Production Automation in the 21st Century: Opportunities for Production Optimization and Remote Unattended Operations
- Cleon L. Dunham (Oilfield Automation Consulting)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 2003
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 68 - 73
- 2003. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 6.3.3 Operational Safety, 3.1.1 Beam and related pumping techniques, 4.4 Measurement and Control, 3 Production and Well Operations, 3.1 Artificial Lift Systems, 3.1.2 Electric Submersible Pumps, 4.9 Facilities Operations, 4.4.2 SCADA, 5.1.2 Faults and Fracture Characterisation, 4.6 Natural Gas, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, , 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 5.6.4 Drillstem/Well Testing, 3.1.6 Gas Lift, 4.4.3 Mutiphase Measurement, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 2.1.3 Sand/Solids Control, 2.3 Well Monitoring Systems
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Distinguished Author Series articles are general, descriptive representations that summarize the state of the art in an area of technology by describing recent developments for readers who are not specialists in the topics discussed. Written by individuals recognized to be experts in the area, these articles provide key references to more definitive work and present specific details only to illustrate the technology. Purpose: to inform the general readership of recent advances in various areas of petroleum engineering.
Production automation systems have been around for decades. In the 1960s, systems were used primarily to monitor production variables (e.g., pressure, temperature, and flow rate) with limited remote control functions (e.g., automatic well testing, pump start/stop, and remote facility shutdown), and the term supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) was developed to describe the system. Progress was slow because of many problems with instrumentation, communications, computer hardware and software, limited coverage of production operations, and lack of understanding and acceptance of this new technology.
However, changes have been dramatic, especially during the past 10 to 15 years.1,2 Today, oilfield automation focuses on enhanced production management and optimization, which reaches from the reservoirs, into the wells, through the gathering, testing, treating, and handling facilities, to the final point(s) of sale. Today, instrumentation, communications, and computer hardware and software are, for the most part, accurate, reliable, and reasonably priced. Moreover, understanding, acceptance, and use of this technology to enhance the business of oil and gas production are growing.
Yet the state of the art of production automation systems is best described as mixed. In many cases, provision of the automation and information technologies (e.g., measurement and control devices, communications equipment, computer hardware and software, and databases) is ahead of the ability to effectively implement, understand, and apply this technology. One of the largest challenges to acceptance and support is insufficient training and staff development. People who have the necessary knowledge, skills, and motivation must be developed and retained. Both producers and suppliers must improve delivery of support and training systems if this technology is to reach its full potential.
The business case for applying this technology effectively is so compelling that the industry, both suppliers and operating companies, must rise to the challenge. In these times of stretched staff and limited budget resources, automation and information management can leverage limited resources to improve the profitability of oil and gas production operations - profitability in the largest sense. It can help optimize production levels, capital investments, operating costs, and repair and maintenance. In addition, it can help minimize health, safety, and environmental incidents and provide opportunities for staff development.
The purpose of this paper is to challenge management and staff in operating companies, service and supply companies, and others to understand and appreciate the significant benefits that can be realized with effective implementation and use of production automation. The business objectives that can be achieved through automation are summarized, the specific operational and economical benefits that can be realized with various automation applications are discussed, and some of the interesting developments that are becoming possible with new technologies are highlighted.
The primary objectives of most modern production automation systems fall into one or more of the following categories.
Safety and Environmental Protection.
Unsafe or faulty operations are detected, systems or wells are shut down if needed to protect people or the environment, and information is provided to those who must make repairs, restarts, and other such actions. Well and facility operations are coordinated to permit safe shutdowns and restarts.
The number of people, along with the associated equipment and vehicles required for routine checking, data gathering, and manual control tasks are minimized. Job content and satisfaction are improved by converting low-skill manual-labor tasks to career opportunities requiring technical skills and knowledge. Repair and maintenance costs are minimized by keeping equipment operating within the safe operating envelope. Making optimum use of equipment minimizes unnecessary capital expenditures. Automating data capture and transmission from the field to all people and information systems that need information, both inside and outside the organization, reduces support costs.
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