

Petoro is an organisation which manages the Norwegian government's exploration and production licenses and keeps an eye on Statoil.

'We have so much data from 100,000 wells, there's always one piece of data that says, 'can we really invest, the data doesn't' fit.'

'So we go from risk non -averse and no data, to risk averse and lots of data.'

'Why can't manage s say, I'm willing to put another billion NOK into this field?'

'We need to bring forward the ability to take all data and put it quickly into a model, to create a feeling of 'I know what is happening in this field,'' he said.

'We are taking much longer to get wells drilled and put into operation.'

Another problem is getting acceptance from people working offshore for new technology. 'We have not succeeded,' he said. 'They see some of this as a threat. There's a lot of work that we as companies and employers need to do.'

On the plus side, recovery on the Norwegian continental shelf is increasing 'on a daily basis,' he said.

'We have been blessed with finding big discoveries in a very mature part of our continental shelf, putting a new life info what we thought the Norwegian continental shelf would bring us.'

'We have much better collaboration between oil companies and service companies.'

Saudi Aramco

A big problem with reservoir monitoring is that you can only have sensors on the surface of the ground or in the wells, said Dr Nabeel I Afaleg, manager, Southern area reservoir management, Saudi Aramco.

'The industry has to go deeper in the reservoir.'

'The sampling points in the reservoirs are very small compared to the size of the reservoirs.'

Saudi Aramco is developing sensors which can flow through the reservoir itself.

The company is also developing much larger reservoir simulators.

'They bring the recovery factor from 50 per cent to even more than 70 per cent,' he said.

At Saudi Aramco, people no longer talk about justifying investment in intelligent fields,

The conversation has now moved on to 'how to maximise the value of intelligent fields,' he said.


Speakers were asked what recovery level they think is possible.

Saudi Aramco's Mr Afaleg said that he did not think 70 per cent recovery is a far-fetched. ''I think we will achieve that number. We're very confident we can meet it and exceed it someday,' he said.

'Some of our fields have reached that number. One of our oldest fields has reached that number.'

'We have multiple technology that will bring us to that level and beyond.'

But 'technology itself will not achieve recovery if you don't have the practise,' he said.

Shell's Mr Schotman said he thought '35 per cent is an average type of number. Not all centres have the same type of reservoirs that the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] has.'

Mr Afaleg said 'not all reservoirs are created equal, even in Saudi Arabia.'

Schlumberger's Mr Pai said 'it's very good to hear our clients way they want to go for 70 per cent recovery and have complex fields, it is good for the service business.'

Petoro's Mr Pedersen said that 'we should be talking about increases in recovery relative to the size of field we are talking about.
How do we increase it by 20 per cent? Or if we define it as 'we have achieved 65 per cent, that is something we shouldn't get comfortable with'.'

If you increase recovery using injected fluids, then that raises issues about additional energy inputs (eg for pumps) and associated CO2 emissions (from creating the energy), he said.

Convincing leadership

One audience member (whose name and company is withheld for his own protection) said that he has a problem in his company persuading his company leaders to invest in digital technology.

'We have a groundswell of people who say, we are need the technology. Then it goes up a chain and leadership say, why do I pay for sensors when all I want is oil out of the ground,' he said.

Petoro's Mr Pedersen replied that the strongest argument for technology is to explain that the additional knowledge you get is key to improving the industry and working on difficult issues.

'I need to get the data, I need to communicate it, I need the guys and girls to do it on a regular basis.'

People also need the information to work out how to reduce costs. And 'if we have the best knowledge and lowest cost, I have a much higher possibility of handling safety issues,' he said.

Saudi Aramco's Mr Afaleg noted that when it comes to management, 'justifying a piece of equipment is significantly harder than justifying a whole [system]', he said. 'Rather than see it as a single well, put the case for the whole asset, the whole type of measurement you want to do.'

Sharing data

Speakers were asked how keen they are to share data, particularly between service companies and operators.

'We share data with service companies on specific issues,' said Saudi Aramco's Mr Afaleg. 'No-one will release all data. 'There are some safeguards for proprietary and regulatory information.'

But 'we work collaboratively, together. Research will not flourish if the collaboration is not there,' he said.

'I don't see it as one [service companies] has the technology, one [operators] has the data,' said Schlumberger's Satish Pai.

'The operators have a very thorough knowledge of the field. We come in with different work processes. There are different strengths that need to come together.'

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