The oil and gas industry, like many others, is embracing and intensifying its use of data and analytics. And it is no surprise. The industry has learned what other manufacturing industries have long known: tapping into the power of data can help you understand and improve your operations in virtually unlimited ways or transform them entirely.
What’s driving oil and gas companies to adopt a data-driven mindset?
Operations are more complex than ever, with infrastructures dramatically expanding, and more sophisticated systems used in subsea and hydrofracturing operations. Environmental and safety regulatory pressures also continue to increase. Additionally, new workforce challenges are emerging, with the pool of highly skilled workers shrinking as more move toward retirement.
But it’s also a matter of continuous improvement. Oil and gas companies are constantly looking for new ways to increase production growth, refine processes, maximize their use of existing assets, and minimize equipment downtime.
Data collection has long been a challenge in the oil and gas industry. The combination of unconnected legacy equipment, highly distributed and remotely located facilities, proprietary network silos and various vendor databases has limited companies’ abilities to collect, share and act on their own data.
For some time now, oil and gas exploration and production companies have been moving toward systems and technologies that enable connectivity. This is driving the convergence of systems into a single, unified network architecture and the adoption of information-enabled “smart” technologies. This connected infrastructure is known as The Connected Enterprise. It connects people, processes and technologies across an entire oil or gas enterprise.
The Connected Enterprise creates opportunities for companies to collect data from nearly any aspect of their operations, analyze it and share it with decision makers. This can help companies better understand equipment performance and health, and worker behaviors. It also allows companies to analyze long-term trends to help optimize asset performance, create predictive maintenance strategies, and minimize failures and downtime.
Oil and gas companies that are putting these capabilities into action are addressing their unique business problems and even creating new business models.
Better Insights Fuel Cost Savings
When the Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG) wanted to modernize its entire control system across 16 states, one goal was to gain better insight into operational data and better predict maintenance needs.
Existing systems in place lacked the information management needed to proactively optimize operations and didn’t easily integrate with the company’s corporate-level data warehouse. The lack of a secure user access and authentication system also put information security at risk.
CPG installed a virtualized process control system that shares more information across facilities and up to the executive level, while also enabling remote access and improving security. The company also installed software applications that support system control, monitoring, reporting and data recording over EtherNet/IP™.
According to Brian Sloan, automation and electrical engineering manager for Columbia Pipeline Group, the company is making more educated decisions based on real-time and historical operations data that can be accessed anywhere, including headquarters. The company has significantly improved profitability as a result.
Based on new insights into engine operations, the CPG engineering team conducts more active and ongoing preventive maintenance – and it’s yielding results quickly. The company saved approximately $2.3 million from reduced maintenance costs and downtime in 2014.
Remotely Monitoring Offshore Drilling Equipment
In the offshore space, submersible pumps are critical to oil-drilling platforms. One offshore producer’s platforms, located off Alaska’s coast, operate 24 hours per day. Downtime can cost this company $100,000 to $300,000 per day.
To help reduce the risk of downtime, the company upgraded to more efficient and reliable electrical, submersible pumps. It also elected to use a virtual-support service to remotely monitor the medium-voltage drives that power the pumps.
The cloud-based service collects key equipment data, such as speed, current, power and voltage, and analyzes that data in real time. It can then notify Rockwell Automation support engineers of potential issues or failures the moment they are detected.
The remote-monitoring service was put to use good use shortly after it was implemented, detecting and notifying personnel of four incidents in the first two weeks. With historical data collected over time, the service also can support predictive analysis to help with maintenance or component replacements before a downtime event occurs.
Redefining Business Models
Onshore, heavy-duty vehicles used to support hydraulic fracturing operations can cost upward of $1 million. They have many consumable components, with oil filters that need to be replaced every 200 to 400 hours. A complete engine rebuild is generally required after 4,000 to 7,000 hours of service.
Downtime on the vehicles can cost $3,000 to $7,000 per day – and that’s before lost product revenues are taken into account. Also, because these vehicles tend to be used in remote areas, most producers keep a backup vehicle onsite so production can continue if a vehicle goes down.
To help understand how these vehicles are performing and help operators maximize the vehicle uptime, oil and gas equipment supplier M.G. Bryan turned to remote monitoring. The company uses a cloud-based software that gathers control-system data from each vehicle and contextualizes it into meaningful information. The software can provide insights into a single vehicle’s drivetrain and fracking performance, or an entire fleet’s performance and maintenance trends.
The instant visibility into remote-asset data has improved asset uptime and productivity for end users. It’s also allowed the OEM to shift its business model from monthly agreements to pay-by-use, giving the company a competitive advantage. What’s more, the OEM can use the data to promote the performance of its systems, offer predictive maintenance services, and support warranty fulfillment.
Only Scratching the Surface
The potential for data and analytics in oil and gas is growing every day as more companies tap into it.
For example, Rockwell Automation is working with a producer to explore the use of real-time production allocation. This will involve capturing real-time, multiphase flow volumes from all of its wells. Operators can then monitor this data to identify assets that deviate from expected production levels and focus their efforts on improving their productivity...
As more companies seek to capitalize on their data and make the journey to a Connected Enterprise, the decisions they make along the way will be critical to realizing long-term business benefits. Initial decisions should include using integrated control and information solutions; implementing a secure network infrastructure that supports seamless connectivity; and using operations-management software that facilitates fast reading of critical oil and gas production information for operators. The space continues to grow every day with new technologies and smart devices. Working with a third-party automation and information provider, such as Rockwell Automation, will help oil and gas producers as they progress on their journey.