June 2019
SPE Offshore Europe Preview

Using integrated technologies in project development

An interview with Colette Cohen, CEO, Oil and Gas Technology Centre; and Jim Lenton, President, Upstream Integrated Solutions, Worley

World Oil (WO): How have integrated technologies developed and deployed over the past decade?

Colette Cohen
Colette Cohen

Colette Cohen (CC): The question we should start with is “do we feel we’re using integrated technologies as a solution within the oil and gas industry?” Bringing the integrated solutions or technologies conversation to Offshore Europe is great.

Jim Lenton (JL): That’s a fair representation. There are good examples, where we have brought different technologies together to create value for operators. It’s been a slow struggle to get information from various sources into a platform that could be understood and used to create value. In one example an operator has brought a lot of different technologies into their operational center, and they are seeing material benefits in how they’re operating, and managing logistics and asset and project information, etc.

CC: In other industries, it starts with the perspective of an end system, then what technologies do they need to integrate to deliver that system. But for us, we have a tendency still to bespoke individual pieces, then we find ways to make them interface with each other.

JL: To a degree, contrasting our industry with aerospace, they very much have a production line approach. We’ve struggled in the oil industry to get to that. We’ve bespoked most things in most areas, and thus, we’ve not been able to get that efficiency of repeatability.

CC: In fairness, the digitalization that we’re seeing is encouraging. I wouldn’t call it forcing the integration of technologies. We’re actually looking at moving most operations to onshore control centers, which have been created for platforms. In doing that, we’re looking at what we ultimately want to do, such as have remote control, oversight and support capability. What are the technologies we need, and how can they work together?

WO: Integrated technologies are seen as an answer in projects, to reduce errors and omissions. What are the barriers to their implementation?

Jim Lenton
Jim Lenton

JL: Operators have struggled to have information in a single repository that is factual, truthful and up-to-date. Today, when we’re developing assets, with the technology we have available through our engineering systems, data warehouses, maintenance management systems, commissioning systems, these can all be integrated. Projects ought to take advantage of those capabilities. Some of the Tier 1 operators are doing this. Smaller operators are not doing this as widely—that could be cost pressures, or internal knowledge bandwidth on their part.

CC: The ideal for everyone is the “one source of truth.” This is what Jim’s saying, that some of the larger operators have come closer to that than the smaller ones, who maybe have disparate, unconnected systems they’re working from. Sometimes that’s because they’ve bought other people’s assets, and they’re combining them. Ideally, we are starting to see—compared to seven or eight years ago—the systems can interact and deal with any form or type of information. Time is working in our favor, in the development of technology.

WO: What financial and technical benefits can integrated technologies bring?

CC: You’re starting to see an increased uptake with respect to risk on the digital side, as things can be trialed in a shadow system. A lot of hardware technology development can be derisked—you can trial it, but at some point, you have to introduce it to your field or facility. Whereas on software systems, you can mirror the system and have a shadow control room or system, where people can build confidence in how it works before you go live.

JL: I would agree with that. Looking at the facilities design side, there’s not any particular risk adverseness. People are generally open to good connected technology that delivers efficient outcomes for new projects. It’s more at the business end of execution on the assets, where it’s more challenging to bring technology together.

WO: Speaking about shadow systems and software, would you include digital twins development?

CC: Larger companies have digital twins on virtually all of their assets, or at least on critical systems—that’s something to be developed within some of the smaller companies. It is slightly different from the shadow systems, which is about taking on a new technology and trialing it. A digital twin allows you to test a whole process or new approach, a different way of doing things, or installing a whole
new facility.

JL: It’s become an industry norm, certainly for larger operators. I don’t think there’s a lot of resistance in whether that’s the right thing to do—it’s keeping that digital twin up to date, keeping it relevant, as you do in projects and development.

WO: In today’s climate, how can bringing together diverse technologies support high-risk operations, and contain fluctuating economics?

CC: Well, technology has done a huge amount in the last few years to reduce costs and improve efficiency. To maintain those lower costs, we must fundamentally change how we work. Part of that is becoming more digitized, with greater automation. The most important thing is using the information we have to predict what’s going to happen, to be more proactive.

JL: The two words I would pick out as key here are “efficient” and “predictable.“ This is where digitizing our world and using integrated technologies really helps, as you know better what’s going to happen tomorrow, and you can be much more efficient.

WO: How does this go against the one-stop-shop approach that many companies aspire to? Is this a move away from standardization?

CC: What we would like is similar to describing a computer as standardized, in that the basic elements are consistent and that you allow a plug-and-play of bespoke things. So, anyone can choose to add the program, equipment or capability they choose, but the platform is common for everyone. That would be Nirvana and allow our systems all to be common, so we can plug in everything that we want that is bespoke for our facility, conditions and requirements. That’s the part we still need to work toward. This concept of a one-stop-shop or closing your mind or procurement processes to the small, nimble and unusual companies that don’t have start-to-finish delivery—that has to change.

JL: The industry has tried to harmonize at the operator level how it acquires services. There’s nothing wrong with trying to rationalize the interface between the operator and the supply chain, so that the operator has less contracts to deal with. It’s about reducing interfaces to be more efficient, to allow cost reduction and efficient management of information. The service providers need to be very open to acquiring some really cool technology from the more niche companies.

WO: How can a joined-up approach to developing new technology benefit relations between the supply chain, service companies and operators?

CC: The creation of the Oil and Gas Technology Centre has helped that integrated approach by providing a support from government funding, working with academia and industry to co-fund. You’re creating a collaborative approach, where multiple companies can come in, drive the design and technology that will work for multiple solutions and assets, and fast-track it by working together and ultimately sharing or publishing the results.

JL: Colette’s spot on. Our industry has taken a really good turn in the last five years with creation of the OGA and OGTC, and the way the industry forums have come together. The industry recognizes that companies fighting each other isn’t an efficient way to move forward.

WO: This will be a key issue for discussion at OE19, regarding learnings shared from within and outside our industry. How do we compare to other industries?

CC: We’re going to showcase a few things, like Aker BP’s Google Cognite integrating from the office through to offshore—that’s a nice example of how the industry has changed. We’ve already started talking about using something from aerospace or the military. People will see the art of the possible and get on the train with everyone else that’s already doing it.

JL: That’s right. We’re hoping, in the area that myself and Colette have been looking after, to bring in an angle from aerospace, that we think is interesting and compelling. We’re bringing in a consultant company that looks across oil and gas, and much wider. It’s going to be interesting to get their perspective.

WO: How far can digitalization play a role in integrating technologies?

JL: We’ve covered it already. It’s real, its tangible, and real results are being delivered for those companies who are getting on the bus. Yet, I still find that some of the operators are coming out with nothing more than a schedule for rates—there’s so much out there that can be done. It’s something I want to talk about at OE19.

CC: The conversation we have had with operators recently is around their lack of take-up on technology and new ideas. Where they fail to take it up, is where they allow their procurement or legal to have too much control. Some of the tendering and requests coming out from companies are only being influenced by what they’ve done before, what they feel is safe and what is simpler to evaluate, because it’s what they know. That needs to change.

Related Articles
Connect with World Oil
Connect with World Oil, the upstream industry's most trusted source of forecast data, industry trends, and insights into operational and technological advances.