Industry continues to advance digitization

May 8, 2017
In the midst of a market that remains cautious at $50/bbl, some of the industry's key players are continuing to make progress on digital solutions that will reduce costs and increase the efficiency of offshore drilling and production technologies and systems.
Bruce Beaubouef Houston

In the midst of a market that remains cautious at $50/bbl, some of the industry’s key players are continuing to make progress on digital solutions that will reduce costs and increase the efficiency of offshore drilling and production technologies and systems.

Recently, GE and Noble Corp. jointly announced a partnership to collaborate on the Digital Rig solution, which will be designed to enable data-driven operational efficiency through the use of data analytics. The target is a 20% reduction in operational expenditure across Noble’s fleet of rigs.

Within the agreement, GE will initially deploy its latest marine Asset Performance Management (APM) system on four of Noble’s drilling rigs. GE says that the APM system is powered by its Predix software, a cloud-based software that is designed to enable industrial-scale analytics.

GE and Noble say that the partnership will allow data-driven operations intelligence to provide broad-ranging benefits for the selected assets on the program’s rigs. The companies say that these benefits will include:

Enhanced drilling process efficiency. This will include foresight visibility of equipment anomalies and drilling process deviations to reduce operational disruptions and enhance performance consistency.

Shift to predictive maintenance. This will redefine maintenance strategies with a focus on predictive maintenance to achieve long-term, sustainable opex reductions across the fleet.

Reduction of third-party service costs. This will provide anytime, anywhere rig visibility and insights that leverage the one-to-many impact of shore-based experts to reduce third-party service costs.

“With shifting market dynamics, the offshore industry is on the cusp of change. Drilling contractors must seize the moment to enhance their competitive edge,” said David W. Williams, chairman, president and CEO of Noble Corp. “We believe the shift to data-driven decisions will have a significant effect on drilling efficiencies. It is imperative for our industry to embrace the digital revolution to stay efficient and nimble, and Noble is leading the way. We look forward to developing our Digital Rig solution with GE.”

“Sluggish oil price, market volatility and geopolitical complexity are shaking the offshore landscape,” said Francesco Falco, chief commercial officer, GE Energy Connections’ Power Conversion. “The industry is challenged with the increased pressure of cost reduction and need for productivity gains. The impending retirement of many experienced workers widens skills gaps and leads to further industry-wide uncertainties,” he added. GE’s digital APM solution would “unlock reductions in operational expenditure and enhance competitiveness even in the current down market environment,” Franco added.

GE says that its marine APM solution combines “digital twin” data models and advanced analytics to detect off-standard behavior - often a sign of potential failure or performance degradation - of target assets on the rigs. This can sometimes be detected weeks ahead; and in such cases, it can provide an early warning to operators so they can mitigate a problem before it occurs.

As the system continues to learn, GE and Noble Corp. say that the ability to predict the future condition of rig-wide assets will also enable a shift from planned to predictive maintenance. With modern software-based analysis, maintenance is exercised only when there is evidence of need. Compared to planned maintenance, this approach avoids unnecessary maintenance whiel also mitigating the risk of maintenance-induced problems. The effect of all this, the companies say, will be to reduce unplanned downtime and create significant cost savings.

In addition, the companies said that the ability to provide actual rig asset data to onshore experts globally will provide insights into asset health, allowing experts to remotely diagnose problems and advise on next steps from a central location, potentially reducing third-party service costs. This capability will also help optimize the offshore maintenance team’s manpower and structure, as engineers will be able to focus on the drilling activity, not fault finding unnecessary problems.

GE and Noble Corp. will work to advance the Digital Rig solution on rigs such as the Noble Sam Hartley. (Courtesy GE)

“It is time for the industry to rethink the drilling ecosystem,” said Tim Schweikert, president and CEO of GE’s Marine Solutions division. “Offshore companies must adapt to industry disruptions by leveraging digital solutions to counteract the current downswing, and for readiness to scale during a market upswing. Industry-wide collaboration underpins a solid digital future.”

The GE/Noble Corp. partnership follows another digital solution launched last fall. In November, BP and GE introduced Plant Operations Advisor (POA), a digital solution designed to improve the efficiency, reliability, and safety of BP’s oil and gas production operations. Plant Operations Advisor is already helping BP manage the performance of one of its platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and, subject to a successful pilot, is expected to be deployed this year to other BP facilities around the world.

The tool, built on GE’s Predix operating system, was created as part of a development partnership the two companies announced in January.

“BP gravitates toward new technologies, especially digital, and that makes working with them particularly exciting,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, president and CEO, GE Oil & Gas. “We are taking a big step forward together during this time of digital transformation, deploying what we’ve co-created over the past year to drive the kind of productivity improvements that the oil and gas industry needs.” At that time, Simonelli said that the global deployment is expected to be the largest-scale deployment of GE’s Predix-powered APM technology to date.

GE says that Plant Operations Advisor is designed to help prevent unplanned downtime and improve facility reliability by helping engineering teams respond quickly to issues as they occur in real-time.

“By bringing together some of the best minds at GE and BP, we were able to develop this innovative digital product and are confident that it will have a significant impact on our business,” said Ahmed Hashmi, BP’s Head of Upstream Technology. “When fully deployed, these advanced digital technologies will change the way we work and improve the integrity and performance of our assets around the globe.”

Using GE’s Predix and APM capabilities, the POA system is designed to rapidly integrate operational data from producing oil and gas facilities to deliver notifications and analytical reports to engineers so they can identify operational performance issues before they become significant.

GE says that the system provides simplified access to a variety of live data feeds and includes visualization capabilities including a real-time facility threat display. It also incorporates an extensive case management capability to support learnings from prior operational issues.

GE says that this technology combines big data, cloud hosting, and analytics on both individual pieces of equipment as well as the entire production system.