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Special Report: Optimising offshore automation

by Guest on Jun 20, 2018


New technologies can make the many challenges and potential hazards at offshore facilities much more manageable and surmountable.
New technologies can make the many challenges and potential hazards at offshore facilities much more manageable and surmountable.

Digital business transformations are about responding to industry disruption – developing new operating models that use digital solutions to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. The Energy Revolution and Industry 4.0 have put pressure on oil, gas and chemical companies (OGC) to explore new areas of process optimisation in order to adapt to the lower for longer oil prices. Improved condition monitoring and enhanced visibility beyond a single plant to an enterprise level, can yield long term benefits for companies that are interested in implementing a digital strategy.

For over five decades, ABB has been at the forefront of equipping OGC companies across the hydrocarbon value chain with a wide range of technologies to support some of the largest and most challenging projects. ABB provided power for the world’s first subsea compression system, Åsgard, setting a world record for distance, voltage and frequency between the top-side drive and the compressor which was installed on the seabed.

A recent project award for the new Johan Castberg oilfield development project in the Barents Sea, included an integrated ABB Ability System 800xA automation and safety system. The system is comprised of over 210 solutions across various industries, and includes a full-range of digital solutions to help OGC companies manage complexities. Anything from smart well flow assurance and condition monitoring to cyber security and advanced digital services. By using a scalable model of digitalisation, companies are able to start their journey at an asset level with the end goal of enterprise-wide digitalisation.

Offshore platforms present a unique opportunity for companies to implement new technologies that can reduce downtime while ensuring safe operations. Remote connections and remote access to plants through the centralisation of data is key to providing a reliable solution for hazardous locations.

The newly launched ABB Ability Process Performance Dashboard connects oil and gas firms with a pool of operations experts and advanced data analysis technology. It enables operations to use large amounts of data that they are generating to rapidly identify and fix performance weaknesses. The cloud-based service measures the performance of oil and gas facilities against carefully designed indicators, including start-up time and operator interventions. The data is then analysed by a team of experts at regional Collaborative Operations Centres around the world, providing round-the-clock insights on performance.

These global centres allow IT and OT experts to work closely with customers to solve issues in real-time. Data from instrumentation, switchgear, motors, drives and other smart sensors is channelled through analytics which undertake remote diagnostics. The Collaborative Operations approach is a means of properly harnessing digitalisation to increase the speed and quality of decision-making along the hydrocarbon chain. This changes how people interact with others in their organisations and enables the fast-tracking of innovation.

In the Middle East, ABB is implementing a range of automation and control systems. The Nasr Full Field Development Project (Package 2) currently houses a power management solution, power-from-shore and telecommunication systems designed to reduce emissions. The facilities are connected by a 132 kilovolt AC subsea ring cable from Das Island, approximately 160 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi. The large offshore facility requires early detection of system performance irregularities, as well as increased control system reliability and scheduled or on-demand monitoring of key performance indicators, due to its relatively inaccessible and remote location.

To detect unforeseen issues with performance degradation, a solution was provided to identify and prioritise process improvement opportunities. ABB personnel use data collected through ServicePort during scheduled analysis to compare against best practices for early detection. Another level of security is added to protect the control system against any potential security threats that could ocur.

Cyber security becoming a staple

While harnessing the Internet of Things has the potential to generate significant competitive advantages for those that deploy it correctly, companies must be even more vigilant than ever before in protecting their assets. Globally, energy sector cybercrime related costs are second only to financial services. Fortunately, solutions exist to protect assets but OGC companies will need to ensure that the correct measures are in place 24 hours a day.

In some cases, cybersecurity solutions are added on “after the fact” instead of being built into the various systems they are designed to protect. Recognising these risks early on during a cybersecurity review can prove advantageous in actually preventing attacks.

The best kept systems need upkeep

Digital solutions are paramount to the integration of various systems and connected devices. Only when people, processes and device data are in sync, will real change occur. Automating production requires large amounts of data and the volume of the data increases with the complexity of the production. Variables combine to diminish productivity and it can become difficult to find the source of inefficiency at a given plant. A range of services aligned with a company’s digital strategy close the loop in providing a complete lifecycle solution.

ABB’s advanced digital services identify sources of issues to inhibit peak performance in equipment and processes. These insights are then translated into recommendations for issue resolution, to be completed in a timely and systematic manner.

While digitalisation has been gradually making inroads, it has primarily been at an asset level or split by function and/or geography. Existing market dynamics and challenges are forcing a massive change in the energy industry, making digitalisation a high priority across all levels within an organisation. Harnessed and utilised in the right way, the latest technological solutions can provide oil and gas companies with the necessary tools to thrive in the new energy landscape.


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