The oil and gas sector has seen a shift in recent years from silos to more integrated and holistic operations. With the advent of smart wells and real-time automation technologies, companies are looking at their assets and operations in a new light. Developments in informational and operational technologies have been groundbreaking in the past decade with technologies such as distributed thermal sensing (DTS), zonal flow control (ZFC) and down hole gauges (DHG) becoming more prevalent in oil and gas organisations. With the availability of real-time data and insights into daily operations, the improvement of innovative ideas from present smart field initiatives will pave the way for new technological advances and the oil and gas fields of the future.
Some technologies already impacting the sector include:
Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT is currently a buzz word among technology enthusiasts and is an exciting prospect, allowing machines to provide detailed diagnostics and data while sharing information about processes in real-time. Preventative maintenance reporting can be embedded directly at the source, allowing for immediate corrective responses and minimal production losses. This will be particularly advantageous where resources are scarce and assets are located in remote facilities.
Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) have long been used in offshore production facilities. However, with exploration increasingly carried out in inaccessible areas, using robots for routine maintenance and inspection activities is becoming more attractive. Drones are also utilised as surveillance tools, on a small scale by some oil and gas companies. Equipped with an infra-red camera, a drone soon becomes a real-time, mobile leak-detection device. It will be interesting to see how these technologies will integrate into operational activities once applied on a larger scale, and within the oil and gas industry overall.
The trend towards oil and gas organisations adopting a multi-disciplinary approach is on the increase. Automation and IT disciplines now better understand exploration and production dynamics, thus becoming more conversant in identifying gaps in production. A multi-disciplinary approach will have a positive impact on how companies collaborate in the future, facilitating improved cross-functional understanding, enhancing individual performance and boosting overall company productivity.
Improved real-time fluid and petro-physical analytics
Ironically as an oil and gas company’s main asset and revenue source, reservoirs tend to be one of the most unfamiliar places. In smart oil and gas fields of the future, properties like viscosities, pressure volume-temperature, chemical reactions and diverse rock types; could be monitored in real-time. Thus vastly improving operational effectiveness, with more informed and timely decision making.
Closed-loop reservoir optimisation
With the gradual adoption of smart well advancements, production in some operations is still carried out independently. The value of technologies such as DTS, ZFC and DHGs, will increase exponentially when used as part of a closed-loop control with surface automation technology. With a number of scenarios possible, an out-of-the-box approach is required when merging and optimising production and automation technologies.
The adoption and convergence of real-time data-driven models in conjunction with some of the above technologies is set to vastly improve and radicalize operations throughout the sector. The integration of the IoT alone, will shape the future of the oil and gas industry not only optimising the way production is carried out, but radically changing the way oilfields are operated.