By: Are Føllesdal Tjønn, head of ix3, Aker Solutions
The adoption of digitalisation in the oil and gas sector has arguably been slower than in other industries such as aviation and manufacturing, but the pace is quickening and shifting from hype to reality. There is much to be gained from digitalisation, especially for a sector which must maintain focus on running efficient operations amid fluctuating oil prices. Digitalisation has the potential to dramatically increase the efficiency of projects and operations; it is estimated to potentially create around US$1 trillion of value for oil and gas firms.
So what’s been holding back the sector? Certainly not lack of data– a single drilling rig at an oilfield can generate terabytes of data every day.
However combining different sources of data, trusting the quality of the data and contextualising it, have been significant barriers to date.
A survey among senior oil and gas professionals showed that the top three digitalisation priorities for 2019 all relate to data sharing, integration, and access3. This has been a key driver for launching our own software and digital services company, ix3.
ix3 will help operators accelerate field development projects and optimise asset integrity, safety and performance. It brings together engineering, manufacturing and test data with live-streamed operational data. The result is our digital twin Integral, a data platform and series of software applications which draw together diverse data sources into an integrated and coherent format. This creates consistency across assets, data sources and lifecycle phases.
Data in itself does not necessarily add value; it is when it is brought into context and combined with deep domain knowledge that real value is created. ix3 offers four portfolios of software solutions to support customers throughout the life-of-field; Concept Insight, Engineering Insight, Construction Insight and Operational Insight.
Next Generation Field Development
ix3’s Concept Insight software portfolio is designed to provide next-generation field development for operators so that they can hit first oil faster. Apps such as Subsea Configurator and Facility Modeler help customers fully test and trial multiple field development scenarios, according to different parameters. Intelligent ‘search and reuse’ with engineering automation and a centralised library means months of engineering work can be reduced to weeks. Our engineers and customers can compare and review multiple scenarios at a fraction of the time and cost previously possible. Greater standardisation is also supported, as applicable designs and solutions are quickly identified and used.
Facility Modeler rapidly designs and visualises facilities as 3D models based on the design basis, a master equipment list, and a simulation of process flow. Engineering automation is used for fast creation, testing, simulation, assessment and adjustment of design concepts.
Different solutions can be found according to parameters such as weight, temperature or pressure requirements and new scenarios can be rapidly trialled if these parameters change. With the CaseBook app, also a part of the Concept Insight portfolio, concept cost, product, installation and life of field cost can be calculated and the net present value of scenarios easily determined for each field development alternative and easily compared to each other.
This full trialling of comparing and reviewing multiple scenarios helps reduce the impacts of subjectivity in our processes and decision-making, meaning we can get to the right decisions faster.
Mature Front-End Delivery
The integrated apps in Concept Insight help projects move quickly from concept selection into FEED stages. The design basis and field layout of topsides and subsea systems, product assessment and selection, and installation methods can be evaluated and the optimum method tested and confirmed. A more mature and complete delivery in the front end phase reduces the number of hours required in engineering and construction phases.
Inherent Safety and Improved Efficiency
The solutions in our Engineering Insight portfolio automate engineering, design and modelling processes in the FEED or detailed design stages. This results in an improved project schedule with saved time because engineering hours can be reduced from weeks to minutes.
The engineering automation apps are a good example of how digitalisation is helping us to make projects more efficient and cost effective, and helping us to step up our sustainability.
Knowledge-based engineering systems and technology are used to rapidly automate and streamline engineering and design processes, including 3D design, integrated analysis and simulation. This design automation leads to a drastic reduction in the number of man hours required for 3D modelling and analysis. The apps work together with Engineering Assistant, a centralised library of engineering knowledge, technical data, documents and 3D models from all existing and past assets or projects, making them easily searchable and immediately accessible. The impact of this connected software is like changing from handwashing dishes to using a dishwasher.
The ‘search and reuse’ process means safety standards and structural integrity rules are automatically used and embedded into all design processes. Having such HSSE best practice inherently built into engineering and manufacturing processes reduces risk in products and services. Engineering knowledge and the library of best practice is enhanced and improved with each project, with automatic updates to standards ensuring a continuous improvement of safety in design.
Internal Insight for Marginal Fields
Improved internal insight, with relevant data across historical or ongoing projects quickly retrievable, means unnecessarily long delivery lead-times and costs can be avoided. Existing stock or product solutions already designed and qualified to the customer’s needs can be readily identified. The use of standard products which are already qualified can improve the economic viability of small or marginal fields.
The secure web applications give verified teams access to technical data, documents and 3D models for an asset or project anywhere in the world. A chain of unbroken digital information automatically integrates all supplier models, specifications and life cycle information with the team modelling the facility. This increases quality, accuracy, and mitigates downstream issues. Work processes are simplified and streamlined removing multiple rounds of document control and information management within a process.
With the most time-consuming engineering, design and modelling processes in the FEED or detailed-design stages automated, efficiency and overall quality can be improved. This means we don’t just save time, we improve the end result too. Resource capacity in the customer organisation and supply chain is liberated, allowing more time to be spent on creative innovation and value-added activities.
Construction and Operational Insight
The software applications in the final two portfolios, Construction Insight and Operational Insight, provide support throughout the entire life of field. The Construction Insight portfolio supports continuous improvement and operational efficiency through real-time insight and by supporting a connected workforce working from centralised data.
Operational Insight applications provide access to real-time condition, risk and performance data from a facility or field enabling quick, confident and targeted decision making. Digital tools like machine learning and analysis helps predict and prevent failures, enabling teams to improve condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.
Nova Digital Twin
In early 2019 Aker Solutions was appointed by Wintershall DEA to build a complete digital replica of the Nova production system, following its 2018 award to deliver the subsea production system for the same field. The digital twin will become an advanced replacement to traditional paper-based handbooks and equipment documentation, ensuring that all relevant engineering data is held centrally in a single, interactive and searchable solution. It will be built on a cloud-based architecture capable of processing live data and ensuring that vital engineering information is kept up to date at all times. The connected study to enable live data streaming from the subsea production equipment will be instrumental in driving forward real time subsea condition monitoring, production optimisation and predictive maintenance for the field. These digital innovations will help set new standards for the energy industry. They demonstrate that the industry is now leveraging digitalisation to radically transform how it works, accelerating time to first oil and increasing safety and performance throughout the full life of an energy asset.