A step closer to the digital oilfield

In the words of the co-chair of a recent workshop on the digital oilfield sponsored by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, ‘the key challenges facing the industry are designing the infrastructures to facilitate work processes, integrating across disciplines and learning how to navigate the mountains of data now available1.’

To date, however, many operators’ asset management and process control technologies have tended to operate in a fragmented manner. Such projects are also all too often defined by the inability to process the huge amounts of information generated. IBM Business Consulting Services, for example, estimates a single oil or gas field generates up to one terabyte of data per day2.

The importance of integration

Progress is being made, however. Emerson and Roxar’s vision is an integrated approach to process control and asset management - an approach that spans everything from onshore transmission, refining and processing through to offshore platform and downhole operations within the reservoir.

Operators must create a fully integrated digital architecture for field operations, which can better anticipate and react to problems before they impact operations. One such example is Emerson’s smart wireless network on StatoilHydro’s Grane platform, which remotely monitors wellheads and heat exchangers and generates vital production-based information.

The same is the case on StatoilHydro’s Gullfaks field where wireless devices are being used to transmit real-time temperature data that indirectly monitors flow, allowing a quick reaction to any loss of well pressure and maximising throughput from the well.

Multiphase meters

Multiphase meters are also playing an increasingly prominent role in realising the digital oilfield vision. Working with intelligent downhole sensors that monitor temperature, pressure and other variables, a problem in production can now be detected by the multiphase meter and then pinpointed by the downhole sensors. If unwanted water or gas enters the wellbore, for example - something that can have a devastating effect on production - the multiphase meter will detect the change and the operator can then locate the problem area for remedial action.

Keeping control

This is the kind of predictive intelligence and crucial production information so vital to today’s operator. Much of the information can then be assimilated into continually updated reservoir models of the oil and gas reservoir and into an integrated digital data management architecture so that best use can be made of the data.

If operators are to achieve their goal of increased recovery rates, make their marginal fields more viable and meet oil and gas demand (expected to increase by up to 45% by 20303), they must have control over the production process like never before. Luckily, the technologies and an integrated approach to these technologies are rising to the challenge.


  1. Roger Hite, SPE/IBP Joint Workshop on the Digital Oilfield, October 2008.
  2. IBM Business Consulting Services – Meeting the Challenges of Today’s Oil & Gas Exploration and Production Industry, 2006.
  3. Source: OECD/IEA, based on the IEA reference scenario as of November 2008, IHS Energy.

David Newman, Emerson Process Management and Vincent Vieugue, Roxar.

Published on 30/09/2009

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