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Digital Oilfield special: Digital decisions

by Patrick Osgood on Sep 12, 2012




Ahead of IDOC 2012, Neri Askland, GCC representative for Norway’s Statoil, on how DOF implantation can empower decision-making

As part of our wide-ranging interview with Statoil’s Nero Askland – see pages 30 to 34 – we spoke about the prospects for digital oil field progress in the GCC, and the issues of culture and attitude that underlie it.

As the region’s representative for the company which has a longer pedigree in digital oil field approaches than any other, Askland has a unique insight on why DOF implementation is needed, and what national oil companies – some of which are still getting to grips with the core concepts of DOF – have to do to make it work for them.

“The reason why we have deployed a lot of digital technology and solutions in managing both our oil and gas fields is we need a higher degree of automation because we have a very high cost base,” Askland explains. “The only way to do that is by having automated systems in production, and also in the early stages.”

Askland says it is important that Statoil, and the industry more generally, seeks solutions that are more and more automated and digitalised.

“I think that here as well as things become more complicated, you need more digitalisation, because there is a higher degree of knowledge needed to operate fields from a subsurface point of view,” he says. “You need more data, and need to be able to use this data to control and test things.”

Askland is also keen to emphasise the improvements in safety that can come from DOF implementation, especially on mature fields and projects where hazards are elevated, like sour gas projects. The GCC’s national oil companies have done a good job of getting stringent HSE requirements on paper, but implementation remains a challenge.

Country challenges
The level of sophistication of current DOF implementation varies across the GCC. Oman, with its high recovery costs and lower reserves, has led the way, as sophisticated technologies are driven by the brute reality of the need to recover more oil.

Askland says the nature of DOF implantation varies from place to place, depending on how conservative people are.

“It might be that they understand what it takes, but its hard to do it, because it has a cost associated with it,” he explains.

“You have to put in an initial investment, but you get a much better overview out of it. You get better control of your wells, you get much more data to work with, and I think it’s getting there, but I think some places are going faster than others in the region. The costly areas will always be the leaders on this.”

Conservatism in the GCC’s upstream sector is not just economic. Without cultural change, a digital oilfield is only so many ones and zeroes sitting on a server of flashing across a screen.

As a result, national oil companies and international majors have often spent more money and time on the organizational aspects of DOF adoption than installing hardware and configuring IT systems.

“Change is not easy, and it’s a dynamic process,” explains Askland. “Everyone is always reaching for a status quo, but it’s about always continuously driving for change to keep a dynamic in place, because its this that will lift the industry into the next level.”

Embracing Risk
“Risk-taking is important in this,” Askland add. “You need to have an environment that understands and supports the ability to take risk. Now, when you take risks you are going to fail, but you can take the failure, as a learning organisation, and move things to the next level and create an environment that understands risk even better.

It’s accepted that DOF implementation requires collaboration. “You cannot work in silos. You have to work across disciplines, and to a common goal, which is to have optimum return on your investment and in assuring that you have a field that has a high degree of integrity in its operations, and the only way you can do that is by having a high degree of cooperation across departments and disciplines, and that’s fundamental,” Askland says.

“That’s the only way you will get a solution that’s harmonic to what you want to achieve.”

Empowerment
One of the challenges in many places is the empowerment of an organisation through devolved decision making.

Askland is clear than devolving decision making is an important part of the DOF process. “You need to have an organisation that’s a learning organisation that is prepared to take risk, and you need to empower your organisation, that’s the fundamental piece of it,” he says.

“You need to move decisions lower down in organisations. I think will benefit any company that is able to take simple decisions at the lower level and keep strategic and important financial decisions at the top.”


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